Mines News

Release Date Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Meeting the Need: Mining Engineering Professor Notes Critical Mineral Industries Workforce Shortage

Dr. Andrea Brickey (left) receiving the 2023 Mining and Exploration Division Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration.

Andrea Brickey, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Mining Engineering and Management at South Dakota Mines, is among a group of industry professionals raising red flags over the labor shortage in the mining industry.

Brickey was recently quoted in this Wall Street Journal article examining how workforce needs in the mining industry may hamper the nation’s transition to renewable energy.

“Mining is a big part of what powers our country and our economy, and any transition to renewable energy will rely heavily on critical minerals needed for modern technology,” says Brickey. “Alongside this increasing demand for raw materials, we have a dramatic need for people in the mining industry, it’s estimated that between now and 2030 we will lose about half of our workforce.”

Brickey says modern mining is not what most people think it is.

“It’s not mining like it was 120 years ago; mining is so multidisciplinary, from engineers of all types to computer scientists to mechanics. We have to be on the forefront of innovation. We are often the first to implement new technologies in robotics, machine learning, autonomous vehicles and more — all of these different emerging technologies to make our operations more efficient, safer and more environmentally friendly,” she says. 

Her own path to becoming a leading academic voice in the mining industry may serve as an inspiration to others. She joined the industry following her graduation in mining engineering from South Dakota Mines. Her engineering work took her all around the world, to Brazil, Venezuela, South Africa, Canada, several states in the western United States and more. She wore many hats, serving as drill and blast engineer, safety trainer, and budget manager working with many different types of commodities and methods.

Brickey circled back to academia and received her Ph.D. in 2015, returning to her alma mater as a faculty member in mining engineering. She was recently promoted to full professor, and she received the 2023 Mining and Exploration Division Distinguished Service Award from the Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration.

Her next goal is to launch a Black Hills chapter of Women in Mining to help encourage more women to enter the field.

“There are a lot of great women in the mining industry, but we need more. With the demand for minerals, workforce development is going to be a big thing for the mining industry. So, we are trying to show young people all of the opportunities that are available.”

Her current research focuses primarily on using math to make underground mining environments both safer for miners and more efficient with operations. She’s also looking at repurposing the electrical infrastructure at mines to generate and distribute renewable energy on reclaimed lands.

“We have some challenges, and we need bright young people who are tech-savvy and who have a desire to really make an impact,” says Brickey.

South Dakota Mines is focused on helping industry meet workforce shortage challenges. The university’s Mining Hub is at the center of forging new public-private partnerships that are fueling industry innovation and helping train the next generation of a highly skilled workforce.  Brickey is particularly excited about the new Nucor Mineral Industries Building set to open next year on the Mines campus.

“We’re so excited! Not only will it help us educate our students with the modern equipment and technology that is changing the industry, but it will help demonstrate the importance of the mineral industries. It’s the foundation of our society, helping provide the raw materials we need to do all the things we want to do.”

More than anything, Brickey wants to show prospective undergraduate and graduate students that there are huge opportunities in the mining industry, both for professional advancement and growth, and to make a difference in the world.


About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

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