Mining is an Exciting and Interesting Career Area 

The mining industry consists of the search for, extraction, beneficiation, and processing of naturally occurring solid minerals from the earth. These mined minerals include coal, metals such as iron, copper, or zinc, and industrial minerals such as potash, limestone, and other crushed rocks. Metals and other minerals are an essential source of raw materials for the building and chemical industries and are also a critical part of the production of everyday electronics and consumer products.

The mining industry plays an important role in the economy. As a supplier of coal, metals, industrial minerals, sand, and gravel to businesses, manufacturers, utilities and others, the mining industry is vital to the well being of communities across the country. Minerals are essential to nearly every aspect of our lives and our economy, including utilities, the primary metals industry, non-metallic minerals industry (glass, cement, lime, ceramics), and the construction industry.

Employment and Career Opportunities in Mining

Mining operations are often the leading employers in the communities where they operate. More than 300,000 people work directly in the mining industry. Mining supports careers in many production, management, technology and scientific roles.  These include heavy equipment operators, engineers, chemists, geologists, and environmental conservationists.

Mining and Quarrying – Industry Description

The Mining and Quarrying industry comprises companies that extract naturally occurring mineral solids, such as coal and ores. The term mining is used in the broad sense to include quarrying, beneficiating (e.g., crushing, screening, washing, and flotation), and other preparation customarily performed at the mine site, or as a part of mining activity.

The Mining and Quarrying sector distinguishes two basic activities: mine operation and mining support activities. Mine operation includes establishments operating mines and quarries on their own account or for others on a contract or fee basis. Mining support activities include establishments that perform exploration and/or other mining services on a contract or fee basis.

Types of Mining

Coal Mining companies are primarily engaged in one or more of the following: (1) mining bituminous coal, anthracite, and lignite by underground mining, auger mining, strip mining, culm bank mining, and other surface mining; (2) developing coal mine sites; and (3) beneficiating (i.e., preparing) coal (e.g., cleaning, washing, screening, and sizing coal).

Metal Ore Mining companies are primarily engaged in developing mine sites or mining metallic minerals, and in ore dressing and beneficiating (i.e., preparing) operations, such as crushing, grinding, washing, drying, sintering, concentrating, calcining, and leaching. Beneficiating may be performed at mills operated in conjunction with the mines served or at mills, such as custom mills, operated separately. Examples of metal ores include,

  • Iron Ore Mining
  • Gold Ore Mining
  • Silver Ore Mining
  • Copper, Nickel, Lead, and Zinc Mining
  • Other Metal Ore Mining – Illustrative Examples: Antimony, Tantalum, Columbite, Tungsten, Ilmenite, Uranium-radium-vanadium ores mining, and/or beneficiating Molybdenum ores.

Nonmetallic Mineral Mining and Quarrying companies are primarily engaged in developing mine sites, or in mining or quarrying nonmetallic minerals (except fuels). Also included are certain well and brine operations, and preparation plants primarily engaged in beneficiating (e.g., crushing, grinding, washing, and concentrating) nonmetallic minerals. Examples of nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying include,

Stone Mining and Quarrying

  • Dimension Stone Mining and Quarrying (i.e., rough blocks and/or slabs of stone).
  • Crushed and Broken Limestone Mining and Quarrying (including related rocks, such as dolomite, cement rock, marl, travertine, and calcareous tufa).
  • Crushed and Broken Granite Mining and Quarrying (including related rocks, such as gneiss, syenite, and diorite).
  • Other Crushed and Broken Stone Mining and Quarrying. Examples include – Bituminous limestone, Marble, and Bituminous sandstone.

Sand, Gravel, Clay, and Ceramic and Refractory Minerals Mining and Quarrying

  • Construction Sand and Gravel Mining
  • Industrial Sand Mining
  • Kaolin and Ball Clay Mining
  • Clay and Ceramic and Refractory Minerals Mining

Other Nonmetallic Mineral Mining and Quarrying

  • Potash, Soda, and Borate Mineral Mining
  • Phosphate Rock Mining
  • Other Chemical and Fertilizer Mineral Mining
  • All Other Nonmetallic Mineral Mining – Examples include Gypsum, Soapstone, Mica, Talc, and Pyrophyllite mining and/or beneficiating.

Support Activities for Mining

Support activities required for the mining and quarrying are either provided in house by mining companies, or on a contract or fee basis by outside companies.

Exploration

  • Geophysical Surveying and Mapping for Minerals, on a contract or fee basis
  • Traditional prospecting methods, such as taking core samples and making geological observations at prospective sites.
  • Taking core samples
  • Excavating slush pits and cellars

Sources – Adapted from National Mining Association and US CENSUS North American Industry Classification System.