Careers in Mining, Geological, Geophysical, and Metallurgical Engineering
In today’s world of high-speed international transactions and data-driven innovation, it can be easy to overlook the wealth beneath our feet. Nonetheless, mineral extraction remains a cornerstone of the national and global economies. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, mines nationwide produced about $82.2 billion in materials in 2018.
The mining industry provides the raw materials that enable continuing economic growth and technological development, from the aluminum used to construct airplanes to the copper for electronic connectors and circuitry. For engineers, mineral extraction also offers a variety of opportunities for rewarding careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top industries where mining and geological engineers find employment are:
- Engineering services
- Metal ore mining
- Oil and gas extraction
- Coal mining
Mining, geological, geophysical, and metallurgical engineers take on the complex challenges involved in mining and construction projects. With sophisticated technical skills and scientific knowledge, you can contribute to making all the processes involved in extracting, transporting, and refining essential resources as safe and efficient as possible.
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Mining Engineering Careers
Mining engineers design and develop mine infrastructure to function efficiently while minimizing dangers to employees and the environment. In many cases, they specialize in locating and processing a single type of metal or mineral. Careers in mining engineering can also require monitoring sites and managing relevant data, planning construction and operations to optimize productivity and profitability.
Mining Engineering Job Descriptions
What does a mining engineer do each day? Their roles can vary and involve many different aspects of finding ore deposits, managing extraction or developing the next generation of equipment. Experts in mining take on responsibilities like:
- Assessing the feasibility of a new site
- Designing mines and developing transportation to processing plants
- Supervising the building of shafts and tunnels
- Writing technical reports
- Monitoring and evaluating mining operations
- Addressing the potential environmental impact of mines
- Collaborating with geoscientists and metallurgical engineers
Mining engineers can be critical to establishing and enforcing environmentally and socially conscious practices. Specialists in sustainable resource development understand the impact that mining operations can have on local people, plants and wildlife. Calling upon a combination of technical knowhow and environmental science allows organizations to make use of minerals for years without exhausting supplies or causing long-term damage in a region.
Mines can be hazardous places to work due to risks like contaminants in the air, collapse, fire and flood. Mining safety engineers protect the well-being of workers and ensure that facilities meet all legal requirements. They may be employed by mining businesses or the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the federal agency that sets and enforces rules governing safety and health in all U.S. mines.
A mine safety engineer may be tasked to:
- Check the structural integrity of roofs and walls in mines
- Track ventilation and air quality in mines
- Inspect mine equipment
- Ensure compliance with federal and state regulations
Mining Engineering Salaries (Entry Level)
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Geological Engineering Careers
Geological engineers synthesize concepts from mining engineering with approaches from disciplines such as petroleum and civil engineering. Drawing on an extensive knowledge of earth science, they locate ore deposits and evaluate whether an area is suitable for mining operations.
Geological Engineering Job Description
Mining organizations rely on geological engineers to find sites and establish best practices for responsibly extracting minerals while addressing concerns about safety and sustainability. With expertise in geomechanics, engineers can manage the unique behaviors and properties of rock masses and inform decisions about mining operations and safety protocols.
Careers with a degree in geological engineering call for:
- Implementing technology to locate minerals and calculate reserves
- Using software tools to gather and analyze data on environmental factors that could impact projects
- Clearly communicating expectations for productivity and the costs of extraction
- Checking sites for potentially dangerous geological conditions
Training and experience as a geological engineer may lead to other positions that call for related skillsets. For example, geotechnical engineering is a field under the umbrella of civil engineering that concentrates on how the characteristics of soil and rock can affect building plans. Meanwhile, project engineers apply their technical knowledge to manage teams through all the phases of design and construction, ensuring that outcomes meet an organization’s needs.
Geological Engineering Salaries (Entry Level)
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Geophysical Engineering Careers
Professionals in geophysical engineering jobs specialize in solving problems by applying geophysics, the analysis of the planet’s physical characteristics and processes. Engineers assist in finding resources and developing the best means for extraction. They may also contribute to the building processes for infrastructure like roads, dams and tunnels.
Geophysical Engineering Job Description
What can you do with a geophysical engineering degree? The insights offered by exploration geophysics allow organizations to identify physical features beneath the Earth’s surface, including ores, groundwater and fossil fuels. Experts in the discipline may take on responsibilities like:
- Using an array of software and hardware tools to take electromagnetic, seismic, gravitational, magnetic, and electrical readings
- Conducting surveys to locate resources
- Taking measurements and generate images to map subsurface features
- Tracking the environmental effects of mining activities
- Investigating potential sites for building or mining and reporting on findings
Geophysical Engineering Salaries
|Job Title||Average Salary|
|Entry-Level Geophysical Engineer||$54,133|
|Mid-Career Geophysical Engineer||$75,908|
Source: Economic Research Institute
Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Careers
Experts in ore and mineral processing can make mining operations more efficient and environmentally responsible. By applying their knowledge of how to separate minerals and metals from their ores, professionals in extractive metallurgy develop innovative solutions to some of the industry’s most pressing challenges.
Metallurgical Engineering Job Description
Metallurgical engineers use methods such as flotation, solution mining, and hydrometallurgy to recover metals and minerals. Mineral processing experts employ equipment like spectrographs and x-ray machines to gain insights as they look for opportunities to improve these processes and ensure the safety of workers. Engineers analyze mining operations to solve problems, offer technical support, and implement best practices.
Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy Salaries (Entry Level)
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Engineering professionals can play a vital role in discovering and harnessing the resources in the planet’s crust. Mining, geological, geophysical, and metallurgical engineers use their scientific knowledge of the Earth and their skills with analytical tools to provide organizations with invaluable information. You can prepare to excel in these roles by learning safe, conservation-minded approaches to unlock the wealth of minerals beneath us.
About the Department of Mining and Geological Engineering at the University of Arizona
The University of Arizona Department of Mining and Geological Engineering has a history dating back to 1891. Today, the department equips students with the latest techniques in analysis, modeling and simulation. Taught by a faculty of leading experts with extensive industry experience, our courses connect technical skills with scientific knowledge, readying professionals to excel in tomorrow’s mining organizations.
Students can pursue an online Master of Engineering in Mining, Geological and Geophysical Engineering or a variety of graduate certificates:
- Graduate Certificate in Geomechanics/Rock Mechanics
- Graduate Certificate in Mining Occupational Safety and Health
- Graduate Certificate in Mine Production and Information Technology
- Graduate Certificate in Mineral Processing and Extractive Metallurgy
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