Content approved by Jerry Parker
Mining is the removal of metals and minerals from beneath the surface of the earth. Many materials are commonly mined, including gold, silver, iron ore, manganese, tantalum, copper, and tin. These minerals are valuable, and they are used in different manufacturing industries. When you think of mining, you might think about gold mining and the California Gold Rush: Hundreds of thousands of people rushed to California in the late 1840s and early 1850s to try to mine for gold. Coal mining is another major type of mining that involves mining for bituminous coal. Before setting your sights on mining as a career, learn more about what mining is, what careers are possible in the mining industry, and what type of education you’ll need.
What Is Mining?
Materials that can’t be grown or manufactured must be dug out of the earth. Mining generally involves either surface mining or sub-surface mining, which happens underground. Most of the minerals mined today are extracted by surface mining. This type of mining successfully extracts more than 85 percent of the minerals and about 98 percent of the metallic ores without having to dig deep mine shafts that have historically endangered miners. Before a mining operation takes place, scientists explore the area to determine whether it’s likely that miners will find minerals there and what the risk of failure may be. After successful exploration to uncover the potential for the presence of valuable materials, a mining company will negotiate to acquire the property.
Back in the early 1900s, it was legal for kids as young as age 12 to work in underground coal mines. This was difficult and dangerous work, and thousands of people were killed each year in mining accidents and explosions. Eventually, Congress established the Bureau of Mines to conduct research aimed at improving mining safety. In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, which made it illegal for anyone under age 18 to work in dangerous occupations, which included mining.
Modern Mining Careers
Many careers are possible within the mining industry. While working as a miner directly involved with the extraction process is an obvious career choice, there are many other options as well. Engineers work in the mining industry in various capacities, such as geological, mining, mine safety, and project engineers. You could also work in this industry as a geoscientist, surveyor, environmental compliance coordinator, mine electrician, consultant, safety manager, or operations supervisor. The extraction process also needs people who are crane operators, control room operators, machine operators, mine service workers, underground miners, and chemical technicians.
Even before college, students need to focus on STEM subjects to be adequately prepared to enter the mining industry. Many colleges and universities have programs that prepare students to work in the mining industry, including training in mining engineering, geological engineering, geophysical engineering, environmental engineering, or mineral engineering. Mining engineering focuses on how to plan and design mines. Studying geological engineering involves learning about rocks and soil to know how geological factors affect the location, planning, and design of mining operations. Geophysical engineering involves measuring the physical properties of rocks and analyzing the geological features of the minerals within. Environmental engineering involves learning about typical environmental impacts of mining and how to minimize them. Mineral engineering applies modern science and engineering to the discovery, development, and use of mineral deposits.
Exploring Mining at Home
Anyone who is interested in science and might want to pursue a career in mining can spend time learning more about this industry in a variety of ways. Hands-on experiments and activities are easy to do at home, and you’ll be learning while you conduct these experiments. You can even replicate the mining process on your own. Mining for specific materials is often like looking for a needle in a haystack, because miners have to sift through lots of undesired material to find the valuable minerals. This process can be very complex and painstaking, but you can learn a little about what it’s like if you try to sift through birdseed to find only specific materials.
- What Is Mining?
- Explanation of Mining
- Careers in Mining
- Mining Techniques of the Sierra Nevada and Gold Country
- Careers in the Mining Industry
- Mining Industry Jobs
- Education Roadmap for Mining Professionals
- What Is a Mining Engineer?
- Mining Industry Profile
- Dig Into Mining Careers
- Mining Helps Make Your Home
- How to Become a Mining or Geological Engineer
- Brief History of Mining and Advancement of Mining Technology
- Interesting Facts About the History of Safety in Mining
- A Brief History of Mining