Industry supports mining engineering program

5/7/2010 - By: Mike Wolterbeek

The mining industry has stepped up its long-term support with a $2.4 million boost to the University of Nevada, Reno’s mining engineering program; and instructors, students and administrators are pleased with the resulting real-world applications that come with a strengthened program.

Two new endowed professorships, made possible by the industry support, contribute to an expanded research base for environmental solutions while the classroom has expanded beyond the walls, reaching across the state and world-wide through technology-based distance education.

“The first semester went tremendously well,” Carl Nesbitt, associate professor and Goldcorp Chair of Mineral Engineering in the Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering said. “The industry support made it all possible. We’re offering two new classes in the fall semester.”

Thom Seal, recently named the Barrick Professor of Mining Engineering, teaches with Nesbitt in the metallurgical engineering program. He said students, both in the classroom and web-based, responded positively and are looking forward to more classes.

The generous gifts for the program came to the Mackay School from Newmont Mining, Goldcorp and Barrick Gold to fund the new faculty positions, student scholarships and grants to further strengthen teaching and research in extractive metallurgy and minerals processing.

The two faculty members bring extensive and important research experience from both higher education and industry.

“By endowing these professorships, the mining industry has strongly signaled its commitment to its future workforce and environmental sustainability,” said Jeff Thompson, dean of the College of Science and interim director of the Mackay School. “Carl and Thom bring the expertise to advance these mining industry commitments.”

Nesbitt, who earned his doctorate from the Mackay School, has been teaching metallurgical engineering courses for more than 20 years and has conducted research for more than 18 years, resulting in a number of patents. Thom Seal, who earned his doctorate from the University of Idaho, spent more than 30 years working in the mining industry, retiring from Newmont in 2008 as manager of metallurgy technology.

“Hiring two faculty members at once helped us get to a critical mass quickly,” Nesbitt said. “We can brainstorm and we trust each other. It’s nice to have someone who speaks the same hydrometallurgy language.”

Nesbitt’s research forte is in carbon and recovering metals, such as removing mercury from processing streams, while Seal’s research is in enhanced metal extraction. They envision offering all of the program’s required undergraduate classes online.

“Eventually, we’re hoping to team up online with experts at other universities who could teach their specialties in mineral processing,” Seal said. “And ultimately, we’re hoping to build the program into a leader preparing metallurgical engineers for the mining industry well into the future.”

In another measure of support last year, the mining industry initiated an increase to the mining claim fee in Nevada to support higher education in Nevada. The additional fee, collected through the Nevada State Bureau of Mining, now supports the University’s mining engineering program. With the program’s continuation solidified, Newmont Mining, Goldcorp and Barrick Gold embraced the opportunity to take it to the next level through the additional, capacity-building gifts.

“We’re grateful for the wonderful and continued support we have from these mining companies, and the industry as a whole,” Thompson said. “All of their contributions have lead to a successful beginning of building the mining engineering portion of our academic offerings, with more to come for the future. It’s successful partnerships such as this between higher education and the mining industry that help build the education base and sustain local and state economies.”

Contributions include:

  • Barrick Gold Corporation: A $300,000 gift funds the Barrick Gold of North America Visiting Professorship and Scholarship. Over time, Barrick Gold has given more than $2.1 million to the Mackay School.
  • Goldcorp, Inc.: A $1.25 million gift funds the Goldcorp Endowed Chair in Minerals Engineering, and an additional $50,000 supports operating expenses. Over time, Goldcorp has given more than $1.3 million to the Mackay School.
  • Newmont Mining Corporation: Gifts totaling $875,000 include the Newmont Endowed Professorship in Minerals Engineering and Newmont Mining Corporation Scholarship. Over time, Newmont has given nearly $5 million to the Mackay School.

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