Mineral and Materials Characterization Facility

The Mineral and Materials Characterization (MMC) Facility comprises several research laboratories within the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering that are dedicated to mineral and material characterization and analytical application developments. The facility supports and collaborates with students and researchers from Mines, researchers from state or federal research agencies, and offers services to members from the minerals, materials, energy, and environmental industries.

Research in the MMC Facility focuses on a wide range of geoscience applications, ranging from fundamental geology and planetary sciences to energy research and environmental studies. Particular emphasis is placed on the mineral lifecycle, which includes research benefiting early-stage exploration, mining, mineral beneficiation and remediation efforts such as the recycling of tailings materials and proactive waste management. Microanalytical research is integrated with field work and cutting-edge data analysis techniques such as machine learning. Ongoing research projects focus on magmatic and hydrothermal systems, with an emphasis on the formation, distribution, and residence of precious and base metals, and critical elements such as Co, Ge, Zn and the REEs. Research is conducted on several different deposit types with case studies being performed on systems of different geological ages (Research Group – Dr. Katharina Pfaff).

The MMC Facility was established in 2012 as a state-of-the-art analytical facility at Mines. In 2015, a partnership with Tescan was established, allowing the lab to acquire a field emission-scanning electron microscope and an automated mineralogy system. Both instruments are used for student teaching and research. Since 2015, the MMC Facility has offered research experience opportunities for four undergraduate students and provided hands-on training for >200 undergraduate and >400 graduate students as part of their course work at Mines.

The MMC Facility is currently undergoing rapid expansion. In 2019, a partnership was established with Bruker, one of the world’s premier instrumentation manufacturers, allowing the establishment of a demo and applications development laboratory and in 2022, the automated mineralogy system AMICS (Bruker) on a Hitachi FE-SEM platform (SU5000) was added. Over the past years, the MMC Facility has also been working closely with the U.S. Geological Survey in Lakewood in anticipation of the move of this federal agency and its laboratories on campus in 2026. The MMC Facility is excited to engage in collaborative research with students and researchers from academia and federal agencies as well as offering services to external customers. Interested students are encouraged to inquire regarding research and internship opportunities at the MMC Facility.


Dr. Katha Pfaff
Department of Geology and Geological Engineering
Colorado School of Mines
1516 Illinois Street
Golden, CO 80401
Phone: 303-384-2487
Email: kpfaff@mines.edu