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Mining Engineering Remains Committed To Students Over 125-Year History

Mining has always driven not only the United States economy, but also the global economy, and a working knowledge of how mines are developed and operated is absolutely necessary to sustain these economies. At Penn State, one such program, Mining Engineering, exists to teach interested students about the process of mineral extraction. That program celebrates 125 years at Penn State this year.

Dr. Jeffrey Kohler serves as the Undergraduate Program Chair of Mining Engineering at Penn State, and he talked to us about the profession and the history of the program at Penn State. As Dr. Kohler explained, with more than 14,000 mines in the United States alone, and with 15 percent of the United States’ gross domestic product coming from mining, developing engineers to design and maximize the output of these mines is crucial.

“Mining engineers receive a very broad engineering education because the nature of their work often requires them to practice in many different disciplines,” Kohler said. “[Some] are focused on how to design and bring into operation a mine, or they may address the challenges pertaining to increasing productivity, addressing environmental concerns, [and] addressing safety and health concerns.”

Although the United States has a massive mining need in its economy, Kohler said that the global economy has a much greater need for mining. “While mining accounts for 15 percent of the US economic output, globally, it’s 25 percent,” Kohler said. When taking a closer look at processes and products around you, it’s hard to miss products that have been utilized by mining. “We mine about 75 minerals in this country,” Kohler said. “Those minerals are used in everything from production of food to pharmaceuticals to high-tech devices to construction materials, and includes such things as paint, paper, and carpet.”

With the massive amount of materials needing to be mined worldwide, a need for quality mining engineers to design and operate the mines has become a worldwide necessity, and Penn State produces such students from its College of Earth and Mineral Sciences. Among many things the Mining Engineering students learn in the courses they take, Dr. Kohler narrowed down what the students gain in knowledge and experience in the department. “They learn about the identification of viable mineral deposits,” Kohler said. “And they learn about the auxiliary topics including environmental sustainability and safety and health topics.” With environmental concerns becoming more prevalent everyday, it is vital for students doing any land engineering to be taught properly how to preserve the land and natural resources which they use. The Department of Energy and Mineral Engineering ensures that aspect is taught thoroughly to its students.

Generally, over the course of 125 years, engineering principles and methods change, and departments need to evolve with the changing practices. Since its inception 125 years ago, however, Dr. Kohler insists the core values of a major in Mining Engineering have not changed. “The commitment to the students, the commitment to provide them with the best education possible to prepare them for exciting and rewarding careers, that has not changed,” Kohler said. “What has changed is the content and the tools. As the industry has become much more high tech, the curriculum reflects that.” Even in an ever-changing world, the core values of the Mining Engineering major at Penn State have remained, and that has bred a number of extremely successful graduates over its 125 years at Penn State.

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About the Author

Matt Coleman

Matt Coleman is a writer for Onward State. His hometown is North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, a little under an hour from Pittsburgh. He is a sophomore majoring in Natural Resource Engineering in Biological Engineering. Please e-mail questions and comments to [email protected] Also, follow him on Twitter @cole_man2.

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