Field of Study: Mining and Mineral Engineering
Mining and mineral engineering programs prepare people to manage mining operations. Students learn how to remove and refine minerals. They also learn safety procedures. They learn how the mining process can affect the land, air, and water.
Think about the last time you read about a mine in the daily paper. It seems as if mines make headlines only when somebody gets trapped in one. The fact is that a lot of wealth is dug out of the ground every day. And the mining industry continues to present challenges.
How can you cut through rock more efficiently? How can you pump water out faster? How can you separate valuable minerals from dross at a lower cost? How can you affordably restore a strip-mined hill to a healthy ecosystem? These are some of the problems that mining and mineral engineers solve.
In this major you study physics and math in order to understand the forces at work in the ground and the forces that people bring to bear with drills and explosives. You learn about the properties of various rocks and materials that engineers use. For example, you need to know what load a steel beam of a certain thickness and shape can hold. You study geology because you need to understand what's underground.
You learn how to use computers to simulate mining conditions in the comfort and safety of the lab. With your simulation you may try out several solutions to a problem and find the one that works best at the lowest cost. Then you may use the computer to produce plans and schedules.
Many people qualify for work in this field by earning a bachelor's degree. This normally takes four or perhaps five years of full-time study beyond high school. About 30 colleges in the U.S. offer this program.
If you get your bachelor's in another field of engineering, you may study mining and mineral engineering at the master's level. Earning such a master's degree usually takes one or two years. The program is offered at several graduate schools of engineering.