Looking to the Future of Mining Engineering: Research for Resilient Mines and Programs
With several major catastrophes in the last 20 years attributed to failure of mine ventilation systems, in concert with more stringent regulatory requirements, comprehensive characterization and monitoring of ventilation systems is critical to safe and efficient operation of mines. A brief review of several complimentary research projects in mine ventilation is given, including the characterization of mine systems via novel tracer gases, develop of a passive sensor based on optical fiber technology, and work in mine fire simulation toward improved understanding of fire behavior for control and prevention.
The research described can improve resiliency for vital underground systems, like ventilation; likewise, mining engineering programs must be resilient. University mining programs, like their counterparts in industry, have always contended with the challenges that commodity cycles bring in terms of support and demand for engineers. In 2019, the evolving geopolitical climate, global raw materials markets, and changing aspirations and characteristics of undergraduate students mean that successful programs must be agile and relevant. Today’s graduates must have a solid base in engineering principles, strong leadership skills, and a savvy approach to rapidly developing technology. As educators, we must be more creative in how we recruit students, design curriculum, encourage inclusion and diversity, and, ultimately, support the mining industry.
Kray Luxbacher is professor and associate head in the Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering at Virginia Tech where she is responsible for the undergraduate program curriculum and directs the graduate program. Dr. Luxbacher holds a B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. from Virginia Tech, all in Mining Engineering, as well as a Graduate Certificate in Engineering Education. Her research interests are in underground ventilation, specifically characterization and monitoring of ventilation systems and explosion and fire prevention. She is a registered engineer in the Commonwealth of Virginia and an active member of the SME.