Mining and geological engineers seek, extract, and prepare minerals, metallic ores, nonmetallic ores, coal, and stone and gravel for building materials to be used by utilities and manufacturing industries. They must conduct preliminary surveys of undeveloped mines or deposits and then plan their development, examine mines or deposits to ascertain whether they can be mined at a profit, make topographical and geological surveys, and adapt methods of mining to best suit the type, character, and size of the deposits. They are responsible for designing open pit and underground mines, often using computers, while also supervising the construction of underground tunnels and mine shafts. They are also responsible for the economical and environmental safety of mine operations.
In 2008, the median wage per year for a mining and geological engineer was $75,960. Salaries vary according to location, level of experience and education, and employer.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Mining and geological engineers need to have a bachelor’s degree. A graduate degree may be necessary for research positions. Engineering programs usually involve courses of a certain specialty in combination with math and physical science courses.
Requirements for admission into an undergraduate engineering program include a background in science, math, social studies, humanities, and English. Though most programs last four years, some students may need five. The first two years are often focused on the basic math, sciences, humanities, introduction to engineering, and social sciences. The last two years are concentrated on engineering study. New graduates often work under the direction of an experienced engineer before acquiring projects that entail more responsibility.
Job Description and Outlook
Mining and geological engineers create methods of transportation for getting minerals and metals to processing plants. A mining engineer may work with geologists and metallurgical engineers to locate and appraise newly found deposits of coal, metals, or minerals. They must select locations and plan mine operations, specifying labor usage, processes, and equipment for the safe and economical extraction of ores and minerals. They examine drilling locations, maps, deposits and mines in order to determine the potential profits of mining the deposits. They prepare reports, schedules, and estimates of costs for developing mines. Engineers also supervise technologists, technicians, survey personnel, scientists, engineers, and other mine personnel. Using computers, they design and implement applications for use in mine design, mapping, modeling, or monitoring conditions within the mine.
Mining engineers often specialize in the production of one certain type of mineral or metal, like coal or gold. Due to the rising need to protect the environment, mining engineers are working to solve problems involving air and water pollution and land reclamation. Safety engineers in this line of work use their knowledge of mine design and practices to ensure the safety of workers and to meet state and federal safety regulations and guidelines. They must inspect roof and wall surfaces, monitor the quality of the air, and examine equipment for compliance with guidelines.
Mining engineers may work inside buildings; but, they also may work frequently in the mines on site, which often means working underground. Frequent and extensive travel is usually required. Engineers might work a standard 40-hour week, but deadlines could require overtime. In some instances, travel overseas or extended stays in foreign countries may be necessary to aid in foreign mining activities.
Good mining and geological engineers should be creative, detail-oriented, inquisitive, and analytical. They must possess good communication skills, both oral and written, and must be able to work well with others. They need to be proficient in the use of computers and the internet. Jobs with defense contractor engineers or the federal government may require the individual to gain security clearance.
Employment for mining and geological engineers is expected to grow at a faster than average rate. This growth, predicted to be at 15% over the next decade, will occur because of increased worldwide demand for minerals. Also, a large number of mining and geological engineers are approaching the age of retirement and will need to be replaced. That, combined with the fact that only a few schools even have a mining engineering program, and only a relatively small number of engineers graduate each year, will ensure that jobs are readily available for this position. The best job opportunities will require frequent travel and possibly extended periods of living in other countries. More mining operations around the world are recruiting graduates from the United States. Participating in continuing education and training is important in keeping up with the competition in this field.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Engineers in all fifty states are required to be licensed. Once licensed, engineers are known as professional engineers, or PEs. A license can be obtained with a degree from an ABET accredited engineering program, in addition to four years of work experience and the successful completion of a state exam. A license obtained in one state is valid in all states.
Mining and geological engineers may join the professional association called the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration.