In general, coal Mining Engineers find, extract, and prepare coal for use by power utilities and manufacturing industries. They conduct preliminary surveys/studies of coal deposits to assess the economic and environmental feasibility of potential mining operations.
They determine the appropriate means of mining the deposits safely and efficiently, designing open pit and underground mines. They plan and advise on appropriate drilling and blasting methods for mining, construction, and/or demolition. They supervise the construction of mine shafts/tunnels in underground operations and design shafts, ventilation systems, power supply equipment, mine services, and haulage and conveying methods to transport the coal to the surface (or from the open pit mine) and on to processing plants.
The primary responsibility of Mining Engineers is the safe, economical, and environmentally sound operation of the mines. As such, they plan, organize, and supervise the development of mines and mine structures, as well as the operation/maintenance of mines. They work with geologists and metallurgical engineers to locate and appraise new ore deposits and, in conjunction with mechanical and electrical engineers, plan and design new (or select appropriate) mining equipment and machinery for mining operations, as well as that equipment used to prepare coal for processing by power or manufacturing industries.
One of the most dramatic changes in the mining industry is due to the effect of sophisticated three-dimensional mineplanning software. Once a mine operation has been decided on, Mining Engineers create detailed designs that take into account the topography, infrastructure, and physical parameters of the targeted coal seam. With the new 3-D computer technology, tasks such as rendering graphic images of drill holes have become much easier as the data can now be manipulated and visualized. Today's range of integrated mine-planning tools allow for massively complex models to be built to optimize extracting/processing coal.
Thus, Mining Engineers design, develop, and implement computer applications in mine design, mine modeling, mapping, and the ongoing monitoring of mine conditions. They prepare operations and project estimates, schedules, and reports. Working with mine safety engineers, they implement and coordinate mine safety programs, and, generally, supervise/coordinate the work of mining technicians, machine operators, technologists, survey personnel, and other engineers and scientists involved in the mining process. With the increased emphasis on protecting the environment, many Mining Engineers work to solve (or specialize in solving) problems related to land reclamation and water and air pollution control.
Most Mining Engineers work in office buildings, laboratories, or industrial plants. Others may spend most of their time at construction sites and mines where they monitor or direct operations, resolving on-site problems as they occur. Some of them may travel extensively to work sites or processing plants. Mining Engineers usually report directly to senior management.
Median annual earnings of Mining Engineers in May 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, were US Dollars 60,370. The lowest 10 percent had annual incomes of approximately US Dollars 39,700, and the highest 10 percent earned over US Dollars 103,000. According to a 2005 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salary offers for Mining Engineers with bachelor's degrees were US Dollars 48,643.
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