Tim Werner


Tim’s holds bachelor degrees in the fields of environmental engineering (sustainable chemical processing) and science (geographical) from Monash University. His honours research focused on the process design and industrial ecology of a bio-plastics production facility for Gippsland. Tim has separately worked as a sustainability officer and consultant, performing research on energy efficient appliances and climate change adaptation strategies for local councils. His current research aims to determine the amount of specialty metals in mine wastes and electronic wastes, and model the effects of extracting from these sources in future.

Australian manufacturing makes use of virtually the whole periodic table, yet when large mineral deposits of base metals such as copper, lead and zinc are mined, the specialty metals present are often neglected. These metals, also known as ‘companion metals’ (CMs) include rare earths, indium, selenium, gallium and others essential for modern technologies such as LCD screens, wind turbines and electric vehicles. CMs could be acquired and retained in Australia by:

  • Enhanced recovery while processing raw ores of CM “host metals”
  • Import
  • Recovery from recycled products.

Options 1 and 2 are limited by the long-term geological supply of CMs. Additionally, they are likely to become less viable due to the increased environmental and financial costs of mining from deeper and poorer quality mineral deposits. To ensure ongoing supply, Australia therefore needs to assess its current material flows and identify the best potential technologies and systems for Option 3, recycling.

This PhD project will:

  • Provide a comprehensive assessment of the diversity and quantity of CMs in Australian ore deposits.
  • Estimate the current outflow of metals in Australian waste streams.
  • Develop life cycle assessment models to anticipate future outflows of recyclable metals in conjunction with different recycling technologies and systems.
  • Contribute to an interactive atlas for recyclable resources in Australian cities that facilitates scenario modelling for future environmental impacts.

Research questions:

  1. What are the current flows of companion metals (CMs) in the Australian economy?
  2. What quantities of CMs are available in Global and Australian ores?
  3. What is the potential for increased recovery during mineral processing?
  4. What are the quantities and prospects for recovery of CM from recycled products, including impacts of different technology and policy options?