Mining and geological engineers design mines for the safe and efficient removal of minerals, such as coal and metals, for manufacturing and utilities.
Mining engineers work mostly in mining operations in remote locations. However, some work in sand-and-gravel operations located near larger cities.
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Mining and geological engineers typically do the following:
Mining engineers often specialize in one particular mineral or metal, such as coal or gold. They typically design and develop mines and determine the best way to extract metal or minerals to get the most out of deposits.
Some mining engineers work with geologists and metallurgical engineers to find and evaluate new ore deposits. Other mining engineers develop new equipment or direct mineral-processing operations to separate minerals from dirt, rock, and other materials.
Geological engineers use methods grounded in their knowledge of geology to search for mineral deposits and evaluate possible sites. Once a site is identified, they plan how the metals or minerals will be extracted in efficient and environmentally sound ways.
Mining safety engineers draw on their knowledge about mine design and best practices to ensure workers’ safety and to ensure compliance with state and federal safety regulations. They inspect mines’ walls and roofs, monitor the air quality, and examine mining equipment for possible hazards.
Engineers who hold a master’s or a doctoral degree frequently teach engineering at colleges and universities.
Students interested in entering mining engineering programs should take courses in mathematics and science in high school. Relatively few schools offer mining engineering programs. Typical bachelor’s degree programs in mining engineering include courses in geology, physics, thermodynamics, mine design and safety, and mathematics. They involve extensive laboratory and field work as well as traditional classroom study.
Master’s degree programs in mining and geological engineering typically are 2-year programs and include coursework in specialized subjects such as mineral resource development and mining regulations. Some programs require a written thesis for graduation.
Mining and geological engineers work at mining operations in remote locations. However, some work in sand-and-gravel operations that are located near larger cities. More experienced engineers can get jobs in offices of mining firms or consulting companies, which are generally in large urban areas.
The median annual wage of mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers, was $82,870 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $48,950, and the top 10% earned more than $129,700.