Mining engineering focuses on efficiently extracting minerals from the earth through the construction of mines and tunnels. Projects involve the exploration and discovery of resources, feasibility studies, mine structure designs, extraction planning and operation. Commodities such as coal, natural gas and metals are mined. Mitigating the damage to the natural environment must be considered during mining projects as landscapes and habitats can potentially be destroyed.
An open quarry coal based mine in Australia. Source: www.africadata.com
The discovery of ores is the first stage of a mining project. An ore is a rock that contains concentration of a mineral that can be economically mined. A mining engineer may work with geologists and surveyors during the exploration phase. When ores are found they are samples are taken and analysed to determine to quantity and quality of the minerals that are to be extracted. A feasibility study is then conducted to calculate whether the project is likely to be profitable. Mining techniques involve using explosives (blasting) and separation methods (using magnetic, gravitational and buoyancy forces among others). Once the ores are extracted the minerals are refined through extractive metallurgy techniques such as smelting, which involve applying heat and chemicals to the ores to extract a mineral.
Mining has been around for thousands of years with the Romans developing large scale methods using hydraulic mining. Explosives began to be used in the 17th century and further developments were made during the Industrial Revolution. Today mining engineering is a thriving industry offering many travel opportunities around the world, often in remote locations.
A mining engineer must ensure the safety of the mines and also limit the damage caused to the natural environment before and after projects. A mining engineer may often lead and manage teams and project management roles will require being responsible for budgeting as well as ensuring projects are run in accordance with health, safety and environmental policy.
Skills and Expertise
Structural Engineering knowledge
Mechanical Engineering knowledge
Project and Supplier Management
Comprehensive knowledge of extraction methods
Mining specific software (Maptek, Carlson etc.)
Mining safety engineer
Test Sampler / Research and Development Engineer
UK: Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME), Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers (IGEM), Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3),
USA: American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers (AIME), Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE)