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Mining course led by Virginia Tech professor gets nod from United Nations panel

A mining engineering class at Virginia Tech has been recognized as a model of sustainability education by a United Nations-affiliated panel.

Many consumer goods – from cellphones to toothpaste– rely on the mining of certain minerals.

And because of that, Emily Sarver says it’s important that the mining process is a sustainable one.

Tonia Moxley for Virginia Tech
Emily Sarver (left) and Festus Animah in the mock mine pits currently under construction at Virginia Tech.

“If we don’t like the way that necessarily that it’s done, then we need more great engineers and great problem solvers to help us make it right,” she explains. 

And that’s exactly what the course Sarver leads aims to do. She teaches students from different parts of the world on the importance of developing mining practices that are both less harmful to the environment and socially responsible.

The course was recently recognized by the UN-affiliated Sustainable Development Solutions Network. That group highlights educational resources that focus on things like land resources and climate action.

“It draws more students to the course and hopefully it provides a model for other programs that are focused on minerals or other resources; on engineering in general, right? So, engineers, we’re problem solvers, we’re here to help society.” 

Sarver says the course also fosters great collaborations internationally – both with students and instructors. Just this year, she worked with professors in Chile and Colombia to teach the course.

RADIO IQ is a service of Virginia Tech.

Nick Gilmore is a meteorologist, news producer and reporter/anchor for RADIO IQ. Nick joined the newsroom in 2016 and forecasts the weather for most of the state. He also works to get RADIO IQ’s award-winning journalism ready for broadcast.