NAME: Simon P. Hobson
CURRENT TITLE: Mining engineering and trading consultant for mining brokerage firms.
AREA OF EXPERTISE: My particular interest is in iron ore and coal, and my experience comes from England, West Africa and Latin America. I came late, at the age of 28 years old, to a career in mining, having previously been a professional cyclist and political assistant. I have now been imbued in mining for the past seven years. Geosciences drew me in through equity trading. Before I studied mining engineering, I spent two years attending mining trade fairs and investment seminars. It was through the requirement for informed investment decisions that I developed an understanding of geology and its terms.
YEARS EXPERIENCE: 7
EDUCATION: I have a Bachelor in Engineering (Hons) degree from Camborne School of Mines in Cornwall and am working towards a post-graduate diploma in Finance from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
What’s your job like?
Here, I am going to talk about working as a mining engineer, as my work in brokerage is built on the knowledge and contacts that were made from this profession.
I would say that there are two types of mining engineers. There are those that enjoy the intricacies of computer-aided design (CAD) software and putting together plans on the computer, and there are those who are good at disseminating the grand plan. I would consider myself to be the latter type.
It has proven, as a mining engineer, vital to have a sound grasp of the concepts and various theories put forward in geology. This gives one confidence when conversing with colleagues. Such understanding is used for the interpretation of block models, which is vital for optimizing and designing the pits and drives/levels that are to be mined.
The role of a mining engineer is very much as an overseer and communicator. In a week, I may have to give simplified and succinct feedback to investors and senior management, hold telephone conversations with international consultants, check-up on developments in the pits, present at meetings and motivate the local workforce.
What’s a typical day like?
The working day starts at 6 a.m. when I spend an hour answering emails and getting up to speed on the day ahead. The geotechnical engineer and I will drive to the pits to check-up on any issues that have arisen during the night-shift. After some breakfast, a progress and objectives meeting is held for about half an hour, by which point it’s 9:30 p.m.
There is a lot of driving of various teams and bringing different departments up to speed with the micro aspects of the ore production targets. Much of the day is spent writing reports and titivating mine designs.
After finishing at 6 p.m., I head into the gym for an hour and follow this up with a couple of beers in the site bar.
Driving to the mine to see the progress, some of which will be designed by me, and watching the blasting is very satisfying. I also love speaking with the myriad of workers to hear about their experiences and varied backgrounds.
Originally, I was attracted to mining as a profession so that I could see some of the remote locations of the world, but to be honest, unless working on an exploration project, one usually only sees a mine site.
Twelve hour working days are hard to get used to but eventually the body adjusts. I tend to find that I need to sleep for the first week when I’m off on my rest and relaxation.
The geology is often the most demanding aspect of working on any mine site. So, it is very important to have a strong, knowledgeable and enthusiastic team of geotechnical scientists, hydrogeologists and geologists.
What’s your advice to students?
Be flexible, have an absorbing mind and keep yourself informed of the broader mining industry (should that be the area of work that interests you).
I have found that working your contacts is essential. It is the people who are already in geosciences and mining that we all rely on. That is particularly important at the moment when the global commodities market is so depressed and thus jobs are hard to come by.
Do enjoy your time at university/college and remember that there are always modules that bore one, so keep positive and enthusiastic for your chosen subject.