Underground Mine Education Center (UMEC)
In 2010, Montana Tech acquired ownership of a parcel of land immediately west of the campus. The parcel of land included an old silver mine called the Orphan Boy Mine. At the same time, a significant industry gift allowed Montana Tech to initiate the development of an Underground Mine Education Center (UMEC) on the campus of Montana Tech.
The UMEC is a unique hands-on, interdisciplinary educational environment for today’s students. The center complements courses in mining engineering, geological engineering, environmental engineering, metallurgical engineering and occupational safety and health. It also serves as a as research facility utilized by students and faculty, and other organizations doing research in underground mining methods, rock mechanics, ventilation, fragmentation, and health and safety. One of the first research projects was to demonstrate the feasibility of using the geothermal energy found in the warm mine water at the Orphan Boy Mine to heat the 55,000 ft² Natural Resources Building at Montana Tech.
Initial development consisted of 1000 ft. decline to reach the 100 ft. level of the mine and access the Orphan Boy Shaft. The 100 ft. shaft station became the centerpiece of the demonstration geothermal project. The UMEC comprises existing underground workings of the Orphan Boy and Orphan Girl Mines plus new workings developed for specific training purposes. Presently over 3,000 ft of workings comprise the UMEC.
The UMEC has been entirely funded by industry gifts and donations.