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6 Recommendations The committee's recommendations address the roles of industry, aca- deme, and government in a coherent and synergistic national program of mining and minerals research and development. INDUSTRY AND ACADEME 1. Industry Support for Collaborative Research and Development Mechanisms for conducting cooperative research and development (R&D) are the most promising and practical way to reestablish the flow of technol- ogy into the U.S. minerals and metals industry. The committee recom- mends that the industry consider the formation of consortia to pursue research that is too complex, high risk, and/or expensive for individual companies to pursue alone. Industry collaborative research should focus on broadly de- fined generic problems offering potentially equal benefits to all participants (e.g., comminution, flotation, and pollution mitigation). Universities and other research organizations that are able to contribute productively should also participate as partners in this research. The Bureau of Mines could play a key role as coordinator, as research participant, or as clearinghouse for information on research needs and directions. 2. Industry Involvement with Academic Research Programs Industry should seek ways to benefit from the research capabilities of the university-based Generic Mineral Technology Centers (GMTCs). Company 123
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124 COMPETITIVENESS OF THE U.S. MINERALS AND MET^S INDUSTRY representatives should visit the centers, for example, and industry and trade associations should brief GMTC personnel on the technology needs of the industry. Further productive interactions could include personnel exchanges, grant funding, grants (or sharing) of equipment, collaborative and/or con- tracted research, and consulting. Industry should also support the develop- ment and application of promising technological advances by the GMTCs, the Mineral Institutes, and the Mining Advanced Research Initiative (see below) through joint ventures and loans of equipment, materials, and personnel to support prototype testing. Locating a substantial research facility such as a pilot-scale plant at a university (e.g., at one of the GMTCs) would catalyze this type of interaction. Professional societies could promote industry-uni- versity collaboration by sponsoring panels with industry and university participants on topics of potential joint benefit. 3. Stability of University Programs Universities must strive to maintain distinct programs of research and education in minerals- and metals-related disciplines, even during down- turns in the business cycle of the industry. To do this researchers will have to take full advantage of every available source of funding and support from government and industry, including new as well as traditional sources. This may involve, for example, redesigning research projects from the specific to the general (e.g., broadening research on mining techniques to encompass tunneling and excavation processes that are applicable to a broad range of problems) in order to fit the research interests of agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy (DOE). To maintain an influx of high-quality students, universities must also find creative ways to change the image of the mining and metals field in the view of prospective students. Cooperation with industry is one of the key factors here. 4. Interuniversity Coordination and Collaboration in Research University research programs in this field are small, and there is little support, financially or economically, for interuniversity coordination or col- laboration. Professional societies should take an active role in bringing academic researchers together to discuss current research programs and needs and to build a sense of community within the field. These efforts could be conducted in cooperation with the Minerals and Metals Community Forum (see below).
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RECOMMENDATIONS BUREAU OF MINES AND OTHER AGENCIES 5. Advanced Research Initiative for Mining and Minerals 125 To provide the domestic industry with opportunities for an effective technology- based competitiveness strategy, the Bureau of Mines should sponsor a pro- gram of R&D directed solely at basic and exploratory research on "break- through" technologies, not only to improve productivity but also to contribute to mine safety, health, and environmental protection. This new activity should be funded at a level representing a substantial fraction, perhaps 10 to 15 percent of the Bureau's R&D budget. Its staff should be small and innovative; research selection and evaluation should be under Bureau con- trol. The system for reviewing proposals and research should include specialists from a broader range of disciplines than is customary for agencies that fund basic research. The research agenda should combine in-house research with university, corporate, and collaborative research programs. Ideally, this component of the Bureau's research would be programmati- cally distinct from existing Bureau research programs and should have high priority within the Bureau. Although it could be organized as an office under the research directorate, the program director should report to the director of the Bureau of Mines. New concepts should be pursued that have the potential to revolutionize the entire process from mining to metals extraction. The Bureau's advisory committee (see below) should be consulted in the selection of research initiatives, which should include long-range research on high-risk, high-payoff topics where success is not guaranteed. The program should recognize the potential value of pilot-scale facilities to prove con- cepts while strengthening both the technology base in industry and industry's ability to receive and implement new technologies. 6. Maintaining Relevance of Research by Mineral Institutes and GMTCs to National Needs The Bureau should take a more active role in the Mineral Institutes pro- gram by providing leadership in identifying the national research needs of the minerals and metals industry. Such leadership would include promoting the participation of industry associations and academe in identifying these needs. The objectives of this effort should be (1) to achieve a consensus on long-term research goals that would be likely to yield significant returns on the nation's investment in minerals-related research and (2) to focus the attention and efforts of the network of Mineral Institutes and GMTCs on topics that may contribute to the long-term needs of a competitive domestic mining and minerals industry. In order to exert this leadership role the
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126 COMPETITIVENESS OF THE U.S. MINERALS ED METES INDUSTRY administration should include funding of the Mineral Institutes program in the budget request for the Department of the Interior. 7. Funding of University Research It is essential to maintain the university research base supporting techno- logical advances in the minerals and metals industry. As the prime federal agency focused on this industry, the Bureau of Mines should continue to channel funds, both budgeted and specially appropriated, to university re- search centers and institutes, including those institutions not traditionally associated with mining-related programs. All such programs should be funded at reasonably predictable levels for a sufficient length of time to have a chance of succeeding; they should be subject to peer review and should be monitored. Line-item funding benefiting individual institutions should be avoided. One major objective of this funding should be to pro- duce more mining engineers, extractive metallurgists, and geoscientists at all degree levels to meet the nation's future needs for technologically so- phisticated technical workers as well as university researchers and educators. 8. Focus of Bureau of Mines Research A technology-based competitiveness strategy must emphasize knowledge and technologies that will benefit U.S. producers more than their foreign competitors. For example, advanced mining systems can take advantage of the U.S. work force, which is both more highly educated and more expen- sive than the labor available in developing countries; mining and processing technology can address environmental concerns while reducing the costs of compliance with environmental standards; and exploration and mining tech- nology can be designed to be appropriate to the geological formations of the United States. Among the research areas of high priority are ore genesis and deposition, in situ mining by hydrometallurgical and biotechnological means, intelli- gent mining systems, and techniques for more energy-efficient processing. The Bureau should not duplicate work conducted at universities and other government laboratories, but it should ensure that gaps in research are filled by its own research activities, by encouraging academic and industry researchers to focus on appropriate topics, and by collaborative projects with industry. The Bureau should focus on the development of technologies that can be applied by the mining and metals industry and its major subindustries. It should also address the problem of transferring research from the laboratory to the field by facilitating the transfer of technology through its information dissemination programs and through direct contact and collaboration with industry researchers.
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RECOMMENDATIONS 9. Advisory Committee 127 The committee believes that the director of the Bureau of Mines could profit greatly from objective outside advice on the direction and nature of Bureau programs and policies, comparable to the advice received by heads of other federal agencies in technical mission areas. To that end the Bureau should establish an advisory committee consisting of leaders from the min- ing and metals industry and other industries, universities, and public-inter- est groups involved in various minerals and metals issues. Representatives of government agencies should be invited as observers but should not serve as members of the committee. The committee should report regularly to the director, advising on the direction and content of Bureau programs, includ- ing research, industry problems, relevant advances in technology, informa- tion needs, and policy priorities. Staff support and travel funds should be included in the budget of the Bureau of Mines. This advisory committee should be subject to all provisions of the Public Advisory Committee Act. Such a committee would have a broader responsibility than the current Committee on Mining and Minerals Resources Research, which was created by the legislation establishing the Mineral Institutes program and which reports to the Secretary of the Interior, the President, and the Congress. 10. Visiting Committees Action should also be taken to reestablish the Bureau of Mines as a leading research organization that is respected for the quality of its work and its contribution to national interests in technology, economy, environ- ment, health, and safety. To this end the director of the Bureau should ensure that organizations or groups of individuals will serve as visiting committees to review and evaluate the research programs of the Bureau's in-house Mining and Metallurgy Laboratories in terms of their scientific merit and research operations. These visiting committees should include specialists in research and relevant technical fields, from both academe and industry. The committees should submit their evaluations to the director, who should discuss them with the advisory committee described above. 11. Minerals and Metals Community Forum The domestic industry would benefit from better communication and a shared view of the technical and policy needs and interests of the various sectors of the minerals and metals community. To this end the Bureau should convene biennially a national minerals and metals forum. Broad participation of industry, academe, government, and local and regional rep- resentatives should be encouraged. The forum should seek to establish a
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128 COMPETITIVENESS OF THE U.S. MINERALS ED METES INDUSTRY sense of community among the participants, identify major technical and policy problems and issues facing the industry over the next 5 years, and disseminate information about research being conducted at the Bureau or under its sponsorship. Professional societies such as the Society for Min- ing, Metallurgy and Exploration; the Minerals, Metals and Materials Soci- ety; the Federation of Materials Societies; the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America; and similar organizations should be encouraged to participate in the planning, conduct, and follow-up of the forum. An important goal of this effort should be to engage the active participation of other federal agencies with a stake in the health of the minerals and metals industry, including the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Department of Defense, the Department of Commerce, the National Science Foundation, and the National Aeronautics and Space Ad- ministration. 12. Enhanced Technical Information Another important way in which the Bureau should help to strengthen the competitiveness of the domestic mining and minerals industry is through improved collection, analysis, and dissemination of minerals and metals data including research information worldwide. This may require enhanced capability to translate and evaluate foreign research publications. Clearinghouse for Government Research. The center for cataloging re- search in mining and minerals, mandated by P.L. 98-409 in 1984, has not been established. To fill this important need the Bureau should become a clearinghouse for information about minerals-related research conducted or sponsored by all agencies of the U.S. government including work in progress. It should also establish a process for disseminating information about for- eign research programs and technical advances gathered by the Departments of State, Commerce, and Energy; by NSF; and by other government agencies. In the case of evaluation of research in progress, nearly immediate avail- ability is essential. Current efforts by the Bureau of Mines to utilize electronic information systems to prepare and disseminate minerals data more quickly may serve as a demonstration of new technologies that could be applied to the clear- inghouse operation. The "Information Upgrade" proposed by the Bureau for initiation in FY 1991 is highly relevant, as it includes plans for instituting electronic information systems as an alternative to hard-copy publication. Information Monitoring and Assessment Functions. As part of its tech- nical mission relating to the competitiveness of the minerals and metals industry, the Bureau should further emphasize data collection and dissemi- nation for analysis planning, including
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RECOMMENDATIONS ]29 · gathering and evaluating production and demand statistics on these industries, domestic and foreign; · establishing and maintaining a data base of current demand, which will allow projection of future demand under a range of scenarios; · publishing timely analyses of trends in demand for minerals and metals; · monitoring worldwide industry R&D capabilities and advances; and · assessing new and emerging technologies and making the results available in timely and accessible forms. Analytical Support for Government Policy-making. As the principal fed- eral repository of information and expertise about the technology and eco- nomics of the mining and metals industry, the Bureau should participate in the analysis and debate of government policies such as environmental, land use, or trade policies that affect, or are affected by, the industry. The Secretary of the Interior should actively promote the inclusion of the Bureau in all interagency groups addressing such policies.
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