When many think of mining careers, they picture what they’ve seen in movies: a bunch of coal dusted men digging and hammering through dirt and rock in a dark and thoroughly unsafe workplace. However, while some mining work conditions can indeed be rough, there is also a wider range of careers out there in the mining industry that might attract the interest of everyone from engineers to geologists.
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Perhaps the best-known job in the mining industry is that of the miner itself. Miners are the workers who actually go down into the mines to collect natural resources – be they minerals, metals, gemstones, or any other types of non-renewable materials – and bring them up to the surface where they can be melted down, refined, and used for practical purposes.
While miners are certainly the most widely recognized members of the mining industry, however, they actually aren’t as well understood as one might think. In fact, modern miners can be split into multiple categories, some of whom have very complex and technical job descriptions. Among them are demolition experts, who used dynamite and other explosives to blast through the earth and find deposits of natural resources that can then be mined and accessed more easily. Others are charged with operating the heavy-duty and highly specialized machines that actually drill, dig, and pick away at the deposits to harvest the coveted natural resources themselves.
In the past, people who have worked jobs as miners have often disrespected, or considered to be “unskilled” workers who only worked in the mines because they could not find better employment on the surface. However, this stereotype is today being torn down thanks to evolving mining equipment. As the machinery used in mines becomes more and more powerful and specialized, it is also becoming more complex. Because of this, miners have to bring advanced skillsets and plentiful knowledge and experience to the table; without it, they would not be able to operate the machinery. Modern technology is also making mining safer, but only when the equipment are operated and maintained properly.
Geologists, Explorers, and Scouts
Miners are widely considered the key cogs of the mining industry, if only because they are the people who are actually venturing down into the mines to collect the natural resources and send them up to the surface. However, before miners can get to work in harvesting metals and minerals, they actually have to have a mine to collect them from, and before they can have a mine, someone has to find the geological hotspots where natural resource deposits are actually located.
That’s where the mining careers of geologists, explorers, and scouts come into the equation. The specialists are entrusted with locating new deposits of natural resources, a task that requires a good deal of geological experience and specialty to accomplish. Using seismographs, several other geological tools, and plenty of conjecture, these exploration and scouting teams pinpoint areas that are likely beds of natural resources.
Once these spots have been mapped out, the team goes around drilling the ground and collecting samples from the site that determine whether or not the spots are indeed rich with minerals or other resources. These results give mining companies the information they need to choose the mining locations that will be most profitable and efficient.
Mine Design Specialists
If geologists are the primary players in locating the sites where mines should be built, then engineers are the stars when it actually comes to building them. Taking the information provided by geological explorers and scouts, mine design teams head to the site and plot out a design for the mine. These designs are never boilerplate from one spot to the next: on the contrary, it is the job of the engineers to judge each site independently, assessing how to maximize the direct access to the natural resource deposit and to minimize any environmental consequences of building a mine and disrupting the deposit. Once these considerations have been made, the engineering team can submit its designs to the mining company, which will then go forward with construction.
Engineers can also play numerous other roles in the mining industry, from helping to design the equipment that will be used in the mines to always making sure that mines observe all government regulations and safety benchmarks.
Once a mine has been constructed, it cannot open until it has undergone a safety inspection. As mentioned previously, experienced mining engineers will know to follow all government safety regulations for mine design, whether those regulations come from a state or federal entity. However, given the inherent risks of working underground (and working with potentially dangerous and toxic resources, no less), the engineer is rarely the last word in mine safety.
That title belongs instead to the mine safety inspector, who goes through the structure after it has been built, making sure the mine has followed all government regulations and met all benchmarks put in place to keep miners safe. From stabilization structures meant to minimize the possibility of a mine cave-in to ventilation tunnels to maximize oxygen airflow in the mines, these inspectors have a lot on their minds, and have the authority to shut down a mine – either temporarily or permanently – if they deem the space unsafe for workers.
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No matter the quality of a mine design (or of the equipment used to harvest resources from that mine), the fact is that equipment gets damaged and machinery breaks down when left underground for long periods of time. Everything from dirt and dust to falling rock and extreme heat can cause malfunctions in machinery, and such malfunctions can result in sizable time and monetary losses.
For these reasons, most mines will employ full time mechanics and electricians to keep everything in working order at all times. Electricians are in charge of the wiring in the mine, working to make sure the mine stays powered so that lights don’t black out and electrical machinery doesn’t run out of juice. Meanwhile, mechanics maintain the machinery and equipment itself, making sure that drills, lifts, and other equipment do not break down at inopportune moments.
Choosing the Mining Career That is Right for You
As you can see, there is a much wider array of mining careers out there than most people generally realize. Whether you want to actually work in the mines or not, the mining industry offers various types of engineering jobs (mechanical, electrical, and environmental) and a wealth of job opportunities for geologists, workplace safety specialists, mechanics, electricians, and more. Aside from the compelling career challenges offered by these jobs, many of them also provide ample opportunity to see the world.
So whether you are looking for your first post-college job or are considering that career change you have had brewing in the back of your mind for years, a career in the mining industry is certainly worth a look. With so many different natural resources out there to be mined – and plenty of deposits still to be discovered around the world – finding your way to a mining career could easily end up being the most exciting and rewarding thing you ever do! Udemy can help you make the leap with this awesome course about planning for a career change!