As mining continues to grow in the state, industry professionals and education leaders are working to prepare the future workforce for career options.
“There is a demand for mining professionals, and it is important for us to maintain a close connection to the future workforce. Our industry continues to become more competitive and sophisticated every day,” said Kyle Bennett, Rio Tinto Kennecott communications principal advisor.
Rio Tinto was founded in 1873 and is one of the world’s largest metals and mining corporations. Its subsidiary, Resolution Copper Company, is leading Resolution Copper Mining with BHP Copper, Inc.
Resolution Copper Mining is a proposed copper mine set to supply copper to support technological and environmental innovation, located near Superior, AZ.
Building a Talent Pipeline
The team behind Resolution Copper works to create a talent pipeline between the mining industry and the future workforce.
“Since the inception of our scholarship program in 2002, we have awarded 172 scholarships totaling $674,000,” said Bennett. “As a community partner, Resolution Copper is committed to the investment in local communities and the development of local economies and workforce.”
He explained the program includes scholarships for Native Americans, leadership scholarships and general scholarships.
“Being a part of mining allows you to work with a diverse and talented group of people from all over the world to collaborate on new technologies and techniques that will continue to drive mining into the future. There are also a lot of career advancement opportunities,” Bennett said.
Resolution Copper partnered with Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) Department of Applied Indigenous Studies for the Indigenous Nation-Building Education course series.
“Through this partnership, over 45 unique Native and Indigenous nations and communities have benefited from 29 projects crafted to meet their specific needs via the Indigenous Nation Building Education Course Series,” Bennett said.
The company also partnered with NAU for the Tribal Leadership Initiative activities for 2017-2018.
Bennett explained that the initiative “is a multi-component program dedicated to expanding the capacities of Indigenous nations and communities.”
A Healthy Workforce
The University of Arizona (UA) is working to make mining a healthier career option for the future workforce.
Miners can be exposed to diesel particulate matter, which affects the heart and lungs, and toxic vehicle emissions.
A research team at the UA is addressing the hazardous components miners face on the job.
The UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health received a grant from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Public Health to determine how the use of alternative fuel mixtures can reduce exposure to hazardous components.
Dr. Jeff Burgess, principal investigator of the research, said the research will include two phases.
“One, can we reduce the exposures? If we can, can we improve the health of the miners?” he explained.
The research team plans to work with partner mines and UA’s student-run mine, the San Xavier Underground Mining Laboratory.
“We work constantly at the university to make sure our students have the skills they need to succeed when they graduate,” Dr. Burgess said.