Category: Uncategorized

New Ph.D. opportunities at Sustainable Minerals Institute

The Sustainable Minerals Institute at The University of Queensland offers opportunities for exciting Ph.D. research.

As part of the m4mining international consortium, SMI has multiple PhD opportunities in the fields of geological sciences, mineral resources, environmental monitoring, drones, and application of AI and ML to hyperspectral sensing. Europe’s key funding programme for research and innovation (Horizon Europe) will support research costs, field work around Australia and opportunities to travel to Europe.

Ph.D.  opportunities full description

If you are interested in applying, please contact Katerina Savinova ( and Steven Micklethwaite (







Representatives from The University of Queensland visited IIMP

With the purpose of developing academic activities together, representatives from the Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) at The University of Queensland (Australia) met with the General Manager of the Mining Engineers Institute of Peru (IIMP), Carlos Diez Canseco, on June 23.

Thanks to the coordination of Belisario Pérez, Occupational Safety and Health Manager at Minsur, the Education and Training Manager at SMI’s Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre (MISHC), Sharyn Cobbin, and the coordinator at the SMI International Centre of Excellence in Chile, Antonio Rivero, arrived at La Molina offices.
They explained how SMI Chile promotes research, innovation, as well as capacity and technology transfer to the mining industry, with the objective of increasing and complementing mining’s productivity, environmental and social management, in that country and the region.
In representation of Belisario Pérez was Minsur’s superintendent of Corporate Safety, Mr César Alarcón.


Minería Magazine, weekly edition number 111, from June 27 to July 3 (in Spanish):
UQ Forgan Smith Building

New PhD opportunities at SMI-The University of Queensland

Con el propósito de desarrollar actividades conjuntas de proyección académica, representantes del Sustainable Minerals Institute (SMI) de la Universidad de Queensland (Australia), se reunieron el 23 de junio con el gerente general del Instituto de Ingenieros de Minas del Perú (IIMP), Carlos Diez Canseco.

Gracias a la coordinación del gerente de Seguridad y Salud Ocupacional de Minsur, Belisario Pérez, llegaron hasta la sede de La Molina, La Education and Training Manager del Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre (MISHC) del SMI, Sharyn Cobbin, y el coordinador del Centro de Excelencia Internacional del SMI de Chile, Antonio Rivero.
En este marco, se explicó que la sede del SMI en Chile fomenta la investigación, innovación y transferencia de tecnologías y capacidades en la industria minera de ese país y la región, con el objetivo de aumentar y complementar la productividad y la gestión ambiental y social de la minería.
En representación de Belisario Pérez, estuvo presente el superintendente de Seguridad Corporativa de Minsur, César Alarcón.


Revista Minería, edición semanal 111, del 27 de junio al 3 de julio:

Presentation: “Transitions and Challenges of Mine Closure: What Else do we Need to Learn?

On May 16, Francisca Rivero presented a keynote during the Planning for Closure 2002 congress titled Transitions and Challenges of Mine Closure: What Else do we Need to Learn? in which she proposes an integral overview of closure, as seen from the social aspects of closure. “The process of mine closure from a social perspective implies taking responsibility of a series of transitions –social, economic and environmental– which do not refer only to changes and transformation of the closure of mine site itself” comments Francisca. She, alongside the social researchers’ team at SMI-ICE-Chile work on community relations projects in this and other stages of the mine lifecycle.
Her presentation focused on how during the last years the industry has made great efforts on understanding the scope brought about when viewing social aspects of mine closure. However, Francisca explains that there are multiple items from which to learn regarding transitions, a process that may pose challenges for both communities and companies.

Fabiola Sifuentes, Vice-President of Health, Safety and Environment at Compañía Minera Antamina, Peru and Francisca Rivero from SMI-ICE-Chile during Planning for Closure 2022

First, explains the researcher, we need to understand the differentiated impacts of closure, of which gender is a key dimension to note and learn how this group responds to social and economic aspects that may affect their specific wellbeing. Keeping an updated information database about people who live in the territory not only contributes to know them and about them and their needs, but allows for a follow up about the scope of actions and their results throughout time.
Secondly, she emphasises the importance of knowing about the lessons learned locally and internationally which allows for a social knowledge base. This process of study and evaluation should, in the best scenario, be consolidated during the initial phase of a mine operation. And thirdly, but no less important, is the learning awarded by the long-term study of intergenerational impacts by the mine’s presence in a determined territory, specially focused on how this impacts trajectory, offers opportunities, and directly effects lifestyle, practices and customs locally.
In a certain way, planning closure from a social perspective, implies being responsible for intergenerational impacts as well as designing a legacy, keeping in mind what will come in post-closure stages. It is a consolidation of a long process that must guarantee wellbeing and a good standard of living for communities which are integral part of an operation during its lifecycle, and which will endure beyond the temporary industrial process of the land.


For more information, contact Francisca Rivero or the SMI-ICE-Chile social team:

Planning for Closure 2022 was organised by the Centre for Mining of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, SMI-ICE-Chile and Gecamin. For more information visit


International Women’s Day at SMI-ICE-Chile

On International Women’s Day, the International Centre of Excellence in Chile of the Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland, celebrates all the women who have paved the road towards inclusion of female talent.

We believe that the inclusion of all people, no matter the differences, provides for a more resilient and sustainable future. We value those differences, since the challenge of solving problems based on science is enriched and made easier when different perspectives and talents are part of the process.

We are committed to diversity and inclusion, and on this day we recognise all the women from our team who promote we #BreakTheBias linked to women in STEM, in academia, in the mining industry, and as an essential part of any organisation.

Read their perceptions:

New leadership at SMI-ICE-Chile

The Sustainable Minerals Institute and JKTech are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr Douglas Aitken as General Manager, SMI-ICE-Chile.

Dr Aitken was the Sustainability Project Leader in ICE-Chile and has extensive experience in the development and management of multidisciplinary and collaborative research projects. His focus is on reducing the adverse social and environmental impacts from the mining industry and maximising the economic, social and environmental benefits.

Dr Aitken’s appointment follows the retirement of Professor David Mulligan as Executive Director SMI-ICE-Chile in December 2021.

SMI Director Professor Neville Plint and Chairman of the JKTech Board Dr Barry Kelly, said Dr Aitken’s appointment would strengthen integration across the Institute.

“Dr Aitken has extensive experience working collaboratively with partners across government, industry, community organisations and academia, and we look forward to working with him to support and grow the work underway in Chile,” Professor Plint said.

“We would like to thank Professor Mulligan for all his hard work and commitment to building the team in Chile, and wish him well with his future projects.”


SMI-ICE-Chile was established in 2014 and aims to develop innovative research, technologies and training platforms to address the challenges faced by the mining sector.

Tackling water supply concerns in Chile: The Sustainable Minerals Institute, SMI-ICE-Chile and M.C. Inversiones complete first year of smart water supply systems project

The aim of the project is to support the development of solutions to address the challenge of water scarcity in Chile and contribute to the sustainability agenda of the mining industry.

The first year of the project involved data collection, stakeholder engagement and initial tool development in the project case study, the Atacama region. The first-year report and video outlining the background, methodology and initial results are now available.

Water scarcity is one of the greatest threats to social and economic development in many of Chile’s central and northern regions. Low water availability, inadequate water management and the effects of climate change are leading to prolonged droughts that are generating adverse consequences for society.

The mining industry in Chile and some other sectors have invested heavily in the use of desalinated seawater to develop reliable supply systems. While effective in providing reliable water, such systems are often developed independently and tend to be expensive, energy intensive and can result in socio-environmental impacts.

There is a need for improved water supply systems that integrate multiple sources and users, and allow the optimisation of resources based on local geography, water availability and water demand, ensuring water security for users and the protection of local ecosystems.

The University of Queensland’s SMI-ICE-Chile and Sustainable Minerals Institute, along with M.C. Inversiones (a subsidiary of the Mitsubishi Corporation), decided to partner on the three-year research project to develop smart water supply planning tools that will help decision makers at all levels to identify and analyse optimised water supply options.

The team includes collaborators from the Universidad de Antofagasta, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Universidad del Desarrollo.

The project leaders would like to thank M.C. Inversiones for their support of the project, Corfo and ANID for their support of the International Centre of Excellence in Chile, and our project collaborators.

If you would like more information, please contact the Project Leader, Dr Doug Aitken at


Read the first year project report HERE.

Watch the first year project video:

A Successful Week during the Sustainability Module at the Mining Engineering Master’s

From 6 to 10 December the International Centre of Excellence, SMI-ICE-Chile, was the host of the Sustainability Module of the Master’s in Mining program from the Mine Engineering department of Universidad de Chile.
For months the Centre’s researchers concentrated their energies in programming a week of presentations, group activities, and special guests from industry to share knowledge, perspectives and a vision of sustainability for the natural resources industry.
Presentations covered diverse aspects of sustainability, seen from the life cycle of a mine, and working around a case study of a real mine site.
The week’s activities were complemented by presentations from industry guests such as Héctor Castillo, Environmental and Territory Director at El Salvador Division, Jorge Sanhueza, Sustainable Development Manager, both from Codelco, and Manuel Zamora, Deputy Manager of Community Relations and Corporate Responsibility at Albemarle Chile.
The topics covered in during the week were:
– Mine life cycle | Mining and the challenges and opportunities of sustainability
– Optimization of resources | Local impacts | Mine closure
– Value recovery | Social pre-requisites to generate value in the territories| Environmental value
– Health, safety and risks | Governance | Responsible mining
For more information contact us at

Social Transition in Mine Closure Processes

By Nigel Wight and Francisca Rivero, social researchers at SMI-ICE-Chile

Mine closure is an inevitable process, yet the complex changes related to closure can have significant and lasting impacts on an operation’s surrounding communities. A company’s conceptualisation of mine closure is not the same as how an impacted community views closure. For communities, “closure” means a long and often difficult transition, away from an entrenched dependency on the mine’s benefits that can take years, or even generations. At the same time, the negative consequences of a mine’s operations, such as the mine pit, waste rock dumps, and altered water courses, can often continue to impact communities for life.

The majority of the world’s mining companies are not prepared for the social requirements of closure. Mining companies, when making the decision to close a mine, assemble multidisciplinary teams of experts, specialising in diverse technical aspects of mine closure, such as the dismantling of mine infrastructure, ensuring the chemical and physical stability of the mine site, post-closure, and rehabilitation activities. Many of the technical aspects for closure have been identified by the company years prior. Mining companies rarely identify with such foresight the issues relating to social transitions that take place when a mine closes. Moreover, the social knowledge base to inform mine closure is built on the logic of operational continuity. Company indicators related to social performance tend to be associated with ensuring a mine remains open and functioning. Key social performance areas such as local employment quotas and local supplier initiatives seek to transfer mining benefits to local communities.

Yet these benefits cease immediately upon closure. Mining companies should approach closure planning around extending a mine’s benefits to communities, and reducing social risks, in the same way they approach the risk of acid mine drainage, for example. Social aspects of closure processes must be integrated early in mine closure planning, with the same or more time and resources assigned to carry out this task.

Internal company capacities however, rather than reinforced for the social challenges of closure are often reduced or phased out, and operations usually decrease their “social” budgets, instead of maintaining or increasing them. Promises of wellbeing do not consider closure and post-closure stages.

Much of the mining industry’s own evidence base to support claims of mining-driven sustainable territorial development is –in reality– strongly contingent on the continuous operation of operations. Collective efforts by the industry, government, academia, and non-government organisations to understand the future implications and expectations of impacted communities have been limited. Arguments around the sustainability claims of mining become polarised, defended by mining industry public relations on the one hand, and attacked by activist positions on the other. The sustainable development arguments for mining are most critically tested when a mine closes. It is imperative that the impacts on communities through closure transitions are effectively researched.

The research data on the social impacts of closure are necessary across many aspects of closure planning. Data to inform mining social investment programs that avoid or limit communities’ economic dependence. Data to inform how community visions or interests are included in closure planning decisions. Or to identify the necessary skills to strengthen company and community capacities for a successful transition to a post-mining reality.

Timely evaluation of social impacts

Mining companies cannot leave the identification of the potential social impacts of closure to the end. Companies must offer hard evidence of the positive benefits and the sustainability of local communities after they leave the territory. Moreover, closure plans must effectively address the social risks to communities of closure through directed investment aimed at optimising closure resources for maximum long-term benefits to communities.

For the mining industry, closure presents as a paradox. On the one hand, the mining operation must conceptualise, plan and implement actions for the inevitable closure. On the other, the industry is increasingly examined for its contribution to the sustainable development of society, particularly of the communities in the local territories. Social actors that are, or will be, affected by mining are increasingly informed of the responsibilities of the industry for the direct and indirect impacts to communities, as well as their rights and how they can influence decisions related to their territory. The mining industry has the opportunity to address these external pressures by demonstrating positive and prolonged impacts of a mine’s operation in the territory, supporting the development through closure towards a sustainable post-mining future.

In this regard, there is a clear role for academic researchers and NGOs operating in impacted territories. First, to effectively identify the social closure risks, for communities as well as for the company. Second, to contribute to building an adequate social knowledge base to inform decisions regarding closure planning and to fill the capacity void among all parties, the State and the communities throughout the social transition to a post-mining legacy. And finally, to inform possible changes to mine closure legislation.

Scope of social performance in a closure scenario

The social challenges the closure of a mine generates are numerous, and social risks to communities can be immense. A company’s social performance functions are oriented around the operational phase of a mine’s life cycle. How well-equipped are a mine’s social performance functions to adapt to the demands of closure? What social knowledge base and capacities does a company have, not only to track the impacts of closure and inform mitigation measures accordingly, but to address the concerns of local stakeholders during a period of extreme change in a territory? We observe an effective limitation in the capacities required to face this challenge in the industry.

The demands by impacted communities, and regional and national governments, around how mining companies address the social transitions generated by mine closure, will continue to increase. The social performance function will become increasingly important within an operation’s closure planning team. Not only in terms of engaging with stakeholders around closure, but in ensuring that the social impacts of closure are well-identified, and that the closure mitigation plans are prepared with the participation of communities, addressing the long-term developmental aims and visions of those who will remain in the territory long after the company has left.


For further information, please contact Nigel Wight and Francisca Rivero.

Consultas generales

+56 2 2307 9710


Sustainable Minerals Institute International Centre of Excellence Chile
The University of Queensland

© The University of Queensland     ABN: 63 942 912 684      CRICOS: 00025B      TEQSA: PRV12080

Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Consent to display content from Youtube
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google