Minerals surveyors play an integral part in the process of mineral extraction, from the initial survey of the site to the final stages and restoration of the area
As a minerals surveyor, you'll be heavily involved in the preparation and processing of potential mineral sites. You'll also conduct surveys to investigate the commercial potential of mining or quarrying, assess risk, predict environmental impacts and map mineral deposits.
You'll look at the economic viability of working on a potential site and support planning applications, as well as help to negotiate legal contracts and establish rights to work a mine. Then, you'll manage and develop the sites and map and record the extent of mineral extraction.
Once a site has been exhausted, you'll work with other professionals, including mining engineers and planning and development surveyors, to restore the land.
Type of mineral surveying work
Minerals surveyors are involved with a huge variety of operations, including:
- concrete and cement works
- landfill and waste management sites
- methane extraction sites
- mine water treatment plants
- mineral processing plants
- onshore oil and gas installations
- peat workings
- recycling centres
- waste incinerators
- waste transfer stations.
As a mineral surveyor, you'll need to:
- carry out initial surveys, risk assessments and environmental impact assessments on potential sites to assess whether plans are workable
- provide advice on developing and managing mineral sites safely and within regulations
- explore, map and develop sites for mineral extraction
- chart surface areas using global positioning systems (GPS), and build accurate 3D models using digital imaging and specialist CAD (computer-aided design) software to map the structure of a site
- research land and tax records to establish site ownership
- deal with ownership rights, negotiating purchase and lease contracts and arranging access onto sites
- undertake exploration work, such as taking samples and recording results
- provide valuations of mineral deposits
- give advice on how best to restore the landscape after extraction is complete
- meet with members of the public and provide information and advice to them as required
- liaise with local authorities and prepare planning applications for clients
- predict the environmental effects and impacts of mining, including air pollution and destruction of the landscape
- develop pollution licences
- provide waste disposal advice.
- Starting salaries for minerals surveyors are in the region of £20,000 to £25,000.
- With experience, you can expect to earn between £25,000 and £45,000.
- Becoming chartered helps increase your earning potential and in a senior surveyor role, you could earn in the region of £50,000 to £70,000.
Although it's not usual to be allocated a company car, it is common to have your mileage paid for site visits.
Salaries vary considerably according to the location, sector and size of the employing organisation, with salaries normally higher in London and overseas.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
A typical working week is 35 to 40 hours, and this may include early starts or late finishes. Some weekend working may be necessary to meet deadlines.
What to expect
- The work is both office and site based and there are opportunities across the UK and abroad. Site visits and inspections are conducted outside in all weathers.
- Underground mine workings can be dark, damp and cramped at times. Surface workings can be dirty and are exposed to the weather. Mining equipment can also be noisy.
- Safety regulations in mine workings must be strictly observed so hard hats, protective clothing and equipment must be used when on site.
- A reasonable level of fitness and mobility is required as the work can be physically demanding. Site inspections may involve climbing down into excavated areas or mine workings.
- There may be considerable travel within a working day and absence from home overnight may be necessary, depending on the site location.
Graduates from a range of disciplines can enter minerals surveying, but most employers prefer candidates to have a related degree. Relevant subjects include:
- civil or mining engineering
- earth sciences
Gaining chartered status through RICS is advised. If your degree is accredited, this will shorten the length of time it takes you to gain the professional qualification.
If you don't have an approved first degree, you may be able to complete an accredited postgraduate qualification. In some instances, this can be carried out part time or via distance learning while you are working. See RICS for more information.
Some dedicated postgraduate courses are available, such as the MSc/PgDip in Surveying and Land/Environmental Management at The University of Exeter - Camborne School of Mines, which equip you with excellent knowledge and skills for a career in this industry.
You can enter the industry with an HND or foundation degree, but you should expect to work in lower positions such as a surveying technician while taking further study. You'll need a degree or postgraduate qualification to become a minerals surveyor.
The RICS also has details about taking a surveying apprenticeship route into surveying.
You'll need to show evidence of the following:
- excellent communication skills, written and oral, as the work demands constant contact with people at all levels
- strong scientific and mathematical ability
- a methodical approach, good analytical skills, accuracy and attention to detail
- excellent organisational skills
- the ability to interpret maps, charts and graphical data
- familiarity with surveying technology and CAD programmes
- a wide knowledge of mineral estate economics, mineral properties, planning legislation and health and safety issues
- good IT skills
- a driving licence - this is usually a requirement due to the number of site visits you’ll carry out.
Pre-entry experience in a surveying or geological environment is desirable and highly regarded by recruiters. This will be invaluable if your first degree is not directly relevant. The British Geological Survey (BGS) occasionally has opportunities for voluntary work experience, short-term casual vacancies and summer fieldwork.
For students interested in a career in any surveying profession, student membership of RICS is free. This is helpful for networking purposes and to keep up to date with developments in the sector.
RICS membership is free to students and apprentices of any surveying profession and offers useful study help and networking opportunities.
This field of surveying is relatively small in the UK, but there are still a number of employers including:
- local authorities, which employ minerals surveyors to oversee planning applications, manage sites and provide valuations
- statutory and government bodies and planning authorities, which require minerals surveyors to manage mineral assets
- private surveying companies, which specialise in either mineral surveying or general practice and either have a single employed surveyor or a dedicated team of surveyors
- environmental consultancies, which require specialist services to create strategies for restoring industrial sites for re-use and for landfill management
- valuation offices, which require surveyors to value and manage the taxation of minerals
- mineral extraction companies and quarrying companies, which require surveyors to check the levels of mineral deposits on site and to provide valuations
- coal operators, which require surveyors to undertake site risk assessments
- specialist consultancy companies, which employ surveyors to provide advice and support and conduct risk assessment of sites.
Work for private consultancies is likely to be project based, providing surveying support for a number of clients at once. Clients can include landowners with mineral assets, government and industry bodies.
Look for job vacancies at:
You can become a Chartered Member (MRICS) if you have an accredited degree, approved professional qualification or 10 years of relevant experience. See RICS for details.
If you don't have a RICS-accredited degree you'll usually complete a conversion course before studying for chartered status. Some graduates may be able to complete the APC at the same time.
Some employers provide relevant training programmes for staff who are not fully qualified or who wish to gain further qualifications, with employers taking on graduate or trainee surveyors and supporting them through part-time study to full professional qualification.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is important in mineral surveying and attending internal and external training courses, relevant seminars and conferences is an effective way of keeping up to date with current issues and legislation and refreshing knowledge. Some short courses can lead to further professional qualifications.
The RICS has details of training courses you can undertake to further develop your career.
A number of chartered surveyors gain specific further qualifications in an area of specialist interest, such as through The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM). Some employers provide sponsorship for this type of further training, particularly if it enhances an employee's expertise within their job.
There are many opportunities for employment overseas, with British qualifications being widely accepted and respected in many countries.
Development in a specific area is possible, such as planning or valuation, but it's advisable to gain wider experience and knowledge to avoid becoming limited to a small section of the profession. Surveying is a diverse profession, so there are opportunities to transfer to other areas of surveying as a career move.
Minerals surveyors can work in academia, lecturing in universities, in research and development roles in industry, or set up as consultants. Other possible career routes include working in a national laboratory or in a museum as a curator.
The environmental sector offers career possibilities for surveying professionals too, in the areas of sensitive development scheme planning, renewable energy, waste management, pollution control, conservation and countryside management.