- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 23, 2014

DULUTH, Minn. (AP) - The University of Minnesota Duluth is creating a new program to turn out more graduates who can work in the mining field.

UMD geology professor Jim Miller said at a conference Tuesday that the goal of the Mineral Resources Center is to graduate people with a full understanding of the mining cycle, even if they specialize in certain areas. Students will be trained in exploration, processing, reclamation and other core mining disciplines.

The university has been planning the new center for five years and will open it in the next year or two, Miller said. One challenge has been a shortage of trained faculty in mining disciplines, 70 percent of whom are expected to retire nationwide by 2020. The program just hired an economic geologist, which Miller said was difficult. An international search found only five qualified candidates, he said.

Proposed iron and copper-nickel mine projects in northern Minnesota could create hundreds of new jobs in coming years, while hundreds of workers at the state’s existing iron mines are nearing retirement.

Filling those jobs is a big concern, said John Marsden, president of the national Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration, which organized the conference.

Marsden said it’s a great time for young people looking to get into the industry.

“People can work their way up fairly quickly,” he said.

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