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. In 2011, the IMR developed an environmental pillar that addresses issues associated with the environmental sustainability of mining and the management of legacy mining sites. The Center for Environmentally Sustainable Mining (CESM) was initiated using seed funding from the Technology Research Initiative Fund Water Sustainability Program (TRIF-WSP). The mission of CESM is to develop educational and research initiatives that address environmental issues related to mining activities in arid and semi-arid environments. Examples of research initiatives include the development of novel technologies to improve the revegetation efficiency of mine waste materials, minimize water use, suppress dust generation during mining operations, and assess short- and long-term health risks from contaminated water and air in urban environments near legacy and active mining operations. Educational initiatives include community engagement programs focused on evaluating exposure risks in population centers adjacent to active mining operations or downstream from historic sites affected by acid-mine drainage.

Rationale:

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, the CESM research and educational initiatives provide critical training for undergraduate and graduate students as future members of a well-trained workforce, key to sustainable mineral resource development. Seed funding provided by CESM facilitates the development of new research initiatives by UA faculty focused on mining sustainability.

Focal Areas:

  • Revegetation and ecosystem regeneration
  • Dust characterization and control
  • Water use efficiency and control of groundwater contamination
  • Remediation of legacy mine wastes including fate and speciation of contaminant metal(loids)
  • Fate and speciation of metal(loid)s in mining waste
  • Citizen science; Community engagement for risk assessment of environmental exposures associated with legacy mine waste and active mining operations
  • Community teach-ins to facilitate community response among indigenous communities impacted by mining and contamination from legacy mine sites

Current CESM Research Projects:

  • Mining Industry - Academic Research Cooperative focused on revegetation technology (Julie Neilson, Raina Maier)
  • Roles of novel obligate oligotrophic bacteria in unreclaimed mine waste sites (Paul Carini)
  • Airborne Particulate Matter Related to Mining Activity (Eric Betterton, Eduardo Saez, Armin Sorooshian)
  • Phytostabilization of Mine Tailings in Arid Environments (Raina Maier, Jon 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)
  • Commodity Markets for copper (Dan Scheitrum)

Current CESM Education Projects:

  • Gardenroots: A Citizen-Science Project to Evaluate Water Quality for Home Gardens (Monica Ramirez-Andreotta)
  • Gold King Mine Spill Diné (Navajo) Exposure Project (Karletta Chief, Paloma Beamer)
  • Transferable Training Modules: Mining and Environmental Education for the Tohono O'odham Community College (Karletta Chief, Raina Maier)
  • The Water-Energy Nexus of Arizona: Copper Mining (Pratt Rogers, Mary Poulton)

CESM Technical Advisory Committee:

A technical advisory committee (TAC) meets regularly to help prioritize and develop the educational and research mission of CESM. The TAC is composed of members from the environmental divisions of major mining industries and consulting firms. Representatives from both hard rock mining and rock products industries are included in the TAC.

CESM Directors and Program Coordinator:

Director: Julia Neilson

Assoc. Research Professor,
Soil, Water and Environmental Science

Deputy Director: Raina M Maier

Professor, Soil Water and Environmental Science
Interim Director, UA Institute of the Environment

Program Coordinator:
Rocio Estrella