As the global population works to reduce carbon emissions, the need for mined resources such as copper is increasing, with the World Bank estimating demand for copper could grow 200% by 2050. Arizona, which produces 74% of the nation's copper and is the sixth-largest copper producer in the world, plays a key role in ushering in a more sustainable future, and a well-prepared workforce is critical to making that happen.
The Arizona Board of Regents today approved the creation of a School of Mining and Mineral Resources at the University of Arizona. The school is expected to make the University of Arizona the premier institution devoted to mineral resources and reshaping mining for the 21st century.
Jointly housed in the College of Engineering and the College of Science, with involvement from the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources, the school will offer undergraduate, graduate and professional training in areas including data science, business, social sciences, public health and law.
"For the first time in the history of mining anywhere in the world, our new school will rely on a holistic approach to mineral resource management," said Moe Momayez, interim department head and David and Edith Lowell Chair in the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering. "The Department of Mining and Geological Engineering will play a key role in this effort, just as it has been at the forefront of the field for the past 135 years, and will continue to educate the next generations of mining engineers from every corner of the globe."
School's Offerings Will Include Input From Industry
Mineral resources make up everything from our cellphones and cars to infrastructure for sustainable energy production, such as solar panels and wind turbines. The new school's offerings will include an interdisciplinary minor, as well as undergraduate and graduate certificates in areas such as "safety and health" and "analytics, AI and automation."
"I always like to tell people that if you want to make a big difference in this world, engineering is the place to do it," said David W. Hahn, Craig M. Berge Dean of the College of Engineering. "And mining is one of the areas in which the creative problem-solving abilities and technical expertise of engineers is becoming increasingly important. By partnering with other campus units and seeking input from industry, we are building a school in which our students will be building the future."
A nationwide search for the school's director, who will report to the deans of the College of Engineering and College of Science, is expected soon. The school will offer introductory and interdisciplinary courses that complement existing curriculum in the two colleges and include coursework requested by industry and government agencies.
The school will serve more than just students majoring in related fields. For example, one new introductory course geared to students across campus – 67% of whom say they know little to nothing about mining – will contextualize the need for mineral resources and the technical, social, economic and environmental issues surrounding their acquisition, use and reuse. The course will explore the impact of developments like digitization and low-carbon technologies, as well as important issues like community and environmental health.
Changing the Landscape in Industry and Academia
The school's leadership team is organizing a technical advisory committee of representatives from industry, other universities, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, as well as an advisory panel of students from science and engineering.
"We are excited about the cross-college collaboration," said Carmala Garzione, dean of the College of Science. "A number of departments in the College of Science are working with the school to bring unique academic and career opportunities to our students. We expect that this new school will become a nexus of activities directed toward more sustainable acquisition of minerals that are critical to cleaner and more efficient energy practices."
The creation of the school is supported in large part by a $2 million gift, plus a $2.5 million challenge grant, from the Lundin family. The family leads the Lundin Group, made up of 14 publicly traded companies in the natural resource sector operating in more than 25 countries.
"This is a significant milestone for the natural resources industry," said Jack Lundin, president and CEO of Bluestone Resources Inc., who is also a College of Engineering alumnus and Lowell Institute board member. "Now, more than ever, we need a university mining and mineral resources education program that incorporates a focus on environmental, social and governance issues. The new school means the University of Arizona will be a pioneer in providing this approach, which is absolutely necessary for the future of mining."
The University of Arizona has a longstanding tradition of excellence in the field. The 2021 QS World University Rankings by Subject ranked the University of Arizona third in the nation among mineral and mining engineering programs, and the most recent U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools ranked the university's geosciences graduate program third in the nation among geology graduate programs.
"The School of Mining and Mineral Resources will provide a new approach to addressing all the challenges of global increases in the use of mineral resources," said Mary Poulton, co-director of the Lowell Institute, along with Mark Barton. "The University of Arizona is the best place to advance this approach because of its unique location and long history of interdisciplinarity."
Barton, who is also a professor of geology and geochemistry, echoed that both the time and place are right for the school.
"By catalyzing the unique breadth and strengths across the University of Arizona, the new school can transform approaches to the sustainable use of earth materials," he said. "Working together with communities and partners, we can develop the people and innovative best practices required for the responsible production and sustained reuse of mineral resources."