Dirty, soot-covered faces, hands and clothes -- at least that's the traditional
view of a miner. But the image of a dangerous and dirty profession has yielded
to the reality of high-tech equipment and little backbreaking labor.
Miners load, move, sort and pile mining materials and supplies. Minerals
have always been essential to human civilization. Mine products, at acceptable
prices, feed the industry of most Western nations.
Average workdays depend on the location. Some jobs involve eight- to 10-hour
days, five or six days a week. On projects where miners are flown in and out
of the area, there may be 12-hour shifts for 14 days, then five days off.
Miners at remote locations may work 21 straight days of shift work and
then have 14 days off.
"As a miner, I'm given a plan or verbally told what is required and I'm
left to perform the job," says Joe Slaviero, a miner in Australia.
"Some of the jobs a miner performs are development work -- drilling and
blasting access drives, and stopping, which is the process of actually extracting
the ore. Miners must be skilled in the safe use of explosives and most hand-held
and mechanized mining equipment techniques."
There is still some danger associated with mining, but things are getting
better. The dangers are countered by increased use of equipment, says Otto
Schumacher. He owns a mining engineering company in Spokane, Washington.
Schumacher thinks operating equipment is where the future of jobs will
be in the mining business. "Labor costs have escalated over the years. And
this is still a very dangerous occupation."
"As the technology to make mining safer and more productive through tele-operation
and robotics becomes more and more prevalent, a career in mining a few years
from now will be very, very different from the mining careers of today," says
Leif Bloomquist. He is a research and development engineer for a mining company.