Preparing Students for Mining Careers
28 Jul 2022
Doe Run is preparing students for mining careers through internships and STEM education support.
Our most important resource isn’t what we mine – it’s the people we employ. Employment in the mining sector is expected to grow by more than 17% by 2030. We strive to provide opportunities for the next generation of mining professionals in real-world scenarios, so they are prepared to take on mining careers that support companies like Doe Run in the coming years.
“The mining industry is facing some major workforce gaps as our industry experiences increased retirements,” said Jan Lott, vice president – human resources. “Many of these jobs are highly specialized, so it’s critical that we encourage more students to pursue degrees in mine engineering, metallurgy and geology, and that we do our part to give them training opportunities that prepare them to take on these careers.”
Doe Run’s summer internship program is designed to give students and recent graduates hands-on experience in the mining industry. The intern class in 2021 was one of the largest in years: more than 30 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students – pursuing careers in geology, mining and engineering – came to Doe Run from 16 colleges and universities across 10 states. Sixteen of these students were from local Missouri schools. The interns supported a variety of departments, including exploration, mine engineering and environmental management.
Drilling Deeper into Geology Careers
Most of the interns worked in our Exploration department, analyzing and digitizing drilling data that Doe Run has been collecting since the 1960s. This data, which had been kept in paper drill logs, provides insights on where certain minerals exist throughout our area, helping us determine where we might want to extend our mining operations. Moving data to a digital format provides a better purview of the mineral resources available in the Viburnum Trend.
Several interns assisted with this data conversion over the summer. Sam Hatfield, a geological engineering student at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, became so adept at data analysis and geological modeling that we invited him to continue to work for us remotely while finishing his degree.
“As someone with no prior experience in the field of metals mining, working at Doe Run was a good opportunity to know if I wanted to pursue a career in this industry,” Sam said. “Wherever my career takes me in the future, I will surely be drawing from the knowledge that Doe Run has given me.”
Solving Real-World Problems
At our Southeast Missouri Mining and Milling Division (SEMO), interns worked closely alongside our employees on projects that impact our operations. Environmental engineering major Nathan Mehrer had the opportunity to support our environmental team by reviewing groundwater data to better understand water interactions and fluctuations. While he is still completing his degree at Missouri University of Science & Technology (Missouri S&T), Nathan has continued to work with Doe Run part time to develop a training program for our water management initiative and to support the development of a new tool to track training hours for SEMO employees.
Our Resource Recycling interns also played a part in contributing to operational improvements. For example, Corey Smith, a chemical engineering major from Missouri S&T, worked on optimizing the blast furnace slag treatment plant. Corey conducted multiple tests and outside research to come up with a solution that increased the effectiveness of the slag treatment plant by removing more water from the slag, which improved management of the material.
“Through our internship program, students like Sam, Nathan and Corey are getting the chance to “try on” mining careers – and Doe Run itself – to see if it will be a good fit for their interests. And in turn, we get the opportunity to build an employment pipeline and foster valuable relationships with promising talent.”Jan Lott, vice president – human resources
We’ve already hired five full time geologists from the summer 2021 intern program – which accounts for more than 30% of our current geology team. We hope to have the opportunity to welcome back other interns as they graduate.
“Our teams love working with students; they bring so much energy, enthusiasm and excitement, reminding us what we love about our jobs” Jan said. “Even if we aren’t able to hire them all, I know I’m helping to create good ambassadors for the mining industry and giving them a better understanding of how we provide minerals and metals to the world in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.”
Supporting STEM Education for Missouri Students
Interest in STEM careers, like those in the mining industry, starts when children are young. Doe Run does its part to introduce students to STEM through its minerals education program, which provides fun activities designed to help children at local schools understand the importance of mining and minerals – and hopefully inspire them to one day pursue a career in mining. In 2021, we delivered kits to 18 elementary school classrooms, which included instructions for two minerals-themed activities and a gift card for teachers to purchase the materials needed to complete them.
Also in 2021, we donated $16,000 in scholarships to college students pursuing STEM careers, as well as $44,000 to Missouri S&T to purchase equipment for its experimental mine, allowing students to safely learn to use the latest industry technologies.