The Sustainable Minerals Institute opened in 2001 as a new wave of thinking swept through the international minerals industry, centred on the concept of Sustainable Development.

In early 2000, over 20 international mining companies and other commercial and non-commercial sponsors, working through the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, commissioned the Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development Project. The Project aimed to examine the role of the minerals sector in contributing to Sustainable Development. 

Anticipating some of the outcomes of the MMSD Project, UQ developed a proposal for submission to the Queensland State Government to expand the existing minerals-related research capacity and address the wider social and sustainability challenges facing the global resource industry.

In mid 2000, the Queensland State Government announced support for the proposal through an award of $10million and the Sustainable Minerals Institute was established. At the outset, SMI consisted of four Centres: 

This was expanded to include the Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining in 2001, the Centre for Water in the Minerals Industry in 2004, and the International Centre of Excellence in Chile (SMI-ICE Chile) in 2014.

SMI Timeline