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A career in mining doesn't necessarily mean wielding pickaxes through unexplored caves, all the while singing, Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work we go! Being an actual underground miner is only one job of the hundreds available in this diverse industry. If you're interested in the field but not into mirroring the profession of those well-known dwarves, fear not!
According to the Mining Association of Canada, this industry employs around 320,000 people throughout the country in sectors such as mineral extraction, smelting, fabrication, and manufacturing.
Here are three careers to explore in the field of mining:
Geologists can branch into two areas of mining: exploration and underground. Exploration geologists are typically responsible for finding mineral deposits on new sites where mines will eventually be constructed. Underground, mining geologists take care of the miners, ensuring they are blasting in the right places, as well as taking samples of minerals and rock sheets.
Luke Willis, senior geologist and director of resource modelling with McEwen Mining, has worked in the field for the past 16 years.
He says the most enjoyable aspect of his job is being able to travel to various sites around the world.
It's all very well going on vacation maybe for a week or two, but actually getting the chance to go work out in the bush in Australia or something is exciting, he says.
As a geologist, Willis worked on a rotation schedule with two weeks on and two weeks off. During his time on site he generally was required to work 11-hour days.
His morning consisted of arriving at the mine at 6 a.m., organizing their plan for the day, and recapping what was done the night before by the night shift geologists. Between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., Willis says he could be found underground taking samples of the rock face, marking it up for the miners so that they knew where to drill and blast, and drawing up maps of the face.
Half the day [is spent] pretty much underground, says Willis. Getting your feet wet and taking samples and the next half of the day you're usually just writing up all the paperwork.
Willis' paperwork typically involved re-drawing face maps onto neat copy, updating the blasting sequence and the progress that had been made that day, and writing up notes and instructions for the senior geologist, mining supervisor, and incoming night shift geologists.
According to the Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR), there is a lot of opportunity for growth with a career as a mining geologist. Starting out as a geologist right out of university, you can then move up to senior geologist, management, and then into senior management or the launching of your own firm.
If the technology around mining is more suited to your interests, mining engineering could be for you.
Engineers are needed in different areas of mining. Electrical engineers, for example, are responsible for planning and overseeing the site's power generators. Mineral process engineers take care of the extraction of metallic and non-metallic minerals, while mining engineers help plan, design, and build new mines.
Marc Clauser, a previous field engineer for ConeTec in Fort McMurray, Alberta, says it was his role to acquire data in the field.
It was a specialized role for determining soil strengths and things of that nature in the oil sands, he says. You're in the field. You're constantly dealing with a whole array of challenges and changing environments.
A typical day is spent collecting data and working with drillers to test areas of the mine. According to Clauser, he had to be prepared to troubleshoot any issues that could arise, especially when temperatures in Alberta dip well below freezing in the winter.
After spending a number of years as an engineer, you could then move your way up to director.
That's what happened for Kevin Morris, director of mining services for Kinross Gold Corporation, who has been in the industry for over 31 years.
Much of his time as director is spent interacting with various people via email or phone while explaining and providing technical support and information about the company and its many projects going on at the time. Pit design and pit optimization are two other jobs Morris would be taking care of on particularly busy days.
Pit design is the physical design work that goes into the creation of the site. Pit optimization is the first step that occurs prior to the designing of it. It is based on a 3D block model that is created with software to determine which designs are the most economic given the set of costs.
I tell people, when they ask me what it is I do for a living, I say I solve Rubik's cubes; we deal a lot with block models here in mining, says Morris. [Where] a typical Rubik's cube will have 27 blocks, ours will have 2.7 million blocks. However, Morris says he has software that helps to come up with the answer to those.
Unlike many other fields today, mining is a field in need of workers. According to MiHR, Canada has one of the largest mining industries in the world, producing over 60 different minerals and metals.
Clauser offers one final word of advice for those thinking of a career in mining: It's one of those things that you have to be aware of what you're getting into. It takes a commitment to move up the ladder but a lot of these companies appreciate that early commitment and if you do work hard at the start of your career, your opportunities are endless.