Environment

Minerals and metals are at the foundation of modern technology-based societies. Each year, the average American uses about 25 tons of earth materials. Exploration for new resources is at the front end of the mining life cycle, with mining companies spending billions of dollars per year exploring for new metal and mineral resources yet often coming up empty. 

Now, Colorado School of Mines researchers are teaming with Virginia Tech researchers, bringing together over 250 years of experience in earth resource research, to develop an integrated approach to locating, characterizing and visualizing mineral resources. Their goal is to boost exploration success rates and advance mining operations while cutting costs and minimizing both financial risk and environmental impact.
An open-pit mining operation at the Veladero Mine in Argentina.
An open-pit mining operation at the Veladero Mine in Argentina.

The researchers have proposed a national cross-disciplinary Center for Advanced Subsurface Earth Resource Models, an industry-funded consortium that would provide exploration and mining companies worldwide with new 3-D subsurface geological models. The models would inform decision-making and risk management at all stages of the mining life cycle, from exploration to operations and including mine closure and environmental reclamation.

The center has received early support from the National Science Foundation through a $15,000 planning grant to each institution. These planning grants will enable the Mines-Virginia Tech team and representatives from the exploration and mining industry to define a joint industry and university research agenda, consolidate support and develop a business plan under NSF’s Industry/University Cooperative Research Center Program. Launched in 1973, the I/UCRC program supports research and workforce development in various industry sectors by establishing and fostering cooperative, long-term innovative university-industry-NSF partnerships.
 
“The purpose and long-term vision of this center is directed toward research challenges in the development of 3-D subsurface geologic models for mineral deposits, with the ultimate goal of informing decision-making and minimizing geological risk in mineral exploration operations,” said Geology and Geological Engineering Professor Ric Wendlandt, Mines’ principal investigator on the project.
 
The Mines team includes 14 researchers from the departments of Geology and Geological Engineering, Geophysics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics and Mining Engineering. Professor Wendy Harrison and Associate Professor Thomas Monecke, both from the Geology and Geological Engineering Department, are co-principal investigators. At Virginia Tech, Math Professor Matthias (Tia) Chung leads a team of 12 researchers.
 
The consortium represents an ideal cross-disciplinary effort, balancing geological and geophysical exploration methods with essential mathematical and computational approaches and risk analysis perspectives.  
 
The research team will explore innovations in measurements of chemical and physical properties of rock materials and improvements to integrating and scaling of diverse geological and geophysical data types. These improvements will help mathematicians, statisticians and computer scientists build more accurate tools for 3-D imaging and visualization of the Earth’s subsurface.
 
According to Monecke, who specializes in economic geology, the exploration and mining sector is unlike other industries. The time between onset of exploration to resource production and recoup of investment often exceeds 10 years.
 
“The mining business is a complex process, taking many years to develop a project from exploration to production and finally mine closure and reclamation. Successful modern mining operations generate wealth and employment for several decades, yet because failure at any step is prohibitively expensive, companies are slow in developing and adapting new technologies and often rely on business strategies proven to have worked in the past,” said Monecke. “Our center’s vision is to advance the digital revolution of the global exploration and mining industry during all stages of the mining life cycle—research in this area will be the stepping stone to transforming exploration and mining into an industry of the 21st century.”
 
The center will need industry support to receive full funding from the NSF. During the initial yearlong planning phase, Mines will recruit companies to join the consortium. “There are already 28 companies interested in working with us, in the long run looking to fund innovative fundamental research that will accelerate the mining sector forward,” said Wendlandt. “We’re very encouraged.” 
A Mines geophysics student works with 3-D imaging software.
A Mines geophysics student works with 3-D imaging software.

Companies expressing interest in the consortium include those in mineral exploration and mining, software development, consulting, geochemistry and exploration geophysics and instrumentation. Federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey may also participate. Research priorities are set by the consortium’s members, who will establish an industry advisory board.

 
“Mining is intrinsic to modern society’s transition to a sustainable existence,” said Ramona Graves, dean of the College of Earth Resources Science and Engineering. “The center’s projects will promote socioeconomic prosperity and help in reducing the environmental impact of the mining industry.”
 
The center will also be a major effort to prepare college graduates at both the undergraduate and graduate levels to move directly into the industrial workforce, explained Harrison, helping students make essential contacts in the industry even before they graduate. There is an emerging need in the mining industry for professionals who provide expertise in advanced computer-controlled equipment, computer modeling and data analysis that support the daily activity of a company.  
 
“The Center for Advanced Subsurface Earth Resource Models, if successful in attracting members, would be the first geoscience-based program started under the 44-year-old NSF program,” said Harrison. Expectations for the planning year are to gain industry support for the Center’s operation plan, agree on research goals and initial projects and get individual companies to commit to joining the center.
 
 
This research is being made possible by NSF Grant 1650500.
 
Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu

 

Martin Kohn, Dov Quint, August Steinbeck, Muhammad Abdullah Khawar, Phillip Ruban

Mineral and Energy Economics students Martin Kohn, Dov Quint, August Steinbeck, Muhammad Abdullah Khawar and Phillip Ruban placed third the Columbia University Energy Symposium case competition in New York City.

Five Mines graduate students placed third, winning $500 at the Columbia University Energy Symposium case competition in New York City on Feb. 2. Muhammad Abdullah Khawar, Martin Kohn, Dov Quint, Phillip Ruban and August Steinbeck study Mineral and Energy Economics in the Division of Economics and Business at Colorado School of Mines.

This competition allowed teams to present creative and innovative solutions for critical challenges facing the energy and environment sectors. Students also had the opportunity to interact with professionals, professors and students in the energy sector.

Learn more about the Columbia University Energy Symposium.

About Mineral and Energy Economics at Mines
Founded in 1969, this world-renowned program in the Division of Economics Business leads to MS and PhD degrees in Mineral and Energy Economics. This program attracts students from all over the world, and Mines MEE alumni are known globally for their career achievements and qualifications. Students gain the skills necessary for understanding the complex interactions of markets and policy that influence the energy, mineral and environmental industries. The program focuses on applied quantitative tools and models that form a foundation for sound business and public policy. Learn more about Mines’ Mineral and Energy Economics MS and PhD programs.

CONTACT
Kelly Beard, Communication Specialist, Division of Economics and Business | 303-273-3452 | kbeard@mines.edu
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

 
A three-day NSF-sponsored workshop will bring to Mines 20 of the world’s top scholars focused on the societal aspects of mining and other extractive processes.
 
“STS Underground: Investigating the Technoscientific Worlds of Mining and Subterranean Extraction” will take place February 5 to 7, 2017. The workshop encourages a research approach that is often referred to as Science and Technology Studies, or Science, Technology, and Society (STS).
 
“STS sheds light on how mining, energy and other extractive processes are not just technical, but sociotechnical practices that have everything to do with questions of knowledge, power and expertise,” said Jessica Smith, Hennebach Assistant Professor of Energy Policy in Liberal Arts and International Studies. Smith is cohosting the conference with Ropali Phadke of Macalester College and Abby Kinchy of Renesselar Polytechnic Institute. “Industry leaders have learned that to be successful and sustainable, they need to be proactive in engaging these sorts of sociotechnical questions.”
 
The conference is the first one in STS to focus specifically on extractive activities. “The existing social science scholarship on mining and extraction comes largely from anthropology and geography, especially in terms of the consequences for vulnerable communities. Yet these fields remain largely distinct from STS and rarely engages practitioners, such as scientists and engineers,” explained Phadke. 
 
Workshop participants who are interdisciplinary humanities and social sciences scholars will have the opportunity to engage with scientists and engineers who work in those fields. They will also have an opportunity to tour the university’s Edgar Experimental Mine. Organizers say STS is well positioned to make an impact in these industries, opening up crucial questions about the technologies, practices and forms of knowledge related to subterranean extractive practices.
 
“We’re proud that Mines is playing a role in bringing these industries from the periphery of this field to the center of it,” said Smith.
 
While the majority of the three-day event is closed to the public in order to workshop papers in a forthcoming book, there are two public events on February 6: a panel discussion with invited guest scholars, who will synthesize and comment on the themes of the workshop, and a keynote address from renowned historian Gabrielle Hecht, an internationally recognized expert on nuclear energy policy and uranium mining. 
 
The panel will take place 4 to 5:30 p.m. in the Ben Parker Student Center, Ballrooms A and B, with speakers Anthony Bebbington of Clark University, Trevor Birkenholtz of the University of Illinois, Elizbeth Ferry of Brandeis Unvieristy and Phadke. More information about each of the speakers can be found here.
 
A reception will follow from 5:30 to 6 p.m., where posters showcasing Mines students’ research engaging with the social responsibility dimensions of mining, oil and gas, groundwater and geothermal projects will be on display. 
 
The keynote address will be held immediately after at 6 p.m. Hecht will present “Residual Governance: Mining Afterlives and Molecular Colonialism, seen from an African Anthropocene.”
 
“It’s exciting to see Mines at the forefront of defining the underground as a vibrant specialty inside of STS,” said Smith, “and the workshop is advancing our efforts in the Humanitarian Engineering program to grow research and teaching on social responsibility on campus.”
 
This workshop is being made possible by NSF Award 16322651.
 
Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 ramirez@mines.edu
 
Andrea Christine Blaine, research assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and assistant director of WE²ST Research Center at Colorado School of Mines, passed away Thursday, December 22, after a five-year-battle with cancer.
 
Blaine first came to Mines in 1993 as an undergraduate from Houston, Texas. She went on to earn three degrees from Mines: a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering, a master’s degree in Environmental Science and Engineering, and a PhD in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Blaine also earned a MS in Horticulture from Colorado State University. 
 
Since 2014, Blaine served as assistant director of the ConocoPhillips Center for a Sustainable WE²ST, mentoring and training undergraduate scholars and graduate fellows in water sustainability related to oil and gas operations. 
 
“We will all miss Andrea deeply as a friend and for her gifts to WE²ST and Mines,” said Terri Hogue, CEE professor and director of WE²ST. “Andrea embodied the word “teacher” and was a role model for all of us in our interactions with students, colleagues and family.”
 
A former high school teacher herself, Blaine was passionate about collaboration between academic researchers, industry leaders and K-12 teachers. She was Co-PI on the NSF-funded Water-Energy Education for the Next Generation, a Colorado School of Mines Research Experience for Teachers. She also led Mines students in their STEM outreach to local elementary schools, via Shelton’s Math & Science Night and Earth Day at Ralston Elementary.
 
Blaine’s career was strewn with awards and achievements. Among many publications, Blaine was the lead author of three Environmental Science & Technology articles. As a graduate student, Blaine received several scholarships and awards, including a research award from the EPA. Her research into the accumulation of perfluorochemicals into crops blended her love of chemistry, engineering and horticulture, and has been used to inform public health policies in Colorado and beyond. 
 
“Andrea’s work was truly groundbreaking, and will have a lasting impact on the scientific community,” said Chris Higgins, associate professor of CEE and Blaine’s PhD advisor. “She exemplified what it means to be an Oredigger: a scholar, a teacher, and an all-around great person. She will be missed.”
 
Blaine was chosen as the Favorite Professor in CEE by The Oredigger student survey in 2014. Prior to coming back to Mines for her graduate work, Blaine was co-department chair for the Math & Pre-Engineering Department at Bear Creek High school, helping pilot the Project Lead the Way for Jefferson County School District. As an undergraduate, she was the outstanding graduating senior in chemical engineering, a member of the McBride Honors Program and Blue Key National Honor Society and received the Mines Outstanding Female Athlete award her senior year.
 
More than all her achievements, though, Blaine will be remembered for her passion for education, her devotion to family and her compassion as a friend.  
 
Blaine is survived by her husband, Jason Blaine, their children, Star and Antonio Blaine, and her parents, Steve and Betty Crowell.
 
A service celebrating Blaine's life will be held at 2 p.m., December 31, at First Presbyterian Church of Golden (17707 W. 16th Avenue, Golden). 
 
 

CONTACT:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu

 
Students from Alameda International Junior/Senior High School visited Colorado School of Mines on December 7 as part of an outreach program aimed at connecting high schools with a diverse student body to Mines—with a focus on earth science. The program, Mining for Talent, was initiated by the Integrated Groundwater Modeling Center (IGWMC) in conjunction with Jefferson County Public Schools and funded by the National Science Foundation. 
 
Professor of Hydrology Kamini Singha, graduate students from the Hydrologic Science and Engineering Program and staff from the IGWMC led the group throughout the day, which included hands-on lab activities, interactive demos, a scavenger hunt in the Geology Museum and more.
 
“I really want to provide opportunities for some of our local high schools with students underrepresented in earth science to see what we all do here,” said Singha. “These kids are bright and motivated, and starting to think about college. Mines might be the kind of place some of them would consider, especially when they see all we can do here.”
 
The students participated in a number of lab activities—from generating earthquakes using smartphones and mapping contamination in the subsurface to exploring the role of biology on geochemical reactions. With each activity, they toured a related campus facility, such as the Earth Mechanics Institute and the Center for Experimental Study of Subsurface Processes, exposing them to the daily activities of these centers.
 
Twelve graduate students from HSE participated in the outreach program. “I’m glad Mines is reaching out to local high schools”, said Annette Hein, who led a campus tour. “I hope we can help these students get excited about science and engineering.”
 
The interactive day ended with an info session aimed at helping the students focus on what they can do in their last years in high school to help them get into the college of their choice.
 
Travis Ramos, a new graduate student in HSE who just earned his bachelor's from Mines, led a presentation on what a day in the life of a college student looks like. “College is truly a time to empower yourself to make an impact in the world,” said Ramos. “I wanted most of all for them to know that college will help them explore their interests, discover their passions and provide a platform for them to excel in life.”
 
This program will be funded through NSF for another year, and Singha and the IGWMC are looking into other opportunities to engage diverse students on campus. 
 
See more photos from the day here.
 
Contact:
Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu

 

 

Seven students from the winning senior design team, Pig Patrol. Mechanical Engineering

Pig Patrol, a team of seven mechanical engineering seniors at Colorado School of Mines, received first place in the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences Fall Senior Design Trade Fair on December 1, 2016. They designed an integrated cleaning and inspection pig (ICIP) that can collect data more frequently and affordably, without interrupting the pipeline flow.

“Pigging” is a common term in pipeline management, referring to devices known as “pigs” that perform maintenance operations. The name originally referred to the squealing noise the early devices made while traveling in the pipe.

“Basically we need to find defects along the inside of oil pipelines so that pipes don’t rupture,” explained team member Kyle Crews. “We designed a robot that can travel along the inside of the pipeline, find the defects and report them back using a unique sensor that could have a big impact on this market. Our design allows for more frequent testing in a cost-effective way.”

The team is working to possibly take to market the sensor technology that they adapted in the design of their pig. The team’s design acquires lower quality data but in a higher quantity that would allow companies to run the ICIP every time the pipeline is cleaned, rather than every couple of years.

“We have a really close-knit team,” said Crews, “and want to take this forward after graduation, even though several of us are moving out of state. We’ve had a lot of great feedback from people in the industry. We also want to thank our client, Craig Champlin, and our faculty advisor, Jered Dean, who really guided us along over the past two semesters.”

The +4 Designs team received second place for their design of an adjustable down-hole probe-centralizer to be used in geophysical testing by their client, Mount Sopris Instruments. The third place team, Dynamic Hydration Systems, created a hydration system intended for endurance auto racing drivers. They built and tested a system that delivers hydration to the driver without detracting from the driver’s focus through a refillable and detachable component.

Other projects included two for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, one developing an online method for measuring the residence time distribution for a biofuel pre-treatment reactor and the other an instrumentation system to determine the physical level and density of process material inside a thermochemical hydrolysis reactor.

Several teams presented projects aimed at improving Mines’ campus, such as an electrical system aimed at allowing the Starzer Welcome Center to function for 48 hours during an interruption of service and another that looked at better stormwater management through the use of green infrastructure.

For the second time, a Mines senior design team constructed a hands-on educational device for the Boulder Journey School. The human-powered water system is designed to introduce children to cause-and-effect relationships via the use of gears, pulleys and other mechanical devices.

Mines Formula Society of Automotive Engineers also presented an aerodynamic design for the car they will use in their 2017 competition in Nebraska. Students from Mines Human Centered Design Studio presented early prototypes of their adaptive equipment designs, even though they will be competing in the spring trade fair. 

More information about all the teams can be found on the Capstone site. Photos from the event are available on Flickr and via the slideshow below.

2016 Fall Capstone Trade Fair

 

Trade Fair Winners

1st Place – Pig Patrol – Integrated Cleaning and Inspection Pipeline Pigging Robot

Students: Logan Nichols, Evan Marshall, Grant DeShazer, Evan Thomas, Matthew Atherton, Victoria Steffens, Kyle Crews

Client: Craig Champlin

Adivsor: Jered Dean

Consultant: John Steele
 

2nd Place – +4 Designs – Adjustable Downhole Centralizer

Students: Steven Blickley, Nick Markel, Jenevieve Parker, Steven Staszak

Clients: Mount Sopris Instruments: Curtis Baker, Jody DuMond

Advisor: Buddy Haun

Consultants: Jered Dean

 

3rd Place – Dynamic Hydration Systems - Endurance Auto Racing Hydration System Challenge

Students: Will Bennett, Matt Craig, Jaime DuBois, Kaan Korkmaz, Allen Jackson, Ry Walter

Client: Scott Durham

Advisor: Robin Steele

Consultants: Robert Amaro

 

Broader Impacts Essay Winners

1st Place - “Are Electric Vehicles More Brown than Green?” by Kelly Dempsey

2nd Place – “Learning to Drive” by Ben Koehler

3rd Place – “The Broader Impacts of Design Choices in the Airline Industry” by Connor Groeneweg

 

CONTACT:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

 

Did you know that buildings use about three-quarters of the total electricity generated in the United States? And that during the summer months, buildings cooling systems account for about 50 percent of the electricity peak demand?

 
    Dr. Tabares-Velasco and his graduate student, Sajith Wijesuriya, present the new lab to prospective students.

These were the statistics that Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Paulo Cesar Tabares-Velasco shared as he led a group of prospective students through his new lab during Meet Me at Mines, an event for prospective students from historically underrepresented groups. These high school students were the first to get a look at the new lab that will celebrate its official grand opening in January 2017.

The Building and Thermal Science Lab, located on the fourth floor of Brown Hall, is a multi-purpose, state-of-the-art environmental chamber. It allows researchers to control the environmental conditions in which their experiments will take place. Whether testing the thermal performance of wall assemblies or thermal storage technologies such as phase change materials, the ability to set exact environmental conditions is essential.

“The lab offers a combination of sophisticated control, a tight environment, and accurate sensors,” explained Tabares. “This allows us to mimic indoor environments like an office for testing passive thermal storage and also outdoor environments. We also have one radiant (hydronic) wall that allows us to set its temperature independent of the room temperature, enabling thermal testing of different wall assemblies among other things.”

In this new lab, Tabares’ research team hopes to find ways to increase flexibility to the electric grid. “Buildings hold great potential, combined with thermal storage, to solve some of the great challenges related to energy, smart grid, and global warming,” said Tabares.

Tabares' students also focus on improving heating and cooling equipment, indoor air quality and comfort. The new lab includes advanced control and laboratory-rated sensors that accurately control and measure several variables:

  • Supply and return air flow rates
  • Indoor air temperature
  • Indoor air relative humidity
  • Wall surface temperature
  • Indoor concentration of CO2 and volatile organic compounds (VOC)

Senior and graduate students will also use the lab for teaching purposes, such as senior design projects and Tabares’ Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning class. Students will be able to control the supply air temperature and the relative humidity as well as air flow rate. The lab will be a hands-on source for learning about psychometrics (moist air properties and processes), indoor air quality, commissioning and thermal comfort.

Several industry leaders contributed to the Building and Thermal Science Lab, such as Building Automation Products, Inc. (BAPI) and EBTRON, which supplied the innovative sensors for temperature, humidity, and air flow stations.

 

CONTACT:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

A full room of people watching a powerpoint presentation about mine remediation
Mines held a summit on expectations for the closure of historic and abandoned mines on Nov. 17, 2016.

Colorado School of Mines recently hosted a summit on reasonable expectations for the closure of historic and abandoned mines. The summit was held on November 17, 2016, and brought together non-governmental organizations, members of industry, local community members and other stakeholders from throughout the world to discuss what it takes to have a successful mine closure and generate expectations for future stakeholders.

The Payne Institute for Earth Resources sponsored the summit, with organizational support from the Humanitarian Engineering Program, the Department of Mining Engineering at Mines and the Keystone Policy Center.

David Holm, Executive Director of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation addresses the summit attendees.
David Holm, Executive Director of the Clear Creek Watershed Foundation addresses the summit attendees.

The summit included panel discussions with stakeholders from multiple fields, mapping expectations for successful closures and creating a framework to guide better life-cycle management of active mines by learning from previous experiences.

“The summit discussions extended across stakeholder groups to include a broad set of concerns about the evaluation and management of the risks of mineral development, lack of consensus concerning reasonable expectations and goals for abandoned mine closure, and the assignment of responsibility for risks and actions,” said Priscilla Nelson, department head of Mines’ Department of Mining Engineering.  “Attendees brought perspectives from well beyond the bounds of Colorado and North America.”

The four panels focused on mine closure expectations with environment and community sustainability concerns in mind. In many cases, historic mines were operated before the current laws and regulations were in place, and stakeholders are now faced with issues that need further refinement in order to have a successful closure. Ultimately, the goal of the summit was to generate tangible actions to begin systematic remediation of existing abandoned mines prevalent in the western United States.

Overall, the summit provided the opportunity to discuss what the future of mine remediation and successful mine closures.

See more photos from the summit here.

Sources:

Agata Bogucka, Communications Manager, College of Earth Resource Sciences & Engineering | 303-384-2657 | abogucka@mines.edu

Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

 

 

The presence of highly fluorinated organic chemicals, sometimes referred to as PFCs or poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs), in groundwater continues to be a pressing issue for communities in Colorado and throughout the country. Faculty at Colorado School of Mines have led the research identifying the problem (Study finds high levels of toxic chemicals in drinking water) and, more recently, developing solutions (Mines tackles treating PFC-contaminated water).

Associate Professor Chris Higgins in his environmental engineering lab.

Now the Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) has awarded a three-year $1.5 million grant to Christopher Higgins, associate professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, to further investigate how PFASs are released, travel and react to other contaminants.

“The ultimate goal,” explained Higgins, “is to treat these PFAS sites.”

To do this effectively, Higgins and his team have proposed to first develop an understanding of how existing remediation technologies that are used to treat the co-occurring contaminants affect PFASs.

These co-contaminants include chlorinated solvents and fuel hydrocarbons, and are often found at sites where aqueous film forming foam (AFFF) has been used. PFASs have already had an impact on groundwater near military sites where AFFF was used, often mixed with these co-contaminants.

“My team will be conducting batch and column laboratory experiments, using field-collected groundwater and soil samples,” Higgins said. “We want to look closely not only at the compounds that are the focus of EPA Health Advisories, but also at how and under what conditions newly identified polyfluorinated PFASs are converted to the more problematic perfluorinated chemicals.”

Higgins will also investigate the interactions of PFASs with nonaqueous phase liquids, such as gasoline and oil. A fully synergistic remediation effort will require more data to develop technology to meet the sites’ requirements.

The research project, titled “Key Fate and Transport Processes Impacting the Mass Discharge, Attenuation, and Treatment of Poly- and Perfluoroalkyl Substances and Comingled Chlorinated Solvents or Aromatic Hydrocarbons,” is a collaboration between Mines, Oregon State University, CDM Smith and the University of California at Berkeley, with Higgins as the principal investigator.

A related project, also funded by SERDP, is being led by Jens Blotevogel, a research professor at Colorado State University, to treat PFCS with electrolysis-based technology.

Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program is the Department of Defense’s environmental science and technology program. It invests across a broad spectrum of basic and applied research, as well as advanced development, in an effort to solve environmental challenges with innovative environmental technologies that enhance and sustain military readiness.

 

CONTACT:

Deirdre Keating, Communications Manager, College of Engineering & Computational Sciences | 303-384-2358 | dkeating@mines.edu
Mark Ramirez, Communications Manager, College of Applied Science & Engineering | 303-384-2622 | ramirez@mines.edu

Mines students volunteering as part of Hike for Help.

This winter break, 16 Mines students will spend their three-week vacation volunteering in Khumbu Valley, Nepal, constructing a public restroom facility for the local community and aiding in repairing the local high school that was destroyed in an earthquake in 2015. Mines is partnering with Hike for Help, an organization that connects with communities in Nepal to work on projects that will have a high impact on the Nepali community.

“There are no public restrooms in the Khumbu Valley, which is the trail that leads to Everest,” said Rachel Osgood, an assistant teaching professor in Mines’ Liberal Arts and International Studies Division. “The people that live there have pit toilets and no sanitation system, so they don’t drink enough water because they don't have anywhere to go to the bathroom.”

Osgood, who will lead students on this international service learning trip, recalled how the founder of the Hike for Help organization, Lhakpa Sherpa, also the owner of the Sherpa House restaurant in Golden, Colorado, was struck by students’ reactions to the pit toilets on a previous community service trip. “Sherpa got together with other local leaders in the Lukla and Khumbu Valley regions and talked about how beneficial [constructing a public restroom facility] would be for the people of the area, particularly in terms of tourism,” said Osgood. The Nepali community agreed that this would be a valuable addition, giving the project a green light.

A young boy playing with his kendama in Nepal.

When approached to help with this project, Mines reacted without hesitation, and the community service trip filled up quickly, mostly with McBride Honors students who are eager to travel to Nepal and make a difference. “I am most looking forward to returning to the area that I helped support with Hike for Help last winter,” said chemical engineering student Chase Li. Engineering physics student, Peter Consalvi added, “To go over there and build (from scratch) a restroom that is going to greatly benefit the valley, we have a great chance to really help someone.”

But this service trip will have many benefits for Mines students as well. Trinity Wilson, a chemical engineering student, admitted, “This experience [will be] far out of my comfort zone; it will take me further from the things and people I depend on and challenge me mentally and physically to face my fears.”

Since the students are required to cover their own travel expenses, all of the fundraising will be put towards the service project—the materials and labor. “It’s pretty expensive, because the cement has to be transported up the valley and the only way to get there is by walking with some yaks or flying in a really small passenger plane,” explained engineering physics student Matthew Kowalsky.

The eventual goal is to build 40 of these restrooms within the next few years throughout the valley. Osgood added, “We want to make this a sustainable relationship between our community and the community in Nepal, because we have a local connection and it hits close to home.

Check out the video below for more information about Hike for Help:

https://youtu.be/iDriqFNG6EE

To support Hike for Help in its fundraising efforts to obtain supplies to help local citizens of the Khumbu Valley, visit giving.mines.edu/goldmine.

 

Contact:
Leah Pinkus, Communications Assistant, Colorado School of Mines 303-273-3088 lpinkus@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Editorial Assistant, Mines magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu

 

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