Our Outreach

Integrating Responsible Engineering and Local Knowledge to Design, Implement and Evaluate Sustainable Artisanal Mining in Latin America.

Outreach Events


Faculty team travelled to Colombia to different ASGM communities to identify local stakeholders who can provide us with different kinds of local knowledge along the supply chain of gold, from extraction to commercialization, and identify site selection for student field research in 2019. Our Colombian collaborators and a large group of students joined the site visits.


The PIRE RMRC team completed a fieldwork trip to Colombia, including hearing from a former Colombia vice-presidential candidate and senate leader on ASGM-related policies in Colombia.

RMRC undergraduate students spent two weeks in Colombia, learning about the context and implementation of ASGM with multiple stakeholder groups and visiting mines and processing plants, engaging in problem co-definition with ASGM communities.


PIRE RMRC graduate students and faculty developed and virtually participated in the 2020 virtual summer session (“VSS”) in which eight Mines undergraduate students (“UG”) worked directly with community members on problem-solving and design skillsets for addressing community-identified problems for two weeks in July 2020. 

 Participants in the Virtual Summer Session spent two weeks immersed in virtual community engagement and socio-technical training to collaborate with communities, understand the limitations of engineering as a solution when context isn’t considered, learn and practice participatory design, assess the techniques used for virtual community design training, and identify opportunities to use socio-technical engineering to support community-based ASGM design projects. 


 Summer Field Session included mine visits oriented around socio-technical practices and sessions on community co-creation and co-design.   The RMRC team held a two-week summer field session that involved all faculty, staff and GS team members and 13 UGs during the summer of 2021 in Gunnison and Colorado Springs, CO.


 A team of RMRC faculty hosted the “2022 International Exchange on Sustainable Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining” at Mines. For one week, we hosted 12 students and 1 faculty from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia – Medellín (our partner university); 1 faculty from SENA’s Centro Minero Ambiental in El Bagre, Colombia; 3 students and 2 faculty from University of Texas at Arlington; and Mines students and faculty. The participants learned about mining in Colorado and compared it with mining Colombia; presented their research to each other for feedback; and learned about Colorado School of Mines programs related to geo-makerspaces, space resources, public policy, mining, and Latin American research. They also learned through lectures and workshops about mining and the environment, asset-based community development, and social innovation. As a part of the exchange, we hosted a campus-wide “Excellence in Sustainable Mining Research Celebration” that was attended by faculty and graduate students across the Mines campus.

In July-August of 2022, masters students spent 8 weeks in Perú conducting participant observation, spending time in Lima, Arequipa, the mine company site, and surrounding local communities. In this time, the team conducted 10 interviews with stakeholders in the government and gold supply chain including: the mining company’s management, Solidaridad administration, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peruvian government (Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Energy and Mining), the Swiss Better Gold Association, and the Colorado School of Mines.  


Idaho: In April 2023, Holley and N. Smith, along with collaborator Malone coordinated and led a workshop in Challis, Idaho, titled, “Creating shared value for mining companies and communities in Central Idaho.” This workshop applied lessons learned and methodologies from previous co-creation workshops held under the NSF-PIRE project in Colombia and Peru and extended our work in this space by considering socio-technical aspects of critical mineral developments in the United States. The workshop was developed in collaboration with four county-level economic development associations in central Idaho. The workshop brought together mining company representatives working in the region, the Idaho Geologic Survey, and the Idaho National Lab to explore opportunities and challenges to create shared value in central Idaho in the context of critical mineral developments. Workshops were designed to foster open conversation, identify synergies, and catalyze new ideas. The attendees produced vision boards that were retained and de-identified for the research as well as for dissemination in publications and future workshops.

Brazil: The CU PIRE team, along with N. Smith, led the planning, along with a small team of governmental, academic, and industry leaders, for Bioeconomy Planning Workshops in Amazon Regions that assembled a community of practice, or “COP,” comprised of leaders from different state governmental secretaries, the private sector, academia, and civil society, including Indigenous Peoples and traditional riverine communities. The CU team ran the workshops over the course of two days. During the workshop, the COP members focused on a singular goal – to envision and chart a course of action for their states (Amazonas in Brazil; and Madre de Dios, Ucayali, Amazonas, San Martin, and Huanuco in Peru) to transition from a traditional “business as usual” economic model to a state-wide bioeconomy model. Different forms and scales of mining were central to discussions about long-term sustainable livelihood planning.

 Colombia: Lucena. J. Smith, Smits and Restrepo participated in the development, organization, and delivery of the PIRE RMRC Final Summit held in Medellin in July 2023. This summit served as a synthesis and recollection of the work done throughout the entire RMRC project in Colombia. Faculty and students from partner universities, plus Colombian miners and their advocates, gathered to share project’s findings, collaborations, projects, and to chart a pathway for future research and projects.





Anna-Gray Anderson | Nicholas Bernstein | Madison Sydnor


A Case Study of the Coexistence Model between a Formal Mining Company and the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining Sector in Arequipa, Peru is a capstone project affiliated with CU Boulder’s Masters of the Environment Program (MENV) and partnered with Solidaridad, an international NGO. A mid-scale mining company (MSM) in the Arequipa region of Perú partnered with Solidaridad two years ago to provide technical assistance to the artisanal miners working on the concession. The MENV students’ role is to serve as consultants and identify opportunities to better the coexistence business model between artisanal miners and the mining company through a triple-bottom line approach.

Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) activity accounts for 30% of the mining sector in Perú; mining overall is the country’s number one industry. Artisanal miners are not employed by mining companies, but instead use their own resources to support mining operations. ASM activity makes up 55% of the ore used by the mining company involved in this project. 


There are three main goals in the scope of this project:

Document and analyze the coexistence business model between artisanal miners and the mid-scale Peruvian mining company Document the value Solidaridad has been able to add to the coexistence model through the technical support they have provided thus far Provide recommendations to the mining company to maximize benefits of the coexistence business model in three key themes: expanding the technical support model offered by Solidaridad, providing support to artisanal miners in areas beyond technical assistance, and going beyond ASM coexistence to develop a strategic plan for continuing the mining company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy.

This project aligns with the goals of the MENV program at the University of Colorado Boulder by being the first international capstone project offered through the program. The stakeholder engagement, natural resource management, supply chain, systems-thinking, sustainable community development, and consulting skills students learned throughout this project are necessary in order to address the complex environmental challenges of the 21st Century, which is the goal of the MENV program.


The final deliverables are: (1) a bilingual, high-impact presentation, and (2) a tactical guide to accompany the presentation. This presentation will include key findings and a set of recommendations. The tactical guide will serve as a resource for implementation and provide supporting data. The presentation slide deck and tactical guide will be provided to the mining company and Solidaridad. This guide will also have implementation suggestions and opportunities for further research. Data collected and literature reviewed information will be presented and available as part of this presentation to validate these recommendations.


The team of three masters students spent 12 weeks in spring of 2022 preparing for their fieldwork in Perú. This time was spent creating a literature review of nearly 60 peer-reviewed articles focused on ASM opportunities, challenges, and operations in South America. This time was also spent drafting a team contract and scope of work for the project plan with the input of the partner organization, Solidaridad, and the CEO of the Peruvian mining company. In July-August of 2022, the team spent 8 weeks in Perú conducting participant observation, spending time in Lima, Arequipa, the mine company site, and surrounding local communities. In this time, the team conducted 10 interviews with stakeholders in the government and gold supply chain including: the mining company’s management, Solidaridad administration, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Peruvian government (Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Energy and Mining), the Swiss Better Gold Association, and the Colorado School of Mines. The team fully immersed themselves and lived for 3 weeks in the mine site interacting with artisanal miners, the mining company’s management and employees, and the surrounding communities within the Arequipa region. In all, 36 surveys to artisanal miners were administered and 75 interviews with miners and community members were conducted on topics of trust, capacity building, communication, and techincal assistance.


For Mid-Scale Mining Company

Increased economic value through the coexistence model

Reinforced positive relationships with artisanal miners

Improved CSR strategy and implementation

For Solidaridad

Strengthened international networks to gain new perspectives

Gained objective analysis of their current interventions and methods

Data to support the replication of the coexistence business model

For Students and MENV

Professional development

Increased Spanish language proficiency Exploration of an international NGO setting Increased cross-cultural working competency

Experience working in an immersive, local capacity to perform stakeholder engagement Global networking and career mentorship

10 Stakeholder interviews- private, government, civil society

36 Surveys- artisanal miners

75 Interviews- miners + local community