Center for Environmentally Sustainable Mining (CESM)

Mission Statement:

The University of Arizona Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources (IMR) focuses on education and research in the areas of mineral exploration and exploitation. The IMR is very interested in developing an environmental component to address environmental issues involved in siting and opening new mines as well as to address issues left by our mining legacy. To this end, we are establishing a Center for Environmentally Sustainable Mining using seed funding from the Technology Research Initiative Fund Water Sustainability Program (TRIF-WSP). The mission of CESM is to develop educational, specialized professional training, and research initiatives that address environmental issues related to mining activities in arid and semi-arid urban environments. Examples include development of novel technologies to: minimize water use and suppress dust generation in mining operations; allow green engineering for environmentally responsible new mine development; create sustainable mine tailings caps; prevent and treat acid rock drainage; allow long-term assessment of environmental impacts; assess short- and long-term health risks from contaminated water and air  in urban environments near mining operations.


The US is one of the largest global consumers of mineral resources and Arizona is ranked first among states in the value of non-fuel mineral resources produced each year. Innovative approaches are critically needed for sustainable mineral resource development in the US in the 21st century or this development will not happen.  In addition, a well-trained workforce is key for sustainable mineral resource development. New workers with specialized professional training are critically needed. Just as important is retraining and post-training for workers to ensure that the skills and knowledge required for all aspects of mining, from permitting to health and safety to geology and engineering, are current and can facilitate optimum performance of the mining operation.

Focal Areas:

  • Dust characterization
  • Dust control
  • Remediation of mining wastes
    • Tailings
    • Waste rock
    • Acid rock drainage
  • Control of groundwater contamination
  • Fate and speciation of metal(loid)s in mining waste

Current CESM Research Projects:

  • Airborne Particulate Matter Related to Mining Activity (Eric Betterton, Eduardo Saez, Armin Sorooshian)
  • Hydrogel Platform for Mitigation of Mine Tailings Dust (Jeanne Pemberton, Todd Camenisch)
  • Phytostabilization of Mine Tailings in Arid Environments (Raina Maier, John Chorover)
  • Metal Speciation in Arid Mine Tailings (Jon Chorover, Robert Root, Raina Maier)
  • Characterizing and Enhancing the Natural Attentuation of Nitrate and Sulfate in Groundwater (Mark Brusseau)
  • Environmental Biotechnology for the Treatment of Acid Rock Drainage (Reyes Sierra, James Field)
  • Bioremediation of Uranium Plumes: Mechanisms and Application (James Field)

Current CESM Education Projects:

CESM Technical Advisory Committee:

A technical advisory committee (TAC) has been established to help prioritize and develop the educational, professional training, and research mission of CESM.  The TAC is composed of members from the environmental divisions of the major mining industries.  The TAC meets at least once a year, but in the initial planning stages, meetings are being held more frequently.

CESM Directors:

Director: Raina M. Maier

Professor, Soil, Water and Environmental Science

Co-Director: Reyes Sierra

Professor, Chemical and Environmental Engineering

Co-Director: Mary M. Poulton

Professor and Director, Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources