MN Lawmakers back bill to give students hands-on studies in mining

By KBJR News 1

March 13, 2014 Updated Mar 14, 2014 at 6:53 AM CST

St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) - It's a proposal lawmakers tout as a constructive alternative to the age-old debate over mining.

Build a four year institute near a mine, and give students a working education.

"The purpose is for students to access a live setting in which they would be studying the industries and getting hands on experience at the same time," said Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia)

Rep. Metsa and Rep. Ryan Winkler are behind the bill calling for $3 million dollars to fund the construction of the school within 15 miles of an active mine.

"This would kind of, in our minds, be something that would both benefit the industry, local businesses, who could utilize the intellectual property and create companies," Rep. Metsa said.

The lawmakers are working with the former President of the University of Maine and Minnesota-Native Bob Kennedy. Kennedy helped develop a successful wind power program and a wood composite institute while at the University.

The Advanced Structures and Composites Center

"The goal for the both of these centers and for some others we started was to, use it as an educational tool, after all we are a university, but if there could be secondary purposes of jobs, job training for students and ultimately economic development for the region," Kennedy said via Skype.

Kennedy says the University-driven research helped spur economic growth and multiple company spin-offs. But he cautions a venture like this won't come without hurdles.

"In setting up a new institute like this, I'm sure there will be some obstacles that will be raised in terms of faculty appointments, a collaboration, and quite understandably who holds ownership to the intellectual property," he said.

Representative Metsa hopes to partner with the University of Minnesota Duluth in the development of the mining institute, which has support from both sides of the aisle.

"I think this would be a giant step in the right direction. We haven't invested like we used to in this kind of research," said Rep. Metsa.

Representative Metsa says lawmakers are in the early stages of discussions with the U of M.

The bill (H.F. 2842) is awaiting its first committee hearing at the Minnesota Legislature.

Written by Kevin Jacobsen
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