There is a critical shortage of mining engineers in the United States and overseas. Some industry estimates indicate that within five years, as many as 50 percent of mining engineers will reach retirement age.
To help combat the problem, CONSOL Energy, Inc., has pledged $100,000 to the University of Utah's Department of Mining Engineering.
The contribution will be the largest so far for a new endowment named the Partnership Fund that will support faculty and staff in mining engineering and help ensure an adequate supply of mining engineers for the future. Other mining and mineral companies are expected to follow CONSOL's lead.
The endowment initially will support one faculty position, but the department hopes to raise $2.5 million for the fund.
According to Kim McCarter, chair of the university's Department of Mining Engineering, the program is one of a handful remaining in the West that offers graduate degrees as well as an undergraduate degree. He says students graduating from the department have had a 100 percent employment rate, and most have had to choose between multiple job offers.
McCarter says mining engineers are in short supply for several reasons. Students considering engineering often think of civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, "but they've probably not even heard of mining engineering," he says. Also, "mining is erroneously considered by many as not being a high-tech field," he adds.
CONSOL Energy, Inc. is a producer of coal, natural gas and electricity. The company owns one mine in Utah: the Emery Mine. The company is a major fuel supplier to the electric power industry in the northeast United States. Its extensive property holdings also have hosted timber sales and industrial and retail development projects. CONSOL Energy also maintains the largest private research and development facilities devoted exclusively to coal and energy utilization and production.