Certificate in Global Mine Waste Management

Certificate in Global Mine Waste Management

Gain the knowledge and skills you need to optimally design, evaluate and manage mine waste projects.

The Graduate Certificate in Global Mine Waste Management is a unique program for mining industry professionals who want to stay up to date with the latest developments in tailings and mine waste management. Recent high-profile failures of tailings ponds in British Columbia and Brazil underline the vital importance of understanding and implementing best practices in this field. From day one, this part-time certificate enables you to learn from industry leaders and apply the knowledge you’re gaining in your courses to your workplace and mine sites.

A flexible two-year program that integrates with your work.

The graduate certificate program consists of four core courses taken over two consecutive years. Each four-month course consists of a two-week in-person session held at the UBC Vancouver campus and that includes two or three days at a local mining operation. The on-campus sessions bring together industry professionals from across the globe – enabling you to network with your peers and learn best practices from all mining sectors. The course sessions are offered in an online learning environment and are designed so you can continue working full-time while studying. This flexibility allows you to balance your studies and your career – and to immediately begin applying what you’re learning in class to your work as a mining professional. The combination of condensed on-campus sessions and online learning also enables professionals working in remote mining operations to pursue graduate coursework in mining engineering.

Ladder into an MASc or MEng.

Want to continue your post-graduate studies after completing the certificate? You can apply the credits you’ve acquired through this certificate program to a Master of Engineering or Master of Applied Science degree in mining engineering at UBC.

For more information contact us at:  lifelonglearn@mining.ubc.ca

In conversation with Dirk Van Zyl

The Academic Director of UBC’s new Certificate in Global Mine Waste Management program, Dirk Van Zyl is an internationally renowned mining engineering expert with more than four decades of experience in tailings and wine waste management. We spoke with Dirk in June 2020 to learn about this innovative certificate program.

What led you to create this post-graduate certificate?

Most people learn about mine waste management on the job. And each company approaches it a little differently. It’s not that one approach is correct and another is wrong – just that each company will bring a different level of detail and understanding to the issues at play.

We saw a need to take a more systematic approach – one where mining industry professionals could come together and learn from leaders in the field. We wanted to create a program taught by industry leaders that really focused on the state of practice through case studies and discussions on mine waste management, mine site management and risk management.

What makes this program innovative?

As far as we know, this is the only graduate-level program of its kind. No other institution has pulled together this curriculum taught by leading practitioners.

We know that it’s unrealistic to ask people working in this field to take a year or two away from their careers to do a graduate degree, so we’ve created a hybrid model that blends online and in-person sessions, making it easier for people to complete the degree while continuing to work.

The in-person sessions happen over two weeks, with students coming together at UBC’s campus in Vancouver and learning from and networking with professionals in this area. Vancouver has the largest concentration of mine waste practitioners in the world and they will be connecting with students on campus, as well as during field trips to mines.

Our students will graduate with credits for four graduate courses. This means that once you complete the certificate, you can easily ladder into a Master of Engineering or Master of Applied Science degree at UBC and would only need to complete an additional four courses plus an engineering report to obtain an M.Eng. or two courses plus a thesis to obtain an MASc.

Who is taking this program?

Our first cohort began in February 2020. They’re a wonderful mix of people, with most working in industry and a couple working as consultants. There are some senior people who have been promoted to management positions in mine waste and who want to deepen their technical skills in this specific area. Others are at an earlier stage in their careers. Our hope is that this program will develop an international group of practitioners in mine waste management who will continue to connect with and learn from each other.

Can you tell us about your background in mine waste management?

I’ve worked for many decades in both academia and consulting, with a focus on tailings management, mining closures and sustainable development. I’ve been involved as a consultant after the fact on recent catastrophic tailings failures at the Mount Polley mine in British Columbia and at the Samarco mine in Brazil. You could see in these cases that if different decisions been made to minimize risk we could have avoided environmental and human tragedy.

The global concern that arose after the failure of Vale’s tailings dam in Brumadinho, Brazil – which killed more than 250 people – spurred the desire on the part of many stakeholders to develop an international standard for the safe management of tailings storage facilities.

Over the past year I have been very busy as one of seven members of an expert panel tasked with developing a Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management. There were three co-convenors on this project – the International Council on Mining & Metals, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Principles for Responsible Investment – and I and the other members of the panel spent much time during the past year travelling to many locations around the world to prepare the standard.

The standard outlines a storage facility classification system with requirements for each classification level, a system for independent reviews of tailing storage facilities and requirements for emergency planning. What’s key is its integrated approach: in essence, the standard sets out a broader and integrated view of the environmental, social, technical and governance aspects to be considered in designing and managing tailings storage facilities.

Anything else you want to share?

We hope that this certificate will enable professionals in the field to build their career path in tailings management and that it will help push this area forward in terms of best practice. We’re welcoming our next cohort of students in September and are excited to see the connections developing between students and industry leaders as they advance the state of practice in this field.


Dirk van Zyl is professor and chair of Mining and the Environment at the University of British Columbia. He has more than 40 years’ experience in research, teaching and consulting in tailings and mine rock structures. In the past decade much of his attention has focused on mining and sustainable development.

The 12-credit certificate program provides in-depth knowledge of best practices in mine waste management. Courses in the first year of study focus on advanced mine waste
management and site management, while those in the second year explore risk assessment and mine waste management case studies.

Each course is offered in a blended three-part format:

  • Part 1: Online learning (two months)
  • Part 2: Intensive campus session at UBC (two weeks)
  • Part 3: Final project, completed through online learning (six weeks)


In the online component of each course, assessments include weekly discussion and online assignments. During the two-week on-campus component you’ll be assessed through assignments and quizzes. The online portion for each course will include a final project.

MINE 586 (Advanced Mine Waste Management)

Students will be able to:

  • develop material characterization programs for mine waste materials;
  • design an appropriate mine waste management program for a mine; and
  • outline the basics of a water management system for mine waste management facilities.

MINE 587 (Advanced Mine Site Management)

Students will be able to:

  • develop a corporate governance and stewardship program for mine waste management;
  • develop and implement work scopes and responsibilities for the Engineer of Record for a tailings management facility;
  • compile characterization and mitigation measures of acid drainage and metal leaching based on appreciation of the geochemistry of mine waste facilities; and
  • develop and implement mine closure plans for mine waste management facilities.

MINE 588 (Risk Management for Mine Waste Management)

Students will be able to:

  • identify risks associated with mine waste facilities;
  • develop risk assessments for mine waste facilities; and
  • develop risk management plans for mine waste facilities.

MINE 589 (Mine Waste Management Case Studies)

Students will be able to:

  • develop an understanding of the complexities of the mine waste management field;
  • develop skills in integrated management; and
  • develop a better understanding of successes and failures in the industry.

This certificate program is designed for mining industry professionals who want to deepen their knowledge of best practices in the field without interrupting their career.
We’re looking for people who meet the following requirements:

  • Undergraduate degree: Bachelor of Engineering or Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Mining, Civil or Geological Engineering or a related field or Geosciences from a
    recognized university
  • GPA: Equivalent of a B+ average (at UBC, this is 76%)
  • Work experience: Three or more years of industry experience in tailings or mine waste management
  • An English Language Proficiency Test may be required if you completed your degree at a university where the primary language of instruction was not English

North American admission requirements

Applicants who have a four-year baccalaureate degree (or its academic equivalent) that does not meet the requirements stated above, but who have had significant formal
training and relevant professional experience to offset such deficiencies, may be granted admission on the recommendation of the NBK Institute of Mining Engineering, with
approval of the Master of Engineering Program Office.

International admissions requirements

International applicants are eligible who hold a credential deemed comparable to a Canadian four-year baccalaureate degree and who demonstrate superior academic standing,
equivalent to an overall degree standing of B+ (at UBC 76% or higher). UBC has established specific minimum admission requirements for graduates of different countries. You
can check the minimum academic requirements by country here: https://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/application-admission/minimum-academic-requirements-international-credentials

Ready to deepen your expertise in mining waste management and learn from leaders in the field?

September 2021

The next cohort will be starting in September 2021. This program will run courses as follows:
Year 1: September 2021 to December 2021, including an 2 week synchronous session in early November

Year 2: September 2022 to December 2022, including a 2 week in person session with a field trip planned for the October/ November of 2022.

Application deadlines

The application deadlines are as follows:

  • Round 1: February 1, 2021
  • Round 2: April 1, 2021
  • Round 3: June 1, 2021.

How to apply

  1. Complete and submit the Certificate-Program-Application-Form
  2. Request that each of your three referees supply a reference letter or form. References should be requested from individuals who can provide a report on your professional experience and
    your academic ability and qualifications. They can use one of the reference forms available under the Supporting Documents Tab or write a letter. They should send the completed form or
    reference letter to the department (see address below) in a sealed endorsed envelope from their place of employment. All forms and letters should be in sealed, endorsed envelopes from the
    referee’s place of employment or organization.
  3. During these COVID times we are accepting some application materials by email to: lifelonglearn@mining.ubc.ca.
    You can submit the following materials by email:

    • Application Form
    • Proof of payment of application fee (screenshot)
    • Statement of intent including descriptions of any special projects, research work, employment experience, publications, memberships and awards that are relevant to your area of interest and could assist in evaluating your application.
    • Current CV
    • Signed declaration page
    • If you have unsealed/un-official transcripts for any of your post-secondary course work you can send scans of them.
  4. Official transcripts are eventually required for full admission.  We require official transcripts from all post-secondary studies you have completed (even if a degree was not conferred). Official transcripts will need to be mailed to the department.  To be deemed official they must be in sealed, stamped, endorsed envelopes from the issuing university.  There are also guidelines for translated transcripts.  Please visit the graduate studies website https://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/application-admission/international-students-transcripts. for specific information on what is required for a transcript to be official and how to obtain an official translation if required.  All transcripts should be sent directly to the Department of Mining Engineering at:

UBC Mining Engineering
Graduate Certificate Program
5558 Swordfern Place,
North Vancouver, BC  V7R4T1


A minimum of three references are required for application to graduate programs at UBC. References should be requested from individuals who are prepared to provide a report on your academic ability and professional qualifications. Of the three references,  at least one should be an academic reference.

There are two possible formats for references:

  • Letter of Reference
  • Reference Form

If your referee wants to provide a letter of reference then it must be on the official letterhead of the organization the referee works for.

Your referees also have the option of using a reference form.  Fillable reference forms in PDF or Word format are available for download on the graduate studies website.

There are two types of references: Academic and Professional.

Academic Reference Form: The academic reference form is used in situations where the referee is someone who you have interacted with in an academic setting (e.g. referee was the professor of a course in which you were enrolled).

Professional Reference Form: The professional reference form is used in situations where the referee is someone who you have interacted with in a professional setting (e.g. referee was your supervisor at work).

Please ask your referee to provide a letter of reference or fill out the applicable reference form and mail it in a sealed and endorsed envelope from their organization.  Please send to:

UBC Mining Engineering ,
Graduate Certificate Program,
5558 Swordfern Place,
North Vancouver, BC V7R 4T1



English Proficiency Test

If you are an international applicant and your undergraduate degree is from a university the official language of instruction was not English, you must take and pass one of the following English language proficiency exams:

    • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): minimum score of 90 for the Internet-based exam (with minimum component scores of 22 [reading, listening] and 21 [writing, speaking]).
    • IELTS (International English Language Testing Service): minimum overall band score of 6.5 with no other component score less than 6.0 of the academic (NOT general) IELTS test.

Use the University of British Columbia’s institution code (0965) and the NBK Institute of Mining Engineering department code (69). Give the reason for taking TOEFL “to enter a college or
university as a graduate student.”

Your English language proficiency exam must have been completed within two years of your application submission date.

Tuition and fees

Program costs include annual tuition and student fees, as well as field trip and activity fees.

Year 1 Year 2
Tuition: $10,421 Tuition: $10,421
(subject to annual increase, usually 2%-5%)
Student fees: $930 Student fees: $930
Field trip & activity fees:
Between $1000 and $3000
Field trip & activity fees:
Between $1000 and $3000

Tuition fees

Tuition is charged at approximately $1737 per credit for both domestic and international students, with each course in the program equivalent to three credits. This rate is subject to annual tuition increases established by the university.

Field trip and activity fee

You will be advised of the cost of the annual field trip and activity fee when you are admitted to the program. The fee is subject to change depending on transportation and accommodation costs; however, the maximum fee would be C$3000. We expect the fee to be approximately C$1500 for the next few years. The actual amount will be outlined within the offer of program admission.
The fee will cover the following activities:

          • Welcome lunch for all certificate students
          • SWAG bag/folder
          • Networking event
          • A two- to three-day field trip to visit a mine waste facility (covering the transportation, accommodation and meal costs for the trip)

Student fees

Student fees cover the cost of university resources that benefit students, including U-Pass and AMS/GSS Extended Health Care. If you meet certain requirements, you may be able to opt out of some of the student fees.

To see if you qualify for the U-Pass fee exemption, read the U-Pass FAQ information. If you think you qualify for an exemption, login to the Student Service Centre (SSC) and click on the Financial Summary tab to navigate to the U-Pass fee exemption page. If you already have medical/dental coverage (other than BC MSP), you may be able to apply for an exemption if you meet certain requirements and follow the opt-out procedures. Visit the Student Service Centre (SSC) for more information. You must opt out of these fees within the first two weeks of the program.

Due date

Your admission letter will advise you of the fees you must pay and the deadline for payment, which will depend on the date of the offer and is usually around two weeks from the date of the admission letter. To accept the offer of admission, you must pay the required fees by the deadline.

NEXT START DATE: September 2021

LOCATION: ONLINE with a two week face-to-face in Vancouver

DEPARTMENT: Mining Engineering

Applications: Ongoing

Dr. Dirk van Zyl
Professor and Academic Director
Ms. Carmen Jensen
Director, Master of Engineering and Graduate Certificates for Mining Engineering