'Working together to promote premier, multi-disciplinary research and development in the area of minerals beneficiation'

New Initiatives and Evolving Research

New Initiatives and Evolving Research

The MtM research programme has been constantly evolving since its inception in 2007 as projects develop and new partnerships are formed, expanding opportunities and opening up previously unexplored research areas. Following the appointment of Professor Dee Bradshaw as the new SARChI Chair in Minerals Beneficiation and Director of MtM at the end of 2015, MtM’s research network and capacity has been expanded, providing the opportunity for creating a number of new research initiatives.


In line with the expanding initiatives in 2016, the research has been re-categorised and focused into the following five ‘higher level themes’:

  • mineral value chains

  • technical innovation

  • strategic minerals

  • licence-to-operate

  • value from waste

In all these themes, understanding and new knowledge is being developed that will provide decision making tools, although it is recognised that many of the projects span more than one theme. There are currently more than 20 research programmes and projects spanning these research themes either underway or in development. These include ARD mitigation, Circular Economy Engineering, Dry Processing, Dust, Urban Mining, Industrial Minerals, REEs, Geometallurgy, and incorporating sustainability risk through operationalising SDGs.

Mineral Value Chains Projects


Edson Charikinya

Project Title : Integrated Modelling Framework
Supervisors: Prof Dee Bradshaw; Dr Megan Becker; A/Prof Jenny Broadhurst; Prof Aubrey Mainza


Sithembiso Ntlhabane
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: Developing an integrated mineralogical framework
Supervisors: Dr Megan Becker; Prof Dee Bradshaw; Dr Edson Charikiya


Strategic Minerals Projects

Research to develop new and better processes for obtaining Rare Earth Elements is also a research focus of Professor Jochen Petersen, and a part of the theme ‘Strategic Minerals’. Cody Burcher-Jones’s (MSc Eng) development of an understanding of the processes governing the in-situ leaching of rare-earth elements from ion exchange clay deposits involves sophisticated mineral characterization, which is being undertaken by Dr Megan Becker’s CMR process mineralogy team.

Industrial minerals are known as ‘Cinderella’ minerals, often overlooked in favour of the more lucrative metal-bearing hard rock opportunities. However, owing to their importance in modern economies, there is significant potential in their beneficiation. In an undergraduate project in 2015 supported by a local limestone supply company, Corey Beavon evaluated the potential for increased beneficiation of limestone ores in South Africa, particularly for the manufacture of high value precipitated calcium carbonate. He has continued this work for his MPhil research project in 2016. Senzo Mgabhi’s (MSc Eng) is evaluating the potential of using limestone for ARD mitigation in a collaboration between CPU and HydroMet. This work forms part of new theme ‘Strategic Minerals’ and also relates to the ‘Licence-to-Operate’ theme.

Ongoing research of in-situ and heap-leach processes continues to evolve the older theme of low grade ores into the newer domain of ‘Strategic Minerals’ and the development of an integrated modelling framework. Buhle Manana’s (MSc Eng) electrochemical study of diffusion through pores in large particle leaching, and an aligned project by postdoctoral fellow Dr Rahul Ram, revolving around preparing particle ‘shells’ for such diffusion studies, feed into the development of a process model of heap and in-situ leach processes, which is being developed by Nicole Uys in her MSc Eng project All are working under the supervision of Professor Jochen Petersen with co-supervisors TK Rampai, Dr Megan Becker and Professor Dee Bradshaw. Eventually these projects will feed into the integrated modelling framework of ‘Mineral Value Chains’. Chiloane (MSc Eng) provided a basis for developing a framework for analysing the co-location of utility-scale solar power plants within metallurgical operations.



Buhle Manana
MSc (commenced 2015)


Project Title: The influence of diffusion pathways on the solution potential in mineral leach systems
Supervisors: Prof Jochen Petersen; Dr Rahul Ram


Cody Owen Burcher-Jones
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: In-situ leaching of rare earth elements from ion-exchange clay deposits
Supervisors: Prof Jochen Petersen; Tokoloho Rampai


Corey Beavon
MPhil in Sustainable Mineral Development (commenced 2016)

Project Title: Relationship between mining and the green economy in South Africa
Supervisors: Prof Dee Bradshaw; Prof Harro von Blottnitz


Nicole Uys
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: Modelling of in-situ leaching of rare earth elements
Supervisors: Prof Jochen Petersen; Prof Dee Bradshaw


Senzo Mgabhi
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: The kinetics of lime dissolution in acid mine drainage neutralization
Supervisors: Prof Jochen Petersen; Prof Alison Lewis


Technical Innovation Projects

In 2015 an undergraduate project evaluating the potential of dry processing to reduce energy and water emissions was undertaken, which has led to an MSc project started by Gilbert Ncube in 2016 which evaluates the potential for removing clay material from high clay ores while dry, using high pressure grinding rolls followed by air separation. This work is conducted in collaboration with Professor Aubrey Mainza (CMR) and Hacettepe University, and is supported by ThyssenKrupp, where the test work is being undertaken. This project forms part of new theme ‘Technical Innovation’.



Gilbert Ncube
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: Dry processing innovation for improved performance
Supervisors: Dr Megan Becker; Prof Dee Bradshaw; Dr Edson Charinkiya


Value from Waste Projects

The development of methods for the extraction of metals from e-waste, particularly printed circuit boards, using various hydrometallurgical and bio-hydrometallurgical methods, has been an ongoing research area in CeBER and more recently in MtM. Thandazile Moyo has been awarded an NRF post-doctoral fellowship to develop this further and Zaynab Sadan, in her MSc Eng project, is weighing up the value of extracting post-consumer waste, including the assessment of sustainability criteria. A proposal developed in collaboration MiLA and CeBER to use a techno-environmental and socio-economic framework for doing this has been submitted to the DST for funding. The potential to extend and develop this initiative into UCT’s Urban Mine by including social innovation and the formation of a social enterprise is being discussed with the Bertha Centre at the Graduate School of Business and the d-school of Design Thinking. Another aspect to urban mining is generating value in the form of fine chemicals from waste tyres, which is the topic of Alvira’s Mentoor’s PhD. Together with the development of tools and methodologies for (geological) mine waste, these projects form part of the continuing theme ‘Value from Waste’.



Thandazile Moyo

Project Title: Urban Mining
Supervisors: Dr Divine Fuh (Department of Social Anthropology, UCT); A/Prof Jenny Broadhurst


Zynab Sadan
MSc (commenced 2016)

Project Title: Development of a process flow sheet for selective metal recovery from waste printed circuit boards and its evaluation using a techno- environmental and socio-economic framework
Supervisors: Prof Jochen Petersen; Prof Dee Bradshaw; Thandazile Moyo


Licence to Operate Projects

The ‘Licence-to-Operate’ theme includes both environmental and social licence to operate. Continuing projects that will be included in this theme are the ARD characterisation work by Alex Opitz (PhD) and Annah Moyo (MSc Eng), as well as the MPhil student projects under the previous theme of community engagement and the social and legislative licence to operate. This includes twelve students, and entails co-supervision by academics from Universities of British Columbia, Cambridge and Queensland, as well as from the School of Economics and the Department of Architecture and Planning at the University of Cape Town.

The concept of Green Mining and its development by MtM in 2016 has arisen from several sources. One was the challenge from the ‘green finance’ perspective coming from Louise Gardiner, director of KudosAfrica, for tools that investors can use to identify innovative and resilient companies. Adj/Prof Wynand van Dyk is the project manager of Kropz’s Elandsfontein Phosphate mine, located 12 km from Langebaan; where sustainability principles have been incorporated into the design and operation of this mine and processing facility located in an environmentally sensitive region. The processing facility is in the construction phase and the partnership with MtM has facilitated three visits with different groups of students, the most recent including five law students—which provoked interesting discussions. An undergraduate project in 2015 focused on shared value creation between communities and mining companies that highlighted the effects of mining on social capital.

Arising from the discussions and contribution to the document, ‘Mapping Mining to the Sustainable Development Goals: A Preliminary Atlas’, in April 2016, a programme was initiated by Adj/Professor Mike Solomon and Professor Dee Bradshaw entitled ‘Operationalising the Sustainable Development Goals for Mining in Emerging Economies’. This forms part of the ‘Licence-To-Operate’ theme, with the first goal being to assess the extent to which mining companies already contribute towards the SDG objectives, in both quantitative and qualitative terms. The programme will then identify ways in which the sector should adapt and improve, implementing new operating procedures or methods to more effectively embed the SDGs in governance, management systems, organisational culture and disclosure. More specifically, the objectives are to:

Create an awareness of the SDGs within the mining industry from corporate Chief Executive Officers though mine management down to operational personnel; Embed the principles in corporate and operating culture at all levels in mining companies; and Inculcate this culture into the future leaders of the industry by building the principles into every aspect of their engineering and business education through undergraduate and post-graduate course work and assignments.



Alex Opitz
PhD (commenced 2015)

Project Title: The Development of an Integrated Approach for the Prediction of Acid Rock Drainage from Waste Rock
Supervisors: Prof Sue Harrison; Assoc. Prof Jenny Broadhurst; Dr Megan Becker


Annah Moyo
MSc (commenced 2016

Project Title: Characterizing the environmental risk potential of South African coal processing waste
Supervisors: A/Prof Jenny Broadhurst; Prof Sue Harrison; Dr Juarez Amaral Filho


Mine Dust

The Mine Dust Working Group at the University of Cape Town spans across several academic departments and involves government and industry leaders to tackle this problem. This inter-disciplinary working group will provide the necessary expertise to deal with all aspects of mine dust. The aim is to provide integrated solutions to many of challenges faced by communities, affected environments and the industry. This will include the sources, quantification and emission mechanisms, monitoring and sampling methods, characterisation of the dust, its impacts, associated risks and legislation.

Our focus is on finding solutions to the problem of mine dust in developing countries around the world with specific focus on southern Africa, South America and potentially Asia soon. Working group activities to date have been focused on identifying and drawing in network participants, defining the network structure and functions, as well as identifying research areas. The first workshop was held in 2016 and centred around discussions for the need to establish this focus group. This year has seen the development of the necessary capacity to drive this research theme and the second workshop held in July provided the blue print for future network activities. Research to date has been largely through student projects.



Caitlin Gruning and Emma Chetty Honours (Commenced 2018)


Project Title: Dust deposition footprint and impact at Saldanha Bay from a coupled ground-based and remote sensing study
Supervisors: Dr Johanna von Holdt, A/Prof Jennifer Broadhurst, CK Kamanzi, Shireen Govender and A/Prof Megan Becker


Cassandra da Cruz and Ndivhuwo Magondo Honours (Commenced 2018)


Project Title: Exposure risk of urban industrial particulate matter: are our monitoring methods effective?
Supervisors: Dr Johanna von Holdt, A/Prof Megan Becker, CK Kamanzi, Shireen Govender and A/Prof Jennifer Broadhurst


Conchita Kamanzi Masters (Commenced 2018)


Project Title: The development of a protocol for characterizing particulate emissions from coal mining and processing.
Supervisors: A/Prof Jennifer Broadhurst, A/Prof Megan Becker, Dr Johanna von Holdt





This is the third mine dust workshop held as part of this initiative. The minutes of the previous meetings held in 2016 are available on the shared folder. This group was started with Jenny’s visit to an AAUN (Australia Africa University Network) meeting held by Helen McDonald on mining and health mostly attended by health anthropologists and occupational hygienists. From this meeting it became clear that mine dust is one of these intractable problems that spans many different disciplines and can only be dealt with by an inter-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder group of people which are two aspects that defines sustainability science. In the last two years...



The inaugural dust workshop was held at Minerals at Metals on the 10th of June, 2016. The workshop, attended by researchers from various research groupings both within and beyond UCT, was designed to establish a preliminary protocol and a plan of action in order to tackle the role of mine dust- its detection, implications and mitigation. Further, the meeting provided a starting platform upon which trans- disciplinary research in this area can be facilitated.


Dust deposition footprint and impact at Saldanha Bay from a coupled ground-based and remote sensing study

Student: Caitlin Gruning and Emma Chetty Honours (Commenced 2018)

Supervisors: Dr Johanna von Holdt, A/Prof Jennifer Broadhurst, CK Kamanzi, Shireen Govender and A/Prof Megan Becker

The Saldanha multipurpose terminal has been in operation since September 1976. The towns of Vredenburg, Saldhana, Velddrif and Langebaan are nearby. Red iron ore dust stains almost every surface in Vredenburg and Saldhana and resident complaints have escalated with the expansion of the port’s handling capacity of iron ore, manganese, lead and heavy minerals such as ilmenite, zircon and rutile. Some of these minerals undergo some processing within Saldanha Bay before being shipped to overseas markets, such as the production of titania slag and pig iron from ilmenite (Gous, 2006). Particulate measurements are said to indicate compliance with existing ambient air quality standards at Saldanha and Vredenburg (WSP, 2013) with the controversial conclusion that the dust does not pose significant risks to the environment and people. To determine the footprint of potential dust deposition from these activities this project will sample the soils around the Saldanha Bay and Vredenburg area to determine if and to what extent the ore handling and processing have affected the soils. Soil samples will be taken in the field and analysed for specific elements found within the mineral ores with XRF and QEMSCAN or SEM-EDX. In addition, satellite data from a sensor such as MODIS or Sentinel will be explored to see if it is possible to confirm the dispersion of particulate matter from these activities and whether the ground-based results can be correlated with remote sensing data. This could potentially be used to validate dispersion modeling and determine the area of exposure of other mining activities.


Exposure risk of urban industrial particulate matter: are our monitoring methods effective?

Student: Cassandra da Cruz and Ndivhuwo Magondo Honours (Commenced 2018)

Supervisors: Dr Johanna von Holdt, A/Prof Megan Becker, CK Kamanzi, Shireen Govender and A/Prof Jennifer Broadhurst

Particulate matter (PM) has been recognised as a key pollutant that can have significant impacts on ambient air quality, the surrounding environment, and human health. South African legislation identifies several criteria air pollutants that has an impact on air quality and ambient standards for particulate matter for sizes PM10 and PM2.5 are specified (SANS1929:2011). In recognition of the important contribution of dust to the particulate matter category, dustfall is regulated and permissible dustfall rates are listed in the National Dust Control Regulations (May 2018) as measured with ASTM D1739:2010. The dustfall bucket method is known to be inefficient for PM10 particulate matter (less than 10 µm) but is regarded as a proxy for the effective management of dust. It is uncertain how well this method of monitoring dust emission, and the way it is currently implemented, captures the actual exposure of humans and animals to these respirable size fractions of dust. This is particularly problematic in urban settings where industrial areas are located adjacent to residential areas with different limits (1200 mg/m2/day average versus 600 mg/m2/day for latter). This project will assess the difference in the results from the dustfall out bucket method to those taken with an active PM10 sampler to determine the potential implications of these differences in terms of the regulations and health risks at an urban industrial point source situated next to a residential area. The quantity, particle size and composition of the dust will be determined with a particle size analyser and electron microscopy such as SEM-EDX or QEMSCAN.


The development of a protocol for characterizing particulate emissions from coal mining and processing.

Student: Conchita Kamanzi Masters (Commenced 2018)

Supervisors: A/Prof Jennifer Broadhurst, A/Prof Megan Becker, Dr Johanna von Holdt

The coal industry in South Africa is well established and has historically been a major generator of power through Eskom (Electricity supply commission) since the early 1920s, as well as the creation of liquid fuel generated by SASOL (South African Synthetic Oil Liquid) in the 1950s. South Africa also holds the title of the sixth largest producer of coal globally. The Waterberg coalfield in Limpopo represents the last remaining volumetric resource of coal in South Africa. Multiple prospects have been opened to mine within the coalfield. Currently there is only one established mine in the coalfield. This mine produces feed stock for two proximal power stations and occupies the largest coal washing plant in the world. The region which this mine is located is plagued by water scarcity and has been recognised by the South African Weather Service as a site for monitoring in terms of potential air pollutants. Along with this there is a historical link to the dust emissions and the resultant lung diseases caused by the extraction, processing and open storage of coal further justifying the monitoring of particulate emissions in the area.

Water as a resource is becoming more precious, with the indisputable effects of climate change currently plaguing the world various regions are experiencing harsher dry seasons and delayed or absent rains form one end of the spectrum. With this in mind the future use of water by major industries such as the mining sector is in a state of reform. Coal processing plants in South Africa employ washing facilities to upgrade the mined low-quality coals to market standards. There has been a shift to drier processes and the reprocessing of fine material. In terms of the mine processing these are extremely advantageous developments. What needs to be considered is the impact of finer (potentially nano-particles) and drier discards entering tailings dams and being entrained in the ambient air. The only regulations outlined in South African legislation on air quality speaks to the volumetric concentrations of inhalable particles one is exposed to. There is no mention of the constituents of the dust particles or the characteristics that they pose which can influence the toxicity of the dust produced.

Various toxicological studies have identified the characteristic factors of insoluble and “low toxicity” dust, of which coal dust has been grouped as, which inhibit clearance in the lung and promote inflammation. These factors speak to the physical characteristics of the particles themselves and need to be identified prior to exposure in order to understand risk and dose once exposed. This study aimsto develop a method to quantify the characteristics of inhalable particulate matter in terms of their physical, chemical and mineralogical properties.


Projects Under Development

A partnership to co-develop resilience and innovation for sustainability, which will involve trans-disciplinary research, education and training, and stakeholder and community engagement, is being developed with the sustainability manager for Anglo Gold Ashanti, Dr Brian Chicksen. Prof Dee Bradshaw is coordinating the engagement from UCT which includes the GSB, d-School and MiLA, in addition to MtM.

Attendance at an Australia Africa Universities Network (AAUN) workshop in December 2015, “Mining for a Healthier Community”, led by Dr Helen MacDonald from UCT, indicated that there are a number of inter-connected issues of relevance to mine dust. It was against this background that a multi-disciplinary “Mine Dust Working Group” was established under the auspices of MtM, comprising more than 20 specialists and academics in areas such as immunology, geology, nanoscience, health anthropology, chemical engineering, law, mineralogy, environmental management and control, and occupational health. The inaugural meeting of this group was held in June 2016, followed by a working meeting in July 2016. The primary purpose of these meetings was to develop awareness of current expertise, capabilities and activities; to highlight the key issues; to identify current gaps and deficiencies in terms of dealing with these issues; and to explore opportunities for developing trans-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approaches and activities going forward. On the basis of these meetings, a framework for trans-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder research in the area of mine dust has been established. A preliminary project aimed at establishing a particle size classification system to support such a framework is being conducted by two 4th year chemical engineering students under the supervision of Dr Rahul Ram and Associate Professor Jenny Broadhurst. Three literature review papers are in preparation, covering aspects of legislation and policy, health anthropology, and the characterisation and management of mine dust. A preliminary meeting with the Wellcome Trust has indicated that the organisation would be keen to consider funding of a trans-disciplinary research thrust in this area.

It is in the arena of evolving research where a number of inter-disciplinary, trans-disciplinary and inter-institutional research themes are being pursued. The research carried out through the MPhil has been particularly instrumental in this. As stated, the growing understanding of the complexity of introducing principles of sustainable development into mining requires a more integrative research approach. Building on a number of seminal projects in the past, MtM aims to grow its research in depth and width. By reaching out to other experts at UCT, it has been possible to enhance existing research in topics like water, dust, waste, recycling and repurposing, amongst others.