About CESM

Mission Statement

The mission of the Center for Environmentally Sustainable Mining (CESM) is to develop research and educational initiatives that address environmental sustainability issues associated with mining and rock products operations in arid and semi-arid environments.


The US is one of the largest global consumers of mineral resources. Innovative approaches are critically needed for sustainable mineral resource development in the US in the 21st century. Sustainable mineral resource development addresses the environmental, social, and economic impacts of mine development, operation and closure on neighboring communities and ecosystems. The CESM model emphasizes research collaboration with industry partners through industry-academic cooperatives.


CESM Objectives

  • Support research that provides more effective and efficient tools for ecosystem regeneration and waste stabilization following mine closure
  • Provide quantitative tools to make reclamation a data-driven science
  • Develop tools for in situ monitoring of ground water and emissions from active mine operations
  • Facilitate neutral tech transfer to state and national policy makers and regulators
  • Facilitate active participation of communities impacted by mining operations; promote the “Democratization of Science”
  • Provide critical training for undergraduate and graduate students as future members of a well-trained workforce, key to sustainable mineral resource development


CESM facilitates broad cross-campus collaboration between University of Arizona academic partners from the Colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Engineering, Science, and Public Health. Exploratory research project funding provided by CESM facilitates the development of new research initiatives by diverse UArizona faculty to address technological and cultural innovations critical to mining sustainability. Close collaboration is maintained with the Lowell Institute for Mineral Resources (IMR) and its associated centers of innovation: the Geotechnical Center of Excellence and the International Safety, Health, and Risk Center of Excellence (ISHRC). IMR focuses on education and research in the areas of mineral exploration and exploitation. The Geotechnical Center is a stakeholder-led organization developing innovative geotechnical solutions for mining, and the training of graduates to work in the geotechnical field. ISHRC addresses mining safety, health, and risk challenges including mine rescue, miner fitness, and miner health and disease management.

Focal Areas

  • Revegetation and mine waste reclamation
  • Erosion mitigation at reclaimed mine sites
  • Fugitive dust emissions characterization and control
  • Community participatory science
  • Remote monitoring of tailings facilities and ground water
  • Closed site management
  • Recovery of rare earth elements and metal(loid)s from industrial waste streams
  • Remediation of legacy mine wastes including fate and speciation of contaminant metal(loid)s

Technical Advisory Committee

A Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meets biannually to help prioritize and develop the research and educational initiatives of CESM. The TAC is comprised of environmental professionals in major mining and consulting firms who identify issues of concern to the hard-rock mining and rock products industries.

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Photo of successful revegetation on compost-amended, highly pyritic, metal(loid) contaminated mine tailings at the Iron King Mine Federal Superfund site in Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona.
Superfund research field trial demonstrating successful plant establishment on compost-amended, highly pyritic, metal(loid) contaminated mine tailings at the Iron King Mine Federal Superfund site in Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona.


In 2011, the IMR in collaboration with the University of Arizona Superfund Research Center developed an environmental pillar that addresses issues associated with the environmental sustainability of mining and the management of legacy mining sites. The Superfund Research Center has an extensive history of studying waste containment and land recovery strategies for legacy mining sites throughout Arizona. CESM was initiated as a research translation tool for transfer of research results to active mining operations. It was developed using exploratory research funding from the Technology Research Initiative Fund Water Sustainability Program (TRIF-WSP). TRIF funding continues to provide exploratory funding to faculty for the development of innovative research initiatives associated with the sustainability of mining.

Past Research Projects

  • Airborne particulate matter related to mining activity (Eric Betterton, Eduardo Saez, Armin Sorooshian)
  • Erosion prediction model development for tailings embankments (Jon Pelletier)
  • Remote monitoring of tailings storage facilities (Gail Heath)
  • Phytostabilization of pyritic, metal contaminated legacy tailings in arid environments (Raina Maier, Jon Chorover)
  • Metal speciation of pyritic mine tailings in arid environments (Jon Chorover, Robert Root, Raina Maier)
  • Characterizing and enhancing the natural attenuation of nitrate and sulfate in ground water (Mark Brusseau)
  • Collaborative Investigation of In-situ Biosequestration for Remediation of Uranium in Groundwater at the Monument Valley UMTRA Site (Mark Brusseau)
  • Mining and Environmental Educational Modules for Tohono O’odham Community College (Karletta Chief, Raina Maier)
  • Environmental biotechnology for the treatment of acid rock drainage (Reyes Sierra, James Field)
  • Commodity markets for copper (Dan Scheitrum)
  • Roles of obligate oligotrophic bacteria in unreclaimed mine waste sites (Paul Carini)