Minerals surveyors are concerned with potential mining sites, ascertaining the commercial potential of mining or quarrying, assessing risk, predicting environmental impacts and mapping mineral deposits.

They prepare initial surveys to determine the economic viability of a potential site and support planning applications. They also help to negotiate legal contracts and to establish rights to work a mine.

They then manage and develop the sites and map and record the extent of mineral extraction. Once a site has been exhausted, minerals surveyors work with other professionals, including mining engineers and planning and development surveyors, to restore the land.

Mineral surveyors are involved with a huge variety of operations including:

  • peat workings;
  • mineral processing plants;
  • onshore oil and gas installations;
  • methane extraction sites;
  • mine water treatment plants;
  • brickworks;
  • concrete and cement works;
  • waste transfer stations;
  • recycling centres;
  • waste incinerators.

They can also work on landfill and waste management sites and ensure all workings are safe.

Responsibilities

As a mineral surveyor, your tasks will vary depending on the area you are working in but could include:

  • carrying out initial surveys, risk assessments and environmental impact assessments on potential sites to assess whether plans are workable;
  • providing advice on developing and managing mineral sites safely and within regulations;
  • exploring, mapping and developing sites for mineral extraction;
  • charting surface areas using global positioning systems (GPS), building accurate 3D models using digital imaging and specialist CAD (computer-aided design) software to map the structure of a site;
  • researching land and tax records to establish site ownership;
  • dealing with ownership rights and negotiating contracts to buy, lease or simply to provide access onto sites;
  • undertaking exploration work, such as taking samples and recording results;
  • providing valuations of mineral deposits;
  • giving advice on how best to restore the landscape after extraction is complete;
  • meeting with members of the public and providing information and advice to them as required;
  • liaising with local authorities and preparing planning applications for clients;
  • predicting the environmental effects and impacts of mining, including air pollution and destruction of the landscape;
  • developing pollution licences;
  • providing advice on how waste material should be disposed of.

Salary

  • Starting salaries for minerals surveyors are in the region of £20,000 to £25,000.
  • With experience, minerals surveyors can expect to earn between £26,000 and £46,000. Becoming chartered can increase salaries and gives the potential to earn over £50,000.
  • The 2015 Rewards and Attitudes survey by RICS and Macdonald & Company reports that the average salary for minerals professionals is £41,833.

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.

Working hours

The working week is usually 35 to 40 hours, but may include early starts or late finishes. Some weekend working may be necessary to meet deadlines.

What to expect

  • The work is both office-based and conducted on site. 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.
  • Self-employment and freelance work are possible but not widespread.
  • Opportunities exist throughout the UK and abroad, essentially where minerals are found.
  • The dress code tends to be conservative for meetings, and it is expected that surveyors will be smartly dressed even when visiting sites, although more appropriate clothing will be worn during underground mining inspections, for example.
  • 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 site location.
  • A driving licence is usually required and although a company car is not typically offered, mileage for site visits may be paid.

Qualifications

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;
  • economics;
  • geography;
  • geology;
  • surveying.

It is advisable to gain chartered status through the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS). If you have studied an accredited degree, it will shorten the length of time it takes you to gain the professional qualification.

If you do not have an approved first degree, you can complete an accredited postgraduate qualification. In some instances, this can be carried out part time or via distance learning while you are working. For details on accredited first degrees and postgraduates qualifications see RICS Courses.

There are some dedicated postgraduate courses available, including an MSc Surveying (Minerals) at Northumbria University and an MSc in Surveying and Land/Environment Management at The University of Exeter - Camborne School of Mines, both designed for existing professionals in the 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 will need a degree or postgraduate qualification to become a minerals surveyor.

Skills

You will need to show evidence of the following:

  • excellent communication skills, written and oral, as the work demands constant contact with people at all levels;
  • a 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.

Work experience

Pre-entry experience in a surveying or geological environment is desirable and is 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 field work.

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.

Employers

This particular field of surveying is relatively small in the UK, but there are still a number of employers including:

  • local authorities, who employ minerals surveyors to oversee planning applications, manage sites and provide valuations;
  • statutory and government bodies and planning authorities, who require minerals surveyors to manage mineral assets;
  • private surveying companies, who specialise in either mineral surveying or general practice and either have a single employed surveyor or a dedicated team of surveyors;
  • environmental consultancies, who require specialist services to create strategies for restoring industrial sites for re-use and for landfill management;
  • valuation offices, who require surveyors to value and manage the taxation of minerals;
  • mineral extraction companies and quarrying companies, who require surveyors to check the levels of mineral deposits on site and to provide valuations;
  • coal operators, who require surveyors to undertake site risk assessments;
  • specialist consultancy companies, who 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.

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Professional development

If you have a degree that is approved by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and have entered relevant employment, you can become a chartered surveyor by completing the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC).

This work-based professional training scheme usually lasts for at least two years and requires an achievement of specific competencies. Satisfactory completion of a RICS-accredited industrial training year, as part of a degree, will count towards the APC.

Towards the end of the training period there is a requirement to prepare a formal presentation and attend an interview. If successful, you will become a chartered mineral surveyor and may undertake the full range of mineral surveying duties.

If you do not have a RICS-accredited degree you will 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.

A number of chartered surveyors gain specific further qualifications, depending on areas 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.

Career prospects

Gaining chartered status with the RICS and undertaking agreed levels of continuing professional development (CPD) is a key part of career development and will enable progression to more senior posts.

Career development is dependent on the specific area of minerals surveying you specialise in. Development is possible in one particular area, such as planning or valuation, but it is advisable to develop wider experience and knowledge to avoid becoming limited to a small section of the profession.

The route and job titles differ between the public and private sectors, but generally in both there will be opportunities to advance through the company structure or move to a larger organisation in order to gain promotion.

There are opportunities to move into lecturing work in universities, research and development roles, or as a consultant, which can provide more scope for the development of personal interests. Minerals surveyors can also find work at national laboratories or even as museum curators.

There are many opportunities for employment overseas, with British qualifications widely accepted and respected in many countries.

The environmental field is a growing area of work and there are a number of opportunities for professionals in this field to become involved in the planning process for environmentally sensitive development schemes, or in renewable energy, waste management, pollution control, conservation or countryside management.

Surveying is a diverse profession, and there are opportunities to transfer to other areas of surveying as a career move.