Just received is the 2008 Survey Results U.S. Coal Mine Salaries, Wages and Benefits from CostMine. There is an enormous amount of data in this new survey. Here is my personal summary and perspective of some of the information on wages…..in future postings I will write about salaries and executive compensation.

Of the 54 coal mines responding to the survey, 39 union and 9 non-union mines reported increases in wages ranging from 1% to 15% in the 12 months preceding the survey. Six mines reported no change in wages. None reported a decrease. Thirty-three of the 54 mines have some sort of incentive bonus plan.

Overall, the survey shows that miners at small surface mines make considerbly less than their counterparts at large surface mines. The difference is small in the case of underground mines. Employees at large mines are more likely to benefit from retirement plans, more vacation, and holiday time-off.

The average cost of benefits to hourly-paid employees is 48.83% of wages. There is a distinct difference, however, between union mines at 51.23% and non-union mines at 40.88%.

Here are some of those wages, the following being the “Benchmark Hourly Base Wage Averages.” The first number is for surface mines; the second number is for underground mines:

  • Electrician: = $25.63/23.55
  • Mechanic = $24.95/23.03
  • Helper = $21.96/22.03
  • Laborer = $20.79/21.54

I never could understand why electricians and mechanics at surface mines earn more than their counterparts at underground mines. But this trend is true also for metal mines. Has this something to do with the unions?

Now let us look at these same categories, but this time compare wages for small (the first number) and large (the second number) mines:

  • Electrician: = $24.06/25.80
  • Mechanic = $21.97/25.9
  • Helper = $15.75/22.61
  • Laborer = $18.58/21.49

Clearly it does not pay to be a helper or laborer at a small mine. Are they being underpaid? To see if the pay of a laborer is dependent on location, take a look at these numbers. They are averages wages for laborers by region of the country. The first number is for surface mines, and the second number is for underground mines.

  • Eastern = $19.14/21.60
  • Central = $18.3/21.58
  • Southwestern =$22.08/21.07
  • Northwestern - $23.14/No data

Clearly you want to go labor in the southwest or better still the northeast. Personally I would prefer to live in the southwest even for a lesser wage.

There is much more data in the report about wages by additional job categories, regions, mines, benefits, and the influence of union versus non-unions. You will simply have to buy the report or get your work group or union to get a copy to get all the details. The only caveat: it is impossible for everybody to earn above average.