01/04/2022 – Mining / Training / Schools Act / Engineering / SME / US
US ‘Mining Schools Act’: “An important step” in tackling long-term decline in enrolment and graduation rates, says SME boss
The introduction of the Mining Schools Act of 2022 – also known as the Technology Grants to Strengthen Domestic Mining Education Act of 2022 – in the US could be vital to encourage development of a new pipeline of mining engineers and other professionals, according to The Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME).
Industry association SME – which counts over 13,000 mining and mineral industry professionals as members – noted that the new bill would require the Secretary of the US Department of Energy to establish a competitive grant programme. Providing US$10 million annually for eight years to eligible colleges and universities, such a programme would enable those educational institutions to train the next generation of mining engineers and other mining professionals.
“The bill is an important first step in addressing what has been a longstanding decline in both mining school enrolment and graduation rates,” stressed Dave Kanagy, SME Executive Director. “Since 1980, the number of colleges and universities with accredited mining engineering programs has decreased from 25 to 14 in 2020. The number of graduating students with mining engineering degrees has also declined substantially.”
A briefing paper prepared by SME illustrates the severity of this trend, noting that the number of graduates has decreased by 43 per cent since 2015 alone.
Averting “a national crisis”
“The decline in mining school enrolment and graduation rates is a national crisis. And it comes at a time when the nation is becoming even more reliant on critical and rare earth minerals imported from foreign countries,” stressed Mr Kanagy, adding that minerals are needed to support the US economy, national security, and the transition to clean energy.
The bill would allow eligible colleges and universities, including both public and private institutions, to apply for competitive grants to assist with recruitment of the best and brightest students; to fund important research of technologies to increase domestic production of critical minerals and reduce dependence on imported minerals; and to develop better technologies to protect the environment.
Sponsored by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking Republican on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Joe Manchin (D-WV), the Committee Chair, the bill will be referred to that committee for a hearing in the coming weeks.