Dr Philip Nkrumah

Research Fellow/Senior Research off

Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation
Sustainable Minerals Institute
+61 7 334 64190


I am a biogeochemist who focusses on trace elements (manganese, cobalt, nickel, copper, zinc, palladium and platinum) in soil-hyperaccumulator plants systems. I recently completed my PhD Project (2014–2018) at the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) within The University of Queensland (UQ) on the topic “Hyperaccumulation of trace elements in the native species from Sabah (Malaysia): New discoveries and practical considerations for viable tropical nickel agromining.” Through my work, I made significant advances in knowledge in the field, including pioneering work on tropical nickel phytomining at a field-scale in Malaysia, providing a full-scale demonstration of the technology in the Asia-Pacific Region. Upon completion of my PhD, I was appointed as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UQ in April 2018. I am currently working on a project ‘Metallophyte plant species and ecotypes at Dugald River - A forgotten resource’ that is being funded by MMG Australia Limited (2018– 2019). I received the prestigious award of ‘UQ Early Career Researcher Grant’ to support my innovative research activities at UQ (January–December 2019). I also won the Sustainable Minerals Institute’s Excellence Award, which allowed me to undertake research in South Africa during my PhD studies. These opportunities have enabled me to build expertise and facilities that forms the foundation of my research career.

Since October 2014, I have led a research initiative on phytomining at the Centre for Mined Land Rehabilitation (CMLR) at UQ. I have project managed a number of industry-funded research projects on rare metallophyte plants. One of my major advancements to the field, and to Australian industry, has been the development of methods that utilise the unique adaptive mechanisms of plants that exclude, tolerate, or even hyperaccumulate toxic metals. These methods comprise an integral part of a profitable and sustainable global mine site rehabilitation strategy that notably also protects highly evolved biodiversity. The outcomes of my research have been published in leading journals, including Scientific Reports, Plant and Soil, and the Journal of Geochemical Exploration. As of June 2019, I have 256 citations from my 29 publications and an h-index of 9 (citation data from Google Scholar). My position is entirely research-based, and at least 80% of my time is spent on primary research activities (including PhD student mentorship). The remainder of my time is spent on administration.

I have benefitted extensively from the mentorship I received from globally recognised authorities in the field of hyperaccumulator plants and phytomining. My mentors include Dr Rufus L. Chaney (United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, retired), Professor Alan Baker (University of Melbourne and CMLR, UQ), Dr Antony van der Ent and Associate Professor Peter Erskine (CMLR, UQ), Professor Jolanta Mesjasz-Przybylowicz (iThemba LABS, South Africa), and Professor Guillaume Echevarria and Professor Jean-Louis Morel (Université de Lorraine, France). These high-profile mentors have provided invaluable advice on designing and conducting academic research, interpreting results, and publishing high-profile papers. I am directed in my current position by Associate Prof Peter Erskine and Dr Antony van der Ent, CMLR, UQ, and Professor Guillaume Echevarria from the Laboratoire Sols et Environnement at the Université de Lorraine.

Research Interests

  • Hyperaccumulator plants
    Rare plants called hyperaccumulators have the remarkable ability to naturally accumulate exceptional concentrations of trace metal(loids) in their living biomass without suffering toxicity symptoms. Hyperaccumulation is not just a curious biological phenomenon, but is of substantial fundamental interest and practical importance. Hyperaccumulation particularly holds promise for evolutionary, genetic and ecophysiological research and utilization in phytomining.
  • Phytomining
    Phytomining is a novel technology to recover valuable metals from unconventional resources (e.g. minerals wastes) by growing and harvesting selected hyperaccumulator plants (metal crops) and extracting the targeted metals from their biomass producing a high-grade bio-ore. Phytomining enables access to large low-grade resources (>0.1% total nickel) located globally that cannot be accessed normally as they are well below the cut-off grades for conventional mining and processing. These unconventional resources are widely distributed, especially in the Australia-Pacific Region, and are potentially suited for extraction of valuable metals by 'metal crops'. Phytomining is expected to be transformative in the environmental rehabilitation of nickel mine sites in Australia, contaminated land or degraded metal-rich land by providing initial vegetative stabilization with the added advantage of a longer-term income stream.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, The University of Queensland


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Journal Article