Getting to know tomorrow's mining sites already today

By: Bernd Nagel

After more than three decades, next year marks the end of my active professional career at Heidelberg Materials. Since September 1990, I have been on the road as a geologist to secure the company's raw materials supply.

Man with yellow protective jacket and green helmet holds a hammer and a drill core in his hands

What does a geologist do at Heidelberg Materials?

Heidelberg Materials is one of the world's largest manufacturers of building materials and, in addition to cement, also sells aggregates such as sand, gravel, stone chippings and crushed stones. The mineral raw materials for the various building materials are extracted and processed in the Heidelberg Materials own quarries and opencast mines around the world.

My job as a geologist is to carry out the geological and raw material investigations required beforehand through boreholes and to evaluate them in a model. Before an approval procedure for mining can be initiated, there must be a proof that the respective raw materials, e.g. sand, gravel and hard rock, are also available in the sufficient quality and required quantity. The high investments that are needed for the extraction and the processing need to produce standard and certified concrete, mortar or asphalt products in the end.

Many rock samples can be taken from the drilled meters. They are then transported from the investigation field to various building materials laboratories. Spontaneity, flexibility and improvisation are often required.

Team play is required

The numerous projects I've worked on for Heidelberg Materials over the past three decades have taken me to a wide variety of countries. In addition to the specific regional geology, you also get to know many new people from other cultures, which often leads into new friendships.

We geologists from the Competence Center Materials work closely with the country responsible that secure the raw materials in the aggregates sector. The tasks involved are very diverse. For example, we plan, supervise and evaluate large exploration and drilling projects together with the geologists of the respective countries. Everyone contributes their individual experience and knowledge in order to lay the best possible foundation for the individual planning steps, which build on each other and are interlinked.

Four men within a snowy landscape.

Whether at –30° in Kazakhstan or checking over 1200 meters of drilling for a quarry expansion in Norway, as a geologist you always have to be on site. It is important to get a picture of the raw material yourself in order to be able to select the samples in a representative and correct way. This is part of the job of a geologist and forms the basis on which all modeling is built.

In my experience, every project is different and exciting at the same time. With each new meter of drilling, you gain new insights into a potential future deposit, even if the raw material may not be mined nor used for many years or decades.

In recent years, Heidelberg Materials has invested a lot in exploration work and in test analyses to secure raw materials in the long term, keeping in mind that raw material resources such as sands and gravels are also finite and only available in limited quantities.


Tips for the working world

  • With perseverance and diligence comes success.
  • Make your own experiences and learn from mistakes.