By Liz Warren-Pederson
“Our team originally formed the first week of the entrepreneurship program around a concept focusing on the reprocessing of old mine tailings and waste remaining from past mining operations,” said Eller MBA graduate Kevin Pieters, who will complete his master’s in environmental planning in 2011.
“The intent was to take advantage of the waste minerals left behind at a time when they had no real value,” he continued. “Recent advances — including solar panel manufacturing — create new demand for some of these materials, such as cadmium telluride, indium, gallium, and selenide.”
Over the course of the semester, Pieters, along with engineering grad student Michal Romanowski and soil, water, and environmental science grad student Richard Rushford, refocused the venture around research they were each individually pursuing.
“We came up with the idea of reclaiming polluted and degraded lands through our revegetation process and novel solar power installation techniques,” he explained.
The resulting venture, TerraVoyant LLC, is a reclamation method that couples the team’s proprietary revegetation process with solar power generation to transform the liability of polluted and degraded lands left over from mining operations into an economically and environmentally beneficial state. “We provide a spectrum of solutions ranging from site assessment and consulting services for existing mining operators or land owners to full-scale project development and implementation,” Pieters said.
During the course of the program, they collaborated with the Mineral Resources Program in the UADepartment of Geosciences and a local mining operation to develop a test plot. Funding from the McGuire Center’s Hearst Foundation Experiential Learning Fund provided resources for their proof of concept. They filed their LLC application this summer.
“With the current state of the economy and job market, sitting around waiting for a job just seems like a waste of time,” Pieters said. “The opportunity to develop green jobs is a win-win for all. We all would much rather be pursuing work beneficial to the world in which we live while at the same time earn a profit, over waiting for a job to find us.”