Understanding our environment to improve sustainable mining

Our predictive geoscience flagship projects help us to:

  • support the foundation of our society (coal geoscience, coal seam gas, hydrochemistry, microbial methane and carbon sequestration)
  • improve the environmental sustainability of mining practices
  • better understand natural environmental processes.

Coal and coal seam gas

Our strong focus on coal and coal seam gas research is reflected in the formation of the UQ Geothermal Energy Centre of Excellence and the Vale-UQ Coal Geosciences program.

Our research strengths include understanding the interplay of basin evolution, sedimentary environments, palaeo-climate and botanical evolution, and the practical impact that these geological factors have on exploration and discovery, mining conditions and reservoir behaviour.

Research in this field is supported by our fully equipped Coal Laboratory.

Geomicrobiology

Geomicrobiology (the study of microbe-mineral interactions and their contribution to biogeochemical processes) is also being used to enhance Australia’s leadership in mining and energy production.

Recent discoveries have shown that much of the coal seam gas is formed from biological processes, in addition to being a by-product of heating through deep burial of the coal.

Understanding, and potentially harnessing, methanogenic microorganisms (archaea) is the focus of current research in order to develop renewable energy sources from waste and abandoned coal for the future.

Much of our work on projects is carried out in the recently established Vale-UQ Geomicrobiology Laboratory.

Environmental geochemistry

Environmental geochemistry helps us to understand hydrogeology and the role of water in the environment.

Current projects are investigating sources and the quality of water associated with mining exploration and development activity, their likely impact on the environment, and strategies for the rehabilitation of mined sites.

Many of our analyses are carried out in the Environmental Geochemistry Laboratory, the Stable Isotope Geochemistry Laboratory and the Radiogenic Isotope Facility.

Other projects

Other research projects focus on:

  • understanding how metals move through environmental systems: this will contribute to more sustainable methods for geochemical exploration and bioremediation strategies to clean up metal pollution
  • developing improved industrial processes, such as bioleaching for the recovery of metals
  • developing advanced methodologies related to the biogeochemical cycling of carbon (such as carbon capture from mine waste) and natural gas production from deep coal; both of which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus help to combat global climate change.

For more information, refer to our list of projects, below.