Mining operations today are larger and often closer to communities. The impact of geotechnical failure can be devastating and result in lives lost, costs in billions of dollars, environmental damage and loss of reputation for individual companies and the industry as a whole.
Environmental issues associated with mineral extraction are becoming increasingly more important as mining operations are developed near population centers, fragile ecosystems and land that is culturally and economically important to indigenous communities.
Health and Safety
The ever-increasing rapidity of technological change and global development creates demand for minerals and other extracted products. As these demands grow, so does the scarcity of raw materials, requiring miners to work in increasingly challenging environments to meet the needs of society.
Social License to Operate
Nearly every new mining project presents difficult choices between the local impact and the global demand for minerals. Mining engineers and exploration geologists often find themselves confronting tough ethical controversies.
The Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources helps prepare both students and professionals for the challenges of obtaining a social license to operate. We collaborate with the James E. Rogers College of Law on research and education related to mining, natural resource and environmental law, human rights and indigenous peoples interactions with extractive industries.
Valuable ore deposits are deeply buried and ores themselves are chemically and mineralogically complex, hard to find and harder still to process. How do we access the metals locked in these complicated, difficult ores?
The University of Arizona is home to the only Geometallurgy program in the USA. Faculty and students in the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering and the Department of Geosciences work together to develop research and teaching models that help geologists, engineers, and metallurgists work together across disciplinary barriers.
Mineral exploration is expensive and high-risk because of limited geologic knowledge and incomplete understanding of the ore-forming processes that control the distribution of minerals over geologic space and across hundreds of millions of years of geologic time. We conduct geochemical, geological and mineralogical studies on the origin, character and distribution of mineralizing systems. Our research focuses on the immediate needs and long-term interests of our collaborative partners – including mining and exploration companies as well as geological surveys.