The Colorado School of Mines (Mines) and the Universidad Nacional de San Agustín (UNSA) in Arequipa, Peru, have developed a partnership to tackle one of the most important societal and environmental issues facing southern Peru – how to manage mining of natural resources in a manner that is sustainable, supports the local economies, and minimizes environmental impacts. This partnership has led to the Center for Mining Sustainability, a jointly-managed group of researchers from a broad array of departments at both universities. The vision for the Center is to provide research-driven solutions to Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining issues to benefit the Arequipa region and that will be applied at all scales of mining worldwide. Research projects are aimed at protecting water resources, improving mine safety, reducing risk from geologic hazards, and improving mining processes.
One of the key goals of Dr. Rohel Sanchez, Rector of UNSA, and Dr. Horacio Barreda, the Vice-Rector for Research at UNSA, was to transform UNSA by elevating its technical and human capacity to build the strategic, long-term collaborations needed to address key environmental, mineral extraction, and social challenges that will support responsible mining activities long into the future. While individual research projects focus on the Arequipa region of Peru, the work will benefit Peru as a whole, as well as areas worldwide with mining activity, and especially Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining.
The connections between UNSA and Mines were established in late 2018 between Tomas Diaz de la Rubia, Chief Scientist and Executive Director of the Discovery Park at Purdue University, Timothy Filley, Director of the Arequipa Nexus Institute at Purdue (conducting similar research but with an agriculture and water supply focus), John Poate and Stefanie Tompkins, the former and current (respectively) Vice-Presidents for Research and Technology Transfer at Mines, and UNSA Rector Rohel Sanchez. The first Mines delegation to Arequipa included faculty from across Mines, representing the Departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Geology and Geological Engineering, Geophysics, and Mining Engineering. By February of 2019 the research projects had been developed and by March of 2019 the official launching of the Center for Sustainable Mining was signed. The program of research projects, technical workshops, visiting scholar programs, and joint laboratories is expected to engage dozens of UNSA and Mines faculty and staff, postdoctoral researchers, and UNSA graduate and undergraduate students.
The Mines team is led by Paul Santi, professor in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering. He serves as Co-Director of the Center’s scientific programs, partnering with the leader of the UNSA team, Henry Gustavo Cornejo Polanco, professor and Dean of the School of Process Engineering at UNSA.