Minerals and Metals Initiative

Finding the solutions to meet the minerals and metals needs to create our future energy system

Minerals and Metals Initiative

Finding the solutions to meet the minerals and metals needs to create our future energy system

About the Initiative

As the world continues to shift to cleaner energy systems, demand for minerals will likely increase significantly to meet the needs of these low-carbon but mineral-intensive technologies. At the same time, scarcity of certain minerals, threats to supply chains, and desire for more environmentally and socially sustainable practices will complicate efforts to increase production using current practices. To meet future requirements, the mining industry will need new tools to increase exploration success, mining and processing efficiencies, and recycling capabilities; ensure social and environmental responsibility; and contribute to policy development.

Mines Mineral and Metals Initiative

Initiative Pillars

Partnerships

  • Industry
  • Business
  • Regulators
  • Academia

Education

  • Graduate Curriculum
  • Student Recruitment
  • Professional Development

Learn More

For more information about the Minerals and Metals Initiative at Colorado School of Mines, please contact Payne Institute Deputy Directory Gregory Clough.

Essential Minerals Center

Colorado School of Mines is establishing the Essential Minerals Center to provide these tools. The EMC seeks to become a center of excellence for mining best practices, with an emphasis on sustainability and social responsibility.

Ore

EMC Goals

Model

Model the mineral requirements needed to realize global energy targets and the requirements on mining operations to support these energy needs in a safe, environmentally sound, and socially responsible manner.

Technology Innovations

Develop, test, and share technology innovations required to meet the increased demand for minerals.

Best Practices

Developing renewable, secure, resilient, and adaptive energy infrastructure that fosters economic growth while reducing environmental impact

EMC Primary Areas of Focus

Techno- and Socioeconomic Modeling to Predict Future Mineral Needs

We will develop a robust, full life-cycle based techno- and socio-economic resource model that determines mineral requirements and supply chain needs of various future global energy scenarios. The model will consider both technical requirements and the social and economic context of these scenarios, including governmental policies and geopolitics.

To qualitatively address the mineral supply chain required to meet future energy demands, the model will include a risk and reliability assessment of the impact of supply chain disruptions.

Model outputs will include:

Quantification of carbon and material footprints associated with minerals required for a clean energy future

Assumptions and sensitivities to emerging, evolving, and improving clean energy technologies

Identification and risk assessment of critical minerals and rare earth minerals

Resource commodity analytics

Social impacts of scenarios

New Technologies to Enhance Exploration Success and Mining / Processing Efficiency

EMC will also develop and test new technologies to increase exploration success and mining and processing efficiency. Current exploration tools are unlikely to find new ore bodies that can meet future needs. Moreover, new ore deposits are likely to be of lower grade, deeper, more remote, and require additional energy and water for their development—increasing costs and environmental impacts. Energy is already a major cost for mining operations, and the industry overall accounts for 11% of global energy use. New technologies that increase energy efficiency can substantially reduce both the cost of extraction and the industry’s carbon footprint.

MC will conduct interdisciplinary, applied research to develop new technologies to address these challenges, including:

Mining grinder machine

High-resolution subsurface exploration and mapping

Enhanced ore body modeling and data analysis

Innovative drilling and deep rock fracturing techniques for solution-based mining

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big-data analysis, for exploration, mining and processing

Improved operating productivity through communications and data management 

Automation and robotics in exploration, mining, and processing

Advancements in extraction and recycling of essential minerals

Materials replacement / substitution of critical and essential minerals

Public Policy Work to Support Decision-Making

The Payne Institute for Public Policy at Mines will serve as the EMC’s policy arm. The Payne Institute facilitates dialogue across stakeholders and provides high-quality, data-driven, solutions-oriented research needed to inform energy, mineral and environmental policy. As part of the EMC, the Payne Institute will build reliable frameworks to help public officials and corporate leaders make decisions that balance market need, economic opportunity, environmental protection, and sustainability.

Combined, these thrusts form the building blocks of a center poised to become the global, trusted source of information for industry, government, and society. The EMC will provide technical solutions needed to source the minerals essential to the energy future, as well as best practices in social and environmental sustainability to ensure the social license to do so.

Mining grinder machine
Payne Institute for Public Policy