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The Department of Mining Engineering was created in 1870 after John William Dawson, McGill Principal and reputed geologist, had been campaigning vigorously for government support to establish a mining school at McGill to satisfy the local demand for home-grown leadership for the growing Canadian minerals sector. By 1873, the first Mining engineer in Canada graduated from McGill. The Department of Mining Engineering enjoyed an international reputation thanks to the strong leadership and outstanding contributions of many of its prominent academic staff like B. J. Harrington, William Arthur Carlyle, John E Hardman, John B. Porter, Robert K. Morrison, George McBride, Frank T. White and others. In 1973, the Department of Mining Engineering and Geophysics was merged with the Department of Metallurgical Engineering and the department was renamed to Mining and Metallurgical Engineering. The department was subsequently renamed to Mining and Materials Engineering in 2005.

The Bilingual Coop Mining Program was created in 1988 in collaboration with Ecole Polytechnique. In 2013, an English Stream of the Coop Program was created for those from out-of province and international destinations. The Mining Engineering Program is known for the excellence in research as well as the quality of its graduates, many of whom have held key positions in the mining industry. A wide range of research activities are underway in areas like rock mechanics, mineral economics, ventilation, energy and strategic mine planning.