page last updated: 21 November 2012

Professor Gang Chen (white hat) and his student working on ground control.

Photo Credit: UAF

Simulation of mine air flow at Fort Knox mine: Professor Bandopadhyay and his graduate students Vaibhav Raj and Will Collingwood are working on solutions to dissipate effects of air inversion at the mine during very cold days.

Photo: Vaibhav Raj

UAF completes short course training at the Institute of Technology, Erdenent, Mongolia. Seen in the pictures from the conclusion ceremony are Dr. Ariunbolor Purvee, Mongolian University of Science of Technology, Ulaanbaatar, Dr. Lkhagvasuren Jamsran, Director of Inst. of Tech and Dr. Rajive Ganguli, Director, Mineral Industry Research Laboratory.

Purevbaatar Narantsetseg, graduate student in mineral preparation engineering, processing rare earth samples from Bokan Mountain (near Ketchikan, Alaska) for a research project.

Photo Credit: Todd Paris/UAF

The Mineral Industry Research Laboratory (MIRL) was established at the University of Alaska Fairbanks by the 1963 Alaska Legislature for the purpose of conducting basic and applied research to aid in the development of Alaska’s mineral and energy resources.

MIRL’s research activities, devoted to finding, developing and utilizing Alaska’s minerals include, but are not limited to, the following study areas: Improved exploration methods, new resource development, mining in frozen ground, surface coal mining in the Arctic, mine and mill design, mineral processing engineering, use of radiotracer techniques in placer gold recovery, hydrometallurgical and electrochemical processes for heap leaching of gold ores in the Arctic and sub Arctic, coal characterization and beneficiation, coal utilization, coal-water fuel production, mineral market evaluations, and environmental concerns associated with mining and metallurgy.

The faculty and facilities of MIRL provide an important public service function to the mineral industry. Prospectors and mine operators visit the facility throughout the year to seek advice, make use of equipment, and obtain publications pertinent to their operations. As such, MIRL functions as a source of information and support to the Alaskan mining industry, providing services and advice on problems specific to the state’s mineral development. The distribution and sale of MIRL reports, is of great importance to the mining industry. These publications play a vital role in the development of Alaska’s mineral industry, and several thousand copies of MIRL reports have been sold or distributed.

Research areas of emphasis at MIRL are dictated by the areas of expertise of its faculty and industrial needs and have varied over the years. Following is a list of research areas currently emphasized:

  1. Mineral Processing
    • Recovery of accessory minerals in placer mining
    • Beneficiation of Alaskan ores
    • Environmental issues
    • Gold Recovery
    • Radiotracer techniques
    • Placer mining and processing methods
    • Hardrock gold metallurgy
    • Problems related to gold cyanidation
    • Environmental issues
    • Hydrometallurgy of sulfide ores
    • Leaching studies
    • Solvent extraction and purification
    • Electrowinning
    • Separation processes
    • Environmental issues
    • Coal Research
    • Coal utilization
    • Coal preparation and upgrading
    • Coal-water fuel production & utilization
    • Environmental issues
  2. Mine Ventilation
    • Arctic issues such as inversion in surface mines
    • Ventilation networks
  3. Ground control
    • Rock and soil testing
    • Underground structure design
  4. Systems Engineering
    • Block modeling and reserve estimation
    • Mine design
    • Production simulation
  5. Computational Tools
    • Mining application of artificial intelligence, genetic algorithms
    • Software development (Windows based) for mining processes
  6. Environmental
    • Ground water modeling
    • Soil remediation

Faculty Expertise

  • Sukumar Bandopadhyay, PhD, PE: Mine Ventilation, Systems Engineering
  • Gang Chen, PhD, PE: Ground Control
  • Will Collingwood: Underground Mining, Mine Ventilation
  • Margaret Darrow: Frozen Soils
  • Rajive Ganguli, PhD, PE: Mine Design, Systems Engineering
  • Steve Lin, PhD, PE: Hydrometallurgy, Remediation
  • Paul Metz, PhD, PG: Economic Geology, Mineral Economics
  • Debasmita Misra: Hydrology
  • Scott Huang, PhD: Slope Stability, Permafrost Engineering


A list of historical MIRL books, papers and reports are available to the public. Contact individual faculty for current publications.


A well-equipped coal laboratory is devoted to research and service activities on the characterization, petrography, distribution, and preparation of Alaska’s coals.

The laboratory facilities at MIRL include:

  • Mineral Processing Lab – Well equipped for research on grinding, crushing, gravity separation and flotation.
  • Hydrometallurgy Lab – Equipped for research on leaching, precipitation and solvent extraction.
  • Electrochemistry Lab – An EG&G Princeton potentiostat system is available for research on electrochemical dissolution, electrowinning, and other electrochemical processes.
  • Analytical Lab – ICP/DCP, AA, and XRD are available for research and a variety of instrumentation including XRF, quantitative electron micro-probe analysis (EPMA), and electron microscopes is available at UAF’s Advanced Instrumentation Laboratory.
  • Coal Lab – Well equipped for research in the following areas: spontaneous combustion, low-range coal thermal upgrading, coal processing, coal characterization, coal utilization, coal-water-fuel preparation and utilization, coal oxidation, and coal ash utilization.