As part of our Careers in Mining series, this post looks at the job of Mining Engineer with Matt Moss of JDS Energy & Mining Inc.
Matt is a 27 year old mining engineer from Vancouver, B.C. He grew up inundated with the beauty of the west coast, usually found playing in the woods or collecting shiny rocks at the beach. Today he can be found doing essentially the same thing only on a much bigger scale. After graduation from Montana School of Mines he joined JDS Energy & Mining. Mining has provided him with an exciting and challenging career, a great mix of office and field work, an attractive salary, as well the opportunity to explore not only the province he lives in, but the world.
What is your main role as Mining Engineer?
So you've found a gold deposit. Great work! Now how do you plan to get that gold out of the ground? Better call a mining engineer!
My main role as a mining engineer is to determine the means of extracting mineral resources from the earth in a safe, efficient and cost effective manner. As a mine engineer I will analyze the mineral deposit, plan the best method of attack, prepare production and cost estimates, and then execute the plan. This cycle is applicable to untouched mineral deposits and mines already in operation, both of which I'm involved with regularly.
What came first - a desire to go into mining, or the desire to become an engineer?
I'll admit mining was never one of my interests in school. It wasn't even on my radar. My passion during secondary and post-secondary was really geology. I loved learning about plate tectonics, how mountains were built, and how glaciers tore them to pieces. Outside of school my passions included travel and construction of any kind. I worked through school building homes, furniture, or cars, and at every opportunity I was traveling abroad. It wasn't until I was thumbing through the BCIT graduate surveys one day that I stumbled across the mining program they offered and I thought to myself "this could be a really good fit for me". That night I signed up for the BCIT Mining Tech program, and four years later I was carrying sacks of explosives in Turkey, hiking the jungles of western Mexico to plot new mine openings, and designing large open pits in the high Peruvian Andes.
Is your job mostly office based or do you spend more time at mine/exploration sites?
My position contains a good mix of on-site and in office work. Some months will be entirely on site, while others in the office. You really need to be flexible in this line of work.
Has your job allowed you to travel? If so, where to?
Mexico, Turkey, Peru, Canada, United States, Australia.
If you are away from home for extended periods, what makes you the type of person that can do this successfully?
Flexibility is key to a happy life as a mining engineer. Commitments at home are often compromised by work, which need to be considered before signing up for the job. You must be prepared to travel on short notice, and cancel personal plans you might have made. With this kind of work it is advantageous to maintain interests in activities that can be done at your leisure, such as hiking, biking, skiing, or mechanics. The support I have from my family and loved ones really makes it possible for me to travel and be away, knowing that I will always return to open arms.
What does your average day look like?
At the office: The office is generally where I do most of my technical engineering work, such as mine design, production scheduling, or researching equipment and costs. Client meetings are a regular occurrence in the office, as are internal meetings to check up on everyone's progress on the latest project.
In the field: Most days will start with a safety briefing, from which I could be doing any number of things. I could work in the mine office with the engineering department to plan the next big blast, or I could be inside the mine checking on yesterday's work and measuring progress.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Working in Lima was a great experience. The mineral deposit is situated in mountains over 4 km high where the air is very thin and llamas outnumber people, while the office is located in Lima where the air is muggy and surfboards are strapped to every other car. I had never experienced such a dramatic change in climate and culture over such a short distance, and had a wonderful time soaking it all in.
What do you love most about your job?
I still love geology and mining provides me the opportunity to see it in action while I do my job. I love that I get to build things every day, whether they are on paper, on the computer, or in the field. I love that part of my job involves blowing stuff up, and moving rocks around with machines that are bigger than my house.
There must be aspects of the job which you don't enjoy so much. What are they?
I enjoy structure and regiment, but this is a rarity in the mining industry. It is difficult to predict what you're doing next month, or where you might be doing it.
Do you have any advice for anyone looking to follow a similar career path?
If you are unsure and don't want to make a full commitment, then I recommend starting at BCIT. The program is only two years long and gets you saturated with all you need to know about mining. The program will provide you with a technical diploma which you can take to the field to work in the mines, or you can continue your education for another two years to get a degree in mining, metallurgical, or geological engineering at another institution.
For more interviews with mining professionals in different jobs, have a look at our main Careers in Mining post.
Header photo: aerial seeding at Highland Valley Copper. Image courtesy of Teck Resources Ltd.