On Sept. 30, we will celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Nucor Mineral Industries Building on the Mines campus. The facility will be a hub for the mining engineering, geology and geological engineering, and metallurgical engineering programs. South Dakota Mines was founded 137 years ago in support of these unique disciplines. Today, they remain as important as ever because society relies on the critical resources they enable.
These resources include the minerals, metals, and materials that are the ingredients that make up the backbone of modern life; they are in your cell phone, your car, your appliances, the device that you are likely reading this on now, or the devices that enabled the printing of this newspaper. The demand for these critical minerals and materials will only increase as technology expands and we move to a greener economy.
Here is the challenge: China and Russia have cornered the market for most of these commodities. The United States is dependent on imports to maintain our high-tech industry.
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Tackling this challenge is a non-partisan issue. Current and past presidential administrations in Washington, D.C., have recognized the importance of critical minerals and have fostered efforts to reduce American dependence on imports. Thanks to our state leaders who approved funding for our new Nucor Mineral Industries Building in 2021, South Dakota Mines is poised to lead the way in safely and efficiently securing more critical resources for our nation.
The $19 million commitment in state funding paves the way for Mines to play a leading role in the nation to address the critical need for these mineral resources. Governor Kristi Noem and state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who backed funding this new building should be commended for their visionary leadership.
This investment will pay huge returns in the coming decades because this new facility will house cutting-edge research and teaching in modern exploration, mining, mineral extraction, and metal production practices that prioritize environmental stewardship and will ensure the nation’s needs are met. Work in the Nucor Mineral Industries Building will yield both high-tech solutions to modern problems and top-tier engineers and scientists who can lead the charge into a bright future.
It should be noted that this building is not being undertaken with public investment alone. Our industry partners have committed millions of dollars and private fundraising is ongoing. Nucor Corporation is among the top investors; the company’s $5 million donation is the biggest corporate gift in university history. Nucor is the largest recycler and domestic steel producer in North America and a key university partner in maximizing the future potential of our students and our nation.
I hope everyone can join us on Friday, Sept. 30, at 3 p.m. in the Surbeck Center Ballroom for remarks followed by the groundbreaking ceremony across from the O’Harra Building.
Jim Rankin, Ph.D., P.E., is the President of South Dakota Mines.