While mining mascots Blaster the Burro and Marvin the Miner decorate CSM logos and make appearances at sporting events, those in the College of Applied Science and Engineering or the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences might not consider the significance of mining and earth resources very frequently.
The College of Earth Resource Sciences and Engineering (CERSE) hosted showcase informational sessions at the Edgar Mine this month to emphasize the importance of the earth’s mineral resources in daily life and share information about the many majors and degrees offered in this area. To add to the authenticity of the event, presenters spoke with groups of students and parents in the underground drifts of the mine, often pointing out gold, silver, copper, lead and zinc minerals in the ore veins and the other structural features within the mine.
“Everything that is not grown from a farm has to come from a mine,” explained Jürgen Brune, Professor of Practice in the Mining Engineering department. Even agricultural products rely upon mined components such as fertilizers.
Current U.S. demand for mining engineers far exceeds the number of new engineers graduating; each year approximately 350 new jobs open while only about 225 students graduate with Mining Engineering degrees from the 14 Mining Engineering programs in the U.S. This explains the nearly 100% placement rate for Mining Engineering graduates over recent years.
Engineering students at Mines also have access to the underground classroom and deep caverns of the Edgar Mine, a site in Idaho Springs that once produced silver, gold, copper, lead and zinc. CSM purchased the mine and its claims in 1921 and has been using it to teach, research, and explore new mining technologies each year. CSM’s mining roots also extend to an extensive collection in the campus library.
“The Mines Library has one of the country’s largest mining history archives,” stated Joe Horan, Associate Teaching Professor in the HASS department. Horan outlined mining history around the world, sharing stories about swindlers who would sprinkle gold dust on land parcels to sell them to hopeful prospectors and the public’s frequently negative perception of miners.
Horan explained, “Gold and silver from the Edgar Mine were once sold for about $39.26 per ton.” As the price of these precious metals continues to rise, there has also been a shift to integrating more sustainable practices. Several of the event presenters emphasized the importance of minimizing environmental impact and recycling materials when possible.
“Environmental issues are really at the front of the mining process all the way through the end,” Paul Jones, Adjunct Professor in Mining Engineering, explained. CSM may soon be offering a special minor in Environmental and Sustainability Studies. The program would draw from existing humanities, science and engineering courses and also include several new courses focusing on components of sustainable energy. However, the sustainable energy mindset is already a part of many of the engineering degrees offered at CSM.
“As products have become more complicated, they have become more difficult to recycle,” said Rod Eggert, Professor in the Economics and Business department. “In 25 years we’ve gone from a cell phone with 20 or 30 elements to a smart phone with 70 or 80 elements.” Many of these elements come from minerals that are not available in the U.S. and must be imported from other countries.
Graduate students in the Mineral Economics and Engineering and Technology Management (ETM) programs examine earth resource problems and developments from technical, social, and financial perspectives.
True to its motto of Earth, Energy, and Environment, CSM also researches and invests in the technology to fuel extraction processes and promote economic growth around the world.
“How do we create wealth? It starts with natural resources,” stated Bill Eustes, Associate Professor in the Petroleum Engineering department. After working in industry as a drilling engineer for 21 years, Eustes returned to academia to help students take an active role in the learning process.
“I like the students to take on a lot of responsibility so that they can learn and they can teach me and we can learn together,” Eustes explained. Several of Eustes’ students worked on troubleshooting a cable problem with a drill donated by Apache during the presentation.
The Geological and Geophysical engineering departments also gave presentations to explain more about the technological tools they use and the world issues they work to address.
“We can find everything from a nail in the ground to a [geologic] fault,” said Sean Smith, an undergraduate student in the Geophysics department. Geophysics combines training in computer science, math, astronomy, and many other fields, offering students an incredibly diverse skill set. Ultimately, the departments of CERSE recognize the importance of including a variety of skills and degrees to tackle new challenges.
Eustes expressed, “We all work together to bring back these resources that make our lives better.”