Geologist - Minerals/Mining
Minerals/mining geologists help to find and remove minerals and other resources from beneath the Earth's surface. They also advise on the safety and suitability of mine sites. Once mining has begun, they monitor the work and continue to advise on safety, for example, avoiding floods and rockfalls.
Also known as
- Minerals/Mining Geologist
Video: - Rob: Geologist
Minerals/mining geologists are involved in finding natural resources such as coal, iron, lead, zinc and gypsum, and in removing these from beneath the Earth's surface. They understand the geological processes that have formed and developed these resources and, having studied their distribution, are able to advise on locations for new mines.
The process of locating a mine usually begins with desk-based research. Minerals/mining geologists study information from geological maps, surveys and databases, geochemical data and satellite images. They use the data to search for clues that point to the presence of a particular natural resource.
Locating a mine can also involve fieldwork. For example, minerals/mining geologists collect sediment samples, analysing them back in the laboratory. This can reveal the presence of mineral grains.
Some minerals/mining geologists estimate the amount of resource available at the site. Their advice helps to decide whether the mine will make sense economically, meaning that there is enough raw material to make the cost of mining worthwhile.
In advising on the suitability and safety of the mine location, minerals/mining geologists need to take into account conditions such as rock strength and the potential for rockfalls, landslips, mudslides and earthquakes.
They must ensure that the water table (water below ground) will not be polluted or reduced, as this will affect the water supply to surrounding human settlements.
Once the location has been decided, minerals/mining geologists can use computers to produce three-dimensional models of the mine. These help in designing the mine and assessing the mine's environmental impact.
Minerals/mining geologists then control drilling and surface exploration programmes to assess the initial stages of the mining.
Once mining has begun, geologists review information as it arrives from the mine - core samples collected by drilling, for example. Geologists check the quality of the mineral and make decisions about unexpected problems such as rock faults and groundwater.
Minerals/mining geologists also play an important role in environmental management. For example, they advise on the safety of abandoned mines, suggesting solutions such as dams and clay barriers to prevent polluted water leaking out of the mine.
Some very experienced minerals geologists go on to work in the financial sector, advising banks and other lenders on proposed mining projects.
Minerals/mining geologists also work as researchers, teachers and lecturers, journalists and advisers in mining tourism.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To be a minerals/mining geologist, you'll need:
- An investigative mind and problem-solving skills.
- A thorough and methodical approach to research.
- The ability to explain your findings and give advice clearly and concisely, including in written reports.
- Good teamwork skills to work alongside other geologists and engineers.
- Willingness to work outside in all types of weather, and to do some work underground.
Computer skills are very useful, for example, when creating three-dimensional models of mines. Knowledge of environmental issues is increasingly important.
Good colour vision is very important in most areas of geology because of the need to describe and recognise the subtle colour characteristics of rocks and minerals, and to read geological maps, which depend on colour to indicate different rock types.
Pay and Opportunities
Salaries for geologists vary. The pay rates given below are approximate.
Minerals/mining geologists earn in the range of £22,000 - £30,000 a year, rising to £40,000 - £46,000 with experience. Higher salaries are possible, depending on employer, role and responsibilities.
Hours of work
Minerals/mining geologists usually work around 35-40 hours, Monday to Friday. However, they might need to have early starts, late finishes and some weekend work.
Where could I work?
Employment opportunities in the UK are mainly with mineral companies that produce cement, salt, sand, potash, gypsum and china clays. Minerals/mining geologists can also work for consultancies, giving advice to mining companies.
Opportunities for minerals/mining engineers occur in mining operations in rural areas throughout the UK.
There are opportunities to work in many other parts of the world, for example, in Australia, South America, the Middle East, India and southern Africa, either for UK-based companies or for overseas employers.
Minerals/mining geologists can become self-employed consultants.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on the Geological Society website, in science magazines such as New Scientist (which also posts jobs on its website), on specialist job boards for the oil, gas and coal industries such as OilCareers.com, oilandgaspeople.com and Earthworks-Jobs.com, academic recruitment sites and in national newspapers.
Entry Routes and Training
Usual entry is with an honours degree in geology, applied geology, exploration geology, petroleum geology, geoscience or Earth science.
Many entrants also have a relevant postgraduate qualification. A small number of specialist MSc courses are available.
There are several types of first (undergraduate) degree course. BSc (Hons) degrees usually take three years to complete (four in Scotland). MGeol/MSci degrees are four-year courses, allowing for a wider range of taught subjects and research than in the BSc.
Some universities offer degree courses with a foundation year. This is an extra year for students who don't have the specified science A levels for entry.
A small number of universities offer integrated science degrees (ISciences), aiming to give graduates interdisciplinary skills and knowledge through a problem-based approach.
The Geological Society accredits a number of first degree courses. Accreditation demonstrates that the university department's teaching is of a high quality. Having an accredited degree reduces the amount of experience you need before you can achieve Chartered Geologist and Chartered Scientist status through the Society (see 'Progression' below). You can find a list of accredited courses on The Geological Society's website. The Society also accredits some postgraduate courses.
You might have on-the-job training, combined with short courses and going to conferences and seminars. Some employers enable minerals/mining geologists to complete a postgraduate qualification while working.
The Society of Geologists runs a continuing professional development scheme.
You could be promoted to a senior position or a management role.
Usually with a degree or equivalent in geology (or a related subject), you can become a Fellow of the Geological Society. Then, with at least five years' relevant experience, you can apply for Chartered Geologist (CGeol) status. You can also achieve Chartered Scientist (CSci) status through the Society.
Experienced minerals/mining geologists can become self-employed consultants. Some very experienced minerals geologists go on to work in the financial sector, advising banks and other lenders on proposed mining projects.
For entry to a degree in geology, the usual minimum requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels, including at least one science subject, Maths or Geology. Some universities accept Geography as a science subject.
- GCSEs at grade C and above in your A level subjects.
- A further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C and above, often to include English and Maths.
Alternatives to separate science GCSEs (Biology, Chemistry and Physics) are:
- Science and Additional Science, or
- Science and Additional Applied Science.
Alternatives to A levels include:
- Edexcel (BTEC) level 3 Nationals
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma.
However, course requirements vary, so please check prospectuses carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter a degree course, you might be able to start one after completing an Access course, for example, Access to Science. You don't usually need any qualifications to enter an Access course, although you should check this with the course provider.
A foundation year before the start of a science degree is available at some universities and higher education colleges for students who don't have the science A levels usually needed for entry to the course.
Birkbeck, University of London offers degree and postgraduate courses in geology and earth sciences. It offers these on a flexible basis: part-time (evenings) or by distance learning.
A number of other universities offer part-time degrees in geology and Earth science.
The Open University offers a degree in Geosciences and a postgraduate degree in Earth Science, by distance learning.
Funding for postgraduate study and research is available, through universities, from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).
- 6% of people in occupations such as geology work part-time.
- 14% have flexible hours.
- 8% of employees work on a temporary basis.
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Open University (OU)
Tel: 0845 3006090
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1EU
Tel: 01793 411500
Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG
Tel: 020 7434 9944
Address: Rockwatch at the GA, Burlington House, Piccadilly London W1J 0DU
Tel: 020 7734 5398
Tel: 0207 997 7624
British Geological Survey (BGS)
Address: Keyworth, Nottingham NG12 5GG
Tel: 0115 9363143