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Mining engineers tackle complex projects.


For thousands of years, man has mined the earth for its riches. Today's mining operations, from huge strip mines involving the excavation of millions of tonnes of earth to shafts dug kilometres down, are located in all parts of the globe. Engineers who work to discover, evaluate, recover and process mineral deposits are called mining engineers.

The mining engineer develops and applies methods of finding and recovering metals, minerals and ores from under the earth or the ocean floor. The process of mining is complex and can be hazardous. Extraction requires vast amounts of economic and mechanical resources to ensure maximum extraction of a product with low cost. Mining engineers have received at least a bachelor of engineering or science degree.

Edmonton's University of Alberta offers a four-year undergraduate program in mining engineering through their department of mining, metallurgical and petroleum engineering. The program emphasizes computer techniques as applied to mining and features a comprehensive mine-design project in the final two terms. Applicable university studies include calculus, physics, engineering design, inorganic and analytic chemistry, geology, hydraulics, thermodynamics, power-system design, electricity, computer science, construction materials, structural design, systems engineering, material handling, mining methods, ventilation and safety, and mineral processing. Industrial organization, economics and management courses are also important. Admission requires an overall high school average of 70 per cent in math, physics, chemistry and English.

Even before a shovel of dirt is removed, mining engineers evaluate potential mineral and ore deposits by studying rock formations, water, soil and plant characteristics. Once they decide that a site has potential for development, mining engineers will plan, design and develop the layout of the mine and choose the type of equipment that will be used in extraction. They also design support systems for the mine, such as ventilation systems and conveyor belts or rails for the removal of bulk ore.

When a mine is in operation, the mining engineer remains involved in the day-to-day operations of the mine. Other engineers go into mineral processing and are involved in the separation of minerals from the bulk ore. To do this, they apply various methods to concentrate the product, using chemicals, heat, water, electrolysis or density differentials.

Mining engineers are among the highest-paid engineers. The starting salary for a graduate is about $35,000 per year, while an experienced mining engineer can expect to earn well over $80,000. Job prospects continue to be good, as the mining industry expects moderate, steady increase for the foreseeable future.
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Lauran Hill
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:May 1, 1996
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