Education and Training: Two-year college
Salary: Varies—see profile
Employment Outlook: Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Mining technicians provide technical assistance to professional engineers in coal and metal mining. Mining technicians work in exploration and development, in production, and in preparation. During preparation, sometimes called beneficiation, the technicians separate the desired ore from rock and other unwanted materials. Mining technicians gather information by performing chemical and physical tests and observing mining operations. They assist in surveying and drafting and in planning solutions to engineering problems. They may also work in technical sales support.
Mining technicians in exploration and development usually work with geologists and geophysicists. Technicians may collect and identify samples of rock taken from mines and exploratory diggings. They may also use equipment that shows slight variations in the earth's magnetic fields. They record these variations on maps and charts. Scientists use the information to find new deposits of ore.
Mining technicians also assist chemists and metallurgists. They usually work in laboratories where they test samples of rock and ore. The results of these tests help scientists evaluate the quality of the metals or minerals found.
Many mining technicians work in the engineering offices of mining operations. For example, some help to design and install ventilation systems that force fresh air into mine shafts. These technicians calculate the volume of air in an underground chamber so that mining engineers can decide what kind of ventilation system to use. Sometimes these technicians go into mine shafts and take samples of air. Then they test these samples in the mine's laboratory for evidence of poisonous gas.
Some technicians assist the mine's production supervisors. These technicians may be shift bosses and may supervise thirty to fifty miners. They train new miners and make sure that safety rules are strictly followed. The most experienced technicians may become production supervisors who supervise shift bosses. Other technicians assist managers who try to increase the efficiency of mining crews. Sometimes these technicians use stopwatches to measure how long it takes crews to do certain kinds of work. These time studies help managers decide whether methods need to be changed.
Education and Training Requirements
At least two years of college training is needed to be a mining technician. Some colleges and technical institutes offer programs leading to an associate degree in mining technology. This degree will qualify candidates for most beginning positions as a mining technician. For attendees of a four-year college that offers a degree in mining engineering, a counselor can be helpful in designing a program that will prepare candidates to become a mining technician. This program may take two to three years to complete. Most technicians take courses in technical writing, mathematics, chemistry, geology, physics, and metallurgy. Technicians who want jobs in management or production supervision usually take courses in business administration.
Getting the Job
For students attending a school that offers an associate degree in mining technology, instructors and the school's placement office may be helpful in locating a job as a mining technician. Candidates can also get help from counselors at state employment offices in states where mining is an important industry. Prospective mining technicians should also apply directly to mining companies. A summer job with one of these firms can lead to a full-time job after graduation.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Mining technicians usually receive better pay and more responsibility as they gain experience on the job. For example, a technician in production supervision can become a mine superintendent. Technicians who continue their education can become managers and engineers.
The employment outlook for technicians is poor. Decreased productivity by the mining industry in general will result in slower than average growth in the number of workers.
Underground mining is dangerous work. Technicians who work underground with engineering and geological crews share this danger. Technicians usually spend part of their working day in offices and laboratories. They generally work in crews with other technicians, engineers, and workers. Technicians who become shift bosses usually spend all of their working day in mines. They may work rotating shifts. Technicians usually work forty hours a week.
Where to Go for More Information
American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers
8307 Shaffer Pkwy.
Littleton, CO 80127-4012
National Mining Association
101 Constitution Ave. NW, Ste. 500 East
Washington, DC 20001-2133
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries for mining technicians vary depending on education and experience. Technicians with some experience earn salaries of $34,000 to $52,000 per year. Benefits include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and pension plans.