UNSW will be positioned as a regional leader in the key emerging field of sustainable mining practices following a $1.1 million investment by mining group Mitsubishi Development.
The company has committed the funds to establish a new Mitsubishi Chair in Sustainable Mining Practices in UNSW's School of Mining Engineering, the first investment of its kind in Australia by the company, and the largest contribution from an individual company received by the School.
The Chair will head a new Australian Centre for Sustainable Mining Practices. The Centre, currently in the planning stage, will be an international centre of excellence in sustainable mining research and education, with a particular focus on the Asia-Pacific region. It will provide education for local and international students at undergraduate and postgraduate level and for mining industry professionals.
"This is quite a remarkable contribution by Mitsubishi and a testament to the company's long-term strategic approach," said Professor Bruce Hebblewhite, Head of the School of Mining Engineering.
"Sustainable mining is very much an integral part of our teaching programs. It's rapidly gaining prominence across the industry so we are focusing on this."
Mitsubishi Development, a subsidiary of Japan's Mitsubishi Corporation, is one of the biggest investors in mining projects in Australia.
Mitsubishi Development CEO and MD, Kirk Yamanaka, said the UNSW agreement was Mitsubishi's first direct investment in sustainable mining education in Australia.
He said the investment was an important one, despite the current global financial crisis and softening of commodities markets.
"Mitsubishi has been involved with UNSW mining since 2003 and has been involved in Australian mining since 1968," Mr Yamanaka said. "This is looking at the big picture rather than the cycles, which go up and down at various points."
Associate Professor David Laurence, the Director of Postgraduate Studies and International Development in the School of Mining Engineering, said UNSW could bring unique capabilities to the internationally important field of sustainable mining practices.
The new centre of excellence will focus on technical, environmental and community issues associated with mining, issues which are increasingly important throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
"Our focus is on every aspect of mining practice: the use of the ore body or the coal seam, and the optimisation of that resource for humankind," Associate Professor Laurence said.
"We are trying to prolong the benefits of the mineral resource over time. Our approach to sustainable development and the mining industry is unique - as mining engineers we take a holistic approach to sustainability including the dimensions of community, environment, economic, safety and resource efficiency. Using that approach will help mines take the steps needed to maintain their social license to operate."
The inaugural occupant of the Chair will be selected by the end of the year, following an international search.
For more information/interviews: Professor Bruce Hebblewhite | 02 9385 5160 | 0417 267 876
Robert Campese, Mitsubishi Development | 02 9951 4817
Judy Brookman, UNSW Media Office | 02 9385 3249 | 0421 061 251