This past week I received two separate emails for two young mining engineering students. They spoke of what they are studying and what their hopes & dreams are. For example one writes:
In a career with the mining industry I hope to find a dynamic environment with constant changes and opportunities. I want to continue traveling and working in and around mines. I like the adventure, risks, and challenges I see in the industry and its place in the world.
Another writes of this unusual approach to mining engineering:
I am passionate about mining, and consider myself to be a mining engineer – even though my undergraduate degree was in Mathematics and I have never worked at a mine! I accepted the job in Hong Kong as it was the closest thing I could find to working in mining, and I thought it might give me some relevant experience (shaft sinking, blast design, shotfiring, etc.). It’s been a good experience, but I really want to make a move into mining. I would like to work all over the world (especially in developing countries), although I think it would be best to learn the trade in a country with a mature mining industry (e.g. Australia or Canada). I would like to work in underground mine development eventually as I find that aspect of mining the most interesting, but I think it would be a good idea to get some practical production experience first.In reply
In reply to one, I wrote as follows–this could be advise to both. (If you would like to contact either or both these bright young mining engineers, contact me and i will pass their contact details along.)
Your educational background and focus is unique. You can and must do things in mining that I have never done and have never dreamed of.
There are a number of very basic decisions you will have to make—delay making them as long as possible however. Decisions include:
- Do you want to focus on the managerial, financial, or technical aspects of mining?
- Do you want to work for a small, mid-sized, or large mining company?
- Or do you want to work for yourself—maybe as a consultant, investor, or mine developer?
- Do you want to stay in the USA or travel and work abroad?
From what you write, I would guess you want to travel, consult, and be independent. And seems from your short email that you can do these things if you turn your mind to it.
The point is that the mining industry is so broad and big that you can choose any course you decide on. The trick is to be ruthless about accepting offers of employment and moving on once you have learnt all there is to learn from the job. My metric is this: a talented young man should change jobs every two years for at least the first ten years, then you should stay at least ten years in each job thereafter. At any rate that is what I have done and what those in the mining industry that I know who are happy have done.
Do not get too worried about being rounded or about knowing about everything in the mining industry. There is simply too much—too much for any one person in one lifetime. At your age, you have to decide where to focus. Of course you will do things by the time you are 60 that you cannot envisage now, but you cannot do everything to be done between now and then.
The other side of this point is that great men stumble into their careers; seldom do they choose. They take opportunities as they arise and build on their successes.
Ultimately it is about fun – the life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness if you will.
If you are not having fun, move on. Life is too short to plunge into the tailings pool of a basement and get stuck there.
Learn to trust your gut instincts. If it does not feel right, don’t do it. If you like and respect the people you work with, stick with them. If you judge them stupid, crass, overbearing, or whatever, leave them and seek other mentors. There are many fools and arrogant idiots in mining. Do not bide them. Get the hell out as fast as you can. There are plenty of great people in mining—seek them out and learn from them.
One warning however: genius is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. You have to knuckle down at some things, become the expert, fly above the common herd, and excel. Not always easy to have the patience or fortitude. But again if you gut tells you it is the right thing and it is fun, persist.
You will never be rich as a service provider in the mining industry. To do that you need to get your own mine, found and run a new consulting company, make shrewd investments. But you will always make enough to be comfortable, raise a family (if that is your desire), see the world, and retire honest.