Mining for Tomorrow
Mining techniques are constantly evolving. Mineral extraction today is conducted on an exponentially larger scale than the hand drilled operations of the 1880’s. New processes can move over one million tons of earth per day. As ore grades get lower, new technologies must develop to keep mining profitable and to keep workers safe. Mining today must also address how to minimize damage to the environment and reduce threats to public health. The mining engineering program at the University of Arizona is meeting these challenges with an innovative approach led by Dr. Mary Poulton, head of the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering in the College of Engineering and Director of the new interdisciplinary Institute for Mineral Resources.
One of only fourteen accredited colleges of mining engineering in the U.S., the discipline of mining engineering was one of the founding programs for the U of A when it began in 1885. For the past 120 years, the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering has been the only university level program in the state. The new Institute for Mineral Resources has developed features to give students a broad perspective on the concerns and the practice of mineral extraction. Collaborations with disciplines such as philosophy and anthropology address the cultural and ethical issues surrounding mineral extraction. Emphasis is put on engineering mines to have minimal environmental effects.
The San Xavier training mine 25 miles south of Tucson offers students a chance to gain practical skills, learn safety procedures, and even get acquainted with old techniques such as hand drilling and mucking, practices no longer widely used but central to early mining.