New master’s degree programme in sustainable mineral processing to provide students with a unique learning experience

A lecturer at the University of Oulu, Docent Dr Maria Sinche-Gonzalez has been working for almost seven years at Oulu Mining School, an education and research unit in sustainable mining. After realising that the mining programs did not attract enough students, she decided to start a process that resulted in a new international master’s degree programme in sustainable mineral and metal processing engineering. At the University of Oulu’s semester opening ceremony, Sinche-Gonzalez received an award for the exemplary implementation of the university’s value “creating new”.
Picture of Maria Sinche-Gonzalez.

This autumn, 21 students arrived in Oulu to start their studies at Oulu Mining School. What is unusual about their studies is the fact that they will leave for Austria early next year to continue their studies at the University of Leoben. In the autumn semester 2023, the students can go to either the University of Zagreb in Croatia or the Federico Santa María Technical University in Chile.

“The students will get a comprehensive picture of sustainable mineral processing. In Finland, the focus is on metallic minerals and beneficiation value chain, in Austria on industrial minerals and bulk solid technology and in Croatia on processing waste materials and recycling. In Chile, which is known as a great mining country, the students can take advanced courses where mineral concentration and plant design is discussed in more detail,” Sinche-Gonzalez says.

Practical work at a beneficiation plant

The programme offers students experiences that are not available to everyone.

Nawaf Al-Murish and Enerel Lkhagvadorj started the new degree programme last September. Al-Murish is from Yemen but completed his bachelor’s degree in Turkey, majoring in geological engineering. Lkhagvadorj has studied mining in her home country, Mongolia.

“I wanted to continue my university studies, but I also wanted to try something new and different. I came across this programme on LinkedIn and decided to apply for it. My interest was sparked by the multidisciplinary nature of the programme and the fact that it includes sustainable development,” says Al-Murish.

Lkhagvadorj applied for the programme because she had not seen any other master’s programmes in sustainable mineral processing that would have met her needs.

Both students have been slightly shocked by how hard the first period has been. In addition to a new culture, they have also had to adapt to different study methods.

“Because I studied geological engineering at my previous university, I knew nothing about sustainable mineral processing when I came here. So I have had to start my studies all over again,” Al-Murish explains.

However, both are pleased to have started the programme.

“At the University of Oulu, you can try practical work at the beneficiation plant. It has been really great,” Lkhagvadorj says.

The pilot beneficiation plant at the Oulu Mining School Research Centre is the only beneficiation plant in the world that operates in a continuous mode in a university environment and is used for teaching and research purposes. It is a small-scale replica of an ore mine’s beneficiation process.

“I’ve learned a lot about sustainable mineral processing during my time here. I’m also happy that the teaching is really practical and that the University of Oulu’s laboratories, for example, are always freely available to students,” says Al-Murish.

“It has also been great that we have had visiting lecturers, engineers who are already working in the field. In six weeks, we have met four professionals in different fields of technology,” Lkhagvadorj adds.

Encouraged by the benefits of the programme

Sinche-Gonzalez started working on the new degree programme in 2019 by approaching various universities where it is possible to obtain a degree in a field similar to mineral processing. She managed to get three universities involved, but it took two years before the European Union’s Erasmus+ Mundus programme provided funding for the programme.

“The process took a lot of commitment and time, but because it was close to my heart, I wanted to make it happen. I also knew that the end result would be successful and would bring a lot of benefits to our research unit and to the university. This is the first Erasmus+ Mundus Joint Master coordinated by University of Oulu and the only one selected to be coordinated by a Finnish university in 2021.”

Sinche-Gonzalez regularly meets the students who arrived in Oulu, as she both teaches and tutors them. She wants to make sure that the students are doing well.

“It is important that they want to continue with the programme until the end, since this is an indication of whether the programme has been successful.”

More information: Erasmus Mundus Joint Master in Sustainable Mineral and Metal Processing Engineering

Text: Vilma Lehto

Last updated: 26.10.2022