Mineralogy Technician

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Mineralogy Technician


Minerals are the basic building blocks of all rocks. They are naturally occurring inorganic substances formed with definite chemical composition and properties. Moonstone, sulfur, dolomite, salt gypsum, diamonds . . . these are just a few different examples of mineral deposits that mineralogy technicians test and extract. Mineralogy technicians assist mineralogists in the study of the chemical makeup and interactions of naturally occurring, inorganic minerals in rock formations. They provide technical support in the field of mineralogy, identifying and classifying minerals and precious stones according to their mode of origin, composition and structure, study the properties of minerals and develop industrial and environmental uses.

Since all of the solid parts of the universe are composed of minerals, this career is truly fundamental in terms of long-range importance to the environment, economy and geology-related industries. For example, understanding the mineral composition of rocks tells oil companies where to drill for oil, which enables scientists to put together broad based theories about the way the earth is changing and thereby helps environmental management companies decide how to dispose of a toxic or hazardous substance.

Mineralogy technicians might specialize in one of two broad areas of mineralogy: high and low temperature geochemistry. High temperature, or high pressure geochemistry studies of the formation of minerals and rocks deep in the crust or in volcanoes. Low temperature geochemistry studies the behavior of minerals reacting under conditions near the surface of the earth. Both exploration methods help these technicians search for buried ore deposits by detecting trace amounts of metals and minerals in water, plant, soil, sediment and rock samples. Mineralogy technicians help scientists and engineers identify where minerals are located by analyzing trace quantities of chemicals.

Many mineralogy technicians work in the mining industry, and assist in mine and cave mineral exploration. They may supervise the extraction of ores from underground or surface mines. They might also come up with methods for the responsible, safe, economical and environmentally sound operation of mines. Mineralogy technicians may also troubleshoot any potential hazards, which may involve making maps for mines.

Mineralogy technicians frequently specialize in one particular mineral or metal, such as coal or silver. These specialists are experts within their area of mineralogy and build themselves a reputation for a particular mineral within the mineralogy and mine geology field.
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  Interests and Skills  
Mineralogy technicians must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills because they constantly deal with engineers and technologists. They should have a natural aptitude for mathematics and science and be able to visualize three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional drawings, which is not an easy task. Mineralogy technicians 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  
  • Participate in prospecting field trips, exploratory drilling or underground mineral survey programs
  • Assist in research and analysis of the quantity and distribution of minerals in rocks
  • Help classify and identify minerals to assess depositional environments and geological age
  • Explore mining areas to determine the structure and the types of minerals that exist
  • Operate and maintain survey instruments and equipment
  • Collect and analyze rock samples in mineralogical surveys
  • Work under the direction of scientists and engineers about mineral and rock projects
  • Write reports, prepare notes and sketches about the findings from research and surveying
  • Assist in the preparation of rock and mineral samples and in conducting laboratory tests
  • Carry out a limited range of other technical functions in support of mineralogists
  • Mineralogy technicians spend the majority of their working time in the field, assisting in data collection. Some time is spent in the lab, but this is a field for people who like to work outdoors. Travel can be quite extensive and foreign, particularly since much of the new mineral exploration work is happening overseas. Those working for the government will generally work standard hours, however those in private companies and in environmental management will find themselves working long hours, which may include weekend emergency work.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Mineralogy technicians work in both the public and private sectors. They are employed by mineral and mining companies, geochemical companies, petroleum and oil companies, and geology, geophysics and engineering consulting firms. In the public sector they work for all levels of the government and also teach at high schools and colleges.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Opportunities for advancement as a mineralogy technician include becoming a team leader, supervisor or manager in the mineralogy field. With further education, they can become mineralogy technologists, engineers and even teach at the high school or vocational school level.

  Educational Paths  
Mineralogy technicians usually require completion of a one- or two-year college program in mineralogy or mineral engineering technology. Certification in mineral technology or in a related field is available through associations of technicians and may be required by some employers. Usually, a two-year period of supervised work experience is required before one can become a certified mineralogy technician.

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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