Mining the future: Opportunities in critical minerals

Mining careers
Australia produces 56% of the world's supply of lithium! That's a lot of electric cars! Image: Shutterstock

Australia has huge underground reserves of important minerals for green tech, so if you’ve got a passion for science and care about Mother Earth there could be a career in it for you

Australia is rich in sun, sea and good vibes – that’s why it’s one of the best countries in the world to live. Below the surface though, it’s also rich in the minerals that green technologies need to function and fight climate change. Want to engineer an electric car You’ll need lithium. Australia produces 56% of the world’s supply. Want to build a wind turbine? You’ll need rare earths. Australia digs up 17,000 tons per year. So with the hidden potential of Australia’s buried treasures it’s no surprise that the industry added another 40,000 jobs in the past five years.

Geoscientists have always been in demand at mining companies, where they find minerals and figure out the best ways to dig them up. Matthew Teh works at Geoscience Australia – the federal geological survey – as executive officer to the organisation’s chief scientist. “Geoscience Australia’s Graduate Program is an excellent opportunity for young people looking to embark on a career in geoscience,” he says.

Hydrologists are also mixing science with critical minerals. Their job? To maintain water quality across a mine site. While metallurgists design processes to separate valuable metals and reduce minerals to metals and alloys. And environmental scientists minimise the effects of mining on the environment.

Mining in AustraliaCutting-edge tech is creating new roles in the critical minerals industry too, like Virtual Reality (VR) content developers, who build virtual mine sites for employee training. New employees at New Hope Group’s Bengalla site spend hours in immersive simulators before driving 500-tonne dump trucks for real.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) more your thing? Robotics, computer science and big data all have a big role in making mineral exploration and extraction safer. There’s a lot to get excited about in the mineral world.

Science and critical minerals study

Science and critical minerals jobs

Geoscientist: $90K–$156K
Environmental scientist: $54K–$88K
Mine geologist: $89K–$124K
Metallurgist: $59K–$136K*

*Source: salaries according to payscale.com

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Science 2022.

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Ben Skuse

Author: Ben Skuse

Ben Skuse is a UK-based former mathematician turned professional science writer, who has written for the Careers with STEM magazines for over 5 years. You can follow him on Twitter @BenSkuseSciComm.

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