Careers in Geoscience: Mineral Exploration

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Careers in Geoscience: Mineral Exploration

Exploration geologists are employed by organisations working within the minerals extraction industry. They are responsible for identifying and assessing the location, quantity and quality of mineral deposits. Their work can be part office based, although fieldwork is necessary to collect and test site/drillhole samples.


Mineral exploration aims to locate various mineral commodities such as gold, copper, iron ore, tungsten etc.

Typical duties include:

  • Investigating the structure and evolution of the earth and its natural resources
  • Planning programmes for exploration of sites for minerals, gold, copper uranium etc
  • Surveying and mapping geologically promising sites
  • Collecting and recording samples and data from test sites, in particular drill samples
  • Analysing geological data using specialist computer applications
  • Ascertaining extraction risks
  • Preparing reports
  • Advising managerial, technical and engineering staff/departments on the development of reserves.
Skills Required

The job carries a high level of responsibility, as the employee must ensure the accuracy of forecasts - initiating extraction processes is often very expensive and mistakes can be costly. Consequently, training is an important feature of the job.

  • Knowledge of a range of sciences and their applications
  • Ability to work within a multidisciplinary team of scientists and engineers
  • Good organisational skills
  • Computer literacy and ability to analyse numerical and graphical data
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Geological mapping, rock recognition, structural geology, knowledge of geochemistry and geophysics, GIS,




University unit suggestions

Core subjects
structural geology
mineral identification
economic geology
Specialty subjects
mineralogy (clays etc)


Statutory Requirements

Competent person for reporting to ASX is required to have at least five years’ experience in the commodity and activities engaged in (generally recognised by membership level of AIG as a minimum requirement).
Transitioning to Full Member

Full members of the AIG can sign off on ASX reports given that they have sufficient experience to satisfy the “competent person” designation (under the JORC Code 2012) for the commodity and information on which they are reporting.  A Graduate Member can transition to Full Membership once they have achieved a minimum of five years relevant experience.

The JORC Code states that “a Competent Person must have a minimum of five years relevant experience in the style of mineralisation or type of deposit under consideration and in the activity which that person in undertaking”. Further information can be obtained from the JORC website and copies of the code can be downloaded.


Job Opportunities

Exploration geologists are typically employed by ASX Listed Junior Explorers, mid tier mining companies, major mining companies and consulting organisations. To a lesser extent, exploration contracting companies, geophysical contractors, government and the CSIRO may employ exploration geologists.





Residential/Lifestyle Options
  • More likely based in capital city or regional centre (e.g Kalgoorlie, Mt Isa, Orange, Bendigo) with work areas either locally or remote
  • Fly in Fly out or drive in drive out on set roster system
  • Campaign based (operate at exploration site for duration of work program such as drill program)
  • Often involves up to 70% field time in early years reducing to around 20% experienced and management geoscientists

Pros & Cons

  • Opportunities for travel, domestic and international
  • Varied work programs
  • Multi skilling and multi-disciplinary teamwork required


  • Absence from home for long periods of time is common and international work is often necessary
  • Long hours, shift and weekend work are also regularly required
  • Exploration does not always meet with success


Do you work a regular length day/week?

Mineral exploration geoscientists often are based in major cities and travel to their work sites when field work is required. When they are working in the city office they would work a regular day/week. When they are carrying out field work they may work on a roster or on a campaign basis and this may involve longer work days and/or shift work.

How much time do you spend in the bush?

Field work is generally organised in rosters/cycles which can vary but commonly are 2/1 (2 weeks working followed by 1 week off) or 8/6 (8 days working followed by 6 days off).  Some companies work on a campaign basis (period of field work based on a task such as a drilling program) which is variable depending on the job.  A graduate geoscientist can expect to spend up to 70% of their time collecting data/samples/drilling in the field.

What is the career progression in mineral exploration?

Junior Field Geologist

Project Geologist

Senior Geologist

Chief Geologist

Exploration Manager

Technical or Managing Director

Are there opportunities to work overseas?

Yes, mineral exploration is active on all the continents (except Antarctica) and Australian geoscientists have a good reputation in this field. Factors that may influence where mineral exploration geoscientists may work are the commodity of interest and also any language skills the person may have (French is widely used in Canada and Africa, Spanish and Portuguese in South America).

Should I  do science at school?

Yes, a solid grounding of mathematics and science (in particular chemistry and physics) is important for all areas of geoscience practice. If Geology/Earth Science is available at school level it is highly recommended.

Do I need to be physically fit?

Working as a geoscientist can be physically demanding.  Field work generally involves various physical activities particularly in remote areas. Whether it be walking to get to a site, mapping, collecting and carrying samples, working around drill site or working from 4WD vehicles or helicopters a good level of fitness is generally required.

As a geoscientist do you work with new technology?

Geoscience is often at the cutting edge of new technology.  Many of the current gaming platforms were developed from 3D computing technology developed within the mining industry. New technologies are constantly being used and developed within the geoscience professions to enhance our knowledge of the earth. Modelling techniques, visualisation and the use of mobile technology are widely used.


The following are video and You Tube links that are relevant to this career path.

AIG Career Session 3; Mineral Exploration and Mining

Planned for 22nd July


RPGeo Forum Mineral Exploration (74 mins)

A panel of experienced exploration geologists talk about state of play in mineral exploration in Australia, declining mineral Discovery rates,  the number of companies involved, tools being used, deeper search spaces and implications for mineral exploration

Fact Sheets

See also sheets for related career paths