Mining and Geological Engineering

Mining and geological engineers, including mining safety engineers, find, extract, and prepare coal, metals, and minerals that are used by manufacturing industries and utilities. They design mines to safely and efficiently remove minerals for use in manufacturing and utilities. As examples, they design open-pit and underground mines, supervise the construction of mine shafts and tunnels in underground operations, and devise ways to ship minerals to processing plants.

They are also responsible for safety and environmental concerns and often work with geologists and metallurgical engineers to locate and evaluate potential new ore deposits. Others develop new mining equipment or systems to help separate minerals from the dirt, rock, and other materials in which they are mixed. Mining engineers frequently specialize in the mining of one mineral or metal, such as coal or gold.

Technology plays an important role in this field, as some engineers support technology-based modeling studies required in planning a mining operation. Tasks might include computer and sensor work to determine seismic petrophysics, rock and mineral preparation and visualization, magnetism, aquatic optics and remote sensing, and geo-hazard and geo-resource characterization.

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Click on the blue tabs to explore the field in more detail and learn about preparation and employment, the green tabs to be inspired by people working in mining and geological engineering and how they impact the world, and the orange tabs for ideas on how to learn more and you can get involved with activities, camps, and competitions!

Degree Connections

The following are examples of some accredited degrees leading to a career in mining and geological engineering:

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Click on the blue tabs to explore the field in more detail and learn about preparation and employment, the green tabs to be inspired by people working in mining and geological engineering and how they impact the world, and the orange tabs for ideas on how to learn more and you can get involved with activities, camps, and competitions!

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The type of job a mining or geological engineer has will often determine how frequently they work inside or outside. Many work where mining operations are located, such as mineral mines or sand-and-gravel quarries, in remote areas or near cities and towns. Others work in offices or onsite for oil and gas extraction firms or engineering services firms.

Day to day, mining engineers work to solve problems related to land reclamation and water and air pollution, which will cause them to visit sites for evaluation. While some desk work is likely, most mining engineers will spend a good deal of time on job sites. There are international travel opportunities for some mining engineers, as their expertise is needed on a global basis.

Most mining and geological engineers work full time and might work more than 40 hours a week. The remoteness of some mining locations can result in variable schedules and weeks during which they work more hours than usual, or are on the road for weeks at a time.

Open-pit mining is a surface mining technique to identify and remove rocks or minerals from the earth from an open-air pit that is dug, increasingly deeper, into the earth. This is a useful technique when the desired mineral is near the surface, otherwise underground mining is required.

The Bingham Canyon mine in Utah is a great example of the impact of open pit mining. 1903, the Utah Copper Company was created to mine and process porphyry copper ore found near Salt Lake City. The proprietors were warned that this would be a losing venture. But they were wrong, and the resulting success was based on the owner’s decision to use open-pit mining, steam shovels and the railroad to manage the job.” Today, the mine is the largest man-made excavation and the deepest open-pit mine in the world. It also has proven to be one of the world’s most productive mines.

Over a century, the Bingham Canyon mine expanded to a depth of 0.75 miles and a width at the top of more than 2.75 miles. Today, the railroad has been replaced with large capacity hauling trucks and the mine produces about 100,000 tons a year of copper, along with molybdenum, gold and silver. Technology plays a role in daily processing, not only in terms of the mining itself but in managing distribution and delivery of materials to processing plants. And, in terms of safety, geotechnical monitoring equipment including ground probes and radar predicted a land slide on one wall far enough in advance to safely evacuate all workers and equipment from the area before the slide took place.

After an open pit mine is depleted, the land usually undergoes land rehabilitation and the land is resurfaced with materials to help restore the soil to a neutral state, and plants are introduced to help with runoff and to consolidate the material below.

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Mining and geological engineering are employed by government agencies globally to evaluate, plan, and oversee the extraction of minerals and other items from the earth. They are also employed by engineering service firms, and companies that focus on mining specific materials such as metals or coal.

Mining engineers often are employed at the location of natural deposits, often near small communities. Those in research and development, management, consulting, or sales, however, often are located in metropolitan areas.

The following is just a sample of some companies, in addition to government agencies, which employ mining and geological engineers:

For most engineering careers:

  • a bachelor’s degree is required small smiles
  • a master’s degree may be recommended for those specializing or interested in management
  • students may also start with a related associate degree and then move on to a bachelor’s when they have settled on a degree path.
  • many students are required to participate in a co-op program while at university to gain real world experience in their chosen field.
  • education doesn’t really stop…engineers need to stay current as technology changes and materials and processes improve over time.
  • many professional societies offer certificates and coursework to support continuing education for their members.

At the undergraduate level, mining engineering students will take courses such as introduction to mining safety, structural geology, and geology for engineers. They will likely also take courses on sensors and technology related to mining, as well as  in material handling, physical mineralogy and petrology, surface mining methods and equipment, principles of explosives engineering, mine management, and environmental aspects of mining.

It is important to select an engineering degree that has been accredited to meet basic standards. Find out more and browse TryEngineering’s global database of accredited engineering and computing programs.

Be Inspired

One of the best ways to explore what it might be like to work in mining or geological engineering is to learn about people currently working in the field.

  • Daniel Cowan Jackling was an American mining and metallurgical engineer who pioneered the exploitation of low-grade porphyry copper ores at the Bingham Canyon Mine, Utah.
  • Meghan McDonald is a mining engineer who works as an engineer for the New Mexico Abandoned Mine Land Program. Her mission is to safeguard the public from adverse effects associated with historic mining practices.
  • Thomas Williams is an Assistant Professor at the Colorado School of Mines, where he directs the Mines Interactive Robotics Research (MIRROR) Lab. His research broadly focuses on artificial intelligence for human-robot interaction, especially problems involving natural language understanding and generation in uncertain and unknown environments.
  • Ontario Mining Association has compiled a video interviewing several professional mining engineers about their work.
  • Virginia Tech University has created a video interviewing several early career mining engineers.  Explore the video to the right to learn about what mining and geological engineers are working on after graduating.

Mining can be a hazardous industry but engineering and technology are making major contributions globally to help improve safety in both underground and open pit mining operations.

Some hazards are related to cave-ins, explosions, chemical leaks, and floods. To help address these potential problems, several technologies have been developed or adapted for the mining industry. For example, computer controlled micro-explosives can help reduce the dangers associated with blasting, and robotic drills can do work in locations where there might be more risk to humans. Self-driving trucks and ore carriers can manage transportation of materials through areas that might cause breathing hazards to humans. And robots are used to analyze ore samples, providing technological confirmation of excavated materials.

Beyond safety, technology is helping to boost efficiency of mining operations.  For example, data analysis is used to track the productivity of a mine and develop efficient patterns for material distribution.

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Get Involved

Dig deeper into topics related to mining and geological engineering that interest you!



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Clubs, competitions, and camps are some of the best ways to explore a career path and put your skills to the test in a friendly-competitive environment.


  • Many schools have geology clubs or after school engineering clubs or opportunities for students to get together and develop skills.

Competitions and Events: 

  • Ontario Mining Association “Mined Open Innovation Challenge” encourages university students a chance to solve a real-life mining challenge.
  • Move Mining is a competition aimed at elevating the perception of mining. From grassroots to global, teams pitch their best ideas on how to share the everyday importance of mining with the public.
  • The Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration offers student design competitions which involve a technical design stage and an oral presentation stage based on an aggregate mining industry design problem.
  • The European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers offer student events and lecture tours.


Many universities offer summer engineering experiences. Reach out to your local university’s engineering department to see what they offer. Nadezhda Tulatova

Did you know you can explore mining and geologic engineering in your community?

  • Explore the natural resources in the ground where you live. What minerals or elements are natural to the soil near you?
  • Find your location on earth and see if there are major deposits near you, or if you see a trend in locations of certain minerals or metals. (drag to see the whole world)
  • What uses or applications are there for the minerals in your area? What products are they used in? How much demand is there for these minerals or metals globally?
  • What technology would you need to determine how much of a metal or mineral is underground in your area? What steps would you take to investigate and prove to a funding company that there are enough resources to justify a mining operation? What local transportation would be available to move resources to processing plants? Do you have a railroad, highway, or waterway nearby?

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Be sure to reach out to professional societies focused on mining or geological engineering where you live. Not all will offer membership to pre-university students, but most offer groups for university students, and certainly offer online resources to help you explore the field.

Some examples of groups focusing on mining or geological engineering:

Some resources on this page are provided or adapted from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Career Cornerstone Center.