Open position for tailings project at KU Leuven

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Vacancy for a Post-doc (or PhD*) position for the SMART project – Sustainable Metal Extraction from Tailings

Since the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, the primary mining and metal processing industry has been and still is landfilling and/or stockpiling vast quantities of metal-containing tailings. Especially the older tailing ponds and associated landfills may represent an environmental and health liability. However, the “tailings problem” can also be considered as an opportunity. By valorising historical and fresh tailings, an independent source of critical metals can be secured, hereby providing a more diversified and sustainable access to critical raw materials. However, traditional hydrometallurgical methods to recover metals from tailings involve the use of large quantities of concentrated acids or alkalis. Furthermore, such methods often require the re-landfilling of the residual fractions. More sustainable, comprehensive methods are required, which leach out the metals in a more eco-friendly way, while not jeopardising the valorisation solutions for the residual, mineral matrices.

The SMART project aims to develop a generic toolbox for the sustainable recovery of metals from both historical and fresh tailings, using combinations of advanced hydrometallurgical, solvometallurgical and biometallurgical methods. After the metal extraction a clean mineral residue is left behind, which can be further valorised in construction materials or for rehabilitation of the mining site.

KU Leuven is URGENTLY looking for a Post-doctoral researcher to work in a team of researchers at the Department of Chemistry. Your primary task is to deliver breakthrough solutions for sustainable metal recovery from tailings by non-aqueous leaching processes. Additionally, you critically think how the processes you develop can be implemented in an overall metallurgical flowsheet and how the process can be scaled up to an industrial scale. For this, you actively participate in discussions with the SMART partners (VITO, UGent, and Flamac) and with industrial partners (Jan de Nul – Envisan, Campine, Nyrstar, SGS Intron, Nucomat, MEAM, Sibelco and others). You also assist in elaborating follow-up projects aiming at the demonstration and industrial implementation of the developed tailings recycling flowsheets.

(*Strong candidates with a MSc diploma in hydrometallurgy (and thesis experience in this field) can also be considered. Furthermore, there are several other PhD student positions available!)


  • You have a PhD in science or engineering, preferably in the field of chemistry, chemical engineering, metallurgy or geosciences and have a particular interest in chemistry, hydrometallurgy and mineralogy;
  • Excellent knowledge of English is a requisite;
  • You have a track record in peer reviewed publications (in English) in the field of chemistry, metallurgy or geosciences
  • You like working in a chemical lab environment and are willing to spend substantial time in the lab;
  • You consider yourself as a problem solver or inventor,
  • You are result-driven and can think out-of-the box;
  • You are able to deepen yourself in the state-of-the art of your field;
  • You are well organized, can deliver in time, can work both independently and in a team;
  • You have good communication skills, are good in structuring and presenting results both in orally and written form;
  • You are willing to interact regularly with colleagues in academia and industry;
  • You are willing to guide master and PhD students working in your field and actively contribute to elaboration of new research projects in your field.


We offer:

  • A job in a young, dynamic and international team, treating society relevant problems in the field of sustainable metallurgy and recycling and in close collaboration with industry
  • A post-doc position in an internationally known group giving opportunities to a career in university, industry or government
  • A 1-year contract, with possibility of extension of 2 extra years after positive evaluation


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