In 1993, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Industrial Technologies (OIT) designated a group of seven industries as Industries of the Future (IOF). The participating industries were selected because of their high energy use and large waste generation. The original IOF industries included aluminum, chemicals, forest products, glass, metal casting, petroleum refining, and steel. Working through trade associations, OIT asked each industry to provide a vision of its technological future and a road map detailing the research and development required to realize that future. Industry specialists assisted in this process, with industry experts taking the lead in each case.
In 1997, OIT asked the National Research Council (NRC) to provide guidance for OIT’s transition to the new IOF strategy. The Committee on Industrial Technology Assessment, formed for this purpose had the specific task of reviewing and evaluating the overall program, reviewing certain OIT-sponsored research projects, and identifying crosscutting technologies (i.e., technologies applicable to more than one industry). The committee focused on three specific areas as examples: intermetallic alloys, manufacturing process controls, and separations technologies. Panels were formed to study each area, and the results were published in separate reports: Intermetallic Alloy Development: A Program Evaluation (NRC, 1997a); Manufacturing Process Controls for the Industries of the Future (NRC, 1998a); and Separation Technologies for the Industries of the Future (NRC, 1999a); and a summary report, An Evaluation of the Research Program of the Office of Industrial Technologies (NRC, 1999b). Meanwhile, the IOF program had grown; the agricultural products industry was added in 1996 and the mining industry in 1997.
During the 1990s, the NRC produced several reports focused on the U.S. mining industry. The first and most important of these was Competitiveness of the U.S. Minerals and Metals Industry, based on a three-year study commissioned by the U.S. Bureau of Mines (USBM) to assess the global minerals and metals industry; review technologies for use in exploration, mining, minerals processing, and metals extraction; and examine research priorities (NRC, 1990). Although the study did not include coal and industrial minerals, it presented a number of recommendations broadly applicable to the mining industry, the supporting academic community, and the USBM. The report also outlined a research agenda (Table 1-1), which has not been fully achieved.
As a follow-up to that report, USBM in 1993 asked the NRC for an ongoing assessment of the USBM research programs. This assesment was originally intended to be a series of three reports; however, only the reports for 1994 and 1995 were issued because the USBM went out of existence in 1996 (NRC, 1994a, 1995a). These reports document the status of federal institutional capabilities prior to the significant decreases in research that followed the dissolution of the USBM.
Two additional NRC studies are relevant to this report. Mineral Resources and Society: A Review of the USGS Mineral Resource Surveys Program Plan is a study of basic and applied research in geology and geophysics (NRC, 1996a). Hardrock Mining on Federal Lands included valuable information on environmental impacts and some recommended areas for research (NRC, 1999c).
STUDY AND REPORT
The National Mining Association (NMA) published its vision statement, The Future Begins with Mining, in September 1998 (NMA, 1998a) and completed its first roadmap, Mining Industry Roadmap for Crosscutting Technologies (NMA, 1998b) shortly thereafter. A second roadmap, Mineral Processing Technology Roadmap, was released in September 2000 (NMA, 2000). In 1999, OIT began discussions with the NRC for a study on mining technologies to complement information in the NMA documents. The original statement of task was expanded and a second sponsor, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), was added.
TABLE 1-1 Research Agenda for the Mining Industry
• improved spatial and spectral imaging to penetrate foliage and surface cover
• increased digital geophysical coverage of the United States magnetically, gravitationally, radiometrically, and spectrally to 0.5 mile
• improved drilling/sampling techniques and analytical methods to increase basic knowledge
• geosensing to predict variations in an ore body or coal seam, sense the closeness of geological disturbances, and obtain in-situ measurements of ore grade
• nonexplosive rock fragmentation
• intelligent, cognitive mining systems
• in-situ mining
• advances in modeling and automation for computer-controlled operations
• integration of blasting with crushing; use of energy other than electromechanical
• development of more efficient flotation systems
• advances in hydrometallurgical and biotechnological processes and reagents
• development of a systems approach for environmental issues and waste disposal
SOURCE: NRC, 1990.
The NRC established the Committee on Technologies for the Mining Industries to undertake the study. The committee members, 14 experts from academia, industry, state governments, and the national laboratories, have recognized expertise in exploration geology and geophysics; mining practices and processes for coal, minerals, and metals; process engineering; resource economics; the environmental impacts of mining; mineral and metal extraction and processing technologies; and health and safety. Brief biographies of the committee members are provided in Appendix A.
The overall objectives of this study are: (a) to review available information on the U.S. mining industry; (b) to identify critical needs in research and development related to the exploration, mining, and processing of coal, minerals, and metals; and (c) to examine the federal contribution to research and development in mining processes. The seven specific tasks in the Statement of Task are outlined below:
Review the importance to the U.S. economy (in terms of production and employment) of the mining industries, including the extraction and primary processing of coal, minerals, and metals.
Identify research opportunities and technology areas in which advances could improve the effectiveness and productivity of exploration.
Identify research opportunities and technology areas in which advances could improve energy efficiency and productivity and reduce wastes from mining and processing.
Review the federal research and technology resources currently available to the U.S. mining industry.
Identify potential safety and health risks and benefits of implementing identified new technologies in the mining industries.
Identify potential environmental risks and benefits of implementing identified new technologies in the mining industries.
Recommend objectives for research and development in mining and processing that are consistent with the goals of the mining industry of the future through its governmentindustry partnership.
In this report we do not include downstream processing, such as smelting of mineral concentrates or refining of metals. The discussion is limited to technologies that affect the steps leading to the sale of the first commercial product from extraction. The report does not address broader issues, such as transportation.
To address the charge the committee held six meetings between March and October 2000. The meetings included presentations by and discussions with the sponsors, personnel from other government programs, and representatives of industry and academia. Individuals who provided the committee with oral or written information are identified in Appendix B. As background material, the committee reviewed relevant government documents and materials, pertinent NRC reports, and other technical reports and literature published through October 2000.
Concurrent with the NRC study, NIOSH and OIT commissioned the RAND Science and Technology Policy Institute to conduct a study on critical technologies for mining. The approach adopted for that study involved eliciting a wide range of views through interviews with more than 90 senior personnel (managers and above) from 59 organizations (23 mining companies, 29 service providers, and 7 research/other organizations). Two briefings by representatives of RAND during the course of this study provided preliminary findings on industry trends, mining equipment and processes, and health and safety technologies. However, the RAND report was not available to the committee in time to be used for this study.
This report is intended for multiple audiences. It contains advice for OIT, NIOSH, policy makers, scientists, engineers, and industry associations. Chapter 2 provides an overview of the economic importance of mining and the current state of technology (Task 1). Chapter 3 identifies technologies that would benefit major components of the mining industry in the areas of exploration, mining, and processing (Tasks 2
and 3). Chapters 4 and 5 identify technologies relevant to health and safety and environmental issues, respectively (Tasks 5 and 6). The health, safety, and environmental risks and benefits of individual technologies are also interwoven in the descriptions of individual technologies in Chapter 3. Chapter 6 describes current activities in federal government agencies that could be applicable to the mining sector (Task 4). Chapter 7 discusses the need for federally sponsored research and development in mining technologies. Chapter 8 summarizes the committee’s conclusions and recommendations (Task 7).