Mining Employment Cycle

The Mining Job Cycle

mining-job-cycleIf you’re trying to decide what mining jobs are for you it’s important to understand mining employment cycle throughout the life of a mine. The different stages in a mine life require different skill levels; engineering is a skill set that is needed at all stages of mine development.  Even foreign owned mines create extensive amounts of new jobs near the mine site.  Non-mining careers also benefit from an active mine; food service, transportation, and retail all benefit from the increased demand for services in a mining town.  Since the taxi driver or the shop-owner is making more money he is spending more money, mines have a great direct impact on local employment, but the indirect impact is much greater.  One study showed that for every mining job, as many as 10 non-mining jobs were created!


Exploration/Feasibility to Understand the Mining Job Cycle

In this first stage of the mining job cycle, primarily geologists, mining engineers, and metallurgists, take samples and run tests to answer some basic questions.  What is it?  Where is it?  How much of it is there?  Arial photography, satellites, even geophysics (the study of the Earth's magnetic pull, gravity, and seismic activity) are sometimes used to answer these simple questions.  This stage of the mining job cycle requires highly skilled and educated employees.



Often the management will hire a consulting firm to perform a financial feasibility study.  The firm provides a report that the mining company uses to decide whether to proceed or abandon the mine.  It costs millions of dollars to design and build the mine, and hire employees.  Companies weigh the cost of running the mine against the value of the ore they can extract from the mine.


Design/Construction that Influences the Mining Employment

mining-employmentThe next stage in the mining job cycle requires architects and many local construction workers and laborers to build the mine.  Access roads must be constructed, office buildings, and a system for processing and transporting the ore must all be in place before extraction of the deposit can begin. This stage determines mining employment opportunities.

Prior to construction, permits must be secured and an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be submitted to the federal government.  This is "a document prepared to describe the potential impacts of a proposed activity on the environment.  An EIS describes the impacts, and documents ways to avoid, minimize or mitigate potential negative impacts of a project." says one Australian mining site about the EIS.

The construction phase usually employs the most workers and can take up to 5 years.   If the mine is in a remote location, housing camps are built for the employees.  Often these camps have medical services, schools, and dining facilities.  The camp will employ several different types of workers; the construction phase and the operations phase of the mine job cycle employ cooks, medics, plumbers, and mechanics in addition to actual miners.



understanding-mining-job-cycleThe operations phase is when the deposit is taken out of the ground.  This is accomplished by drilling, blasting, or other methods.  Deposits consist of metallic ores (such as gold and silver), non-metallic minerals (such as limestone and sulfur), and fossil fuels (like coal and tar-sands).  Petroleum and natural gas are also fossils fuels, but they are extracted by the oil drilling industry.

Workers are employed removing the ore, transporting, and operating the machinery that processes the material.  The ore must be separated from the waste in order for the value to be realized. 

The mine must be maintained and constantly checked for safety.  Some mines may stay in operation for 100 years, so they must be maintained for efficient production, safety, and environmental concerns.  Normal wear from drilling and blasting and structural repair must be fixed.  Vehicles and other machinery must be maintained in working and safe order.  For companies that do such dangerous jobs, safety is the number one concern.  This is followed closely by profit and in some cases; the two go hand in hand!  Mining employment represents one of the most dangerous careers in the world, companies must do their best to keep workers safe, or their insurance premiums skyrocket.



If a mine is in the operations phase for many years it may require upgrades to comply with current safety or environmental regulations.   The financial situation of the mining company may change, allowing them to make upgrades to the mine for convenience of the miners or new innovations in mining technology may permit easier ore extraction.


Decommissioning or Reclamation

The last stage of the mine life cycle is closing the mine.  Buildings must be removed and the land must be returned to the pre-mine state.  Engineers should plan the closing of the mine before excavation begins so that reclamation costs can be calculated in the beginning with the total cost.  Trees are planted and the landscape is returned to the original state so land value is restored.

From highly skilled and educated geophysicists to unskilled laborers, almost anyone can find a suitable job at a mine site. The opening of a mine can bring incredible prosperity to nearby towns as many workers are hired from the local labor pool.  Even fields unrelated to the mine job cycle will find lucrative employment in a mining town.