University of Queensland a leader in world-first minerals institute

11/09/05

The University of Queensland is pivotal to a new world-first minerals research institute that today attracted a record grant from the Australian Research Council (ARC).

The ARC awarded $8.6 million to enable the creation of the Australian Minerals Science Research Institute, a consortium of universities, industry and government.

The consortium, believed to be the first of its kind in the world, received the largest-ever ARC Linkage Project grant for research.

The University of Queensland Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor David Siddle, said: "The grant announced today by the Federal Minister for Education, Science and Training, Dr Brendon Nelson, is tremendous news for the Australian economy.

"It will fund collaborative research to map the future direction of Australia's biggest export earner, the $85 billion minerals industry.

"The institute's research will enable us to look beyond the current resources boom and plan for the long-term future of the minerals industry.

"The University of Queensland is the largest university funding source for the institute and we are delighted with the record ARC grant," Professor Siddle said.

The institute's $22.6 million five-year research program involves:

  • The University of Queensland ($1.25 million);
  • The Universities of South Australia, Melbourne and Newcastle ($2.75 million in all);
  • The State Government of South Australia ($2.5 million) and
  • Industry leaders BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Anglo Platinum, Orica, Xstrata Technology and Phelps Dodge ($7.5 million).

Professor Tim Napier-Munn of UQ's Sustainable Minerals Institute, who is the former Director of UQ's Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre and a principal architect of the Australian Minerals Science Research Institute, said he envisaged the institute would quickly become the Australian centre of a global research network.

"This institute will conduct "blue sky" research to keep the minerals industry sustainable well into this century," Professor Napier-Munn said.

"The major themes of the research are energy efficiency, frugal water use, efficient management of waste, innovative processing, material and interface science, advanced analysis, and mathematics in mineral processing.

"The underlying particle science and engineering will have implications for many industries including mining and minerals processing, pharmaceuticals, surface coating, food and printing," Professor Napier-Munn said.

The Director of JKMRC, Professor Ben Adair, will lead several key projects.

Professor Adair said the institute would lead to a paradigm shift in the industry's thinking on efficient, sustainable mining and mineral processing, and would ultimately transform the Australian and international mining industry.

"The ARC linkage grant means we can bring together four large research teams with specialist skills in many areas," he said.

"Although the Institute will have a national focus, much of the research activity will take place in Queensland."

The institute's recruitment of at least 19 PhD students during its first few years of operation would partly address the skills shortage, Professor Adair said.

"We have a unique skills base of minerals industry researchers in Queensland. The challenge for JKMRC and the new Institute is to build a critical mass of researchers in the state and to ensure state-of-the-art facilities are provided to conduct world-class research," Professor Adair said.

The four universities (key research providers to the minerals industry) first proposed the Australian Minerals Science Research Institute in March 2002. The project was coordinated by AMIRA International, an independent association of minerals companies created to develop, broker and facilitate collaborative research projects around the world.

The institute will officially commence on 1 January 2006 and be led for its first five years by Professor John Ralston of the University of South Australia's Ian Wark Research Institute.

Source: Eurekalert & others

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