Engineering the cleanest mines possible
The industries that have some of the largest impacts on the planet also have the power to make the most significant gains in sustainability. At the 10th School of Engineering Dean’s Lecture on February 24, members of the Tufts community gathered in Joyce Cummings Center to hear insights about corporate responsibility and sustainability from the Chairman of the Hochschild Mining Group, Tufts alumnus Eduardo Hochschild, E87. The Dean’s Lecture provides a regular opportunity for Dean of the School of Engineering and Karol Family Professor Kyongbum Lee to welcome esteemed speakers at the top of their respective fields. In his lecture, Hochschild showcased extensive efforts to engineer sustainable mines and cement production while balancing the needs of his company and local communities.
Mined materials are present in nearly every aspect of our daily lives, from large structures such as bridges and buildings to small screws and materials in phone batteries. “We cannot make a world without mining, but we can make a better mine,” said Hochschild. To this end, his group has engineered circular mineral harvesting, a unique method of mining rare earth materials that reduces the impact of extraction on the natural environment. The method will be implemented at Aclara, a new mine in Chile that is part of the Hochschild Group and is scheduled to open within the next two years.
The system utilizes approximately 90% recycled water from local sources during the mining process. Once miners extract the rare earth materials, they backfill what they don’t need, returning roughly 30% of what they extracted to the Earth. Circular mineral harvesting cannot yet be done with more common metals such as copper or silver, but it is possible with the rare earth materials that the Aclara mine will extract. These rare earth materials are critical for developing sustainable infrastructure, including wind turbines and electric cars.
Likewise, Hochschild aims to balance community needs, sustainability, and effective products in the cement industry. Cement production is one of the largest contributors of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. As the director of cement company Cementos Pacasmayo, Hochschild’s cement has reduced emissions significantly while ensuring that cement remains affordable for people in local communities to build their homes. Reflecting on the efforts made to move mining and cement production in a more sustainable direction, Hochschild noted, “There are things you can do in the old industries that are good for humanity.”
In keeping with the desire to create a brighter world, the Hochschild Group provides employment and education for members of the surrounding communities. In 2011 Hochschild established the University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC), which offers programs in engineering, technology, and administration and digital business. 30% of the students at UTEC are supported with scholarships or financial aid which allow them to access top-class education and connections with universities in the United States. The campus features state-of-the-art labs, research centers, and a LEED certified building, demonstrating a continued commitment to sustainability.
As a Tufts alum himself, Hochschild referenced the impact that his own education has had on his career. He credited Tufts with sharpening his ability to logically understand problems and find solutions. While sharing that balancing the needs of the community, the environment, and the company can be challenging at times, he reflected that, since its establishment in 1911, the Hochschild Mining Group has sought to work collaboratively and carefully achieve the best solutions.
The mining industry is constantly evolving as more easily accessible deposits become depleted, and the industry must adapt with new technologies. Hochschild concluded his lecture by covering some of the research and development currently in progress to continue improving the industry, including AI mineral recognition and a mining robot. According to Hochschild, “Even those old industries have a lot to offer and a lot of innovation is yet to come."
Department:Civil and Environmental Engineering