The Earth Engineering Center (EEC) was formed in 1995 by the Vice Provost, the Henry Krumb School of Mines, and the School of Engineering of Columbia University. Its mission was to direct engineering research on processes and products that balance the increasing use of materials and the finite resources of the Earth.
EEC has introduced the Industrial Ecology, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and Thermal Processing of Biomass and Wastes (WTE) at Columbia University. As of 1998, the historic Henry Krumb School of Mines, the first (1864) mining and metallurgy school in the U.S. includes the Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering (EAEE), the first such program in the U.S., the Materials Science Program, and the Earth Engineering Center. EEC has contributed to the formation of EAEE which now includes several research centers.
As of 2000, EEC concentrated on advancing sustainable waste management in the U.S. and globally. A major program is the Global WtERT Council with sister organizations in several countries, including Brazil, China, Germany, Greece, India, Italy, and the U.K.
In 2019, Prof. Xi Chen of EAEE took over from Prof. Nickolas Themelis as director of EEC. Prof. Chen is also managing the Advanced Materials research program of EEC.