Student Research Coordinator
Mining Engineering and Geology Major
Mining Engineering and Geology student plans to focus on the little guys
There are few students who fully take advantage of the resources available to them, and those who do usually end up getting the most out of their college experience.
One of those students is incoming sophomore Caelen Burand, 19. Burand came to the University of Arizona knowing it was the best decision he could have made for the career he is pursuing. He has known he wanted to study mining engineering for a long time, and after talking to industry professionals who said UArizona students were the most prepared, he knew the choice he had to make.
“With the University of Arizona there's hands-on experience,” Burand says. “You're learning from some of the best in the world and everything is real-world approach.” Burand craved that real-world approach and actively sought it out.
Carving his own path
Jodi Banta, Program Manager at the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources, was giving a presentation about the Institute and the University programs. She encouraged students to seek her out if they ever needed any help. Burand was in her office soon after.
“What makes Caelen really stand out is that he knows what he wants to accomplish,” Banta says. “He sets meaningful and challenging goals for himself, identifies people who can help him achieve those goals and is not afraid to ask them for help.”
Burand has always been interested in mining, the process of turning a raw material into something valuable fascinates him, but he wants to do more than just work for the mining industry. Burand really wants to make a difference. “Ideally what I would love to use my degree for is to help artisanal and small-scale miners around the world,” Burand says. “Currently, there's tens of millions of, for example gold miners who are using mercury to process gold. I would love to be able to use the skills that I learned from school and the metal processing classes to be able to explain to miners why they can use a sluice box instead of mercury, or use the geotechnical courses to show miners in the DRC how to design a pit.”
Banta pointed Burand to Dr. Brad Ross, the director of the Geotechnical Center of Excellence. Dr. Ross did research on artisanal mines during his PhD and advised Burand with his freshman honors project. “He wants to work in an area that has a lot to do with sustainability of groups of people that don't have a lot of advantages,” Ross says. “I think that says a lot about a person. It’s not just about how much money he can make, but about the difference he can make.”
The incoming sophomore has already begun to make an impact in the industry. When Burand wanted to start the first domestic chapter of YMP, Young Mining Professionals, Banta helped him get in contact with people who could help, but she says it was ultimately him who carved his path to making this happen. YMP is an international organization that focuses on enriching young graduates, and their main emphasis is on altering how we mine and how people perceive mining. “The major emphasis of the whole organization is that we're moving forward from any of the past mishaps of mining and really embracing all of the possible innovations and possible ways that we could conduct mining in a responsible and stable way,” Burand says.
Getting around the block
During his freshman year, Burand was also able to go to the PDAC, Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada, the world's largest mineral exploration and mining conference. There he was able to meet industry experts and make connections to further his career goals.
In the summer of 2020, Burand, interned for Nevada Gold Mines at the Gold Strike open pit in Elko. There he has spent time in different departments, learning what they do and helping them out. “I've been able to experience what it's like to be a geotechnical engineer, or what it's like to work in short-range mine planning and long-range mine planning with exploratory geology and more on the economic side,” Burand says. “It has seriously been a phenomenal experience. I don't think there's any other program that would have allowed me to get this internship or the connections I now have.”
The University of Arizona is unique. According to Ross, whereas most universities that offer mining degrees are smaller universities, UArizona is a large Tier I research university that offers many resources to students. “What sets our program apart is the very wide range of opportunities that can be pursued with respect to mining and mineral resource related studies,” Banta says. “Also, the support network available at the University: If you want to accomplish something or do something there's always someone willing to help.”
Story by Sofía Moraga / student worker