The mining industry is full of interesting and diverse careers—engineering, mining operations, field operations, health and safety, environmental management, research & development, IT, and finance, to name a few. If yours isn’t a field position, have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a mining geologist? K.R. Baker, a mining geologist in Canada, told us all about her job.
Q: Tell us about your background: how did you become interested in mining geology?
A: I was a rock-lover from a family of rock lovers! As long as I can remember I have had a fascination for rocks and still can’t help coming home from walks with pockets full of rocks. I hadn’t thought about becoming a geologist until I was picking courses my first year of university. I thought I would take one class for interest’s sake, but ended up completing a B.Sc (Honours).
Q: What is life like as a mining geologist?
A: I currently work as well-site consultant. It’s generally a boom and bust sort of job, with very busy and very slow months throughout the year. The schedule can be pretty erratic, but I generally only work around 90-120 days a year, so I have lots of time off, which is handy if you enjoy travelling. When I’m working, I work 12 hour shifts everyday for as long as it takes to drill the well. Every well presents its own unique challenges and problems, which makes every day of the job interesting.
Q: What kind of training did you go through to work on the mine site?
A: I was hired right out of University and after completing my Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), First Aid, and H2S Alive Safety courses I was sent straight out to the rig. For the first few wells I shadowed another geologist as I learned how to use the software. Gradually I was given more and more responsibility until I was able to work a complete shift on my own.
Q: How does your educational experience compare with real-life work experience?
A: My education gave me the knowledge I needed to do my job. A large part of my work is identifying minerals and fossils. The other big part is structural interpretation. To a great extent, the vast majority of my work is very much like completing a mineralogy lab assignment. I prepare the cuttings and then describe each sample in a horizontal or vertical strip-log.
Q: What have been your primary roles and responsibilities as a mining geologist?
A: As a consulting geologist, it is my job to keep us drilling in the zone of interest. This generally means the oil bearing zone if we are drilling a producing well, but may mean locating the appropriate place to take the top of a core if one is needed. I use my current sample lithology and dip trends, along with offset information from nearby wells (if available), structure maps, and usually guidance from a company geologist. I do my best to follow or predict the trends and direct the directional team and drill operators who actually operate the drill bit.
Q: How much of your time is spent on exploration, mapping, modeling, extraction, and analysis?
A: We collect all well data in the form of sample and the well-bore directory and compile it into a single well-report. If drilling more wells in the immediate area, we use these for offset information. Generally a company geologist will incorporate this information for formation tops and lithology into their own existing structure maps as we gather more information.
Q: What is your favorite part of this job?
A: When things are going well it is satisfying to know that you have done your part to make the well a success. A successful well generally means more wells and work for everyone in the future!
Q: What has been your most interesting experience?
A: Every well has its own challenges. Finding unexpected fossils and minerals is always interesting. I particularly enjoy finding tiny perfect cubes of pyrite, and occasionally tiny euhedral quartz crystals.
Q: What was your most challenging mining job and what made it so?
A: Drilling in a new area with little offset information is always a challenge. It can be hard to predict the immediate trend of the formation and unfortunately there are times you can’t tell if you are above or below the formation until you make the wrong decision and find an obvious marker bed. I have also drilled more than one well with sudden lithology changes, possibly due to faulting. In those situations it can be difficult to orient back into the zone of interest.
Q: What kinds of tools or technologies make your job easier?
A: An easy to use strip-log program and a good, clear microscope are both helpful!
Are you employed in the mining industry? What are some of the tools and technologies you use in your job? We’d love to hear about it!