Caterpillar Inc. partners with SDSM&T to explore advancing technologies in mining field
The partnership between SDSM&T and Caterpillar Inc. with benefit not only the students and industry leaders but also our local economy.
South Dakota Mines will help lead Cat® Labs MineStar™ Consortium, which partners university faculty and students with Caterpillar engineers and researchers to help build the future of mining and construction technology.
Caterpillar will support the schools efforts in the Cat Lab where innovative research will be done.
Robert Hall, the Department Head and Professor of Mining Engineering and Management at SDSM&T, says, “It’s going to enhance our students educational experience because we will be able to expose them even more than we already do to real world opportunities to work on real world projects and solve real world problems and we envision an internship of people flowing through the Cat Lab.”
The university has a long history in the development and advancement of mining. The research will also explore autonomous robotic mining and the development of equipment that increases efficiency and safety aspects, and integrate reclamation.
“In the hub we are also going to look at innovative ways for extraction and commutation (crushing or breaking of rock) and you know all of these will be focused on minimizing how much energy we need to use, minimizing water, which are the big ones and then reducing our footprint and making sure that when we do have an impact on the environment that we put it back to as good as it was or better when we are finished,” says Hall.
These technological advancements will increase sustainability of the Earth’s natural resources while improving productivity and promoting economic development.
Cat Labs MineStar Consortium is conceived to include other institutions, such as Western Dakota Tech. South Dakota Mines will work closely with all organizations in the consortium. Along with the technological advancements, this partnership will help yield students into the industry and stay in the area to work which may in turn make way for new business opportunities and add to the success of the economy.
Ken Nelson, General Manager Wharf Resources, says, “There is so much going on with technology, as you know, it’s advancing so fast in all areas of our world and this is what Cat is trying to do, and with the School of Mines there, you know, it helps collaborate this business. And for us at Wharf, we are doing the same thing as many mines in the area- moving towards artificial intelligence.”
The South Dakota mining industry employs more than 2,000 people who produce more than $500 million in products annually.
Nelson says, “Cat came in here and saw this opportunity to take advantage of this situation, you know, with such a great school, School of Mines, and all these great natural resources and environmental businesses in the area. So that is one of the big reasons they put the Cat Lab here in Rapid City.”
Hall says they will be looking to expand the research in the future with agricultural equipment.
The university’s partnership with Caterpillar comes alongside an effort to add a new building on campus that includes three engineering departments: The Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, the Department of Mining Engineering and Management and the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering.