Mining Institutions

6. Geological surveys

Typically, Geological Surveys (GS) are responsible for producing and distributing a country’s geological information that is targeted toward mining development. The stronger the capacity of the geological survey department, the more complete the country’s geological library will be. Provision of geological data is probably the key element in attracting mineral investment. If companies don’t have to spend a lot of funds on exploration to find mineral reserves, they are more likely to be attracted to a particular country that has done these investigations.

Geological surveys are usually housed separately from the mines department or authority.  The institutions often have a number of buildings within a compound. One of the buildings may house a library that is available to the public and that has a separate entrance to the rest of the GS. These Surveys have a Director that either reports directly to a Deputy Minister or a Director General, depending upon how autonomous they are.

Some geological surveys are responsible for receiving, processing and evaluating exploration permits. The geological survey in Botswana until very recently took on this role. However, it was decided that the Department of Mines in Botswana should be responsible for all licensing. It seemed that this responsibility was time-consuming and deterred geoscientists from their core mandate of providing geological information. The government decided to make the Geological Survey a parastatal so that it could focus on geological mapping, with some cost-recovery ability. Late in 2015, the enabling legislation was passed to facilitate this new institution.

Some GS’s have a variety of tasks that go beyond a mining portfolio. These tasks depend upon the specific needs of a country.

Geological Fieldwork with Botswana Geoscientists For example, the Geological Survey of Botswana has focused on groundwater development. Botswana is a very arid country with very limited rainfall. Since geological information is a pre-requisite to a successful groundwater development, there has been systematic regional mapping of the whole country. This is an example where an institution that is primarily focused on mining development can meet other objectives of government.


Many geological surveys support municipalities’ planning and construction responsibilities. They assist governments in determining safe and stable land areas for construction. Most geological surveys also have a geo-hazards division that studies natural hazards including earthquakes, volcanoes, and landslides. A fairly typical geological survey from a developing country would usually include the following functions:

  • Geological Mapping and Mineral exploration

  • Geophysical surveys for mineral deposits, groundwater resources, and environmental studies

  • Geochemical surveys and analysis of samples

  • Engineering and geo-hazard studies

  • Quarry site investigations for construction materials

  • Clay prospecting and evaluation for industrial uses and training and production of ceramic wares

  • Earthquake monitoring, seismic studies and educational programmes on earthquakes and geo-hazards

  • Drilling for exploration and evaluation of mineral and groundwater resources

  • Examination and issuing of permits for non-commercial quantities of mineral, rock and soil samples for analysis overseas

  • Provision of Improved geology data for small-scale miners

In countries where there are industrial minerals produced by the domestic industry, the geological survey may assess the viability of these resources to make them more commercially attractive. An example of a Geological Survey located in one of Africa’s mining countries is provided by a description of functions and an organisation chart of Ghana’s Geological Survey.