Caterpillar Funds Major Robotic Initiative at South Dakota Mines

South Dakota Mines will help lead Cat Labs MineStar Consortium, which partners university faculty and students with Caterpillar engineers and researchers to help build the next generation of mining and construction technology.

South Dakota Mines will help lead Cat Labs MineStar Consortium, which partners university faculty and students with Caterpillar engineers and researchers to help build the next generation of mining and construction technology.

Cat underground loader. Photo courtesy of Caterpillar.


Caterpillar is sponsoring a new partnership with South Dakota Mines that explores technologies such as autonomous robotic mining, software used to manage mining and construction operations, and new equipment that increases efficiency and safety. These technological advancements will increase sustainability of the earth’s natural resources while improving productivity and promoting economic development, the collaborators say.

South Dakota Mines will help lead Cat Labs MineStar Consortium, which partners university faculty and students with Caterpillar engineers and researchers to help build the next generation of mining and construction technology. The university has a history in the development and advancement of mining.

The partnership could involve a range of projects from research and development in surface mining and reclamation in places like the Powder River Basin to the development of an underground area to test robotic mining equipment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility. Cat Labs MineStar Consortium is conceived to include other institutions, such as Western Dakota Tech. South Dakota Mines will work closely with all organizations in the consortium. 

“This agreement is great news for the university and for the economy,” says South Dakota Mines President Jim Rankin. “The South Dakota mining industry employs more than 2,000 people who produce more than $500 million in products annually. This partnership builds on those past successes and will yield new business opportunities and a fantastic return on investment for the whole region.” 

The university’s partnership with Caterpillar comes alongside an effort to add a new building on campus that includes three departments: The Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, the Department of Mining Engineering and Management and the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering. South Dakota Mines is one of only five universities in the United States to have all three departments on campus. The multidisciplinary research collaborations at South Dakota Mines have a history of creating advancements and innovation that benefit society.

With its central and convenient location, South Dakota Mines is positioned to become a hub that fosters innovation in mining. The new agreement with Caterpillar has potential to yield future opportunities including the development of spin-off companies and start-up businesses that advance the overall economic wellbeing of the region while promoting a new paradigm of mining that has environmental stewardship at its core.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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