Home' InDaily : January 12th 2012 Contents 24
The potential to damage the
environment and expose miners to
harmful chemicals is a common feature
of mineral processing in Australia and
overseas. But UniSA Senior Research
Fellow Dr Sarah Harmer is crossing
campuses next year in a bid to explore
Soon to be based in Flinders University's School of Chemical and
Physical Sciences, Dr Harmer (pictured) will spend the next four
years studying a group of environmentally-friendly microbes,
including bacteria, in a bid to replace harmful chemicals used to
Her research comes as a result of a $648,348 funding boost from
the Australian Research Council's prestigious Future Fellowship
program -- one of three grants awarded to Flinders in November.
In current mining practices, Dr Harmer said ore containing
valuable minerals is ground into a fine powder and mixed
with water and a cocktail of chemicals in order to separate the
valuable minerals in the ore from the non-valuable phases, in a
process called "froth flotation".
"Toxic chemicals play an important role in the mineral
processing by selectively changing the physiochemical
properties of the minerals surface," Dr Harmer said.
Digging deep for
sustainable mining solution
"Collectors adsorb onto the valuable minerals surface making
it hydrophobic allowing it to attach to a bubble and float to the
top of a flotation cell where it is collected," she said.
"The froth is then wiped away, collecting the valuable minerals
while the waste rock, or tailings as it is known, is left behind."
While research has already proven the value of microbes
to dissolve minerals, Dr Harmer said the challenge now is
to understand the surface chemistry that is responsible for
microbes selectively attaching to one mineral over another and
how they modify the minerals' hydrophobicity.
Dr Harmer said she will use an extremely bright light source
known as a synchrotron to image the microbial attachment to
Depending on her findings, she said the research could have a
positive impact on the minerals processing industry.
Dr Harmer, who is currently based at UniSA's Ian Wark Research
Institute, said she was looking forward to working with Flinders
staff and students next year.
"It will be great to work with a new group of talented scientists
and I'm excited about the opportunity to introduce a new
generation of students to advanced spectroscopic techniques
which only a synchrotron can provide," she said.
"And together we will work towards a more environmentally-
scholarships to attend Mercedes, Rostrevor or Westminster
Colleges. It is likely that in 2012 the school will have, for the
first time, its very own SACE (South Australian Certificate of
Education) graduates. And the swimming program is producing
some very capable swimmers.
"One of our girls last year won the Whyalla Swim Thru, a 2km
ocean swim. She'd never been in the ocean before, didn't know
what seaweed was," she said.
Despite the amenities, however, attendance is the school's
"A lot of our young fellas, at 14, were taken for 'business' --
initiation -- this year. They were gone for a whole term. Not all
of them have come back, now they're classed as Wati or men.
There's not much we can do about that," she said.
"They value culture and family before absolutely anything else
in the world and sometimes I think we could take a leaf out of
"But we can do something about the kids who are out and
about in the community but not at school."
Secondary teacher Nick Brown, who has been at Mimili since
2009, said there are many aspects of living in the community of
300 people that you take in your stride.
"Everyone knows everyone and when you first get here,
especially as one of only 14 white people, you stick out like a
sore thumb," Mr Brown said.
"I'm no longer surprised to be met by some pigs or a camel or
horse in the front yard or to see, as I did on yard duty the other
day, a little pre-schooler holding a stick with a dead snake
hanging off the end of it," he said.
There are some things, though, which continue to take you by
surprise: to find children wearing two left shoes of completely
different sizes, picked out of the communal shoe box for a field
trip to Adelaide; or to have to recover a young boy, who'd gone in
search of some bush tucker, from the wombat enclosure at the
"His eyes lit up when he saw it; he thought it was like shooting
fish in a barrel," Mr Brown said. "He had visions of going back to
Mimili a hero saying, 'I got myself a wombat'."
Leisure time, he said, is taken up with exercising, camping,
playing games or watching satellite TV.
"We don't want for much up here."
Mr Brown encourages prospective teachers thinking about
working in remote communities to "absolutely go for it".
"This area is in the mainstream media for all the wrong reasons.
You don't get too many positives stories, which is a real shame,
because there are plenty of positive stories to be had," he said.
"For a teacher, it's the same positives you get at any school:
watching the kids develop and grow and mature and take on
board values that you try to impart. And just watching them go
about their daily lives with new skills."
"In eight weeks you probably will experience a funeral and
you'll probably see some pretty bad domestic violence. You'll
also experience some great school camps and some really good
learning from the kids. You'll get a real balance of things."
Christine Bell, principal of Mimili Anangu School, offers a blunt
assessment of the highs and lows of life as a student teacher in
the remote Aboriginal community in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara
Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in the furthest reaches of
northwest South Australia.
But, as a Flinders mature-age graduate leading a teaching staff
of seven consisting entirely of Flinders graduates, all of whom
arrived at Mimili thanks to a University placement scheme,
Ms Bell has no illusions about what it takes to attract and
"Generally, people need to be able to live here. I feel that when
we get graduates, they are a blank canvas," Ms Bell, who has
been at the school since becoming a teacher in 2004, said.
"Over a six or eight-week placement, you get a chance to look at
them and how they cope in some pretty difficult circumstances:
living remotely without family, having to manage on a small
amount of food of average quality, dealing with some of the
things they see around community life and disadvantage which
can be pretty horrific at times," she said.
"It's not for everyone."
Mimili Anangu School is one of 11 similar schools dotted across
outback South Australia. A recent school trip to Alice Springs
took seven hours on the school bus. The nearest doctor is a
five-hour flight away. Ms Bell does a 70km round trip each
morning and back again each afternoon to ensure the dozen or
so students who live on the Homelands can get to school.
English is taught as a second language to the vast majority
of the 68 students, whose first language is Pitjantjatjara or
Yankunytjatjara, enrolled from reception to year 12. The school
also houses a playgroup and pre-school for children under five.
There's no mobile phone coverage but the facilities, including a
sparkling swimming pool, are good.
"The digital education revolution and the Building Education
Revolution have been fabulous for us," Ms Bell said.
"Our schools were pretty run down. They looked terrible and
they were treated terribly. You couldn't get teachers to come
here. But since we've had more money for infrastructure, our ICT
is pretty good, we've made our school look nice. It's in the heart
of the community and everyone uses our school.
"It's allowed us to have some pretty amazing stuff for our kids
and to attract really good calibre teachers. We've got some
amazing young teachers and they're all from Flinders."
Two of the teachers, Louka Parry and Jessica Dubois, are
regularly asked to present at conferences around Australia and
in New Zealand, on literacy and ICT.
Ms Bell has much of which to be proud. The school offers
its students an impressive range of activities, such as the
2009 voyage on the One & All. Four students have received
Teachers learning life
lessons at Mimili
Nuni Adomain and horny dragon
Links Archive January 11th 2012 January 13th 2012 Navigation Previous Page Next Page