Mining engineering is a discipline of engineering that involves the practice, science and technology of extracting mineral deposits safely and for a profit. It is an engineering discipline that combines material knowledge (geological, civil and material) with the study of operations management processes to determine how to overcome the significant challenges related to extracting mineral wealth from mineral deposits that are becoming more difficult to mine.
Mining engineering, like most engineering disciplines, must constantly make trade offs between costs and benefits. However the mining engineer is faced with a number of challenges that are atypical for most other engineering disciplines.
Mine design must consider the issues related to extracting a product whose value is based on the long term fluctuations of international commodity markets. Thus mining engineers generally have a greater understanding of economics, time value of money and financial risk associated to major projects. Additionally as the mineral value is not equally distributed in many deposits, the value fluctuation also affects the geometry of the mineral deposit.
Unlike many engineering disciplines, the mining engineer has little knowledge of the material that he has to work with. Underground openings are blasted from non-homogeneous rock masses where the material properties can only be sampled from a relatively low number of drillholes. There is a significant amount of inference to interpolate/extrapolate where observed faults and contacts may project from the drillholes into rock mass. The second significant challenge that mining engineers face is the stress changes that occur as large volumes of material are extracted from the rock mass.
The mining engineer is responsible for the initial extraction of the ore (defined as material of positive economic value) from the deposit. This includes initial rock blasting and transport to surface.