Three Middlebury Institute students kicked off an exciting summer research project on the risk to river basins from copper mining in four copper-producing countries by participating in the International Water in Mining Conference 2016 in Santiago, Chile. The students, Ashley Gora MBA/MAIEP ’17, Nicholas Fisher MBA/MAIEP ’17, and Sarah Terherst MPA ’17 were awarded the first Complex Global Problems Research Fellowship which will fund their research in Peru, Chile, and Zambia as well as their participation in the conference in Chile. Professor Lyuba Zarsky is the principal investigator on the project and will conduct her own research in Australia. Professor Zarsky wrote from the conference that the group was “learning a lot.”
“The project looks at the intersection of copper mining and water risk,” Zarsky explains but adds that the overarching challenge is climate change. In this pilot initiative, students have the opportunity to be really integrated into a research by a faculty member. All three students took the course “Sustainability in Extractive Industries” taught by Zarsky in the fall semester. Their excellent final projects, case studies of the sustainability challenges of a mining project in Latin America, earned them the fellowship. In the spring semester the students were enrolled in a two credit research design course where they prepared for the summer. The fellowship is designed to provide students with the opportunity to gain in-field experience and the skills to participate in serious research and analysis.
The aim of the research is to develop insights and recommendations to reduce and mitigate water risk. Gora will conduct her research in Peru and Fisher in Chile while Terherst will study the risk to a river basin in Zambia. They will explore how different stakeholders see risk and how they are responding to it, looking at the problem in the context of the whole river basin. Undoubtedly, it will help that Gora and Fisher are fluent in Spanish and Terherst in French. Zarsky will add her research from Australia and pull it all together. “Our main goal is to have something to say about how we move forward on this issue,” says Zarsky.