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Be Lord of all You Survey

When we conduct surveys, we ask people (in random or semi-random groups) their opinions regarding a particular product, topic or item of current interest. Land surveyors don’t have the luxury of interviewing their subject; instead they have to rely on complex mathematical processes and physics to get the information they want. The information they want is important because without it we wouldn’t be able to determine the relative position of anything on Earth. We’d have no maps, no GPS and … no mines – at least no safe ones.


Surveyors don’t only map the surface of the earth; they also map what’s underneath it, which is something you really appreciate when you’re several kilometres beneath tonnes of rock and explosives are being thrown about.

If you’re the kind of person who likes to deal with proper definitions, defines surveying (in this context) as determining – the exact form, boundaries, position, extent,etc., of (a tract of land, section of a country, etc.) bylinear and angular measurements and the application of theprinciples of geometry and trigonometry.

Wikipedia defines surveying as: the technique, profession, and science of accurately determining the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them.

The American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) defines surveying as: the science and art of making all essential measurements to determine the relative position of points or physical and cultural details above, on, or beneath the surface of the Earth, and to depict them in a usable form, or to establish the position of points or details.

What do surveyors do?

Surveyor Mapping Mountain Topography - - 104759

Surveyors are essential to many industries, including mining, engineering, construction, cartography and archaeology. In general, three of the most common surveying applications are building, land and mining.

Australia is one of a few countries that recognise building surveying as an actual profession. Building surveyors are often responsible for project management on construction projects, insurance assessments, building inspections and, in some cases, restoring old buildings to their former glory.

Land surveyors help delineate property markers and are particularly important when it comes to property disputes.

Mine surveyors have to specialise in various underground subject material, like geology, minerals, mineral mining rights, the effects of mining on the Earth’s surface and the immediate underground and environmental rehabilitation.

How to become a mining surveyor

First of all you need to be a maths whiz, and that’s all forms of maths – algebra, calculus, geometry and trigonometry. If you have the mathematics down, there are several paths that lead to a successful career in mine surveying.

According to the Australian Institute of Mine Surveyors, you can start out with traineeships and entry level jobs in any surveying capacity, which you can often do in conjunction with part-time or online surveying courses. There are also mine surveying graduate programs, many of which are sponsored by mining companies in Australia. The aim is to work your way up the ladder until you reach the lofty highs of Registered or Authorised Mining Surveyor, as required by NSW, QLD and Western Australia.

TAFE surveying courses are ideal because they allow people to study while working and gaining experience in the mining environment.

TAFE Surveying Courses

Soweto (*not mine)

There are several TAFE courses available for those who want to become surveyors. For example:

  • Certificate III in Surveying and Spatial Information Services, which has particular focus on using the equipment and getting to grips with the techniques that you’ll have to use as a mining surveyor.
  • Certificate IV in Surveying, which includes courses on reading and interpreting image data, operating survey equipment and performing surveying computations.
  • Diploma of Surveying, which includes courses in planning spatial data collection and validation, conducting an engineering survey, performing geodetic surveying computations, maintaining complex spatial data systems, and conducting underground mine surveying.
  • Advanced Diploma of Spatial Information Services, which builds on the skills and knowledge obtained during the diploma course.

The Australian Institute of Mine Surveyors recommends mining surveying courses from Queensland University of Technology, Curtin University, University of NSW, RMIT, University of South Australia and University of Melbourne, among others.