Mineralogist

Mineralogists study minerals, which are any naturally occurring solid substances, in terms of their form, crystalline structure, physical and chemical properties. 


Mineralogists gather, catalogue and perform scientific tests on minerals found in all parts of the world, documenting their findings in written reports and presenting infromation to their peers and other interested parties. Collecting the samples sometimes requires extensive field work, requiring mineralogists to travel far from home to collect minerals from other parts of the world. They also make maps and charts to document where specific minerals are found.


In more detail, they examine, analyse and classify minerals, gems and precious stones, and isolate specimens from ore, rocks or matrices.  They make microscopic examinations to determine the shape, surface markings and other physical characteristics, and perform physical and chemical tests to determine the composition of the specimen and the type of crystalline structure. Perographic microscopes are used in the research for and analysis of minerals or finely ground mineral powders.  If microscopic analysis does not give exhaustive results, X-ray apparatus and electron micro-analysis are used. They identify and classify the samples, and develop data and theories on the mode of origin, occurrence and possible uses of the minerals


Because the definition of a mineral is so broad, mineralogists work in a large field and have a wide range of sub-specialities and fields to choose from::



  • Geological Exploration

  • Metallurgical Extraction

  • Civil Engineering

  • Fire-Resisting Materials Industry

  • Ceramic Manufacture

  • Cement Production

  • Building Research


Examples of important discoveries - mineralogists have taught us the melting point of copper, the strength of diamonds and the properties of coal. This information is used to make jewellery, strike gold or help mining companies target potentially mineral-rich areas to mine. They usually work for universities and museums, but some work for government geological organisations and in national laboratories.  Because they are members of the scientific community, mineralogists must have a thorough understanding of their field.


Employment


  • Geological Survey Branch of the Department of Minerals and Energy

  • National Institute of Metallurgy (extraction process mineralogy)

  • CSIR (fields such as ceramics, road construction materials, etc.)

  • Mittal Steel (iron and steel production and control of raw materials)

  • private companies in mining, ceramics and fire- resisting materials production.

  • self-employment, with the necessary experience, can be an independent consultant


Getting Started


  • learn about the various minerals found in metals & try to obtain vacation work in a mining laboratory

  • make an appointment to speak to a mineralogist about this type of career


Programmes

Botswana International University of Science and Technology, Karatina University, Sokoine University of Agriculture, University of Johannesburg, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch, University of the Free State


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