An understanding of rock structure, and mineral formation and occurrence, is essential in the mining industry. This work is at the core of finding economic ore deposits, and determining how best to mine them, using many different methods for gathering data (e.g., drilling core), and interpretation (e.g., 3D modelling). A related field is geophysics, which uses remote-sensing measurement of physical properties (e.g., magnetics, gravity), to find ore deposits and delineate rock structures. Geochemistry is the study of mineralised rocks, including the chemical signatures that help identify ore bodies, and their quality (e.g., of coal).
In a metal mine, the type of mineralisation will affect the method of processing the ore. Every mine is slightly different in this respect, with some posing a serious challenge, e.g., for turning tungsten-bearing minerals into tungsten, or separating titanium by-product from ironsands.
Rock and mineral chemistry is the discipline, and metallurgy is a sub-set. In the case of coal, every occurrence has different levels of impurities (e.g., water, ash, sulphur), and physical properties (e.g., hard or soft, as coke for steel-making).
This is modern-day alchemy!
All exploration and mining activity is based on good science, be it publicly or privately funded. Minerals formation and occurrence, and improving the odds of detecting minerals in economic concentrations are one focus. Another is science on the environmental impacts of mining, and how best to manage them. A third field has an engineering slant, aimed at developing better technologies for extracting minerals at greater depths and in more complex geology, safely and cost-effectively.