Like it does every month, this edition of E&MJ provides a snapshot of the trends in the mining and mineral processing sector. What the industry is witnessing today are evolutionary trends to improve safety and efficiency, and to lower costs while meeting environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. That’s a tall order, but it’s attainable especially when most mined commodities are commanding a premium price and miners have decent profit margins, which allows them to invest in research and education.
The news section opens this month with a story about the changes taking place at the University of Arizona (UofA). The new School of Mining and Mineral Resources is expected to make it the premier institution devoted to mineral resources and reshaping mining for the 21st century, according to the UofA. The school will offer undergraduate, graduate and professional training in areas including data science, business, social sciences, public health and law. One new course will introduce students across campus to the need for mineral resources and the technical, social, economic and environmental issues surrounding their acquisition, use and reuse.
To become the premier institution though, UofA will have to supplant the Colorado School of Mines (CSM). The CSM Mining Engineering Department was recently recognized by QS World University Rankings for the sixth year running as the world’s best mineral and mining engineering program. The rankings are based on four primary components: academic reputation, employer reputation, research citations per paper and H-index, a measure of both the productivity and impact of the published work of scientists or scholars.
“Mining has never been more relevant to our future because of the transition to renewable energy sources, reduction in carbon footprints, and use of metals and minerals for all aspects of our ‘built world,’” said Stephen Enders, professor and head of the Mining Engineering Department. “Colorado School of Mines is proud to be a leader in providing expertise and solutions to some of the world’s most urgent natural resource challenges.”
Mining research and education programs will become more important to support tomorrow’s mine and mills. Today, experts are retiring from the mining industry faster than they can be replaced. The brain drain creates an environment where mining companies not only need to replace talent, but they will need to bring their replacements up to speed quickly in a constantly evolving technology ecosystem.
Others will face operating parameters in unchartered waters. In the report on ground control (See Finessing Ground Support for Deeper Mines, p. 32), a leading expert for deep mining said that many of today’s universities and colleges are not keeping up with industry needs around deep mining knowledge transfer. Without the knowledge of past practices, and the successes and failures, they could potentially put a company in a position of taking two steps back and three steps forward.
The UofA and CSM are setting the pace and that is great news for the mining business. And, there are a lot of other great programs. Most mining and mineral education programs have a regional influence and they rely on that local support to not only prepare students for the future, but also to instill past experiences. Making an investment today could provide depth on the bench tomorrow. Enjoy this edition of E&MJ.