Environmental Job (Mining) - Things You Need to Know.
So you have a college degree in chemistry, science, environmental science or equivalent and are thinking of working in a mine or want a change and are thinking of working in the mining industry. There are two areas you can be able to work in;
1. process monitoring (monitor the chemical process that occur in the tanks) and
2. environmental management and monitoring ie. manage and monitor the physical and chemical changes that are occurring as a result of the activities of the mining, processing and related activities.
And you have chosen the latter so how do you know what to do, who do you report to and what are your responsibilities. and what are the company's objectives. The following documents are available to guide you.
1. Your job description - a letter stating you are responsible for so and so and who you will report to. An example.' You will be responsible for the collecting of water samples and collection of data and reporting all data to the manager.'
2. Environmental Plan - Instruction or plan on what the company will do and how it will carryout what is in the plan. For example, 'The quality of the river will be monitored on monthly basis to see if there are any physical and chemical chances occurring in the water as a result of activity upstream.
3. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). These are standard procedures for the day to day operations of the department or section, laboratory.
An example would be,' Samples should be collected in clean acid wash bottles, labelled and submitted to the lab. for analysis. Date, Time, and sampling site should be recorded.'
The above documents are sufficient to guide one in carrying out their duties. However, there may be other equally important things that may be left out or not documented. From my experiences these are things that I was never told.
- Be able to drive.You will need to go out and do field investigations and collect samples.
- Have a little bit of knowledge on boating. Learn how to do boating knots ie. learn how to tie the boat when you dock, or install fenders on the boat etc. The environment section will have it's own boat or sometimes hire boats to carry out it's work.
- Learn how to use equipment on the boat eg. global positioning systems (gps) and echo sounders or even know how to operate a boat. Also understand maintenance issues associated with the boat.
- Be able to splice ropes or how to take care of ropes. A lot of rope will be used in environmental work.
- Understand the basic operation and maintenance of winches and the type of accessories that come with the system. This is essential as the job will involve lowering and lifting of sampling and monitoring equipment and data loggers.
- Having a little bit of knowledge on instrumentation or electronics would be useful too. In the job you will come across a lot of different instruments and equipment.
- Remember that you do not know everything, so ask questions and listen to what others have to say, especially those who have worked longer than you and are not necessarily your bosses. They will tell you things you need to know for your own safety. eg. the best time of the day or month to do certain jobs, what to expect under water at certain sites eg. there may be strong underwater currents or caves, what to expect downstream of the river eg. there may be a huge rock in the middle of the river or the current is strong at certain parts of the river or who to speak to in the village or community.
- Be prepared to use less advance technology eg. a canoe and paddle or swim or wade in the stream at some time. You will be required to go on smaller boats or canoes and may have to paddle to smaller tributaries to investigate. Sometime, you may have to carry your boat or canoe to some spots on the river to carryout your monitoring.
- Be able to swim and dive. If the mine is located on a coastal area or on an island, you will be required to do some work underwater.
- Have clothing suitable to work in water eg. shoes suitable for walking in the water or on the reef, swimming and dive suits. This are not included in standard mine issues.
- Be able to communicate with people from within the company and the community who do not have a science background.
- Be prepared mentally to walk into thick forest (no tracks) or swampy areas, swim into deep end of rivers, climb onto steep river banks or drive into remote locations or cross fast flowing rivers or walk long distances to investigate complaints or justify your findings.
- Be prepared to support your findings. Your results will be used to settle disputes with communities, provide answers to questions from the public.
- Be able to train local employees (year 10 or 12 graduates) who have very little or no science background. This is a commitment usually made by mining companies.
- Expect injuries from insects bites, ants or injuries from corals. This will be common.
- Be prepared for emergency spills or community complaints. They can happen at anytime.
- Be prepared to sleep in the field. It may take days or weeks to carryout some work in the field.
- Be able to use data bases to enter results or create trends on maps.
- Be able to use a digital or video camera. It is very handy for reporting findings.
- Understand how other professionals do their jobs and how their jobs relate to environmental monitoring eg. understand what a hydrologist does and what sort of equipment they use. Others are geologist, metallurgist, process chemists, biologist, instrument technicians and computer support. This will be handy when conducting environmental audits. You need to be able to ask the right questions.
- Be open to criticism especially from the members of the public. Do not try to defend yourself or the company. There are proper channels to deal with environmental issues and concerns.
Do not let these things hinder your interest in working in the mine. You will learn as you progress in the job. You can also be trained to do some of the things.
Check these CDs out.
Note: This article is written based on experiences in a world class mine on an island in an undeveloped tropical country. It is hoped that this information is useful and that one find satisfaction in doing this job.