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Mining Engineering

engineer, ore, deposits, various, training and methods

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MINING ENGINEERING, is that branch of engineering which pertains to the operations of extracting useful minerals from the deposits in which they occur. While no distinct line can be drawn between the fields occupied by mining and mining engineering, the former may be termed an art and the latter a science. The present article will be confined to a consider ation of the qualifications, professional duties and training of the mining engineer; the subjects relating to mining as an art, namely, the modes of searching or prospecting for mineral deposits, the various systems or methods of working• mines, and the details of the operations connected therewith, are dealt with under the head of MINING.

The province of the mining engineer com prises the testing and valuing of mineral de posits, the planning and execution of the various mining works required to reach the deposit — such as tunneling, shaft-sinking, etc.— the choice and application of a suitable method of opening the mine and bringing the ore to the surface; and, lastly, the installation of the neces sary surface and underground plant. In addi tion, therefore, to a knowledge of the theory and practice of the various kinds and methods of mining, the successful pursuit of the profes sion demands not only a training in mathe matics, mechanics, physics and other funda mental subjects which underlie all technical education, 'but also an intimate acquaintance with certain of the natural sciences, particularly geology, mineralogy and chemistry, and many of the principles of civil, mechanical and elec trical engineering. In a well-planned course of professional instruction the scientific studies would preferably come first, but the engineer is incomplete until to these he adds a knowledge of the actual practice of mining. The arts of metallurgy, ore-dressing and milling, moreover, are so related to the art of mining that these subjects also, at least in part, must be included in the equipment of the mining engineer. The functions of the mining engineer cannot be de fined in precise terms, largely because of the infinite variety of local conditions which may be encountered, and the differing physical, min eralogical and chemical characteristics of the ore deposits themselves. (See ORE DEPosrrs).

There has been perhaps a greater tendency to ward specialization in mining than in other de partments of engineering. As the professional field has broadened, no one man can hope suc cessfully to cover it all. Quite a sharp dis tinction exists, for example, between metal min ing and coal mining. The modes of deposition of coal and of the metalliferous ores, the geological and physical conditions, and the ac cepted systems of mining, are so different that of collieries has become largely a specialty. So again among the metals them selves. Engineers may be led to specialize in the direction of iron, or lead and zinc, or cop per, or gold and silver mining. This latter dif ferentiation is not the result of any fundamental diversity in the methods of developing and working the mines, but is due rather to differ ences in the scale of operation, the physical characteristics of the deposits themselves, the treatment of the ores of the various metals and their final disposition. It frequently happens that the dressing, or concentration, and even the smelting, or other process for the reduction of the ore, are carried on at or near the mine itself, and under the same general management. The mining engineer, therefore, must be some thing of a metallurgist also, and, though not necessarily highly skilled in this direction, he should at least be able to decide upon and select the plant and process appropriate to the char acter of the ore, and to supervise its erection and operation. But this applies to the mining and treatment of the non-ferrous metals. The metallurgy of iron and steel forms far too large a field to be included in the range of work of the mining engineer. It requires a special training, and has developed into a dis tinct profession.

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