Celebrating 50 Years of Mineral and Energy Economics
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of Mineral and Energy Economics at Colorado School of Mines.
On April 16, 2019, fellow alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends gathered to celebrate the impact the Mineral and Energy Economics (MEE) program has made throughout the last 50 years. The event kicked off with a campus tour and reception with mingling, networking and hors d’oeuvres. The program consisted of an introduction by Dr. Rod Eggert, Interim Division Director and Viola Vestal Coulter Foundation Chair in Mineral Economics; welcoming remarks by Dr. Paul C. Johnson, President of Colorado School of Mines; followed by an alumni panel moderated by Dr. Ian Lange, Program Director.
Mineral and Energy Economics Through the Years
Before it was a program, mineral economics was a class at Colorado School of Mines – covering risk assessment, capital formation and use, resource availability, forecasting market prices and trends, and the impact of technology changes on resource companies. The desire for a more extensive economics curriculum, coupled with funding for the William Jesse Coulter Chair of Mineral Economics from the Viola Vestal Coulter Foundation in the late 1960s, was the catalyst that launched the mineral economics graduate program at Mines.
In 1969, the Board of Trustees established a separate degree-granting Department of Mineral Economics. It centered around the MS degree in mineral economics, and the first masters degree was awarded in 1970. The program was established to meet a perceived industrial need. Typical Mines graduates often rose rapidly to the top engineering positions in their companies. However, there was a need for additional education for Mines grads in the specific areas of management and evaluation of economic alternatives. Acting on this need, Mines established the department with two major objectives:
1. The academic training of mineral engineers in economic analysis and management skills which would enable them to rapidly assume increasing responsibilities in corporate management.
2. The education of mineral engineers to do feasibility studies for mineral and energy development and utilization projects, in public and private sectors.
It was decided that the creation, staffing and administration of the program should not all rest upon the shoulders of the Coulter Chair, who should serve as the intellectual leader of the program. Jean Mather, once an economics instructor at Mines and former president of the University of Massachusetts, was hired as department head and served for a decade.
Mather turned to Professor Hubert Risser of the Illinois Geological Survey and the University of Illinois, who took a leave of absence to fill the Coulter Chair temporarily. He had a mining engineering degree from Mines, a PhD in economics from Kansas and was well known in the field of coal economics.
After his stint, Al Petrick of the Bureau of Mines, who had completed his MS in mining engineering at Columbia and his PhD in economics at Colorado, was named to the chair on a regular basis in 1970. Oded Rudawsky, a recent PhD in mineral economics at Penn State, also joined the department. The new department was now underway and did very nicely with its service load, masters candidates primarily drawn from industry, and a certain amount of consulting for the more experienced faculty.
The department added its PhD program in mineral economics in 1972, and the first PhD degree was awarded in 1974. With the masters and PhD offerings, the department quickly became one of the largest graduate programs on campus, and within a decade, grew to be the largest such graduate program in the world.
In 1984, John Cordes, who had both law and economics degrees, was named department chairman. Between 1984 and 1987, when the first Mineral Economics Visiting Committee was named and conducted its first external review, Cordes moved to strengthen the industry analysis and policy elements of the program. With the decision of Petrick to move into emeritus rank, the Coulter Chair became available. John Tilton was on the faculty at Penn State and had strong credentials nationally and internationally among mineral economists. He assumed the Coulter Chair in 1985.
From 1985 to 1994, the department offered an executive version of its MS in Mineral Economics for working professionals, directed by David Fletcher.
The department offices moved in 1991 from the Green Center to Engineering Hall, where the department is currently housed. The BS degree in economics was first offered in 1994. This broadening of degree offerings was reflected in the change of the department’s name in 1995 to the Division of Economics and Business.
That same year the Division initiated its dual-degree program with Institut Français du Petrole (IFP) in Paris, France, in petroleum economics and management. This program remains an important part of the division’s degree offerings today.
In 2001, the Division launched the MS degree program in engineering and technology management (ETM).
The Division changed the program name from Mineral Economics to Mineral and Energy Economics (MEE) in 2009 to better reflect the inclusion of energy in the MS and PhD programs. Today’s MEE students typically have undergraduate degrees in engineering, earth sciences or economics.
“Thanks to the global reputation of Mines and MEE’s somewhat narrow focus on mineral and energy industries and markets, the program has attracted highly motivated and highly qualified graduate students from around the world” says John Tilton. “This has greatly enriched the academic environment in the Division of Economic and Business for both faculty and students.”
To date, the Division has awarded a total of 2,184 degrees, which includes 1,134 MS and 195 PhD degrees in Mineral and Energy Economics (including Mineral Economics); 478 MS degrees in Engineering and Technology Management; and 385 BS degrees in Economics.