UBC and Teck Metals will fund a new tailings management professorship within UBC Applied Science’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering. Courtesy of UBC.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) Faculty of Applied Science and Teck Metals have announced a $4-million investment into a new professorship within UBC Applied Science’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering. 

The professorship will focus on enhancing safety and sustainability in mine tailings management and will aim to simplify the process for highly skilled engineers to work in tailings management after completing their studies. 

A $2-million endowment from Teck will be matched by UBC to fund the professorship and lab-based research focused on tailings management at the undergraduate and graduate levels. UBC will begin its search for the right professor for the position this year. 

“There is a global shortage of educators in this field, and an important opportunity to build capacity and knowledge retention around safe and responsible tailings management. By partnering with Teck, we can accelerate our research in this area and better educate tomorrow’s engineers to bring about more environmentally sustainable tailings solutions,” said James Olson, Dean of the UBC faculty of applied science. “Engineers who specialize in tailings management research as students will be in high demand in the short and long term. They are poised to make a tremendous positive impact in the environments in which we mine.” 

Related: After more than a year and a half of work, the Global Tailings Review has released its industry standard for tailings management in response to the Brumadinho disaster

The new professorship will open new opportunities for students to innovate in tailings management in areas such as safe and responsible design and the operation and closure of tailings storage facilities, UBC said, noting that tailings engineers are already highly sought after in the industry, and that this will only increase along with the demand for the mineral resources that are supporting the transition to a green economy. 

Jonathan Price, Teck’s chief executive officer, said in the press release the investment would also  “help to accelerate innovation in the mining sector, while supporting continued production of the critical materials needed for a modern, low-carbon world.” 

The Norman B. Keevil Institute was the world’s first mining department to introduce tailings and mine waste management as part of its undergraduate curriculum, and that, even though the topic is a major priority of the mining industry, it is still the only mining department that offers a course on this subject, according to UBC.