Mine Geologist

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Mine Geologist


Gold, coal, emeralds, magnesium, salt, diamonds . . . these are just a few different examples of minerals and gem deposits that mine geologists test and extract. Mine geologists look at rocks in a mine setting, study the relationship of geology to ore formation and drill to identify new ore deposits. They locate, analyze and study the Earth's mineral and rock resources with a focus on safe exploitation. They also control the quality of the mined ore and locate extensions to ore deposits by deciding which areas of an ore body should be mined at a particular time. Ore limits are also defined at the mine, by the geologist based on economic and environmental considerations.

Many mine geologists act as quality control advisors in mines, working to ensure that mines produce quality ore. In a coal mine, for example, geologists go underground and interpret the structure of the coal, by measuring the faults and angles of the rock. Once they extract the data, they produce a series of maps and plans, and help plan the mine. They may also troubleshoot any potential hazards, which may involve more mapping.

Mine geologists also develop mine extraction systems equipment and advise on the extraction of metallic or non-metallic ores from underground or surface mines. Some work closely with mining and metallurgical engineers to locate new ore deposits. Others develop new mining processing operations to separate minerals from the dirt, rock, and other materials with which they are mixed. Mine geologists may also work with environmental protection and rehabilitation of land after mining.

Once they become established, most mine geologists specialize in a specific area such as mine location development, or environmental rehabilitation. With increased emphasis on protecting the environment, many mine geologists work to solve problems related to land reclamation and water and air pollution. After a mine has been drilled and mined dry, a huge land mass sits empty and must be restored when the mining operation has come to a close.

Mine geologists frequently specialize in one particular mineral or metal, such as coal or silver. These specialists are experts within their area of mining geology and build themselves a reputation for a particular mineral within the mine geology field.

Back in the office, mine geologists may use computer-aided design (CAD) systems to study mining operations. The CAD systems create realistic geometric models of objects which can simulate and analyze the effects of site and what minerals are involved.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Mine geologists must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills because they constantly deal with technicians, engineers and business 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 geologists 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  
  • Conduct preliminary surveys and studies of ore and mineral deposits to ascertain the economical and environmental feasibility of potential mining operations
  • Explore mining areas to determine the structure and the types of rocks or minerals that exist
  • Study rock cores, cuttings and samples from mines
  • Advise on the geological suitability of where to drill for ore in mines and assist in determining the economics of extracting earth resources
  • Determine the most suitable means of safely extracting ore and minerals
  • Contribute to environmental assessments such as land use, planning and rehabilitation, pollution studies and the seabed
  • Use computers to integrate and interpret data sets of geological information
  • Prepare geological models and detailed maps to describe processes and predict future problem situations
  • Mine geologists split their time between office work and working in the field. Usually, the latter is the first step in a mining operation and when geologists have extracted all of the relevant information, they go into the office and draw maps and write reports about the quality of ore and the best possible and economic methods of mining. In the office, the hours are fairly standard, however, when working in the field, hours may be much longer, starting at very early hours. Many mines are located in remote locations, therefore strange and long travel may be involved.

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

  Long Term Career Potential  
Experienced mine geologists may decide to set up their own consulting businesses or pair up with geological and metallurgical engineers and open up a large consulting firm that specializes in mining, metals and other gems. They can also become business mining analysts, engineers, move into a new speciality area of geology or become istructors at a postsecondary institution with further education.

  Educational Paths  
The minimum education requirement for mine geologists is a Bachelor of Science honors degrees (BS). A master's or doctoral degree in mine geology may be required for employment as a postsecondary instructor or mine geology researcher and quality control expert. Geologists are eligible for professional registration as a geologist following graduation from an accredited educational program and after several years of supervised work experience and, in some areas, after passing a professional practice examination.

Before choosing a university, make sure the school's geology department has classes with a good selection of courses in mining geology. Another idea is to volunteer doing geology work in a mine, or visiting a mine site -- one of the best things you can do to see if you can see yourself in that role.

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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