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Project 3.8

Increasing bio-available plant nutrients in mineral waste

Research Program

Operational Solutions

Project Leader

Professor Hans Lambers

Project ID



This project focusses on increasing plant nutrients in iron ore waste to enable improved mine site rehabilitation. It is centred around Fortescue Metals Group’s Chichester Hub mine site in the Pilbara region of north Western Australia.

The Pilbara region has a very thin layer of top soil which is essential for plant growth and is naturally disrupted through mining. This is a critical issue for the industry in the Pilbara as there are large areas of heavily altered landscapes. Post-mining landscapes require the establishment of self-sustaining ecosystems over heavily altered landscapes constructed from mineral waste. This project will formulate a process to increase plant available nutrient levels, specifically nitrogen for this study, in waste rock, tailings and stockpiled soils (subsoils and topsoil) using novel plant-microbe systems, to improve the rehabilitation post-mining.

Effectively and efficiently converting these landscapes into self-sustaining ecosystems will deliver environmental and financial benefits as well as provide more certainty on ecosystem resilience. The project involves experimental glasshouse-based and laboratory testing undertaken at the University of Western Australia, along with microbiology expertise from Curtin University.

This project will also contributes to the strategic Foundational Project 3.4 on Returning Ecosystem Resilience.

Project Partners

University of Western Australia; Fortescue Metals Group Ltd; Curtin University


12 months