Mining Engineering

Summary

Mining and geological engineers design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals for use in manufacturing and utilities.  Many mining and geological engineers work where mining operations are located, such as mineral mines or sand-and-gravel quarries, in remote areas or near cities and towns.   Others work in offices or onsite for oil and gas extraction firms or engineering services firms.   A bachelor’s degree from an accredited engineering program is required to become a mining or geological engineer.   The median annual wage for mining and geological engineers was $91,160 in May 2019.   Employment of mining and geological engineers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.   Employment growth for mining and geological engineers will be driven by demand for mining operations.   In addition, as companies look for ways to cut costs, they are expected to contract more services with engineering services firms, rather than employ engineers directly.

What they do

Geological engineers 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 and geological engineers typically do the following:

  • Design open-pit and underground mines
  • Supervise the construction of mine shafts and tunnels
  • Devise methods for transporting minerals to processing plants
  • Prepare technical reports for miners, engineers, and managers
  • Monitor mine production to assess the effectiveness of operations
  • Provide solutions to problems related to land reclamation, water and air pollution, and sustainability
  • Ensure that mines are operated in safe and environmentally sound ways

Geological engineers 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 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 geoscientists and metallurgical engineers to find and evaluate ore deposits. Other mining engineers develop new equipment or direct mineral-processing operations to separate minerals from dirt, rock, and other materials.

Mining safety engineers use best practices and their knowledge of mine design to ensure workers’ safety and to maintain compliance with state and federal safety regulations. They inspect the walls and roofs of mines, monitor the air quality, and examine mining equipment for possible hazards.

Engineers who hold a master’s or a doctoral degree may teach engineering at colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

Work Environment

Many geological engineers work where mining operations are located, such as mineral mines or sand-and-gravel quarries, in remote areas or near cities and towns. Others work in offices or onsite for oil and gas extraction firms or engineering services firms.  Most geological engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours a week. The remoteness of some mining locations gives rise to variable schedules and weeks during which they work more hours than usual.

How to become a Geological Engineer

A bachelor’s degree from an accredited engineering program is required to become a mining or geological engineer, including a mining safety engineer. Requirements for licensure vary by state but most states require applicants to pass two exams.

High school students interested in entering mining or geological engineering programs in college should take courses in mathematics and science.

Relatively few schools offer mining engineering or geological engineering programs. Typical bachelor’s degree programs in mining engineering include courses in geology, physics, thermodynamics, mine design and safety, and mathematics. Bachelor’s degree programs in geological engineering typically include courses in geology, chemistry, fluid mechanics, physics, and mathematics. Both types of programs also include laboratory and field work, as well as traditional classroom study.

A related degree, such as civil or environmental engineering or geoscience, may be acceptable for some positions as a mining or geological engineer.

Programs in mining and geological engineering are accredited by ABET, whose accreditation is based on a program's faculty, curriculum, facilities, and other factors.

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.

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as a mining or geological engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public.

New mining and geological engineers usually work under the supervision of experienced engineers. In large companies, new engineers also may receive formal classroom or seminar-type training. As engineers gain knowledge and experience, they are assigned more difficult projects and they are given greater independence to develop designs, solve problems, and make decisions.

Engineers may advance to become technical specialists or supervise a staff or team of engineers and technicians. Some eventually become engineering managers or enter other managerial or sales jobs. In sales, an engineering background enables them to discuss a product's technical aspects and to assist in product planning, installation, and use.

Pay

The median annual wage for mining and geological engineers was $91,160 in May 2019. 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 percent earned less than $52,160, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $151,230.

Most mining and geological engineers work full time and some work more than 40 hours a week. The remoteness of some mining locations gives rise to variable schedules and weeks during which they work more than usual.

Job Outlook

Employment of mining and geological engineers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Employment growth for mining and geological engineers will depend upon demand for coal, metals, and minerals. These resources are used in many products, from construction materials and cars to cell phones and computers. As companies look for ways to cut costs, they are expected to contract more services with engineering services firms, rather than employ engineers directly.

Similar Occupations

  • Architectural and Engineering Manager
  • Civil Engineer
  • Environmental Scientists and Specialist
  • Geological and Petroleum Technician
  • Geoscientist
  • Health and Safety Engineer
  • Hydrologist
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Sales Engineer

More Information

Video

Video Transcript

Mining and geological engineers design mines above and below the ground to remove minerals and metals used by manufacturing industries and utilities. They design methods to transport mined materials to processing plants, and monitor operations for safety and efficiency. Critically, they also develop solutions to manage mines’ environmental impacts, including land reclamation, and mitigating water and air pollution. Three types of engineers typically work in mining. Geological Engineers search for mineral deposits and evaluate possible sites, then plan how to extract the metals or minerals safely and efficiently. Mining Engineers specialize in mining a particular mineral or metal, such as coal or gold. Some develop new equipment or direct processing operations. Mining Safety Engineers ensure that workers are safe and mines meet safety regulations. They monitor air quality, and inspect mines and equipment for possible hazards. Mining engineers often work at mining operations in remote locations, although some work in sand-and-gravel operations near cities, or at mining firms or consulting companies in large urban areas. Most work full time, with additional hours when posted at mining sites. A bachelor’s degree from an accredited engineering program is required to become a mining or geological engineer. Relatively few schools offer the program. Licensure is not required for entry level jobs, but many experienced engineers obtain licensure for more advanced positions.

Colleges and Universities with Mining and Mining Engineering Programs

Please click the links below to learn more about Majors and Programs in Biology, Biochemistry, Mathematics, Business and Management, Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Petroleum Engineering, Mining Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Geological Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Economics.

Mining Associations - Learn More, Networking and Apprenticeship Opportunities

There are many organizations dedicated to help promote mining and mineral products. Many states that have active mining operations have local mining associations that can assist with state-specific information.

State Mining Associations

Coal Organizations

  • American Coal Council
  • Eastern Coal Council

Metals & Minerals Organizations