Geotechnical Center of Excellence

June 4, 2018

Significant geotechnical events are some of the greatest risks facing the mining industry and are high on the risk register for most major mining companies.  These geotechnical risks include:

  • Slope and highwall failures
  • Tailings embankment failures
  • Underground collapses

And the consequences of these geotechnical events are measured in the:

  • dozens of lives lost
  • square miles of environmental damage
  • billions of dollars of cost
  • magnitude reputational damage for companies and the industry

As costly as these significant geotechnical events are, there are major gaps that keep us from safely and effectively managing risks. Gaps include:

  • Shortage of qualified professionals graduating in the field
  • Lack of professional development for existing professionals
  • New technology to monitor and detect potential failures
  • Update tools and methods to understand and analyze geotechnical risks

Additionally, existing efforts to tackle these issues are often disconnected and conducted in silos, lack interdisciplinary expertise, and knowledge isn’t widely shared.

To address these gaps, The University of Arizona’s Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources proposes to create a multidisciplinary Geotechnical Center of Excellence (GCE). The GCE will:

  • Graduate students in a variety of disciplines that understand and ready to tackle geotechnical issues
  • Provide relevant and effective professional development classes
  • Perform multi-disciplinary research to solve difficult geotechnical issues, create cutting-edge tools as well as develop new understanding and procedures
  • Collaborate with other institutions, companies, and research groups to build on the geotechnical body of knowledge and avoid duplication of effort

The University of Arizona is in an ideal position to address these gaps in an integrated and multidisciplinary manner because of the following:

  • Variety of colleges and departments with expertise: (Mining and Geological Engineering, Geoscience, Hydrology, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mathematics, etc.)
  • Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources facilitates multidisciplinary academics and research
  • Tier 1 research institution
  • Part of the geotechnical hub in southern Arizona that includes world class mining, consulting, and manufacturing companies

The Lowell Institute is presently working with representatives of:

  • 7 Mining Companies
  • 5 Consulting Companies
  • 4 Manufacturing Companies
  • 8 University Departments to identify priorities and develop detailed plans for the GCE’s work. The Center is expected to launch in 2019.