Sarah Marshall mines the depths of groundwater ecology

How can mining be sustainable and environmentally friendly?

How can the impact of mines on groundwater resources be predicted and minimised?

Hydrogeologist Sarah Marshall will answer these pressing questions at the Three-Minute Thesis Competition Final on 1 September.

Her research is focused on the environmental effect of Australian iron ore mines on the water table and the ecosystem it supports.

Mining pits are often dug to a level that is lower than the water table and the groundwater that spills into them has to be pumped out. This in turn can reduce underground water supplies which sustain surrounding flora and fauna.

If not managed appropriately, disused mine pits can also fill with groundwater and become contaminated, further impacting on the surrounding environment, which can include springs and sacred sites.

However, because groundwater flows extremely slowly, there can be a significant delay of years – or even decades – before the environmental effects of mining are observed.

Sarah is developing computational models that simulate groundwater flow after a mine has closed so that changes to groundwater resources can be predicted and mitigated ahead of time.

Her models will inform policies to minimise the environmental, ecological and social impacts of iron ore mining in Australia.

Watch a preview of Sarah’s presentation on YouTube.

Don’t miss her final talk on 1 September in Law Commerce Lecture Theatre 4 at 2.30pm.

Staff and students can register their attendance via the 3MT web-page.

More information about the 3MT Final is available in Grad News.

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