Eliana Molina Ramirez - MSc by Research Mining and Minerals Engineering

Progress Report - February 2021

I hope this update finds you safe and well. I am Eliana, you might remember me as the geologist who is working on finding a way to clean up mercury from gold mining contaminated environments. I feel truly honoured to receive your support towards the completion of my studies, so I am writing to share some advances in my research project and also some wonderful opportunities that have arisen. These first couple of months have been quite useful to do my literature review on the state of the art of mine waste characterization and treatment technologies. I recalled many relevant concepts of chemistry and learned a lot about geomicrobiology and electrolytic remediation schemes. I am now taking a module that is teaching me how to do software modelling of the behaviour of contaminants in the environment, which is very exciting.

I wrote to different government institutions from Colombia looking for ongoing projects of national interest that could be concerned with the same environmental problem that I am trying to tackle. After intensive communication, Elias Pinto from the Ministry of Environment contacted me with engineer Alfonso Rodriguez of Pure Earth who is leading the project “Promoting the recovery and responsible management of mercury in contaminated tailings from artisanal gold mining in Colombia”. As you can tell by the title, this project is closely related to the aim of my research, with the only difference that they are dealing with tailings (the solid-water mixture residue of ore processing) and I am concerned with the contaminated sites (natural places affected by mining contaminants).

Now, I am collaborating with Pure Earth to investigate if the mercury catchment technology they are developing could be useful as well to clean up contaminated soil that has been affected by many years of continued gold extraction. This is very important because by removing toxic elements from the soil it could become useful again for agriculture or other purposes. Or for example, removing mercury from flood plain sediments of rivers can prevent remobilization and its subsequent dispersion downstream, with all the health and environmental implications that this involves.

I would like to highlight that I am really excited to collaborate with this project because of many reasons. First, it will give better diffusion to the results of my research in a way that these won’t end in the submission of a dissertation and a published paper, but rather, will be heard by the decision-making bodies of Colombia. Moreover, the Pure Earth team is willing to support me to do the field sampling in Colombia, therefore I will not have to travel and the current restrictions for the pandemic will not have a significant impact on my progress. And lastly, I am aware that subsequent related projects can begin afterwards, therefore, there could be an employment opportunity at the end that would boost my career progression.

I was also able to undertake training with the module “Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (LTHE)” which has given me pedagogical foundations to teach at the university level in the future. I hope you remember that one of my long-term goals is to become a university Professor, after gaining considerable work experience in my field. Well, this module is giving me the tools I need to fulfil that dream. Furthermore, after receiving my first LTHE certificate, I got the opportunity to further develop my teaching skills having a demonstrator position with Prof. Aveen Hameed in an undergraduate module. It’s just three hours per week, but I am sure it will be a huge plus to my curriculum and will come in handy when I decide to apply for a Professor role in Colombia.

Currently, I am working on selecting the study zone for my project and sketching the model for the lab experiments I will be undertaking. It’s a tough task but I am happy, feedback from my supervisors show that I am advancing well. They are preparing a dedicated space for me in the lab facilities of the ESI building and I will shortly receive the respective induction. I expect to have everything in place and ready to present my upcoming review, successfully.

I could not put into words how grateful I am for the funding and support you have provided me. Apart from having peace of mind and not having the worry about getting a part-time job to pay my living costs, I have been able to collect some savings to cover part of my upcoming research expenses. Furthermore, when we were in tier 1, I was able to travel a couple of times and appreciate the beauty of Cornwall landscapes.

Below is a picture of the time I went to the Lizard Point to show you how happy I am and how much I thank you for supporting me to enjoy this life-changing experience. Oh, and not to mention that I witnessed the first snow fall in my life! It was an immense feeling of joy and surprise. So, thank you, a thousand times THANK YOU. It will always be an honour to be a recipient of an Ayudar award.

I enjoy writing to you and sincerely hope you feel proud of me. I have faith that this year will bring many blessings and good health for you and your loved ones. Many thanks again and I look forward to sharing further updates with you later in the year.

With very best wishes,


Eliana Molina Ramirez Ayudar Scholar 2020-2021