Program Leader of the Ecological Engineering of Soil-Plant Systems Program
Associate Professor Longbin Huang focuses on the discovery of new knowledge on biogeochemistry of tailing-soil and biogeopolymerization of tailings into hardpan, which provide the basis for the development of new technologies to rehabilitate mine waste domains (or landforms) (e.g., tailings, red mud, and weathered waste rocks) at metal mines (such as magnetite mine and precious and base metal mines) and to remediate soil/land heavily contaminated by mining/mineral processing activities. By means of these technologies and methodologies, functional soil-plant systems can be engineered for desirable post-mining land use options with much improved confidence and success rate, thus contributing to the economic and environmental sustainability of the mining/minerals industry in Australia. The program builds on multi-disciplinary knowledge and know-how within the framework of soil-plant systems (the building blocks of landforms), such as mineralogy, geochemistry, geomicrobiology, molecular microbial ecology, soil physics and biogeochemistry, soil-plant system interactions, plant ecophysiology and others.
This program aims to significantly improve the economic and ecological sustainability of the mining/minerals industry, through delivering transformative technologies to rehabilitate mine waste landforms at metal mines, with much reduced soil/covering materials required and improved confidence of successful rehabilitation and mine closure. The knowledge and technology of geo-mineral-transformation and polymerization mechanisms will be developed into new remediation technologies to improve heavily contaminated land at metal mines for economic land use options (such as food/fiber/biofuel production) in mined landscapes and mining regions.
The New Paradigm towards Sustainable Rehabilitation of Mine Tailings: Metal mine tailings, common domains at nonferrous (e.g., Au, Ag, Cu, Ni, Pb, Zn) and ferrous (e.g. magnetite mine) metal mines, represent the highest level of ecological and economic risks within mined landscapes. The tailings are wastes from ore/mineral processing/refinery, which comprise fine-textured particles and hydrogeochemically unstable minerals (e.g. sulfidic minerals, soluble salts), generate toxic physicochemical conditions and limit the colonisation of soil microbes and plants. The conventional approach to build elaborate covers with massive volumes of clay, rock and topsoil over hundreds of hectares of tailings is economically and environmentally unsustainable at many mine sites remotely located in highly weathered landscapes of inland Australia. At many metal mines, little success of tailings rehabilitation has so far come out from past efforts focusing on tolerant plant-based technology (e.g., hyperaccumulator species) aided with rhizosphere remediation and agronomic practices. The extreme difficulties of sustainable rehabilitation of this kind of landforms result in high economic costs to mining companies and long-term environmental risks to communities and society, thus threatening mining industry’s “social licence to operate”. Only recently, a new technology of “Eco-engineering tailing-soil and soil-plant systems” to rehabilitate metal mine tailings has been proposed and advocated by Associate Professor Longbin Huang and his team, which are built on sciences of geomicrobiology, mineralogy, pedogenesis, soil microbial ecology, rhizosphere biology, and ecological dynamics of soil-plant systems.
By treating tailings as engineered parent materials, this new technology involves (1) purposed alteration of mineral and organic constituents in the tailings, (2) priming and acceleration of microbial processes for bioweathering primary minerals, (3) stimulation of organo-mineral complexation for formation water-stable aggregate and development of primary soil-like physicochemical properties, (4) the colonisation and development of soil/rhizosphere microbes, and (5) the development of ecological linkages (e.g., in situ litter decomposition and nutrient cycling) with target assemblages or communities of keystone species, under local climatic conditions. Up-to-date research findings from past 5-year field trials with Cu/Pb-Zn mine tailings have offered promising opportunities of this new paradigm technology, as demonstrated by the development of hydrogeochemically stable and biogeochemically functional technosols from Cu/Pb-Zn tailings and the establishment of native grass and woody shrubs, e.g, Triodia pungens (spinifex), Ptilotus exaltatus, Enneapogon polyphyllus, Indigofera linnaei, Solanum chippendalei, Senna notabilis and Acacia spp. (A. chisolmii, A. ligulata, A. hiliana and A. holosericea), under subtropical and semi-arid climatic conditions, without ongoing water and fertiliser inputs. Further research in the near future aims to enrich the relevant science and develop technological modules, which would be tailored for site-specific mineralogy of tailings concerned and local climatic conditions at metal mine sites.
Photos: Magnetite particle surface pitted by microbes in Cu-tailings amended with sugarcane residues (A) and native plants ((B) Ptilotus exaltatus, (C) Acacia hiliana, (D) Triodia spp.) established in highly weathered and engineered Cu-Pb-Zn tailing-soil at a mine site under subtropical and semi-arid climatic conditions.
Knowledge and technologies to rehabilitate mine wastes (including bauxite residues, tailings, acidic waste rocks) for non-polluting and sustainable outcomes
Mechanisms of bioweathering, mineralogical transformation and hydrogeochemical stabilisation in metal mine tailings and reactive waste rocks.
In situ reconstruction of engineered soil-plant systems to rehabilitate red mud impoundment:
In situ bio-neutralisation technology for rapidly neutralizing red mud and alkaline liquor for low-cost substrate production to support native and tolerant plant species and communities
In situ alkali-activation technology for rapid development of massive hardpan layer to act as a sustainable and cost-effective hydraulic interruption layer within the soil-plant systems.
Biogeochemistry of ambient geopolymerisation and hardpan development (the formation of ambient bio-geo-polymers) in metal mine tailings and red mud.
Biogeochemistry of soil (technosol) formation from mine wastes.
Biofilm properties and functions in the mineral-organic matter-root interfaces.
Structural and functional modelling of engineered soil-plant systems as functional landform units for different land use purposes in mined landscapes (such as natural vegetation for covering mine waste domains, pasture/crop systems for economic land uses).
Remediation technology for sustainable immobilisation of metals and metalloids in heavily contaminated soils
In-situ insulation technology for engineering massive hardpan for immobilising metals and metalloids.
In-situ mineral aggregate technology for substantially lowering plant availability and uptake of metals and/or metalloids in crop/pasture soil contaminated by mining/industrial activities.
Ecophysiology and physiology of native plants (including metallophytes) in mined environments
Rhizosphere mechanisms of native plants in engineered technosols.
Foliar mechanisms of plant species exposed to mineral dusts.
Nutrient acquisition strategies of native plants in engineered technosols and remediated soils.
Next-generation fertiliser technology by adding value to minerals and mine wastes
Foliar micronutrient fertiliser technology for high dosage, low phytotoxicity and long-lasting effects.
New N/P granulated geo-fertilisers with much reduced nitrification and leaching loss (sugarcane soils, sodic and alkaline soils).
Projects (selected examples only)
Developing Options and Strategies for Red Mud Bioremediation by Using Microbe Catalysed Reactions and Ecological Engineering Processes (2016).
An Examination of Cu-Pb-Zn Tailings Revegetation Options and Strategies: Evaluation of Amendment Options for Reconstructing a Root Zone in Base Metal Mine Tailings for Supporting Open-shrubland Ecosystems - Root Zone Reconstruction Requirements and Field Model (2012-2015).
Biogeochemical processes of hardpan formation in sulfidic base metal tailings (2015).
Research on Key Technology Cooperation for Comprehensive Improvement to Acidic Pollution in Metallic Mine Dump. Ministry of Science and Technology, China Central Government, DeXing Copper Mine (2013-2014).
Evaluation of Cu Tailings Amendment Options on Native Grass Growth, Mineral Nutrition and Arsenic Accumulation in Plants (2012-2013)
Developing a strategy for revegetating saline red mud at the Gove Alumina Refinery (2012)
Engineering Biochars for Restoring and Sustaining Soil-Plant Systems – from Mined Land to Crop fields (2011-2012).
Tailoring Nano‑crystal Suspensions for Extended Ion Supply to Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Leaf Surfaces ARC Linkage Grant (2009-2012).
Developing a Strategy for Revegetating Saline Red Mud at the Gove Alumina Refinery
Memberships of Professional Societies
Soil Science Society of America
Australian Soil Science Society
International Phytotechnology Society
Huang L, You F and Li X (2016) Developing options and strategies for red mud bioremediation. Brisbane: CMLR, Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland.
Huang L, Baumgartl T, Li X, Nguyen T, You F, Dorjsuren M, Yuan M (2015) An examination of options and strategies for tailings revegetation at Mt Isa – Phase II: Evaluation of amendment options for reconstructing a root zone in base metal mine taiolings for supporting open-shrubland ecosystems – Root zone reconstruction requirements and field model. Brisbane: CMLR, Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland.
Huang L, Baumgartl T (2013) A final report: evaluation of tailings amendment options on native grass growth, hydro-geochemical changes and arsenic accumulation in plants. Brisbane: CMLR, Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland.
Huang L, Baumgartl T, Mulligan D (2012) An examination of options and strategies for tailings revegetation at Mt Isa and Earnest Henry Mines – A Final Report (Phase 1). Brisbane: CMLR, Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland.
Huang L, Baumgartl T, Fletcher A, Mulligan D (2011) A report on MIM tailings characterisation in relation to revegetation constraints (Subprogram 2). Brisbane: CMLR, Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland.
Huang L, Mulligan D R (2010) Revegetation of base metal mine tailings: past lessons and potential options. Brisbane: CMLR, The University of Queensland.
Baumgartl T, Edraki M, Huang L and Mulligan D (2009) Developing a Strategy for Revegetating Saline Bauxite Residue at the Gove Alumina Refinery, Stage 1 – Review of literature and identification of knowledge gaps to inform research needs and directions. Brisbane: CMLR, Sustainable Minerals Institute, The University of Queensland.
Li X, You F, Bond P L and Huang L (2015) Establishing microbial diversity and functions in weathered and neutral Cu-Pb-Zn tailings with native soil addition. Geoderma, 247-248:108-116.
Du, Yumei, Kopittke, Peter M., Noller, Barry N., James, Simon A., Harris, Hugh H., Xu, Zhi Ping, Li, Peng, Mulligan, David R. and Huang, Longbin (2015) In situ analysis of foliar zinc absorption and short-distance movement in fresh and hydrated leaves of tomato and citrus using synchrotron-based X-ray fluorescence microscopy. Annals of Botany, 115 1: 41-53.
Li P, Li L, Du Y, Hampton M A., Nguyen, A V., Huang, L, Rudolph V and Xu Z P (2014) Potential foliar fertilizers with copper and zinc dual micronutrients in nanocrystal suspension. Journal of Nanoparticle Research, 16:2669-2676.
Yuan M, Zu Z.P., Baumgartl T. and Huang L. (2014) Effects of surface properties of organic matters on cation adsorption in solution phase. Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 225 9.
Shao, Q., Baumgartl, T., Huang, L. and Weatherley, D. (2014) A cellular automata-based run-of model and its application in mined land rehabilitation designs. In: Life-of-Mine 2014: Delivering sustainable legacies through integrated life-of-mine planning. Life-of-Mine 2014, Brisbane, QLD, Australia, (81-96). 16-18 July 2014.
Huang L, Baumgartl T, Zhou L, Mulligan D (2014) The New Paradigm for Phytostabilizing Mine Wastes – Ecologically Engineered Pedogenesis and Functional Root Zones. In Life-of-Mine Conference 2014, AusIMM, 16-18 July 2014, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
Li X and Huang L (2014) Toward a new paradigm for tailings phytostabilization - nature of the substrates, amendment options and anthropogenic pedogenesis. Critical Review of Environmental Science and Technology, 45:813-839.
You F, Dalal R, Mulligan D, Huang L (2014). Quantitative measurement of organic carbon in mine wastes: methods comparison for inorganic carbon removal and organic carbon recovery. Communications in Soil Science & Plant Analysis, in press.
Du Y, Li P, Mulligan D and Huang L (2014) Foliar zinc uptake processes and critical factors influencing foliar Zn efficacy. Biointerface Research in Applied Chemistry, 4: 754-766.
Li P, Du Y, Li Li, Huang L, Rudolph V, Nguyen A V and Xu Z P (2014) Preparation and characterisation of manganese and iron compounds as potential control-release foliar fertilisers. Biointerface Research in Applied Chemistry, 43:746-75.
Liu Y J, Zhao L and Huang L (2014) Arsenic bioavailability regulated by magnetite in copper tailings: As mobilization into pore water and plant uptake. The 5th International Congress on Arsenic in the Environment, 11-16 May, 2014. Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Li X, Huang L, Bond P L, Lu Y, Vink S (2014) Bacterial diversity in response to direct revegetation in the Pb–Zn–Cu tailings under subtropical and semi-arid conditions. Ecological Engineering, 68: 233-240.
Edraki M, Huynh T, Baumgartl T, Huang L, Andrusiewicz M, Tungpalan K, Tayebi-Khorami M, Wightman E, Palaniandy S, Manlapig E, Evans C, Farrokhpay S, Bradshaw D and Vink S (2013). Designing mine tailings through collaborative research. In: Stuart Winchester, Fernando Valenzuela and David Mulligan, Enviromine2013: 3rd International Seminar on Environmental Issues in Mining. Proceedings. enviromine2013: 3rd International Seminar on Environmental Issues in Mining, Santiago, Chile, (231-239). 4-6 December, 2013.
Li X, You F, Huang L, Strounina E and Edraki M (2013) Dynamics in leachate chemistry of Cu-Au tailings in response to biochar and woodchip amendments: a column leaching study. Environmental Sciences Europe, 25(1):32.
You F, Huang L, Dalal R, Mulligan D (2013) Microbial Biomass and Activities in Response to Nutrition and Toxicity Factors in Amended Base Metal Mine Tailings (394-1). In General Soil Biology & Biochemistry: I, The International Annual Meetings of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America, Nov. 3-6, 2013, Tampa, Florida, USA.
You F, Huang L, Dalal R, Mulligan D (2013) Quantitative measurement of organic carbon in mine wastes: recovery, limitation and methods comparison. An oral presentation in the 13th International Symposium on Soil and Plant Analysis - "New Opportunities for Soil and Plant Testing'. 9-12 April, 2013; Queenstown, New Zealand.
Du Y, Nguyen V A, Xu Z P, Rudolph V and Huang L (2013) Comparative Mobility of Foliar Applied Zn from Zinc Hydroxide Nitrate Crystals (ZnHNC) and Zn Nitrate in Tomato Plants. Proceedings of the International Plant Nutrition Colloquium XVII. 19-22 August 2013, Istanbul, Turkey.
Vu T D, Huang L, Nguyen V A, Du Y, Xu ZP, Hampton A M, Li P and Rudolph V (2013) Quantitative methods for estimating foliar uptake of zinc from suspension-based Zn chemicals. Journal of Plant Nutrition and Soil Science, 176: 764-775.
Huang L, Baumgartl T, Edraki M and Mulligan D. (2012) Sustainable phytostabilisation of mine tailings – a critical analysis of system requirements and approaches. In: Life-of-Mine 2012: Conference Proceedings. Life of Mine Conference (AusIMM), Brisbane, Australia, (105-113). 10-12 July 2012.
Huang L, Baumgartl T, and Mulligan D (2012) Is rhizosphere remediation sufficient for sustainable revegetation of mine tailings? Annals of Botany, 110: 223-238.
Li P, Xu ZP, Hampton MA, Vu DT, Huang L et al. (2012) Control preparation of zinc hydroxide nitrate nanocrystals and examination of the chemical and structural stability. The Journal of Physical Chemistry 116: 10325-10332.
Hampton M A; Nguyen T AH, Nguyen A V, Xu ZP, Huang L, Rudolph V (2012) Influence of surface orientation on the organization of nanoparticles in drying nanofluid droplets. Journal of colloid and interface science, 377 (1): 456-462.
Nguyen T AH, Nguyen A V, Hampton M A, Zu Z P, Huang L and Rudolph V (2012) Theoretical and experimental analysis of droplet evaporation on solid surfaces. Chemical Engineering Science, 69, 522-529.
Huang L, Baumgartl T, Mulligan D. (2011) System requirements for reconstructing root zones for sustainable revegetation of mine tailings. In: Nichols O, Vikuckis N, eds. Australian Mine Rehabilitation 2011. Adelaide, South Australia: JKTech, SMI, 303 – 329.
Lu Y, Yin W, Huang L, Zhang G and Zhao Y (2011) Assessment of bioaccessibility and exposure risk of arsenic and lead in urban soils of Guangzhou City, China. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 33, 93-102.
Li P, Xu Z P, Hampton M A, Vu D T, Huang L, Nguyen A and Rudolph V (2011) Characteristics of synthesized zinc-containing crystals for controlled zinc release and foliar uptake. Australian Chemical Engineering Conference (Chemeca 2010), Adelaide, Australia, 26-29 September.
Huang L, Baumgartl T, Mulligan D (2011) Organic matter amendment in copper mine tailings improving primary physical structure, water storage and native grass growth. Enviromine 2011, 2nd International Seminar on Environmental Issues in the Mining Industry. 1-Aug, 2011. Gecamin.
Kuang Y, Sun F, Wen D, Xu Z, Huang L and Li J (2011) Nitrogen deposition influences nitrogen isotope composition in soil and needles of Pinus massoniana forests along an urban-rural gradient in the Pearl River Delta of south China. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 11(4), 589-595.
Prom-U-Thai C, Huang L, Cakmak I and Rerkasem B (2011) Simultaneous fortification of iron and zinc in parboiled rice kernel. Science Asia, 37 4: 296-302.
Nguyen TAH, Nguyen AV, Hampton MA, Xu ZP, Huang L and Rudolph V (2010) Theoretical and experimental analysis of droplet evaporation on solid surfaces. Australian Chemical Engineering Conference (Chemeca 2010), Adelaide, Australia, 26-29 September.
Prom-u-thai C, Rerkasem B, Fukai S, Huang L (2010) Key factors affecting Fe density in Fe-fortified parboiled rice: parboiling conditions, storage duration, external Fe loading rate and genotypic differences. Food Chemistry, 123, 628-634.
Kuang Y W, Wen D Z, Li J, Sun FF, Hou E Q, Zhou G Y, Zhang D Q, Huang L (2010) Homogeneity of δ15N in needles of Masson pin(Pinus massoniana L.) was altered by air pollution. Environmental Pollution, 158: 1963-1967.
Dell B and Huang L (1997) Physiological responses of plants to boron. Plant and Soil, 193, 103-120.