Are you being paid as much for working in a mine as you are worth? Bet somebody, somewhere, doing the same job as you, is earning more. The question is, are you prepared to move to that other place to get a higher salary? Is more money worth the family disruption and settling in to a new and maybe less nice place? To help you decide whether to stay put or to pull up and go, here is a summary of 2006 mining salaries.

The following salary numbers come from three books from CostMine:

  • U.S. Coal Compensation Report 2006
  • U.S. Aggregate Compensation Report 2007
  • U.S. Metal & Industrial Mineral Mine Compensation 2006

Starting with coal mines: the average hourly base wage at surface coal mines for an electrician is $24.14, for a mechanic $23.11, and for a laborer $19.21. The rates are less for underground coal mines. For example the electrician gets only $21.76 and the mechanic only $21.30. I would have thought the underground worker would get more, not less. The answer may be that at large surface coal mine the electrician gets $24.36 whereas at small open pit mines the average is dragged down by a rate of $21.95. There is a similar large discrepancy between laborer’s rates: in large open pit mines it is $20.80 and in small open pit coal mines a mere $14.04.

In large surface metal mines, the average hourly base wage for an electrician is $20.54, for a mechanic $19.08, for a driller $19.92, and for a laborer $14.72. The rates are not that much different for small metal mines and underground mines. Although I notice the mill laborer get more, namely $15.06. Laborers in industrial mineral mines get only $13.63. And it makes no difference how big or small the mine.

Skilled folk working in the aggregate and construction materials mines and quarries earn less across the board than their brethren in coal and metal mines. The electrician makes $19.31, the mechanic $17.38, and the laborer $14.92. Well maybe the laborer is not doing too badly relative to the electrician and mechanic.

Let us jump to the mine’s General Manager. Not many of those folk, but it is always fun to learn what the boss earns. In coal mines the average manager earns $151,600.. Metal mine General Managers get a pittance by comparison, only $126,700. As for the underpaid quarry manager, he/she gets but $87,900. Although, I admit I would not mind managing, for a lesser sum, a quarry in some of those lovely parts of the country I drive by on my spring and fall cross-country travels.

Similar wage discrepancies exist for the engineers; but in a different direction. First the numbers. Here is my summary, with the salaries (rounded to the nearest $1,000) for coal, then metal, then aggregate mines:




Chief Engineer




Mine Engineer




Chief Geologist




Mine Geologist








Environmental Coordinator




A few observations. First, it is good to see the environmental coordinator uniformly earns more than the accountant—not that I have anything against accountants. Second, I am surprised to see average salaries for metal mine professionals are lower than for quarry professionals. Without doubt, I am now on the look out for the engineer’s job on one of those beautiful-location quarries. Third, it is good to see geologists, at least on coal and aggregate mines, earning nearly as much as the engineer, not that I have anything for geologists.

Keep in mind that the wages and salaries I quote above are national averages. Things vary by region. For example, in pursuit of my engineer’s dream-job at a nice quarry, I took a look at engineer’s salaries in the western region that includes California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. The Chief Engineer’s salary jumps to a nice $104,300. Even the environmental coordinator gets more: $82,300. Pity it costs so much more to live in the west. Ah well, I will have to continue dreaming of that perfect job, wresting gravel from the rocks, and looking each day out over clear skies, green, crisp pines and firs, and reveling in the flowers of spring, the dust of summer, the colors of fall, and the snows of winter.

I have here just brushed lightly over the vast quantity of information in these three volumes. Each is long, more than a hundred pages of facts and figures: wage rates, compensation figures, benefits, salaries, bonuses, and more. There is a information enough here for a PhD if only somebody would pay me to compile it. You will find what you are looking for here if you contact Jennifer Leinart, originally a mine geologist from Colorado who obviously knows what she is talking about.