Rebranding for the Future of Mining Education

Jan. 12, 2023
Tom Aldrich, Executive Director of MMEF with recipients of the 2022 Inductee from Mining's Past

Tom Aldrich, Executive Director of the Mining and Minerals Education Foundation presents Donald J. Lunt's friends and family with the 2022 Inductee from Mining's Past Award.

At the 40th American Mining Hall of Fame Awards and Banquet, history was made. The first woman was inducted into the Hall of Fame, Denise C. Johnson, Group President, Resource Industries Caterpillar Inc. At the Banquet, movers and shakers of the mining and minerals industry from all over the world and from all backgrounds are recognized. The Foundation has been a witness to the incredible and rapidly changing field with increases in diversity worldwide.

Denise C. Johnson and Amanda Best at 40th Annual Hall of Fame Banquet

Amanda Best, President of the Mining and Mineral Education Foundation, presents Denise C. Johnson Group President, Resource Industries, Caterpillar Inc., with the American Mining Hall of Fame award.

Originally known as the Mining Club of the Southwest, they opened their doors for the first time in 1971. At the time, it was a social club for mining engineers, metallurgists, geologists, and other mining professionals. The foundation was established in the 80s with the first banquet occurring in 1983, so the banquet could be used for charitable purposes. The foundation and the social club were combined in the 90s and became the Mining Foundation of the Southwest with the goals of educating the public about mining. The outreach elements of the Foundation began to come together in 2008. The program funded an education outreach coordinator which is now being managed by the School of Mining and Mineral Resources and the current K-12 Education Outreach Coordinator is Chris Earnest. 

The Foundation is managed by chairpeople. The Foundation contains several committees, including the Hall of Fame Committee which oversees the process to select the yearly inductees into the Hall of Fame. Every member on the committee can nominate various individuals they believe have contributed to the industry in a variety of ways.  

“The mining industry has evolved so much,” says Tom Aldrich, Executive Director. As mining continues to evolve, there needs to be an increase in transparency within the communities the industry operates in order to receive a social license to operate. The social license is the idea in mining that the community perceives the local mining being done is acceptable. If mining companies don’t educate the public about what they’re doing in the community, they risk not having a strong social license with possible very real consequences. 

The outreach program funded by the Foundation seeks to educate the public about mining and encourage industry and community collaboration. Funds for the outreach program are raised through events like the annual banquet and the Foundation also helps to provide funding for the Children’s Museum Tucson Sci-Fest, the SARSEF Science Fair in Phoenix, SME student chapters across the West, Pima Joint Technical Education District (Career and Technical Education) program, and more.

Chris Earnest, K-12 Education Outreach Coordinator, presents during the Banquet

Chris Earnest, Outreach Coordinator of K-12 Education, presents to the Banquet attendees on the past achievements of the program.

At the University of Arizona, the award-winning outreach program teaching students K-12 about the mining industry. Throughout the past year, the outreach team reached almost 5,000 students to teach them about different aspects of the industry, including mine processes, chemistry, careers in mining, geology, and so much more. “Without support from the foundation the program would not exist. The foundation enables us to reach students across the state of Arizona and beyond with hands-on and virtual activities and resources that show them how they can apply the science concepts they learn in school to real-world problems,” says Chris Earnest, Outreach Coordinator K-12 Education.

“Part of [Chris’] mission is to make contacts with teachers and students about the virtues of mining, not just mining itself'' such as the environment, sustainability, and cultural issues, says Aldrich. Outreach is all about personal interactions and connections to try to make people understand that our mode of living doesn’t exist unless we mine these minerals. Mining needs everyone, not just mining engineers, but also tradespeople. 

While it can be hard to track metrics from the outreach efforts towards students, it is clear that the emphasis on personal connections have a huge impact on the mining industry. Angela Watt, University of Arizona alum and 2021 winner of the Medal of Merit under 40 award, was first introduced to the mining industry during her 4H experience when she met an agronomist who was working on reclaiming lands. By meeting someone in mining at a young age, it interested her in mining. She eventually went on to become a mining engineer. 

In 2022 the Mining Foundation of the Southwest began to rebrand itself into the Mining and Minerals Education Foundation. The Mining and Minerals Education Foundation seeks to expand its impact and work globally. They’re also updating the logo for the rebrand through a design contest. The current logo depicts an old prospector and was originally designed by Ettore DeGrazia. The Foundation wants to keep honoring the past. Every banquet, they award miners from the past for their impact on the industry and heroism. They want to expand this and look towards the future of mining and all it represents, sustainability, technology, and diversity. 

Aldrich looks forward to the banquet every year. According to Aldrich, this year was the “most sponsors we’ve ever had… raised the second most money we’ve ever done… and was the third most attended banquet since we’ve done it.” It’s not just a time where the industry gets together to see old friends and meet new ones, but a way for them to give back to the communities they interact with and raise money for educating the public about this rapidly changing industry.

Interested in having the outreach team at your school to teach about mining? Visit our website for more information on requesting a presentation!