To the editor: The March 11 News-Miner article about UAF is interesting but misses the point that the Bachelor of Science in geological engineering is also being recommended for “Revision or Restructure.” The definition was provided in the article. Geological engineering will probably be proposed for combination with civil engineering in a modified form. The bottom line is that the entire Mining and Geological Engineering Department is being proposed for elimination. A mining and agriculture training college, now the Mining and Geological Engineering Department, was created by an act of Congress in 1915 as a land grant institution (1862 Morrill Act). The act was further modified in 1929 to provide for creation of the university.
The Mining and Geological Engineering Department is by far the most valuable department in the entire university system with almost $11 million of assets (scholarships, endowments, donations, Silver Fox Mine, Mineral Industry Research Lab, etc.) to boast about. The department provides highly trained professional personnel and world-class research to assure environmentally and technically competent mining. Lower 48 sources of this support are very expensive, tentative and need much more time to adjust to Alaska conditions.
The mining industry in Alaska is a major contributor to this state. It ranks second in contributions, not including the federal government, to the state’s various governments and landowners. In a March 2019 report by the McDowell Group, a summary of 2018 benefits included 4,500 direct jobs, 9,200 direct and indirect jobs, $715 million in direct and indirect payroll, $34 million to local governments, $148 million to state government, and $358 million to Alaska Native corporations.
The University of Alaska is under tremendous pressure to reduce costs, a much-appreciated fact. However, cutting cost-effective programs is counterproductive and misdirected. Are the programs recommended for continuation more important than mining and geological engineering?