Another window on the otherwise hidden world of salaries: CostMine (a division of InfoMine) has just released its 2006 survey of worldwide exploration salaries. Fodder for the curious here. And solid information for those charged with setting fair and reasonable remuneration for those amongst us who are charged with locating the next mine.

The most fascinating information, to my way of thinking, is the salaries for secretaries. It is not entirely clear what the secretaries do in exploration; maybe they are indeed those solid folk who hold down the front office, answer the phone, make the travel arrangements, keep the records, make the coffee, and generally keep the boss happy. I am happy to report that in the US and Canada, the average salary for a secretary in exploration is upward of $35,000 US dollars. They deserve it, and may their rewards continue to keep pace with their efforts.

The GIS Draftsman is another stalwart of the exploration office. In Canada and the US they are earning around $50,000 a year, with some earning upward of $65,000. Better go and hone those GIS skills?

Internationally, the average salary for a Landsman is $68,700, and for a geophysicist $70,900. By comparison the salaries for geologist seem puny: a junior geologist is earning an average of $39,300, a project geologist $56,100, and a senior geologist $84,700. The exploration manager is doing relatively well at $118,500. If you are an exploration manager in the US you could get $126,400, and you could do even better in Europe at $157,900. Certainly as a young geologist you can harbor expectations of salary increases.

In China the exploration geologist earns less: the junior geologist earns $6,700, the project geologist $8,200, and then in a jump that defies explanation the senior geologist gets $88,400 while the exploration manager gets only $77,600. This is most definitely a difference between the expat salaries and the Chinese nationals as detailed in the summary sheets. Another example: the technician in Namibia gets a mere $1,200 a year compared to the exploration manager’s $96,400. Again a glaring difference in salaries between expats and nationals.

These salaries are, however, relatively trivial by comparison with the income of consulting exploration geologists. The following numbers explain why whenever I have been out with consulting geologists we always eat in the best restaurant in town. The highest paid person responding to the survey charges C$650 an hour for his services. True he has a PhD and 20 years experience, but if he works 2,000 hours a year (not difficult to do) his income is well over a million a year—I wonder how many new mines he found last year? The average daily consulting rate is of course much less. On the basis of 26 replies, the average US exploration geologist consultant charges US$386 per day. In Australia the rate is A$418, in Canada C$420, and in Chile US$260.

Salaries have gone up since 2000. Currency fluctuations make direct comparison difficult, but here are some numbers: the Canadian exploration manager’s salary in US$ equivalents have gone up more than fifty percent in the last six years and in the US his salary has gone up nearly forty percent in the last six years. The lowest salary increases in the last six years: the booby prize goes to Canadian senior geologist and project geologist who “enjoyed” small increases of five and eight percent respectively in the last six years. Is this an artifact of exchange rate changes or does it reflect a real cap on salary increases in a field I which I would have expected much greater increases considering the plethora of articles telling us how difficult it is to find qualified people for the exploration and mining industry?