Incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) standards in critical minerals mining projects drives transparency and public engagement. Re-use or secondary mining of mine waste is a neglected but growing aspect of ESG and circularity that both provides new resources and reduces contamination and other risks waste product storage. Global economies have success stories with re-use and recycling. For example, the U.S. steel industry uses 60 million tonnes of steel scrap with 90% of the co-products derived from recycling. Recycling and re-use of mine tailings and mine waste, however, are moving much more slowly, and examples are few. Yet, the sheer volume of rock extracted is sometimes 1 million times the volume of critical mineral extracted (e.g., platinum group) and the unsustainability of minerals extraction push re-use of mine waste and tailings to top priority in the green energy transition.

The selected interns (2) will work with members of the Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), Office of Environmental Quality (ENV) to develop research projects focused on innovation and implementation of mine waste re-use and secondary mining with focus on critical minerals mines. Researchers will collect examples of innovative processes and applications in North America as well as resource-rich countries worldwide.

What you’ll do

Guided by members of OES/ENV, you will develop a detailed report on uses of mine waste in construction, re-mining of legacy mines, and the policy and regulatory challenges mining companies face. You will also explore differences in approach and challenges between the global north and south.

The project will be completed utilizing open-source information than you obtain from online research, virtual meetings with officials in the State Department, relevant U.S. government agencies, our embassies overseas (facilitated by OES/ENV, if necessary), and virtual meetings with foreign government officials if possible and as coordinated with OES/ENV and U.S. Embassy staff. OES/ENV will also share information on relevant public workshops, forums, and events that may contribute information to the research project. You will be encouraged to network broadly with relevant academic and industry actors to expand the sources of information for this project.

The final project should address the following:

  • Current status of mine waste re-use in selected countries.
  • Current status of secondary or re-mining of legacy mines.
  • An assessment for each country of the following:
  • Are countries incorporating mine waste re-use and re-mining in ESG standards?
  • What are the main challenges faced by mining operators and policy makers when trying to reprocess tailings for secondary mineral extraction, or reusing mining wastes for construction purposes?
  • What solutions could be implemented, from a technical, legal or policy perspective to facilitate the reprocessing of tailings and the use of tailings and waste rocks as aggregates?

OES/ENV will consider modifications to the project’s scope. A detailed list of sources and references must be maintained and provided as part of the project along with a detailed contact list.

You will be expected to schedule bimonthly calls with OES/ENV to provide progress updates. In addition, OES/ENV will require quarterly progress reports in the form of a presentation that would culminate in a final presentation described below. OES/ENV will be available as needed during the period of performance.

You will deliver a virtual presentation of project findings, organized by OES/ENV, to interested officials within the State Department and USG interagency.

What you’ll learn

Through this internship, you will gain deep insight on the mining industry worldwide, circularity, ESG standards in the mining industry in the United States and internationally, as well as an understanding of the nexus between U.S. foreign policy, the clean energy transition, and critical mineral supply chains. You will also learn about the work being done on these issues in different functional and regional bureaus of the State Department, at our embassies overseas, and within other U.S. government agencies and understand what types of professional opportunities may be available all while developing professional contacts throughout the U.S. interagency. This position will allow you to work closely with a team and independently to develop research papers in the federal writing style.

The successful internship candidate will be invited to OES/ENV staff meetings as interested and available to gain a broader awareness of the issues being worked by OES professionals.

Who we are

The mission of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs is to provide American leadership, diplomacy, and scientific cooperation to conserve and protect the global environment, ocean, health, and space for the prosperity, peace, and security of this and future generations. OES’s Office of Environmental Quality develops and implements U.S. foreign policy to protect natural resources and communities from pollution and to promote a healthy environment by working with trade partners and multilateral institutions around the globe.

The OES/ENV office is comprised of civil service, foreign service, and contractor employees and fellows.