Caterpillar has announced a new partnership with South Dakota Mines to explore technologies such as autonomous robotic mining, advanced software used to manage mining and construction operations, and new equipment that increases efficiency and safety. In a release, the company says these technological advancements will increase natural resource sustainability while improving productivity and promoting economic development.

“This agreement is great news for the university and for the economy,” says SD Mines President Jim Rankin. “The South Dakota mining industry employs more than 2,000 people who produce more than $500 million in products annually. This partnership builds on those past successes and will yield new business opportunities and a fantastic return on investment for the whole region.”

South Dakota Mines will help lead the Cat Labs MineStar Consortium, which the release says will bring together faculty and students with Caterpillar engineers and researchers to help build “the next generation of mining and construction technology.” The partnership could involve a range of projects from research and development in surface mining and reclamation in places like the Powder River Basin, to the development of an underground area to test robotic mining equipment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility. The vision for the consortium can include other institutions, such as Western Dakota Tech. South Dakota Mines says it will work closely with all organizations in the consortium.

The university’s partnership with Caterpillar comes alongside an effort to add a new building on campus that includes three departments: The Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, the Department of Mining Engineering and Management and the Department of Materials and Metallurgical Engineering. SD Mines says it is one of only five universities in the United States to have all three departments on campus.

The release says SD Mine’s central location makes it well-positioned to foster an innovation hub for mining. It says the agreement with Caterpillar has potential to yield opportunities like the development of spin-off companies and start-ups that advance the overall economy of the region, while promoting a new paradigm of mining with environmental stewardship at its core.

The South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota, is a public university offering 20 engineering and science disciplines. Founded in 1885, it offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. For more information, visit