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Developments from the Mineral and Energy Resources Program
Karin Olson Hoal, the Wold Family Professor in Environmental Balance for Human Sustainability, has been growing the Wold program over the past year leading to a number of new developments in the area of mineral resources.
Cornell has established a chapter of the Society of Economic Geologists (SEG), the 101-year old global society dedicated to advancing mineral resource science. Earth and Atmospheric Sciences has three fellows in SEG including Suzanne Mahlberg Kay, professor emeritus, Karin Olson Hoal, Wold Family Professor, and Larry Cathles, professor emeritus and winner of the 2020 SEG Penrose Gold Medal.
Cornell’s SEG chapter is the first ever at an Ivy League Institution and the first on the east coast, despite many universities having had faculty and research in these areas over the past century. The new chapter allows students access to funding opportunities, field trips, and a global network of professionals. Claire Bush ’22 is the Chapter President and Nicholas Mitchell, a master’s student, is Vice President.
Bush is a junior in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and conducted a study in Fall 2020 on characterizing tailings samples from the Empire State Mine (formerly Balmat) in upstate NY, identifying the distribution of sulphide minerals and related elements using micro xrf at CHESS and also QEMSCAN analysis at Hazen Research.
Mitchell started a Master’s of Science in mineral resources in Fall 2020. He collaborated with Deep Green Metals (The Metals Company) to obtain a rare suite of seafloor nodules across their tenure in the Pacific Ocean CCZ for
characterization of battery metals Ni, Cu, Co. The samples are being analyzed by micro xrf at the Cornell High-Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) and data analytics will be used for modeling the potential resource and identifying geomet vectors for improved processing and impacts. Mitchell will be starting a summer position with Resolve, the Washington DC-based organization dedicated to building sustainable solutions for critical global challenges.
Cornell’s historic economic geology collection was recently featured in the SEG magazine Discovery by Chris Siron ‘18 and Duncan Proctor. Siron and Proctor are leaders in the Early Career Professionals program for SEG. They were on campus in September 2020 to identify important collections in Ward Hall from SEG founders in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They also gave an online economic geology short course to Earth and Atmospheric Sciences students in October.
Earth and Atmospheric Sciences will now offer a Masters in Engineering degree in Mineral Resources. From a foundation in geology, the program will include opportunities in the characterization, processing, business, impacts and analytics of mineral resources.
Emily Liu has started a Masters in Engineering in mineral resources in January 2021. She will be looking at the characterization of tailings and mine waste materials and identifying the mineral deportment of elements that may be of future economic value, or which may be better remediated before they have environmental impacts.
In addition, the program is building partnerships across campus, in particular with the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source (CHESS) to integrate Earth materials characterization on the micro to macro scale with other disciplines. The collaboration hopes to identify and quantify resources and environmental linkages in the new Xrays for Life, Earth, Agriculture, Plants (X-LEAP) initiative. The partners will host an NSF workshop in June.