A Southern Cross University scientist, researching geochemistry and soil science, has been announced as a 2020 Australian Research Council Future Fellow.
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Professor Ed Burton, Head of Environmental Geochemistry and Mineralogy at Southern Cross GeoScience, will use the prestigious Future Fellowship, worth $1,048,328 over four years, to explore how antimony geochemistry interacts with the iron cycle in soils, sediments and aquatic systems.
“Antimony is a critical mineral resource which plays an important and growing role in our daily lives.
It is widely used in plastics, textiles, electronic and computer equipment and to harden metal alloys in batteries, bearings and ammunition,” said Professor Burton.
Antimony is also central to a wide-range of emerging technologies, such as phase-change memory devices which increase computing speeds and liquid metal batteries for renewable energy sources.
“Yet antimony is also a carcinogenic toxin and a priority environmental pollutant of increasing concern,” Professor Burton said.
There are more than 50,000 derelict mine sites across Australia.
“My Future Fellowship will look at optimising approaches to clean up antimony contamination at many of these locations by bringing together an innovative combination of advanced analytical tools to examine antimony-iron interactions in soils, sediments and experimental mineral systems,” Professor Burton said.
“The disused antimony processing site at Urunga is a close-to-home example of contaminated site remediation that benefits the environment and the community.
Southern Cross University was involved in assessing the extent and nature of antimony contamination at that site,” said Professor Burton.
“These days it is a wetlands walk area for visitors and tourists. Yet for more than four decades the ore processing plant at Urunga was left derelict, leaving antimony and other heavy metals to leach into the environment.”
“This project will put Australia at the leading edge of an exciting new research direction and will create a long-term legacy of national benefit,” Professor Burton said.
“By providing new knowledge for environmentally-sustainable antimony mining, this project will also be of strong strategic benefit to Australia’s future prosperity.”
By Sandra MOON