Sand mining company pledges $25k a year

Responsible Mining Initiative aims to attract future students



Story by Courtney Roszak, Staff Writer

The UW-Eau Claire geology department recently announced a new opportunity for geology students.

A North American mining company, which has operations in Wisconsin, will invest $50,000 in a new Responsible Mining Initiative.

Unimin corporations announced in April it will be investing in summer internships, grants and scholarships for geology students designated only for Eau Claire.

A $1,000 scholarship will be awarded to five incoming freshmen geology majors. Four sophomore geology majors will receive scholarships of $2,500. The company will also be giving $500 to the 20 geology students attending the department’s summer field camp in Montana.

Co-author of the Responsible Mining Initiative and chair of the geology department Kent Syverson said the goal of the scholarships is to bring more freshman geology majors to the university and expand the department.

“They have committed to doing this on an annual basis. This is not a one-shot deal, we’re not giving part of that money away. We’re giving all that money away and then next year they’ll give $25,000 more. This is a huge deal for our students,” Syverson said.

Unimin will also be offering two paid summer internships for geology majors. The internships will pay $4,500 a month or $13,500 over the summer. One internship is located in Tunnel City and the intern would be working in the mining operations. The second internship is in Mankato, Minn. where the intern will work in the environmental aspect at the company’s office.

The company sees this relationship as beneficial to both parties. The geology department will be able to receive valuable internships and scholarships for students. While Unimin will have the opportunity to help develop and employ university students, said Chris Axness, a Unimin plant manager in Tunnel City.

“Unimin is excited to work with UW-Eau Claire and the new “Responsible Mining Program.” This is exactly the kind of initiative Unimin wants to support and be associated with,” Axness said.

Unimin is a Wisconsin DNR Green tier company. They have been doing things to go over the environmental standards to minimize environmental impacts.

Michael Carney, associate vice chancellor for curriculum, internationalization and immersion, said with the Unimin partnership and the new Responsible Mining Initiative, the geology department will become more marketable to incoming geology students.

“The Responsible Mining Initiative will raise the profile of the geology department because of the Responsible Mining and the Industry collaborations will take the department to the higher level,” Carney said.

In October, Syverson and geology professor Brian Mahoney received a grant of $451,000 to focus on the workforce development regarding the environmental protection and the emerging demands in the mining industry.

Syverson said he then contacted many people, including someone from Unimin whom he had met at a couple meetings who contacted him asking for more information. That individual went to Unimin headquarters where they discussed the possibility of partnering with Eau Claire.

This new program will give students an understanding of modern mining and environmental protection. The department plans to put an emphasis on communication with the geology skills for the students. The goal is to have this new inter-disaplinary major to be on the books in 2015-16 catalogs.