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Evolutionary and Revolutionary Technologies for Mining
transportation, excavation, basic chemical processes, novel materials, and other subjects could ultimately be beneficial to the mining industry. The only active federal program that deals solely with the development of more efficient and environmentally benign mining technologies is the Mining Industries of the Future Program of the Office of Industrial Technologies of the U.S. Department of Energy.
Finding. The committee recognizes that federal agencies undertake worthwhile research and development for their own purposes. Research and development that could benefit the mining sector of the U.S. economy is being pursued by many federal agencies. The problem is not the lack of skilled researchers but the lack of direct focus on the problems of most interest to the mining industry. It would be helpful if progress in these programs were systematically communicated to all interested parties, including the mining sector.
Recommendation. Because it may be difficult for a single federal agency to coordinate the transfer of research results and technology to the mining sector, a coordinating body or bodies should be established to facilitate the transfer of appropriate, federally funded technology to the mining sector. The Office of Industrial Technologies has made some progress in this regard by organizing a meeting of agencies involved in research that could benefit the mining industry.
Office of Industrial Technology Mining Industries of the Future Program
The OIT has adopted a consortia approach in its Industries of the Future Program, a model that has proved to be extremely successful (NRC, 1997). The Mining Industries of the Future Program is subject to management and oversight by the U.S. Department of Energy and receives guidance from the National Mining Association and its Technology Committee. The NRC’s Committee on Technologies for the Mining Industries recognizes that the research and technology needs of the mining industry draw upon many disciplines, ranging from basic sciences to applied health, safety, and environmental sciences.
Recommendation. Consortia are a preferred way of leveraging expertise and technical inputs to the mining sector, and the consortia approach should be continued wherever appropriate. Advice from experts in diverse fields would be helpful for directing federal investments in research and development for the mining sector. Consortia should include universities, suppliers, national laboratories, any ad hoc groups considered to be helpful, government entities, and the mining industry. The Office of Industrial Technologies should institute periodic, independent program reviews of the Mining Industries of the Future Program to assure that industry needs are being addressed appropriately.