Issues Affecting Extractive Metallurgy
Reduction in the size of mining and mineral industry research:
The current primary areas of concern are the reduction in size of mining and mineral industry research and the lack of sufficient students in the queue to inherit stewardship of the industry. Research groups in the mining and minerals industry have been dramatically reduced in size. The overhead associated with an in-house research center tends to be prohibitive when economic conditions are not favorable. History has shown that the demand for research in extractive metallurgy and mineral processing tends to increase on short notice, due among other reasons to changing political, economic, and demographic circumstances. Immediate start-up or expansion of in-house research can be quite costly.
Maintaining expertise and availability of an engineering student body within the universities is vital to having the capability to quickly adjust to industry’s research requirements, be it in the form of new hires or consulting research. An active body of engineers is especially important in view of the imminent retirement of a large portion of the remaining baby-boom generation.
Industrial research today tends to be focused on short-term goals and tends to avoid risk:
Research within KIEM includes high-risk, unconventional approaches that are not typically pursued in today's industrial environment. By sharing the cost of supporting such risky research with many other sponsors of KIEM, the financial risk to each sponsor is minimized. Irrespective of cost, support of academic research must be based on more than its applicability to industry’s immediate problems, and should be aimed at requirements over a longer period.
Quality education of the future work force for industry and government is the primary mission of academia. Evidence of this is the placement rate of Colorado School of Mines graduates—within six months of graduation, placement is 100%. A general comment from companies is: CSM graduates “hit the ground running.”
Breadth of collaborative contacts with academia, government institutes & industry:
The research environment in KIEM is rich in the contacts that the members have with other parts of the industrial and scientific communities. Academia, mining companies, vendors, and government will all be represented. The faculty members maintain active and broad contacts with other groups such as mining engineering, business and economics, and environmental engineering. KIEM thus functions as a communication channel involving scientists in other fields.
Free-ranging directions of research:
At the same time, academia in general and consortia in CSM in particular use their “academic freedom” to pursue lines of investigation that may appear non-practical on a short time scale, but often will yield results of importance in a few year’s time.