Physical Geography: Fully Funded KESS II PhD Scholarship at Swansea University: Mapping hydrological pathways and apportioning sources of metals at Nant y Mwyn

  • Phd
  • Full cost of UK/EU tuition fees plus annual stipend
  • 10 August 2018

\This scholarships is part funded by the Welsh Government’s European Social Fund (ESF) convergence programme for West Wales and the Valleys.\*
PhD Scholarship for UK or EU applicants in the field of:  Physical Geography
The main aim of this PhD is to use novel techniques to study the hydrological pathways at an abandoned mine. Metalliferous mining has left a legacy of 1,300 abandoned mines across Wales. Many of these mines leach heavy metals into rivers where the water quality fails to meet EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) standards. The abandoned metal mine at Nant y Mwyn in Carmarthenshire is currently ranked 9th in Natural Resources Wales’ list of priority sites for remediation to improve water quality and is a higher priority for further investigation due to its complexity.
Nant y Mwyn was one of the largest lead mines in Wales with a documented history going back to 1530. After a brief resurgence as a zinc mine, it finally closed in 1932. Over the years, the landscape has changed and many of the original features have disappeared with about 75% of the spoil heaps being removed for local construction. The mine hydrogeology is incredibly complex, and little is known about the precise hydrological and hydrogeological pathways. With limited documentary records it is likely that the full extent of the mine workings will never be fully known. Around the mine there are two minor watercourses: the Nant y Mwyn and the Nant y Bai, and one major watercourse, the downstream Afon Tywi. Both the Nant y Mwyn and Nant y Bai fail WFD standards for zinc, copper, lead and cadmium. These rivers drain into the Afon Tywi which also fails WFD standards for zinc and cadmium, with a noticeable effect on zinc levels 60km downstream. The Tywi downstream of Nant y Mwyn was identified as the highest priority mine-impacted water body in Wales and Nant y Mwyn is by far the biggest source of metals pollution to this water body.
Before any remediation methods can be employed, it is important to understand the hydraulic system of the workings. Passive treatment techniques that could be employed include limiting the source waters that enter the mine but as the source of the waters emerging at Nant y Mwyn is unknown, a detailed study of hydrological pathways is required.
With the full support of Natural Resources Wales, tracer dilution (with sodium bromide) together with a synoptic mass balance approach will be used for the source apportionment of mine pollution. This technique was originally developed by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and has the potential to provide metal loading estimates at a high spatial resolution. Once we have gained a better understanding of the hydrological-system, remediation strategies can be planned with confidence based upon the results of this PhD.
Scholarships are collaborative awards with external partners including SME’s and micro companies, as well as public and third sector organisations. The scholarship provides 3 years of funding with a 6 month period to complete the thesis. The achievement of a postgraduate skills development award, PSDA, is compulsory for each KESS II scholar and is based on a 60 credit award.


Candidates should have a 2.1 or above in their undergraduate degree in Bioscience, Chemistry, Ecology, Engineering, Environmental Science, Geography or a related subject. They should also be eligible for UK/EU Fees.
We would normally expect the academic and English Language requirements to be met by point of application. For details on the University’s English Language entry requirements, please visit –


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The scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees, plus a stipend. The bursary will be limited to a maximum of ÂŁ14,483 p.a. dependent upon the applicant's financial circumstances.
There will also be additional funds available for research expenses.


Please visit our website for more information.

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