Officials from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and four major mining companies - Alpha Natural Resources, Barrick Gold of North America, Kiewit Mining Group, and Newmont Mining Corporation - have announced a combined gift of $1.25 million to the Department of Mining Engineering and Management.
This major gift will be used to create the Mining Center of Excellence, designed to enhance the department's curriculum and the overall educational experience while supporting the School of Mines mission. During this initial phase of creating the unique center, the four mining companies stand out as being the major donor-investors with a combined total of $1.25 million spread over five years to provide funding for student and faculty support plus laboratory and curriculum development within the center.
"We are fortunate to have an engaged industry, which we see as our primary stakeholder in that they hire all our graduates and we have been successful in 100 percent placement in the last 5 years," said Shashi Kanth, mining engineering and management department head. "The addition of this center will further enhance the quality and competence of our graduates and attract further research into the School of Mines, which in turn will benefit the school, the state and the industry that these graduates go to."
The center is focused on elements that include upgrading the existing laboratories and adding new modules to the curriculum to better train mining engineering graduates to meet the challenges of the industry. Advanced safety and simulations, dispatch, and advanced explosives laboratories, and a lecture series on sustainable development are all part of this center of excellence.
"Today, there many companies, as well as our alumni, that continue to play the very important role of providing annual funding as well as creating endowments that will support our activities well into the future," Kanth said. "And yet, to reach our potential in serving South Dakota and the worldwide mining industry, we continually invite more companies and people to join as investors. There are certainly more than four, but today we are proud to recognize these major commitments with excitement about the life-changing benefits we will be able to keep giving our students and graduates."
The gift comes during the 125th anniversary year of the School of Mines, which has its roots in the mining industry. Founded in 1885 to support the growing research needs of the industry, led by the former Homestake Gold Mine, the university has long had a foundation in mining engineering.
From the initial transformation to include management with the core mining curriculum that began in 2004, industry partners have provided the necessary funding that has allowed the mining program to become one of the most vibrant and populated in the nation. The 100-strong student body has active representations on the national scene through the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration; the International Society for Explosives Engineering; and international events such as the International Intercollegiate Mining Competition. Students have also placed highly in national student design contests, making a significant mark for themselves.
As the department continues with new and revitalized curriculum, it has identified continuous improvement opportunities presented through active collaborations with industry. These exercises resulted in the creation of the Mining Center of Excellence.
"On behalf of the entire university, I would like to thank each of these companies for their generous gift," said School of Mines President Robert A. Wharton, Ph.D. "We are fortunate to have such visionary partners to help support our mission of developing the leaders of tomorrow."
About the companies:
- Alpha Natural Resources: The company is America's third-largest coal producer and produces, processes and sells steam and metallurgical coal from more than 60 active mines and 14 coal preparation plants located throughout Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Wyoming.
- Barrick Gold of North America: The company is the gold industry leader, with interests in 25 operating mines and a pipeline of projects located across five continents, in addition to large land positions on some of the most prolific mineral districts.
- Kiewit Mining Group: The company is one of North America's leading producers of high-quality, high-energy coal and is ranked as one of the top 10 coal producers in the nation. Kiewit owns or manages four surface coal mines located in Montana, Wyoming and Texas.
- Newmont Mining Corporation: The company is primarily a gold producer, with significant assets or operations in the United States, Australia, Peru, Indonesia, Ghana, Canada, New Zealand and Mexico. Newmont is one of the world's largest gold producers and is the only gold company included in the S&P 500 Index and Fortune 500.