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Not just digging and sweating

Not just digging and sweating

With so many students rushing for courses in computer engineering, electronics and IT, there are not many takers for courses in earth sciences, mineral geology and mining engineering. Consequently there is a severe shortage of professionals in this highly specialised field19 Apr 2017 | 1:02 AM

From domestic appliances, cooking utensils, and the jewellery we wear, to the fillings used by the dentist in our teeth, so many of the products that we use in our daily lives come from materials that are dug out or mined.

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From domestic appliances, cooking utensils, and the jewellery we wear, to the fillings used by the dentist in our teeth,  so many of the products that we use in our daily lives come from materials that are dug out or mined.  

India has a vast repository of mineral resources, such as coal and oil as also gold, silver and precious stones. These minerals lie in the natural form as deposits in rocks, both on the surface of the earth and below it. They have to be located, extracted and processed  into  a form that is used for making various end products. This work is done by mining engineers, geologists and metallurgists.

Mining is one engineering field that very few students even care to think about. Yet a recent study indicates that mining engineers are among the highest paid and are in short supply, not only in India but also in other parts of the world. 

Work profile

Mining deals with the location and extraction of useful mineral substances, metals and ores from places of their natural occurrence in the earth’s crust. A mining engineer has to study the form  of rock or strata to locate possible mineral deposits — often working along with geologists for this purpose. 

They also design and supervise the construction of mine-shafts, and methods for transporting the minerals to the processing factories, and  are responsible for the health and safety of miners. 

There are basically two types of mining activities, each depending on how the minerals are found — underground mining for coal, and some minerals, that are available under the ground,  and open-cast or surface mining for minerals like iron ore, copper and manganese, which are found on the surface of the earth. These processes include the use of quarries, inclines and shafts, in underground mines, while in open cast mines, the minerals are on the surface thus it involves drilling, blasting and transporting of the ore. 

Mining engineers frequently specialise in the mining of one mineral such as coal, iron, aluminium or gold. In  large mines, mining engineers may be assisted by civil, electrical and mechanical engineers. 

Often they work with geologists and metallurgists to locate new ore deposits, and develop mining equipment and processing operations. 

Getting in

Those working directly in mining need to have a degree in mining engineering, while those working in the processing of the mineral could also have a degree in mechanical, electrical or electronics engineering. 

For supervisory level jobs, a diploma in mining engineering or allied fields is required. For admission to the BSc/BTech and diploma programmes in mining, metallurgy, geology and allied disciplines, you require to have completed Class XII with physics, chemistry and maths. 

There are BE/BTech courses in mining engineering being offered by many colleges and universities, including those at Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur, Roorkee and Guwahati, Banaras Hindu University and Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad.

A typical course in mining engineering covers topics like mining geology, mine surveying, mining machinery, rock mechanics, mine health and safety, computer applications in mining, environmental management in surface mines, mine economics, mine disasters and mine legislation, as well as mine ventilation, mine planning and minerals processing. Mining and metallurgy are specialised fields and so only those qualified with an engineering degree or diploma in these disciplines are eligible for employment. 

In addition to a degree, or diploma, mining engineers also need to get a Mine Manager’s or Mine Surveyor’s certificate of competency for employment in mines and collieries.

Job prospects 

After training in this highly specialised field, there are several openings with mining and mineral processing companies in the private and public sector. These include the large public sector organisations like Coal India, Manganese Ore India Ltd, Singareni Colliieries, Hindustan Copper, Hindustan Zinc, Minerals and Metals Corporation of India, Oil and Natural Gas Commission,  Steel Authority of India (SAIL), the National Mineral Development Corporation, Neyveli Lignite Corporation and others. 

Those with a relevant degree can also be absorbed by  the steel plants at Bhilai, Rourkela, Bokaro, and Durgapur. Several private sector companies,  including Tata Iron & Steel, Vedanta, Jindal Steel, Adani Mining Pvt Ltd, Essel Mining Ltd, Rio Tinto and others, also take on a large number of mining engineers. 

Companies in the manufacture and fabrication of mineral-based products as also foundries, rolling mills and so on employ mining and metallurgy professionals. 

There are also jobs with large energy multinationals such as Cairn India, Shell, Schlumberger and several others that are working in the country and off shore. 

There are also openings in government organisations such as the Directorate General of Mines Safety, and the Geological Survey of India,  in the relevant ministries, and in research organisations.

A challenging workspace

With the excellent prospects for mining engineers, it is also pertinent to know that life for a mining engineer, geologist or a metallurgist can be tough and lonely, as mineral deposits are located in remote places where the processing plants are set up. 

Moreover, other than the regular pressures of the job, the safety and welfare of miners is a heavy responsibility for mining engineers. Those who join this profession therefore need to have good inter-personal skills and the ability to keep calm under pressure 

So while mining and metallurgy may not quite be among the most ‘cool’ engineering disciplines, they do offer good career prospects for those looking for a career with a difference and a sense of adventure. 

Work responsibilities 

  • Planning, designing and construction of mines, including tunnels and shafts for efficient underground operations. 
  • Managing and controlling mining operations keeping in mind the geology of the area, the economics of mining and rock mechanics for extraction of minerals.
  • Ensuring safety, ventilation and cooling in the mines.
  • Segregation and transportation of minerals.
  • Utilising appropriate ore processing technology without causing any harm to the environment.

Institute watch 

  • IITs at  Kharagpur, Guwahati, Roorkee 
  • Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad 
  • Institute of Technology, BHU Varanasi
  • National Institutes of Technology at Rourkela, Raipur, Surathkal and others 
  • Kakatiya University, Warangal
  • Kothagudem School of Mines, AP 
  • Bengal Engineering, Howrah,  
  • Faculty of Engineering, Pune,
  • University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun

Skills required 

In addition to specialist mining knowledge and engineering expertise, a mining engineer needs :

  • Technological bent of mind. 
  • Strong management skills and people skills.
  • Logical thinking and analytical skills 
  • Problem solving skills.
  • Ability to work in a team and leadership skills. 
  • Good communication skills. 
  • Good organising ability.

 — The writer is Director. Careers Smart Pvt Ltd., New Delhi

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