History of the Intercollegiate Mining and Mucking Contest

The inaugural Intercollegiate Mining and Mucking Contest was held on April 21, 1979 at the University of Idaho. The contest, envisaged by University of Idaho students as a mining competition, was created to be similar to local logging competitions. The University of Utah, South Dakota Tech, New Mexico Tech, Eastern Washington University, Montana Tech, University of Arizona, Michigan Tech, and host University of Idaho participated in the event. Contestants participated in the hand drilling, jackleg drilling, spike driving and hand mucking events followed by a Tug-O-War with mining students against the foresters resulting in the miners pulling the foresters into the log burling pond. During the initial years, a beer chugging contest was held before the competition began. This event has since been discontinued as the minimum legal drinking age changed. The University of Arizona took home top honors at the first competition, earning them the right to host the 2nd event.

Over the years, rules have been modified, events added, and the competition expanded. The first women’s teams competed in 1982 and co-ed teams were added along the way. Spike driving was dropped early but swede saw, gold panning, track stand, and survey were added. The original muck car was a one-ton end dump car and now each host has their own size and shape of muck car (home town advantage?). Hand steel has evolved from using mason star bits from local hardware stores to custom made steels.

See the 1st annual competition brochure »

Today’s Intercollegiate Mining and Mucking Contest

Over the years, teams representing international universities from Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany and Holland have competed. Competitions have been held in the United States, Australia and Cornwall, and the United Kingdom. Montana Tech is the only school who has competed in every competition since 1979. Montana Technological University will host the 46th International Mining Competition from March 21–23, 2024 in Butte, Montana.

Register for the 46th International Mining Competition

The Montana Tech mining team in Kalgoorlie, West Australia
Two Montana Tech’s men’s mining teams competed in Kalgoorlie, West Australia in 2023.

The Sunshine Trophy

Beginning in 1981, the winning team of Annual Intercollegiate Mining and Mucking Competition would be presented the trophy on behalf of Sunshine Mining Company. Mr. Ken Lonn, Sunshine Mine supervisor and experienced hard-rock miner, designed and built the trophy. The Sunshine Mining Company retains title and ownership of the trophy should the competition ever cease. Each year, the winning school is responsible for engraving and mounting a brass plate noting the year and school and to pass the trophy on to the next winner. The folklore of the Sunshine Trophy is in honor of the miners, who perished during the Sunshine Mine Disaster of 1972 is noble, but incorrect.

Read more about the origin of the Sunshine Trophy »

The 2019 mining team winning the Sunshine Trophy in Virginia City, Nevada.
Montana Tech won the Sunshine Trophy in 2019 in Virginia City, Nevada at the competition hosted by the UNR Mackay School of Earth Sciences and Engineering.

Recollections about the Intercollegiate Mining and Mucking Contest by Robin McCulloch, mining engineering, and Tim Arnold, faculty member in the Department of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno

38th Annual Intercollegiate Mining Games
Montana Tech hosted the 38th Annual Intercollegiate Mining Games in April of 2016. Students studying mining engineering and other engineering disciplines for all over the United States and as far as Australia, England and Brazil.