Mining Jobs | A Complete Guide To Prospecting for a Career in Mining

The mining industry is a broad term that nests within itself in the company of multiple industries with their own levels of sub-industries.  Imagine Russian 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 suite of industries associated with locating, extracting, and separating resources.

+ Step Two includes the set of industries that smelt and refine the extracted resources, and all the equipment, tools, and processes therein. 

+ Step Three includes industries related to processing raw material for use in manufacturing everything from semiconductors to batteries to grapefruit spoons.

Asking “What kind of jobs are there in the mining industry?” 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 dizzying array of possibilities to a more manageable set of categories:

mining jobs table

Mining Careers Flow Chart  |  Click To Expand

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 and experience is required to get started.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Roles within the Mining Industry

PROSPECTING / GEOLOGY

While the job title of Prospector invariably conjures up images of a wild-eyed, white-bearded old man pointing a crooked finger to the west while shouting “There’s gold in them thar hills!”, today’s reality is substantially less colorful. Prospecting is now the realm of geographers, geoscientists, and hydrologists with Master’s degrees who 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

 

METALLURGICAL ENGINEERING

A Metallurgical Engineer will spend a great deal of time getting to know electron microscopes, spectrographs, and X-ray machines in order 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

 

PROCESS ENGINEERING

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

 

DATA ANALYTICS

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.  Machine learning can help prospectors identify deposit patterns, data analysis on accidents leads to improvements in mine safety, and, most lucratively, 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

 

SITE MODELING

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.  This is where a Geologist who can use 3D mine planning tools swoops in.  Not only do the models tell the story, but they are instrumental in being able to design optimal plans that 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

 

Non-Stem Roles

LABORATORY TECH

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 as they test 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 maniacally

Salary Range:  $50k-80k per year

 

WELDING

A welder is the swiss army knife of the mining equipment maintenance toolkit.  Mines are tough on equipment, and a welder is always on standby to perform repairs.  When not actively harnessing the raw power of blazing fire through your mighty tools, you’ll be 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

 

MILLING

A millwright is the mechanic who installs, maintains, and repairs all industrial machinery in the mine.  You’ll service everything from hydraulics, pneumatics, gears, shafts, motors, belts, and 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

 

EQUIPMENT SALES

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)

 

SURVEYING

A survey technician will collect geotechnical data for use by Engineers, and will produce plans for the use by the technical team.  This will require a high degree or 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

 

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