Founded in 1870 as the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) continues to be instrumental in preparing students for careers in mining, geology, metallurgy and other disciplines critical to the success of Doe Run. Today, more than ever, Doe Run and Missouri S&T recognize the mutual benefits of a globally recognized lead mine and world-renowned university in each other’s backyards.
Employment in occupations related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), including mining and manufacturing, is projected to grow to more than 9 million between 2012 and 2022, faster than most other occupations. The manufacturing industry is facing the possibility of more than 2 million jobs going unfilled over the next decade due to a skills gap, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Mining also will face shortages.
“The U.S. mining industry estimates 50,000 new employees will be needed to meet a shortage of skilled mine laborers and professionals as a result of retiring employees over the next several years,” said Mark Coomes, Doe Run vice president – human resources and community relations. “Missouri S&T has been a tremendous asset to Doe Run. They provide us with the exceptional talent we need today and for the future.”
Doe Run employs nearly 50 graduates of Missouri S&T (formerly the University of Missouri-Rolla). Today, many of those graduates are managers and leaders for Doe Run.
“We have a mutually beneficial relationship,” said Coomes. “We help provide the real-world application of education to students through collaborative field trips, meaningful internships, equipment donations and sponsorship of educational programs, like explosives camp. Missouri S&T challenges and educates the future workforce to prepare them for careers in 98 degree programs, including mining engineering and metallurgical engineering, which is important to Doe Run as an employer.”
Forging a Partnership
In 2016, Doe Run strengthened its relationship with Missouri S&T. Doe Run established an internal team to help manage and promote opportunities for interaction between the company and university. This cross-functional team represents mining, exploration, environmental, human resources, customer relations and communications1. The team works closely with John Eash, Missouri S&T’s executive director of corporate relationships.
“We met John Eash in late 2015,” said Tammy Stankey, Doe Run senior communications liaison. “With his help, we became more intentional about how we could help the university educate students in fields that matter to us. There are obvious ways for us to help them, including providing internships, scholarships and tours of the company’s operations, but we also identified opportunities where the university can help Doe Run with research projects and innovative problem solving.”
New Opportunities for Students
In 2016, one research project focused on using soil-enhancing additives to encourage plant growth at mine tailings sites. Mariam Al-Lami, a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering at Missouri S&T, earned recognition from the American Society of Mining and Reclamation (ASMR) for her research, which explored revegetating tailings impoundments as a part of the remediation of mine sites.
Al-Lami collaborated on the research with Missouri S&T’s Joel Burken, Curators’ Distinguished Professor and chair of the civil, architectural and environmental engineering department. Doe Run supported the research with $50,000 in funding over a three-year period.
Research is just one way Doe Run and Missouri S&T work together. “Our goal is to identify and pursue opportunities for the university and corporate partners to work together toward advancing knowledge and problem solving, and becoming a trusted resource to help businesses grow and thrive,” said Eash. “We want to connect industry needs with university assets, including on-site and remote education, students, faculty, and research facilities.”
The relationship has blossomed to include a partnership with the Advanced Lead Acid Battery Consortium. The trade association will work alongside Doe Run and others as part of the university’s Microgrid Industrial Consortium. The Consortium and its members promote a more sustainable energy future through research projects, including a campus-based, solar-powered EcoVillage microgrid that will use lead batteries to power three student-designed and built homes on the university’s campus. The EcoVillage is designed to accommodate a total of six solar houses, providing the opportunity to grow the microgrid and the associated research partnerships.
Doe Run also provides funding and resources to support students pursuing degrees in mining and STEM fields:
- Over the past 10 years, Doe Run has provided $84,000 in scholarships for Missouri S&T students.
- With Doe Run’s help, Missouri S&T built a mine education building that opened in 2016. Located adjacent to its experimental mine near campus, the building provides mine engineering students with practical experience.
- The company also donates equipment, such as an XRF Spectrometer and other analysis tools, which allows students to practice technical skills.
Hands-On Training for the Future Workforce
In addition to Missouri S&T, Doe Run partners with several universities across the country to offer a rigorous, hands-on internship program that recruits and trains future mining professionals. Taylor Fels and Kathleen Tew are two such individuals.
Although he was raised in Rolla, Missouri, just 60 miles from Doe Run’s Southeast Missouri Mining and Milling Division, Taylor Fels didn’t know much about the industry until he took a tour of Brushy Creek Mine.
He was a mechanical engineering major at Missouri S&T in 2011, but discovered environmental and geological engineering would give him the opportunity to do more hands-on work outdoors in the field.
“You can only learn so much from a text book,” said Fels. “My internship at Doe Run helped me realize what I wanted to do for a living.”
Fels first interned with the company in 2013. He was impressed by the trust the company placed in him to do the work. “They trusted me to make the right decisions and gave me the chance to do so,” he said.
The next summer, Fels moved to Minnesota to intern for a consulting firm. “About one month into that job, I realized I liked Doe Run’s style better,” shared Fels. “I left the consulting firm mid-summer and came back to intern here, and I never left.”
During the Doe Run internship, Fels managed the design and construction oversight of two storm water retention basins. He joined other interns to present the large and important project to the company’s executive team.
“The presentation gives you the chance to see how involved everyone is in the internship program and how interested they are in what you’re doing and what you’re learning,” Fels said. “It also underscores how much the company values the contributions of the interns.”
Fels continued to work nearly full time as an intern and an environmental technician until he graduated from Missouri S&T with a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering in May 2016. Today, Fels works on several remediation projects key to helping Doe Run meet its vision as stewards of the mineral resources in its care.
“It’s one of the biggest things I realized as an intern – how big of a role taking care of the environment plays in the mining industry. Remediation is a large component of mining. We work very hard to be good stewards and protect the environment,” Fels said.
Kathleen Tew literally grew up in mines, tagging along with her father at work all over the country. In fact, her ability to drive a haul truck impressed her Doe Run co-workers early on in her internship.
“I rode in haul trucks as a kid and spent time in underground salt mines in Ohio and New York,” said Tew. “By the time I completed college, I’d also experienced a surface coal mine, a surface garnet mine and a cement plant. The more I worked on the surface, the more I realized I preferred the complexity of being underground.”
When she was a freshman at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Tew decided to double major in mining engineering and management, and geological engineering. Tew accepted a summer internship at Doe Run’s Buick Mine in 2013.
“Doe Run was the most comprehensive internship I did in terms of experience,” she said. “They wanted me to really understand the mining process and everything that goes into it – from extraction to the equipment to how they use data in planning. You’re given a chance to do real work and make an impact.”
Tew says that approach helped her understand the importance of good communication between the underground production crews and the engineering professionals. “I gained a better understanding of what I needed to do to make sure what I was producing in my role would be applicable to their work underground,” said Tew. “I knew one month into the job that this was the kind of company where I wanted to work. Everyone seemed to enjoy their jobs and they were open and willing to teach me.”
Today, Tew works with the mine captain and foreman on audits, analyzing ore bodies and conducting production planning. “The best part of my job is also the most challenging part of my job,” she said. “The conditions of the mine are always changing and we have to constantly think of new solutions to problems, like the presence of water or equipment breakdowns. It’s a very interesting place to be.”