The Mineral Resource Development Cycle
There are five stages in the mineral resource development cycle: Geoscience, Mineral Exploration, Mine Development, Mine Operation and Mine Closure.
STAGE 1: GEOSCIENCE
What is geoscience?
It’s a field of science that addresses the study of the earth. Although it deals with all issues relating to the Earth and its systems, one of its major uses is the development of our natural resources. Natural resources include minerals, metals, oil, gas, aggregates, soil, and water resources.
Geoscience often includes other areas of science such as biology, chemistry, physics as well as mathematics and engineering. A geologist, geochemist, geophysicist, environmental geologist and paleontologist are examples of geoscience career paths.
STAGE 2: MINERAL EXPLORATION
What is mineral exploration?
The first stage of the mineral resource development cycle is mineral exploration. Searching for ore bodies, or valuable minerals and metals that can be economically mined is the goal of exploration. The mineral exploration stage is a slow, yet very well planned stage. It is rare to find an orebody with a high enough concentration of minerals or metals to develop a mine, but it all begins with mineral exploration. Good geological maps and reports created in the geoscience stage provide the road maps for explorationists.
Mineral Exploration is carried out by geologists, prospectors, junior exploration companies and/or mining companies. A geologist, geophysicist and prospector are examples of mineral exploration careers.
STAGE 3: MINE DEVELOPMENT
What is mine development?
The mine development stage only occurs if the mineral exploration stage is positive. There are three main goals during mine development:
1) Determine if the mineral deposit is worth mining (i.e. evaluate the mineral discovery)
2) Raise financing to develop the mine
3) Plan to design and build a mine
During the mine development stage, the company has to make many detailed plans and important decisions. It is a long, and intense, multi–phase process, sometimes taking up to 7 to 10 years to complete. Companies must follow a strict process as required by government laws. The project must be released from an environmental assessment (EA) before the company can receive the permits required to mine. These permits are called mining and surface leases. Companies must also have financial assurance to support mine closure. Various plans and reports are required, including for closure of the mine, geology and engineering studies, legal and financial work, and potential environmental and social impacts.
Accountants, construction workers, electricians, engineers, geologists, lawyers and workers specialized in various skilled trades are just a few of the types of careers needed.
What is mine operation?
The mine operation stage involves removing and processing mineral resources from the earth to make them useable. The mining method depends on many factors, including the size, shape and location of the valuable minerals. This concentration of valuable minerals is called an orebody. Mining methods include:
1) Open–pit mining
2) Underground mining
Open–pit mining is used for mineral deposits that are near the earth’s surface, while underground mining is used to extract ore that is buried deep! Once the ore has been removed or extracted, it is moved to a processing plant to separate the valuable minerals from the raw rock. The ore is sold and the leftover waste rock is safely stored.
Field and office work can occur near urban areas, but typically work occurs in remote areas. Corporate offices, consulting service offices and mine sites are some of the places you will find specialists working in this stage. A driller, electrician, environmental technologist, haulage truck driver, mine engineer, pipefitter, and warehouse worker are examples of careers in the mining stage.
What is mine closure?
Mine closure is the last stage in the mineral development cycle. Mining is a temporary use of the land and all mines eventually close. Once mining is complete and the mine closes, the land must be left in a safe state that blends with the surrounding environment. This is called reclamation. Today’s mining processes ensure that safe and sound environmental management occurs at every stage of the mining cycle, and in particular, before mining begins.
Duties generally involve time shared doing field work, laboratory analysis and office work. Environmental technicians, environmental engineers, and specialists who study the soil, water, wildlife and vegetation are examples of career opportunities in the mine closure stage.