On March 24, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR), and ENR Chairman Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced the Mining Schools Act of 2022. The purpose of the bill is to increase and improve opportunities for university and college mining and geological programs to prepare students to meet America’s future energy needs.

“The Mining Schools Act will help support mining communities in the West,” Sen. Barrasso said. “Our bipartisan legislation will create opportunities for mining schools to strengthen their programs and recruit the next generation of American energy producers. We will need a strong mining workforce to meet the demand for American energy and minerals.”

The Mining Schools Act of 2022 will establish a grant program for mining schools to receive funds in order to recruit students and carry out studies, research projects, or demonstration projects related to the production of minerals; and establish the Mining Professional Development Advisory Board to evaluate applications and recommend recipients to the secretary of the Department of Energy, as well as conduct oversight to ensure that grant funds are appropriately used.

“A strong and skilled mining workforce is critical to reducing our reliance on foreign supply chains, increasing our deployment of renewable energy technologies and maintaining our energy security,” Sen. Manchin said. “In the last few years, however, this workforce has decreased as universities across the country struggle to enroll students in their mining and geological engineering programs. My bipartisan Mining Schools Act of 2022 addresses this decline by providing schools with the tools they need to recruit qualified students and maintain these crucial programs, ensuring the next generation is equipped with the skills and training necessary to develop innovative mining technologies that strengthen our nation’s position as a global energy leader.”

According to the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME), the grant program would provide $10 million a year for eight years to eligible colleges and universities to train the next generation of mining engineers and other mining professionals.

“The bill is an important first step in addressing what has been a longstanding decline in both mining school enrollment and graduation rates,” SME Executive Director Dave Kanagy said. “Since 1980, the number of colleges and universities with accredited mining engineering programs has decreased from 25 to 14 in 2020. The number of graduating students with mining engineering degrees has also declined substantially.”

A briefing paper prepared by SME illustrates the severity of this trend, noting that the number of graduates has decreased by 43% since 2015 alone.

The bill will be referred to that committee for a hearing in the coming weeks.