Dr Anita Parbhakar-Fox

Senior Research Fellow

W.H. Bryan Mining and Geology Research Centre
Sustainable Minerals Institute
a.parbhakarfox@uq.edu.au
+61 7 336 55977

Overview

Before completing her PhD in 2012 at the Centre for Ore Deposit and Earth Sciences (CODES), Dr Parbhakar-Fox obtained a 1st class MSc (Hons) degree from the Royal School of Mines, Imperial College (University of London) in Environmental Geology (2005). Professionally, she has worked as an environmental consultant (2005-06) and as a research assistant for the AMIRA P843 geometallurgy project (2006-07). She worked part-time as a Junior Research Fellow for the Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE; 2011-2012) and then went on to become a postdoctoral research fellow in the Environmental Indicators program (2012-2015). Next, Dr Parbhakar-Fox was appointed as a postdoctoral research fellow for the ARC TMVC Research Hub (2015-2019) where she serves as the deputy leader of Theme 3 (minimising geoenvironmental risks) and the leader (2016-2018) of Program 2 (Geometallurgy, Geoenvironment and Mining) at CODES.

Currently, Dr Parbhakar-Fox is a Senior Research Fellow in Geometallurgy and Applied Geochemistry at the W.H Bryan Mining and Geology Research Centre within the Sustainable Minerals Institute. Anita's research is focussed on mine waste characterisation to improve mine planning and waste management practices where she has worked with mining industry, METS sector and government stakeholders. She has developed new tests and protocols for improving waste characterisation and is also involved in identifying remediation options for abandoned/ historical mine sites. Most recently, Dr Parbhakar-Fox has led industry and government funded projects characterising a range of mine waste materials to evaluate their economic potential.

Research Interests

  • Geometallurgy
  • Environmental Geochemistry
  • Mineralogy
  • Solid waste management
  • Tailings and slag characterisation
  • Drill core characterisation

Research Impacts

Industry, Government and Service

Dr Parbhakar-Fox has regular contact with mineral companies, state government and geoenvironmental consultancies to develop and undertake research projects focussed on improving mine waste characterisation. She also serves as a member of the Victorian Government Technical Review Board for Mine Rehabilitation and the Tasmanian Acid Mine Drainage Guidelines Steering Committee. Since 2017, Anita has also been an Assistant Editor of Minerals Engineering. Dr Parbhakar-Fox is currently editing a new Springer Book on Mine Waste (due for publication in early 2020) and will co-chair sessions in sustainable mining/geometallurgy at several conferences in 2019 and 2020.

Collaborations

Dr Parbhakar-Fox is an Adjunct Senior Researcher at the University of Tasmania (2019-2022) and in this role continues to co-supervise honours and PhD students. Anita is also the chief investigator on an ATSE-funded project with other researchers based at the University of Cape Town and Petrolab UK Ltd.

Teaching and Outreach

Dr Parbhakar-Fox has extensive honours and PhD research supervision and lecturing experience having been unit co-ordinator of Geometallurgy and Environmental Geology units at the University of Tasmania. She welcomes interested PhD and MSc students in the area of mine waste to contact her to discuss project opportunities. Dr Parbhakar-Fox has also participated in a number of media outreach activities on TV, local radio and at public events (e.g., 'Mining: Dinosaur or Deliverer?' 2017; 'Pint of Science' 2018).

Key Publications

Parbhakar-Fox A, Edraki M, Walters S, Bradshaw D, 'Development of a textural index for the prediction of acid rock drainage', Minerals Engineering, 24, (12) pp. 1277-1287. ISSN 0892-6875 (2011) DOI: 10.1016/j.mineng.2011.04.019

Parbhakar-Fox A, Lottermoser BG, 'A critical review of acid rock drainage prediction methods and practices', Minerals Engineering, 82 pp. 107-124. ISSN 0892-6875 (2015) DOI: 10.1016/j.mineng.2015.03.015

Parbhakar-Fox A, Glen J, Raimondo R, 'A geometallurgical approach to tailings management: an example from the Savage River Fe-ore mine, Western Tasmania', Minerals, 8 Article 454. ISSN 2075-163X (2018) DOI: 10.3390/min8100454

Cracknell MJ, Parbhakar-Fox A, Jackson L, Savinova E, 'Automated acid rock drainage indexing from drill core imagery', Minerals, 8, (12) Article 571. ISSN 2075-163X (2018) DOI: 10.3390/min8120571

Dominy SC, O'Connor L, Parbhakar-Fox A, Glass HJ, Purevgerel S, 'Geometallurgy - A Route to More Resilient Mine Operations', Minerals, 8, (12) Article 560. ISSN 2075-163X (2018) DOI: 10.3390/min8120560

Funding

Anita is currently involved in research projects with several Tasmanian mine sites. Previously, she has been involved in CRC ORE's Environmental Indicators program (2011-2015) and the ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub for Transforming the Mining Value Chain (TMVC; 2015-2019).

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of Tasmania

Publications

View all Publications

Available Projects

  • The process of mining is not only concerned with commodity extraction but also moving and managing waste. Globally, up to 30 Gt of waste material per annum is removed, handled and placed into final repositories or landforms, based on engineering design criteria informed by geochemical parameters, where it remains indefinitely unless another use for it is identified. If inadequately managed, waste materials can pose a range of physical (i.e., dam failures) and chemical (i.e., acid and metalliferous drainage; AMD) geoenvironmental risks. The challenge remains for the mining industry to identify the mechanisms by which to cost effectively forecast and manage these potential risks at the earliest possible stage in a mine’s life. If adequately performed, then appropriate funding and environmental management strategies can be developed and embedded into the mine plan to enable better closure outcomes. Whilst the industry is cognisant of this, another major challenge is finding the right toolbox to facilitate early stage waste characterisation. For example, chemical (i.e., static and kinetic) tests have dominated how AMD properties have been measured since the late 1970s, but with AMD remaining an ongoing global issue (even at young mines), there is a necessity for innovation. With an explosion of new tools and technologies for ore characterisation, there has never been a more opportunistic time to follow a geoenvironmental matrix approach whereby the ‘environmental geometallurgy’ toolkit is used for waste characterisation. The toolkit includes application of hyperspectral technologies to derive geoenvironmental domaining index values, improved used of handheld tools and chemical tests, data mining, and developing applications for µCT and 3D XRF drill core scanners. As we approach the next decade, the industry has the unique opportunity to embed the environmental geometallurgy toolkit into their operations and improve the management of geoenvironmental risk.

    I am seeking students to work with me in projects in this area.

  • Never before have the challenges of mine waste management been so important to ensure ongoing progress and development of mining operations with licence to operate now ranked as the number 1 business risk facing the mining and metals industry (Ernest Young, 2019). Societal expectations increasingly demand the sector to commit and contribute to community, government, employees and environment needs beyond the life-of-mine. This includes realistic planning for the ongoing management of mine waste storage facilities and their eventual closure. Too few global examples of successful mine closure exist for a myriad of reasons, the most important of which is the poor approach to the chemical and physical characterisation of mine waste (e.g., waste rock, tailings, slag and spent heap leach materials). Ultimately, these data inform the engineering design for the long-term storage of these waste materials. If they are not well designed then there is strong potential to induce acid and metalliferous drainage (AMD) whereby sulphides contained in mine waste oxidise (Dold, 2017) or catastrophic structural failures can occur as demonstrated at the Brumadinho Dam, Brazil in January 2019. AMD is characterised by low pH, high sulphate and metals which negatively impact on the water quality of the receiving environment (Dold, 2017; Naidu et al, 2019). Once AMD generation has started, stopping and managing it is technically challenging, costing mining operations and government bodies many millions of dollars to actively manage (Naidu et al., 2019). For example, the mining industry in Tasmania was established in the late 1800s with activities focussed in the west and north east of the state with a range of commodities sought including gold, copper, lead, zinc, silver and tin (Walshe and Heithersay, 1995). Today, hundreds of historic mine waste features remaining on the land surface many of which require ongoing management. But, maps of historic mine locations should not be viewed as only conveying the distribution of acid forming materials, they also provide the location of concentrated outcrops of, often fine grained, sulphides. When considering the advances made in metallurgical processing technologies since the deposition of historical (ie late 1800s) waste and the changing thirst for commodities (ie increased demands for cobalt, lithium and REEs; Grandell et al, 2016) there is strength in the business case for processing mining waste. By adopting a geometallurgical characterisation approach to assessing mine waste its commodity potential can be defined.

    I am seeking experienced students to work with me in projects in this area.

View all Available Projects

Publications

Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.

  • The process of mining is not only concerned with commodity extraction but also moving and managing waste. Globally, up to 30 Gt of waste material per annum is removed, handled and placed into final repositories or landforms, based on engineering design criteria informed by geochemical parameters, where it remains indefinitely unless another use for it is identified. If inadequately managed, waste materials can pose a range of physical (i.e., dam failures) and chemical (i.e., acid and metalliferous drainage; AMD) geoenvironmental risks. The challenge remains for the mining industry to identify the mechanisms by which to cost effectively forecast and manage these potential risks at the earliest possible stage in a mine’s life. If adequately performed, then appropriate funding and environmental management strategies can be developed and embedded into the mine plan to enable better closure outcomes. Whilst the industry is cognisant of this, another major challenge is finding the right toolbox to facilitate early stage waste characterisation. For example, chemical (i.e., static and kinetic) tests have dominated how AMD properties have been measured since the late 1970s, but with AMD remaining an ongoing global issue (even at young mines), there is a necessity for innovation. With an explosion of new tools and technologies for ore characterisation, there has never been a more opportunistic time to follow a geoenvironmental matrix approach whereby the ‘environmental geometallurgy’ toolkit is used for waste characterisation. The toolkit includes application of hyperspectral technologies to derive geoenvironmental domaining index values, improved used of handheld tools and chemical tests, data mining, and developing applications for µCT and 3D XRF drill core scanners. As we approach the next decade, the industry has the unique opportunity to embed the environmental geometallurgy toolkit into their operations and improve the management of geoenvironmental risk.

    I am seeking students to work with me in projects in this area.

  • Never before have the challenges of mine waste management been so important to ensure ongoing progress and development of mining operations with licence to operate now ranked as the number 1 business risk facing the mining and metals industry (Ernest Young, 2019). Societal expectations increasingly demand the sector to commit and contribute to community, government, employees and environment needs beyond the life-of-mine. This includes realistic planning for the ongoing management of mine waste storage facilities and their eventual closure. Too few global examples of successful mine closure exist for a myriad of reasons, the most important of which is the poor approach to the chemical and physical characterisation of mine waste (e.g., waste rock, tailings, slag and spent heap leach materials). Ultimately, these data inform the engineering design for the long-term storage of these waste materials. If they are not well designed then there is strong potential to induce acid and metalliferous drainage (AMD) whereby sulphides contained in mine waste oxidise (Dold, 2017) or catastrophic structural failures can occur as demonstrated at the Brumadinho Dam, Brazil in January 2019. AMD is characterised by low pH, high sulphate and metals which negatively impact on the water quality of the receiving environment (Dold, 2017; Naidu et al, 2019). Once AMD generation has started, stopping and managing it is technically challenging, costing mining operations and government bodies many millions of dollars to actively manage (Naidu et al., 2019). For example, the mining industry in Tasmania was established in the late 1800s with activities focussed in the west and north east of the state with a range of commodities sought including gold, copper, lead, zinc, silver and tin (Walshe and Heithersay, 1995). Today, hundreds of historic mine waste features remaining on the land surface many of which require ongoing management. But, maps of historic mine locations should not be viewed as only conveying the distribution of acid forming materials, they also provide the location of concentrated outcrops of, often fine grained, sulphides. When considering the advances made in metallurgical processing technologies since the deposition of historical (ie late 1800s) waste and the changing thirst for commodities (ie increased demands for cobalt, lithium and REEs; Grandell et al, 2016) there is strength in the business case for processing mining waste. By adopting a geometallurgical characterisation approach to assessing mine waste its commodity potential can be defined.

    I am seeking experienced students to work with me in projects in this area.