With the process of Mineral extraction, some amount of waste and uneconomic material are generated which are the primary source of pollution in the vicinity of mines. Mining activities by their nature cause a disturbance of the natural environment in and around which the minerals are located. Mining engineers must therefore be concerned not only with the production and processing of mineral commodities, but also with the mitigation of damage to the environment both during and after mining as a result of the change in the mining area.
From prehistoric times to the present, mining has played a significant role in the existence of the human race. Since the beginning of civilization people have used stone and ceramics and, later, metals found on or close to the Earth's surface. These were used to manufacture early tools and weapons. For example, high quality flint found in northern France and southern England were used to set fire and break rock. Flint mines have been found in chalk areas where seams of the stone were followed underground by shafts and galleries. The oldest known mine on archaeological record is the "Lion Cave" in Swaziland. At this site, which radiocarbon dating indicates to be about 43,000 years old, paleolithic humans mined mineral hematite, which contained iron and was ground to produce the red pigment ochre.
The ancient Romans were innovators of mining engineering. They developed large scale mining methods, such as the use of large volumes of water brought to the minehead by numerous aqueducts for hydraulic mining. The exposed rock was then attacked by fire-setting where fires were used to heat the rock, which would be quenched with a stream of water. The thermal shock cracked the rock, enabling it to be removed. In some mines the Romans utilized water-powered machinery such as reverse overshot water-wheels. These were used extensively in the copper mines at Rio Tinto in Spain, where one sequence comprised 16 such wheels arranged in pairs, lifting water about 80 feet (24 m).
Black powder was first used in mining in Banská Štiavnica, Kingdom of Hungary (present-day Slovakia) in 1627. This allowed blasting of rock and earth to loosen and reveal ore veins, which was much faster than fire-setting. The Industrial Revolution saw further advances in mining technologies, including improved explosives and steam-powered pumps, lifts, and drills as long as they remained safe.
There are many ways to become a Mining Engineer but all include a university degree in Mining Engineering. Primarily, training includes a Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng. or B.E.), Bachelor of Science (B.Sc. or B.S.), Bachelor of Technology (B.Tech.) or Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.Sc.) in Mining Engineering. Depending on the country and jurisdiction, to be licensed as a mining engineer a Master's degree; Master of Engineering (M.Eng.), Master of Science (M.Sc or M.S.) or Master of Applied Science (M.A.Sc.) maybe required. There are also mining engineers who have come from other disciplines e.g. from engineering fields like Mechanical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Geomatics Engineering, Environmental Engineering or from science fields like Geology, Geophysics, Physics, Geomatics, Earth Science, Mathematics, However, this path requires taking a graduate degree such as M.Eng, M.S., M.Sc. or M.A.Sc. in Mining Engineering after graduating from a different quantitative undergraduate program in order to be qualified as a mining engineer.
The fundamental subjects of mining engineering study usually include:
In the United States, the University of Arizona offers a B.S. in Mining Engineering with tracks in mine operations, geomechanics, sustainable resource development and mineral processing. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology offers a B.S. in Mining Engineering and also an M.S. in Mining Engineering and Management and Colorado School of Mines offers a M.S. in Mining and Earth-Systems Engineering, also Doctorate (Ph.D.) degrees in Mining and Earth-Systems Engineering and Underground Construction and Tunnel Engineering respectively.