As one of the oldest industries globally, mining is a necessary precursor to many other applications. Mining helps unearth essential materials to build items from electronics to vehicles. Copper, coal, silver, diamonds, and more help us advance as a society.
Mining engineers study how to turn mineral resources into everyday products responsibly and sustainably. In their day to day, these professionals work at mining operations from mineral mines to gravel quarries.
Using their technical abilities, mining engineers study minerals and determine innovative strategies for locating and removing ore. They help to design mines and the machinery within them. Mining engineers must also consider the environmental and safety impacts of their work.
In order to develop the skills to safely and effectively design mining processes, these professionals must earn a college degree. Mining schools were typically established in the 18th and 19th centuries to focus on mining engineering and applied science.
Mining engineering is a truly interdisciplinary field, drawing in material from mechanical, civil, and environmental engineering. The best programs will specifically focus on mining engineering to teach fundamental subjects from surface mining to control. Along with core subjects, mining engineers must be strong in mathematics, geology, mechanics, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and computing.
With growing energy costs and a heavier burden on natural resources, well-educated mining engineers are highly desired professionals. In 2019, there were 6,300 mineral and mining engineers, earning an average salary of $94,000.
Here are 10 of the best schools of mines with strong curriculums and plenty of hands-on opportunities. These universities are some of the few nationwide to have ABET-accredited mining engineering programs.
Virginia Tech Department of Mining and Minerals Engineering (Blacksburg, VA)
Virginia Tech is widely recognized for producing successful leaders in mining engineering who have the knowledge and experience required for the field. The low student-to-faculty ratio of 7:1 gives undergraduates individual focus. Mining engineering students learn from a diverse group of dedicated professors.
80% of students can use their skills in the industry, working alongside top companies in the area. At Virginia Tech, the mining and mineral engineering program has an active recruiting program for internships, co-ops, and permanent jobs.
Industry recruiters favor Virginia Tech mining students due to their extensive training. As a result, the mining and minerals engineering department has one of the highest job placement rates at the university. Even after they graduate, Virginia Tech alumni keep in touch with the department.
University of Utah Department of Mining Engineering (Salt Lake City, UT)
The mining engineering program at the University of Utah aims to prepare students to meet the industry’s unique requirements. Combining basic engineering, geology, and mining, graduates are prepared to discover and develop mineral deposits. Using its connections, the University of Utah provides hands-on learning through laboratories and field trips.
Students perform research in state-of-the-art facilities, studying rock mechanics, ventilation, geotechnical instrumentation, and mine systems design.
Due to the school’s unique capabilities, the mining engineering department at the University of Utah was selected by the US Department of State to assist with mine training. Using their decades of mining education, the university is one of two universities bolstering the growing mining industry in Greenland.
Missouri University of Science and Technology (Rolla, MS)
At Missouri S&T, mining engineering students are exposed to a diverse range of courses. They study materials handling, surveying, processing, rock mechanics, ventilation, mine design, explosives, and mine rescue. Along with traditional degree programs, undergraduates can earn an unusual minor in mineral processing or explosives engineering.
In the classroom, students are introduced to industry-standard equipment and mining practices. They gain hands-on experience facing real-world mining situations through the Kennedy Experimental Mine Building. These facilities train mining engineering students on the necessary mental and physical skills for their future careers.
Mining students also have opportunities to apply their abilities outside of the classroom. Organizations such as the International Society for Explosives Engineers and the Missouri S&T Mine Rescue Team allow students to develop a professional network and attend events.
Montana Technological University (Butte, MT)
Montana Tech is committed to hands-on learning, as seen throughout its curriculum. The school is home to the only on-campus underground mine nationwide. This unique opportunity allows students to apply their classroom knowledge.
Another aspect of the hands-on education at Montana Tech is the mining engineering internship program. Located across Montana and the rest of the nation, 96% of students find a placement. Furthermore, mining engineering graduates can expect to find a job with high startingsalaries and plenty of advancement opportunities.
Mining students can develop teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving skills through activities on campus. Student government, professional organizations, academic clubs, and special interest groups are just some of the options. The NASA Robotic Mining Club at Montana Tech builds a robot to transfer pieces of Martian surface from one area to another.
University of Arizona Department of Mining and Engineering (Tucson, AZ)
Founded along with the university, the mining and geological engineering department at the University of Arizona is one of the school’s most renowned departments. Faculty, students, and alumni are recognized for their groundbreaking work in the mining industry.
On campus, students can participate in specialized and innovative research thanks to UA’s vast resources. The program spends $800,000 each year on research expenditures. UA mining is a global research leader in mining communication platforms, water conservation, subsurface fluid extraction, concrete alternatives, and safety networks.
In 2021, a team of mining engineering students took home first place at the Society for Mining, Metallurgy, and Exploration/National Sand, Stone, and Gravel Association design competitions. They beat out many international teams thanks to their tight-knit collaboration and top-notch education. Going above and beyond, the group visited local sand and gravel mines to understand the operations better.
University of North Dakota College of Engineering and Mines (Grand Forks, ND)
At UND’s college of engineering and mines (CEM), students are able to learn from professionals at the forefront of the industry. 94% of faculty members hold the highest degrees in their respective fields. Along with a depth of knowledge, mining faculty are dedicated to student success.
Students are encouraged to participate in research from petroleum extraction to geoscience. Each year, the CEM Design Expo allows students to showcase their work to the broader public. Along with sharing their accomplishments, mining students can appreciate the innovations of their peers across the college.
The BIG Challenge is a monthly competition that inspires students to create innovative solutions to significant problems outside of research. CEM students work collaboratively with students from all disciplines to develop an original and impactful pitch.
University of Alaska Fairbanks College of Engineering and Mines (Fairbanks, AK)
As the only mining engineering program in the Pacific Northwest, the UAF curriculum offers a unique focus on hard-rock mining, Arctic-related issues, and mining of stream beds. Students have plenty of hands-on opportunities, whether it is running large pieces of equipment or processing fine minerals.
In classes, students have access to Silver Fox, an on-campus silver mine. UAF students have actively rehabilitated the mine since 2007 to allow access as a field laboratory. Mining students perform hands-on techniques such as surveying and rock bolt installation at this center.
UAF is dedicated to making the field of mining engineering accessible to all students, regardless of their background. Along with university and department scholarships, the school has over 20 scholarships specifically dedicated to mining engineering students. These prizes range from $600 to $10,000 for qualified students.
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology (Socorro, NM)
At New Mexico Tech, the mineral engineering program combines a professional engineering education with social awareness. Students learn to explore and develop natural materials efficiently in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. Both the coursework and projects emphasize communication, management, and leadership.
In their senior year, mineral engineering students complete a large-scale design project to bring together engineering principles and design theory learned in the classroom. To best prepare them for their future, students can choose between economic evaluation, geotechnical construction planning, or the control of blasting vibrations.
Almost every New Mexico Tech graduate completes some sort of campus research experience. They work alongside professors or engage in senior projects, sponsored by industry groups. The university aims to give undergraduates hands-on research opportunities in mineral engineering.
South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (Rapid City, SD)
Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines was formed to educate students in the region’s robust mining industry. Today, it is one of only five universities nationwide to have all three mineral industry disciplines. These topics include geological engineering, mining engineering, and materials and metallurgical engineering.
Research at Dakota Mines is committed to protecting professionals in the mining profession. A university research team recently developed a virtual reality training system to mimic mining environments. Their work is sponsored by the US Department of Labor with a grant of $100,000.
Dakota Mines is widely respected in the industry, as shown by its renowned partnerships. In a new collaboration, mining students and faculty work alongside Caterpillar engineers to develop the next generation of mining technology. The Cat Labs MineStar Consortium leverages technological advancements to increase the sustainability of natural resources by improving productivity.
Colorado School of Mines (Golden, CO)
The Colorado School of Mines is recognized in numerous national publications. Money Magazine ranks the university as the fourth-best engineering college in the United States. In addition, it was named as #1 for career return on investment among peer institutions by Georgetown University.
The mining engineering department is committed to providing unique learning opportunities for undergraduates. The program is running a series of six workshops for students and faculty from the department. Along with educating the mining community, these events help foster more diverse and accessible learning environments.
The McNeil Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation helps Colorado School of Mines students develop their entrepreneurial spirit. Through competitions, student groups, and grants, the center helps inspire innovation on campus. In addition, the McNeil Center supports students in developing successful companies based on their own mining technologies.