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Mine Ventilation Engineer


Description

Underground mining operations require clean air for workers to breathe and for equipment to work. That is why mine ventilation engineers are such an important part of the mining industry. Without their safety programs and procedures, there would undoubtedly be more health related incidents than already occur. Deep underground mines are filled with dust, poor ventilation and toxic fumes, amongst other problems. Therefore, the goal of the mine ventilation engineer is to eliminate all ventilation safety and health risks. Mine ventilation engineers must supply fresh air at tolerable heat and humidity levels and remove noxious gases from the mine atmosphere. They maintain mine workers' health by developing mine standards, policies, guidelines and regulations. The best method for controlling these contaminants is to prevent their formation or dilute the contaminants so they are no longer dangerous.

Mine ventilation engineers must consider the velocity of air entering and exiting a mine, study the air quality and inspect all air ducts and fans to make sure the circulation is clean. They will apply different ventilation control techniques such as dust control, explosion proof seals, permanent ventilation seals and gas drainage systems. Mine ventilation engineers must counsel employees on how to deal with heat stress, fatigue, cramps and hygiene issues related to heat, such as rashes or "prickly heat." They encourage drinking water and wearing oxygen and gas masks when working in areas that contain toxic gases and plants. Additionally, they must educate and try to prevent common illnesses amongst miners, such as pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (which also happens to be the longest word in the English language); a disease of the lungs caused by inhaling dust particles. Many miners lose their lungs from this preventable disease.

Mine safety engineers must continually perform atmospheric tests and monitor the air flow, oxygen content, flammability rates and toxic contaminants in the air. Some will use methane detectors and carbon monoxide registers to make sure toxic levels are non-existent. By continually monitoring the safety levels of these potential problem areas, major and minor ventilation-related accidents and unnecessary deaths can be prevented.

Mine ventilation engineers use traditional and computer-aided design (CAD) systems to design mining safety operations that analyze the effects and potential problems of certain safety methods. They are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advancements in the mining field.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$36,720
 
Median Salary:
$61,770
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$93,660

  Interests and Skills  
Mine ventilation engineers must be devoted to the health and safety of miners. Therefore they are usually sympathetic, socially oriented people. They have excellent communication and interpersonal skills because they constantly deal with miners, technicians, scientists and clients. They should have a natural aptitude for mathematics and science (especially chemistry and physics) and be able to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings, which is not an easy task.

Mine ventilation engineers should be able to make quick, logical decisions, adapt from an office environment to a laboratory or mine site and be able to supervise and lead others.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Apply theories and techniques of mining ventilation and safety engineering
  • Study and advise miners on the ventilation systems of underground mining areas
  • Test air quality to detect concentrations of toxic gases and explosive dusts, using safety lamps, methane detectors, carbon monoxide registers and anemometers
  • Recommend alteration or installation of ventilation shafts, partitions or equipment to remedy inadequate air circulation
  • Apply principles of mining engineering and human engineering to design protective equipment and safety devices
  • Advise on the training of mine personnel to use accepted mining practices designed to prevent accidents
  • Administer first aid in case of accidents
  • Mine ventilation engineers usually split their working time among the office, the laboratory and on-site at mines. At mine-sites, they are required to wear protective equipment such as safety boots, gloves, hard hats, glasses and hearing protection and require that all employees wear the same gear. They may also work in enclosed or high spaces, conducting experiments, which can often be hot, tiring, dirty and dusty. Since most mines are located in remote locations, mine ventilation engineers must be prepared to travel and fly in and out to on-site work. Mine ventilation engineers generally work nine to ten hour days and approximately 50-hour weeks. Longer hours and weekend shifts will be required when deadlines are approaching.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Mine ventilation engineers often work where mineral deposits are located -- commonly near small isolated communities. However, mine ventilation engineers can also commute from a city by plane to the site. Also, those engaged in research, design, management, consulting or sales may work in metropolitan areas. Mine ventilation engineers are most commonly employed by mining, metal, non-metal and coal companies, state or federal governments, equipment manufacturers, consulting companies, engineering contractors, research facilities and universities.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced mine ventilation engineers may decide set up their own consulting businesses or pair up with geological and metallurgical engineers and open up a larger consulting firm that specializes in mining, safety and other gems. They can also become construction contractors, safety inspectors in other disciplines, business mining analysts, geologists, move into a new specialty area of engineering or become instructors at a postsecondary institution with further education.
 

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics and science. Most university programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Mine ventilation engineers require a bachelor's degree in mining engineering or in a related engineering field. Then, they must also become registered as a professional engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practice in their field. Some engineers also get master's degrees in a specific area, such as geological engineering.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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