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Lab technician Wei Zhang uses an atomic force microscope to examine nanoscale chemical reactions of the mineral recovery process.

Sustaining the Mining Supply Chain

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Sustaining the Mining Supply Chain

Oct. 28, 2009
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The new Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources is charged with making the process of extracting copper more sustainable and energy efficient.

Mary Poulton, head of the University of Arizona's Department of Mining and Geological Engineering, was explaining how copper is extracted from rock. She looked around her office and produced a baseball-size specimen speckled with shiny deposits.

"You have to crush this rock down to something that's the size of powder," she said. "Literally, you start with blocks that are as big as this desk." The process requires a lot of water -- potable water -- and energy.

We have the ability to be leaders in new mine designs for the future that have a much smaller environmental footprint."