Exploring the opportunities and challenges for sustainable development in the context of mineral and energy resources: a case study of a collaborative engineering course between three universities.
Our collaborative engineering course explores the unique role of raw mineral and energy resources in the pursuit of sustainable development. Our target group includes graduate and undergraduate students in resource-related disciplines at three universities.
The course digs deep into the global demands for natural resources that underpin most all human endeavors, and the demands for more benign production. We challenge students to contend with the real conflicts posed by these competing demands. We inspire them to imagine and propose new solutions, whereby responsible resource development practices can contribute in net positive ways toward the economic, environmental and societal domains inherent to the UN’s SDGs.
Our collaborative course model was born out of early efforts, led by Dr. Dirk van Zyl (University of British Columbia), which sought to introduce mining engineering students to the rapidly evolving concept of sustainable development within the global metals industry. Our current model–and partnership–was conceived in 2017, and the course has been offered three times since. It consists of weekly meetings (via teleconference), where students participate in guided discussions and activities based on independent reading and research assignments. There is significant focus on the SDGs as a framework for evaluating resource development projects. Moreover, the SDGs serve as a theme for the course’s term project, which students conduct in cross-university groups.
In its current conception, we hoped this course would afford students an opportunity to view their engineering work through the lens of sustainable development, and pivot their design and management thinking accordingly. We made conscious efforts at an interdisciplinary approach, beginning with the instructional team. Our expertise blends traditional mining and environmental engineering (VT) with social science (CSM) and specific practical experiences working with artisanal and small scale mining communities (UNAL). We also set out to ensure that student engagement and interactions were maximized, even despite the remote format. This involved careful planning of our shared meeting times and term project.
We plan to continue offering the course using our current collaborative model (once a year), with regular content updates to track with SDG progress/needs in the context of mineral and energy resources.