Mining in the 21st Century: How universities are promoting ethical and sustainable mining practices

Mining in the 21st Century: How universities are promoting ethical and sustainable mining practices
Source: Colorado School of MInes

The climate crisis topic has been heavily reported on in the media lately. Awareness has been growing, such as worldwide protests by schoolchildren worldwide driven largely by youth activist Greta Thunberg’s efforts.

However, issues such as climate change, global warming, and pollution caused by humans— attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel consumption— is not something new, it’s just that more people are becoming aware of it as the effects are becoming worse.

Other reasons behind the climate crisis is rampant deforestation, destruction of marine systems, overpopulation, and increase in greenhouse gasses.

Climate change affects the whole world and across all industries. According to Acconia, “Climate change is a global challenge that has no borders and to combat it requires coordinated work by all countries.”

Therefore, industries like mining and environmental engineering have a burden of responsibility to ensure no further damage is being done to the environment.

More and more corporations and companies are looking towards professionals in this sector to help them incorporate ethical and sustainable mining practices from all aspects of their organizational structures.

In turn, universities have a huge responsibility today to be progressive-minded, and educate students on how to be valuable employees in the future, encouraging them think innovatively and creatively about the development of sustainable solutions that reduce further damage to the environment.

They also hold the responsibility of educating students to be prepared for a future rife with new technologies such as virtual reality, augmented reality and other digital technologies in the Mining industry.

They can fulfill these responsibilities by developing course programme structures that allow for more hands-on training, so students can learn from real-life examples and see first-hand how they can contribute to a more sustainable future.

It is clear that higher education plays a huge role in helping to create a responsible next generation of mining engineers who are also forward-thinking innovators.

Here are four leading universities in mining that are examples of institutions who are doing just that.


Ranked the number one mining school in the world in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 by the QS World University Rankings, the Mining Engineering Department at Colorado School of Mines has developed curricula and research programmes geared toward responsible stewardship of the earth and its resources.

Source: Colorado School of Mines

With an excellent career placement record, Mining Engineering is an exciting field for the sheer number of possibilities it presents.  The discipline encompasses a broad spectrum of engineering skills including mechanical, electrical, civil, environmental, geophysical, computer science and more, as well as geoscience, environmental science and social science.

Starting out with average salaries of US$77,000 and reaching as high as US$126,000, the Mining Engineering Department graduate can undertake countless job opportunities around the globe, including manufacturing, mine planning, mine design, mine management, mine operations, marketing and more

The new Professional Masters – Mining Engineering and Management programme focuses on the practical applications of technology, finance, management, and other disciplines key to the mining industry. This is the only program of its kind in the world, hailed by industry leaders as the key to developing a highly trained workforce in mining engineering management.

Graduate students have opportunities to take part and learn from faculty-led cutting-edge research, using emerging technologies and learning from some of the most experienced faculty in the field, all while collaborating with artisanal mining communities to develop more sustainable practices.


This School in Perth, Australia under Curtin University operates from campuses in Perth and the historic mining town of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.

After students finish their Engineering Foundation Year in Perth, they can continue at Curtin WA School of Mines in Kalgoorlie which gives them meaningful and impactful first-hand exposure to the mining industry.

Source: Curtin University

The school has a strong reputation in Mineral and Mining Engineering, demonstrated by the university’s No.2 ranking in the world by the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2019.

For the Mining Engineering and Metallurgical Engineering programmes, teaching is focused toward mining and metallurgical processing operations, such as the conversion of mineral and chemical resources into metallic, refining and processing to produce high-performance materials for applications from consumer products to automobiles, aerospace, and electronics.

Students in Mining Engineering at this School must complete at least 12 weeks (or equivalent) of professional engineering practice exposure which can be met by appropriate work experience or via a combination of technical and non-technical activities.

During their course programmes, students will explore areas such as mining science and technology, which involves the study of soil and rock mechanics, explosives and rock breakage, materials transport, mining methods, mine planning, project evaluation, and the environment.


The University of Dundee in Scotland is an internationally-renowned graduate school in the field of international business transactions and natural resources and energy law and policy.

With a history that goes back to 1977, it is one of the oldest Schools in the world for the field, stimulated by oil and gas developments in the North Sea.

Source: University of Dundee

The School is committed to interdisciplinary approaches to teaching, research and consultancy which gives graduates a unique perspective on how governments and businesses operate.

The Center for Energy and Mining Policy at the university prepares students to meet global challenges and develops individuals who possess a sound grasp on legal, economic, technical and policies in the mining industry.

The Center has established international recognition from its core activities such as scholarly performance, high level academic research, strategic consultancy and top-quality executive education, so graduates can contribute to a sustainable future.

For example, the LLM International Mineral Law and Policy programme is a one-year course which is designed to give students a broad understanding of the legal and regulatory environment and processes in the international energy and resources industries.


At this university in Michigan, USA, students at the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences are given the chance to learn how to balance the safety of the planet and its natural resources with the needs of society.

Source: Michigan Technological University

Through the course structure, students learn how to drive advancements in areas including water-supply maintenance, natural-resource management, disaster mitigation, and infrastructure design.

This Fall, a new multidisciplinary Mining Engineering programme will be introduced to allow students to tackle global issues through learning from other fields and collaborating with them.

It will be hosted under the Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences, but will rely on courses and faculty from several departments within the College of Engineering.

The course was developed with an aim to prepare students to address the challenges of modern mining practices, and positions them for leadership roles in the mining industry.

Interested in a rewarding career in Mining Engineering? These universities will set you up for a bright future in the field.

*Some of the Universities featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International

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