A COMPLETE GUIDE TO PROSPECTING FOR A CAREER IN MINING
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Finding a career in mining can be a mine field. (Pardon the pun.) We created this Mining Jobs Guide to help identify where your future may lie.
The mining industry is a broad term encompassing multiple industries which can each be broken down further into . Picture nesting dolls of mineral extraction and processing specialties, and you’ll have a good mental model of the industry’s structure. This guide will walk you through the different types of mining jobs available around the world.
The three broad categories of mining enterprises are best described as steps along the Resource Extraction Continuum.
Resource Extraction Continuum
+ Step One includes the mining industries associated with locating, extracting, and separating resources.
+ Step Two includes industries that smelt and refine the extracted resources, and all the equipment, tools, and processes used in this process.
+ Step Three includes industries related to processing raw material for use in manufacturing finished goods.
Asking “What kind of mining jobs are out there for me?” is like asking “What kind of animals live in the ocean?” Where do we even begin? Because the opportunities in mining run the gamut from Pickaxe-Wielder to Virtual Reality Model Developer, we’ve created a flow chart to help narrow down the possibilities to a more manageable set:
Now that we have a list of some of the broad buckets of opportunities, we can break down what types of work those entail, and what types of education or experience is required to get started.
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Roles within the Mining Industry
PROSPECTING / GEOLOGY
While the job title of Prospector might make you imagine a character from an old Western film shouting “There’s gold in them thar hills!”, today’s reality is substantially less colorful. Instead, prospecting is now the realm of geographers, geoscientists, and hydrologists with Master’s degrees. Specifically these individuals study the properties of natural structures to explore for minerals that may be buried beneath the surface.
Education Requirement: Degree in Geology or Materials Science
Bonus if you have: a white beard and a crooked finger
Salary Range: $80k-120k per year
A Metallurgical Engineer will spend a great deal of time getting to know electron microscopes, spectrographs, and X-ray machines. Specifically, they work to optimize the process of separating metal from ore (Extractive Metallurgy) or refining extracted metal (Physical Metallurgy).
Education Requirement: Degree in Materials Science or Metallurgy
Bonus if you have: a mutation that gives you control over metal, a la Magneto
Salary Range: $75k-90k per year
A Process Engineer typically works near the mining site to create detailed plans for all three steps of the Resource Extraction Continuum. These engineers also oversee testing and research associated with the processes, and sometimes work closely with Data Scientists to create process characterization models.
Education Requirement: Degree in Chemical, Manufacturing, or Industrial Engineering
Bonus if you have: a massive, pulsating brain
Salary Range: $80k-140k per year
Over the past decade, Data Science has made its way into every field of work and study known to man, and mining is no exception. Importantly, machine learning can help prospectors identify deposit patterns, and data analysis on accidents leads to improvements in mine safety. Additionally, data from equipment sensors can be harvested and modeled to decrease resource losses from the extraction process.
Education Requirement: Degree in Mathematics or Computer Science
Bonus if you have: a diverse set of pocket protectors
Salary Range: $70k-130k per year
Because a mine is such an expensive and complicated operation, stakeholders will want to see a high-level model of how their investment will operate. At this point, a Geologist who can use 3D mine planning tools can offer support. Not only do the models tell the story, but also they are instrumental in being able to design optimal plans. In the best cases, these enable the most efficient extraction possible using the least amount of equipment, energy, and resources possible.
Education Requirement: Degree in Geology, with additional training in Modeling Tools
Bonus if you have: a secret desire to be a 3D game character artist
Salary Range: $80k-120k per year
A lab technician with a mining emphasis will oversee the handling of samples taken from the mines to ensure they’re properly prepared for analysis. This person gets to play with spectrophotometers, drying ovens, pulverizers, splitters, and all sorts of other analytical instruments. Specifically their work focuses on testing samples for various properties to help inform the operation in real-time. Expect to work on-site, and expect a bit of pressure from the process engineers waiting on your results to determine their next move.
Education Requirement: High School Diploma Required; Degree in Chemistry, Biology, or other science preferred
Bonus if you have: a love of pouring things from one beaker into another while laughing like a villian
Salary Range: $50k-80k per year
If the mining equipment maintenance group is a toolkit, then the welder is the swiss army knife. Understandably, mines are tough on equipment, and a welder is always on standby to perform repairs. Once in a while these welders harness the raw power of blazing fire through their mighty tools. Otherwise they are expected to maintain equipment and inspect the work of other welders for quality.
Education Requirement: High School Diploma or GED
Bonus if you have: pyromania
Salary Range: $30k-60k per year
A millwright is the mechanic who installs, maintains, and repairs all industrial machinery in the mine. Specifically they service everything from hydraulics, to pneumatics, to drilling systems. This job can be very different depending on whether or not it’s performed within a unionized environment.
Education Requirement: High School Diploma or GED, with various heavy equipment certifications
Bonus if you have: no fear of heights
Salary Range: $50k-80k per year
The two main categories of sales are Inside and Outside, which in the case of a mining equipment salesman are literal descriptions of the workplace options. An Inside Sales Rep will spend most of their time on the phone, serving as a technical consultant with Process Engineers trying to determine who to outfit their mines with the right tools. An Outside Sales Rep will do the same, but while wearing a hardhat on-site. Both require an in-depth understanding of the customers’ applications and needs, and the ability to communicate with everyone in the sales cycle – from Engineers to Purchasing Manager. Mining equipment is very expensive, which means potentially huge commissions.
Education Requirement: High School Diploma required, Bachelor’s Degree preferred
Bonus if you have: a winning smile
Salary Range: $50k-150k per year (based on success and commission structure)
A survey technician will collect geotechnical data for use by Engineers, and will produce plans for use by the technical team. Additionally, this will require a high degree of organization and computer literacy, as the surveyor must use CAD tools and make analytical calculations. However, all of this pales in comparison to the most exciting part of the job – getting to design dynamite blast patterns! Who doesn’t like explosions?
Education Requirement: High School Diploma or GED; Surveying certification
Bonus if you have: a soul with the perfect balance of order and chaos
Salary Range: $30k-80k per year
In conclusion, the opportunities to work within the mining sector are vast. A great first step is researching each discipline to determine which area interests you the most. From there, you can explore the opportunities available in your region as well as the education requirements and salary expectations.