Building A Global Acid Rock/Acid Mine Drainage Biogeochemical Model for Environmental Impact Assessment, Environment & Sustainability Institute and Camborne School of Mines – MPhil/PhD (Funded) Ref: 3106

About the award


Primary supervisor:  Professor Karen Hudson-Edwards
Secondary supervisor:  Professor Kevin Gaston

The College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences at University of Exeter invites applications for a PhD position in the area of mining and the environment. One of the most problematic wastes is ‘acid mine drainage’ (AMD). AMD waters are low-pH, sulfate- and metal(loid)-element-rich fluids generated from the oxidation of iron sulfide minerals. ‘Acid rock drainage’ (ARD) waters have similar characteristics to AMD waters, but they are generated by natural sulfide weathering rather than by mining-related processes. AMD is the most significant mine waste issue in the world. Assessment of global ARD/AMD environmental impacts requires knowledge of its sources, sinks, fluxes and geochemical characteristics. Significant data for these exist for ARD/AMD in the published scientific literature and in government repositories. New capabilities in satellite mapping and analysis can also help to target potential ARD/AMD sources and sinks. Linking such information in a Geographic Information System (GIS) will help to build a biogeochemical box model for ARD/AMD, like those developed for carbon and mercury. The ARD/AMD model will help to develop improved environmental risk assessment models for ARD/AMD, which will benefit mine operators, governmental and non-governmental organisations, academics and other groups interested in protecting potentially affected environments from the negative effects of ARD/AMD. 

The aims of the PhD project are to develop a global ARD/AMD biogeochemical model and to use this model for the analysis and prediction of related environmental impacts. The main tasks will include:

(1) creating a GIS-based global inventory of acid mine drainage reservoirs, sources, sinks and related element fluxes using published literature, government and company data, other 'grey' literature and satellite data. The UK company Satellite Applications Catapult have agreed to be a partner on the PhD project to provide training and support for the collection of ARD/AMD satellite data;

(2) using the database created in (i) to create a 'box-type' biogeochemical global cycle model of ARD/AMD;

(3) using (1) and (2) to determine the impacts of ARD/AMD on natural biogeochemical cycles and ecosystem health.
The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3.5 years of full-time study to commence in September 2018.

Primary supervisor:  Professor Karen Hudson-Edwards
Secondary supervisor:  Professor Kevin Gaston


Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. Experience in GIS is essential.

If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.0 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents.  Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, eg. “Smith – CV.pdf”, “Smith – Cover Letter.pdf”, “Smith – Transcript.pdf”. 

• CV
• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
• Research proposal
• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to quoting the studentship reference number.
• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English

The closing date for applications is midnight on 18 May 2018.  Interviews will be held on the University of Penryn Campus the week commencing 28 May 2018.

Please quote reference 3106 on your application and in any correspondence about this project

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.



Application deadline:18th May 2018
Number of awards:1
Duration of award:per year
Contact: Postgraduate Research Office