COVID-19: A Guide for Mining Engineers & Geologists

COVID-19: A Guide for Mining Engineers & Geologists

I, like most people around the world, find myself in a government enforced quarantine in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Social distancing may become the new normal as our busy lives are put on hold and we patiently wait for the lockdown to be lifted 

To comply with government regulations, many industries have shut down or drastically reduced their personnel, and the mining industry is no exception.  While the newspaper headlines and television news have focused on the thousands of service workers who have lost their jobs, the impact of COVID-19 on the mining industry appears to be just as devastating. Mines around the world have furloughed personnel, reduced exploration activities to a bare minimum, or have placed their mines under temporary care and maintenance. In addition, commodity prices have tumbled, and a great uncertainty, not seen since the financial crisis of 2008, has settled over every part of the mining industry. 

Having worked as a geologist in the mining industry for nearly 15 years, I have experienced the rollercoaster nature of this industry. The advice I can give my fellow geologists and mining engineers is: “do not panic, this is not forever, but make the best use of your free time”.  The circumstances behind the industry’s current downturn differ greatly from previous situations. This is of little comfort to the sting of losing one’s job or the anxiety that comes with watching countless mine sites shut down.  It is not yet clear how and when conditions will go back to normal in the industry, but the best thing for us to do right now is to maximize our free time. There is a plethora of free learning tools being made available online right now.  

 Devoting some of our quarantine time to self-educate makes sense. Learning a new skill can you give a sense of control and help bolster your career during this economic uncertainty. It takes no more than a simple google search to find free classes and free webinars. We, at Promine, are now offering free webinars to our users on a weekly basis so that they can better hone their Promine skills or get to know new modules that will be useful in their operations. Other great resources have popped up for geologists and mining engineers, such as oredepositshub.com, which offers weekly industry related lectures as a means of filling the void left by conferences and meetings cancelled due to COVID-19. Another good source for industry professionals is The American Geoscience Institute, which offers free webinars on a variety of topics from career development to scientific topics of interests. 

Regardless of your interests or current employment status, it is an ideal time to take advantages of all the free resources available for industry professionals. The quest to learn a new skill or discipline is the perfect way to adapt of our new normal. You might just come out of this with a great new skill, or a much better understanding of a software program you already use on your worksite. 

Robin Montufar

Mining for our Health

Mining for our Health

The first product that most people think about when they hear about mining are either metal production for our high demand of high-tech products or coal to provide power and heat.

We are not particularly aware of the importance of mining products in the healthcare industry. As mining products have plenty of different uses in the health care industry, from the filler material in your medication, to healing baths with salts and the usage of metals in the implant and surgical instrument industry, we are going to have a look into some.

An example for a mining substance used as a filler in medication is clay, other non-mining fillers are lactose and starch. The important part about a filler is that it is an inactive substance. Different variations of clay like kaolin are added to make the medically relevant substance more stable. Most of the time the medical substance has a low dosage and a pill would be too small to package and produce and therefore a filler is added for convenience.

For anyone that ever had a relaxing bath with an additive, they might have put a mining product into their bathtub. For example, carbonic acid baths are sometimes made from a naturally occurring water, and sometimes from coke that has been produced from hard coal. The baths are supposed to help with high blood pressure and circulatory disorders. Similarly, some sulfur baths are also made from mined sulfur compounds and are helping with a variety of skin issues.

For surgical implants, from tooth implant to hip replacement metals and bioceramics are used. They must be biocompatible, which means they cannot decompose or corrode when being in contact with the insides of the human body. Titanium is one of the most used metals as it creates a protective oxide layer that protects it from any influence from the body. As it integrates well with other bone it is often used for tooth implants.

Surgical instruments should not lead to any allergies when used, as this would put a patient at risk. They also must be very hard and durable but do not need to be biocompatible like the implants. For scalpels, the shaft is made of simple stainless steel and the replaceable blade is made of chrome steel with a high chromium content, as this can be sharpened well. Similarly, a lot of other instruments like claps, wound hooks and tweezers are made from chrome steel but with a lower chrome content.

While searching for information about the nutritional supplements I could not find information about how for example the magnesium and iron are produced. This is a question for deeper research.

Eva Dierkes, M.Eng.