The Center for Environmentally Sustainable Mining (CESM) Annual Academic-Industry Research Cooperative meeting was held at the University of Arizona on April 26, 2017. The Cooperative was established in 2013 to improve technologies for vegetation establishment on reclaimed mine waste materials. Member companies include KGHM Carlota Copper (Miami, AZ), Rio Tinto Resolution Copper (Superior, AZ) and ASARCO Mission Mine (Sahuarita, AZ). The meeting was attended by Environmental and General Managers from each mining company, UA SRP/CESM investigator Dr. Julie Neilson who led the meeting, UA SRP/CESM Director Raina Maier, and several graduate and undergraduate UA SRP trainees. CESM Cooperative research is funded through membership contributions from each of the participating copper companies. The specific goal of the research is to identify biogeochemical indicators soil and waste rock quality that can be used to evaluate the value of potential mine waste capping materials and to track reclamation progress.
A very enthusiastic response was received from all companies following the presentation of results from the first three years of the project. All member companies committed to financial support of the research cooperative through 2020. Two primary research goals were identified by the member companies for the next four years. First, the companies seek to identify below-ground biogeochemical values that define a sustainable reclaimed ecosystem. The environmental managers believe the data generated from this research will be a valuable resource to guide regulatory agencies such as the Forest Service in the development of a quantitative assessment of reclamation success. Second, the mines want to develop metrics that define minimum quality standards for capping material (used to cap mine waste prior to seeding) that will sustain plant growth. Data generated to address these research goals is obtained on a yearly basis from samples collected at seven diverse sites at the three participating copper companies.