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Mining Salaries 

 
Author: Jack Caldwell

Revised: December 2013

Summary

This review discusses salaries, wages, and benefits in the mining industry. Considered are historical mine costs, salaries and wages and the general cost of living. The review provides a personal overview of salaries versus income earned from property investment. The review provides advice to younger mining engineers who are making decisions about career choices and options in the international mining industry.

INTRODUCTION

Although we are always thinking about salaries, we never talk about them, except in hushed tones, and we never let others know precisely how much we earn. Thus it is difficult to get a grip on what others earn who are doing the same as we do. Unless you have access to a series of publications from CostMine (a division of InfoMine).

In this review I take a look at these reports, compare the salaries the reports list, think back on my salary history as a case history, and seek to answer a question posed by a 27-year old who read an earlier draft. He asked: What is in it for me? So while on the topic, I might as well also ask the question what is in it for all of us.

HOW THEY COMPILE THE SURVEYS

Here is a quote from CostMine describing how they get their data:

CostMine surveys mines throughout the United States, Canada, and other parts of the world annually for information about wages, salaries, benefits, and incentive bonus plans as part of an extensive data collection program to monitor costs areas of significance to the mining industry. The data was collected by sending questionnaires to personnel managers at active mining operations. The information included in this report was taken from the forms returned to us, from labor contracts provided by some of the mines, and from follow-up telephone calls. Included are wages for hourly employees, as well as salaries for technical, managerial, and administrative personnel.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Are you being paid a fair salary in the mining industry? One way to answer that is to compare your income with those listed by CostMine. But keep in mind the human resource officer has probably done that already and so is one step ahead on any arguments you may raise for an increase. Then there is the issue of skills and location. A large consulting company in the Unites States for whom I once worked, provided a salary adjustment based on the local cost of a McDonalds Big Mac. They reckoned it was the best measure of local cost of living, and so they paid a premium in areas where Big Macs are most costly. Have you tried to eat at McDonalds in San Francisco recently?

If you gather with friends around the dinner table and the topic of salaries comes up, I recommend you deal with the tricky issue of quoting a direct salary by comparing the ratio of the cost of a house relative to salary. OK, there is a problem: how many mines are close to the Beach Cities of southern California, San Francisco, or West Vancouver (where many a miner lives)? No mining town I know of ranks in the top one hundred most expensive places to live. Still this ratio is instructive and interesting so let us pursue it a bit further in what follows.

MINER'S WAGES - HISTORICAL

My father was a mine captain in South Africa. I still recall the happy day he returned home to tell us his salary had just been increased to 150 Pounds a month. When South Africa went metric that converted to about R300. Today, inflation and currency drift renders comparison to Rands, Euros and Dollars meaningless. But the important point is he had no housing costs to pay, the house came free with the job. Even the painting of the house and changing of the light bulbs was done by the mine. Here is a further description of the first free mine-house we inhabited:

The house, number 77, faced east with the three bedrooms along the south side accessed by a long passage at the end of which was a single bathroom. On the north side were the living room and dining room. Stuck somewhere on the west side was the plain kitchen with green walls, battered wood table, a coal stove, and a simple fridge. A large pantry that seldom had much in it separated the kitchen from the dining room where we ate all our meals, for the kitchen was where the servants reigned supreme, and even my mother seldom went there except to agree on the food to be cooked for the next meal. Dirty fine-wire mesh screens mounted on old wooden frames enclosed the large porch and its concrete floor was kept shiny by constant application of red polish. We never used the porch either for sitting or for accessing the house. The garage was at the back of the house along with the servant's rooms. All entry and exit from the house was through the back door to the concrete-paved back yard. As with all the houses on the mine, the garden was large and dreary. A few fruit trees and expanses of rough kakui grass that cut your bare legs and feet and which we avoided. In winter the grass would become brown, hard, and even less attractive.

THE ALL IMPORTANT NUMBERS

The information that we present in this publication is all derived as a result of the surveying by CostMine. The following information is merely a snippet of the catalogues of information that CostMine publishes annually. It is also important to note that all the wages and salaries listed are in US Dollars.

WAGES

Here we present some recent wages reports. In these postings, we barely touch on the huge amount of information that the survey collates. If you need more, we recommend you get your mine’s Human Resources department to get a copy and let you go through the details.

US Mining Wages - 2013

CostMine's newly published U.S. Metal & Industrial Mineral Mine Salaries, Wages & Benefits - 2013 Survey Results is now available.

Let us start with wages. Here are the national average hourly wages, in US Dollars for 118 U.S. mines for some job categories:

  • Surface Mine Electrician = 27.75
  • Surface Mine Mechanic = 26.28
  • Surface Mine Heavy Equipment Operator = 23.78
  • Underground Mine Equipment Operator = 26.97
  • Underground Mine Surface Laborer = 19.45

It is interesting to compare these rates with the $15 an hour demanded by U.S. Fast Food workers, or the $10 an hour minimum wage Obama is touting. How many McDonald's workers would be prepared to work as a surface laborer at an underground mine?

Let us take a deeper look at the wages of U.S. mine laborers. Here are the ranges and averages for laborers at large mines in the U.S.:

  • Surface Mine Laborer: from 12.92 to 29.07 for an average of 19.95
  • Surface Mine Driller: from 17.51 to 33.40 for an average of 28.17
  • Underground Mine Underground Laborer: from 15.84 to 39.57 for an average of 24.08

The comparable numbers for those working at small U.S. mines are:

  • Surface Mine Laborer: from 10.00 to 28.00 for an average of 17.58
  • Surface Mine Driller: from 14.03 to 24.75 for an average of 19.22
  • Underground Mine Underground Laborer: from 14.56 to 20.09 for an average of 17.33

If U.S. fast food workers get $15 an hour, there is sure to be a great rushing migration by laborers from small mines to the local McDonald's - to work, not eat!

What about leaving the mine to work for Wal-Mart? Here is some idea of how you, as a laborer, could change your wage by leaving the mine and going to Wal-Mart - where most of the time you will be clean and comfortable inside an air-conditioned space. My source is this link:

The average Walmart "associate", Wake Up Walmart reports, makes $11.75 an hour. That's $20,744 per year. Those wages are slightly below the national average for retail employees, which is $12.04 an hour. They also produce annual earnings that, in a one-earner household, are below the $22,000 poverty line. On the other hand, these wages are far above minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. They also aren't THAT FAR below the national retail average (only 2.5% below). In a two-earner household, moreover, these wages would produce a household income of $40,000+, which, in some areas of the country, is comfortably middle-class. Wal-Mart offers benefits to some of its employees, as well as store discounts and profit-sharing plans.

Here are some McDonald's current wages (note the source is England, hence the currency quoted):

For 16 - 17 year-olds working in McDonald's company owned restaurants, employees start on £4.25 per hour. 18 - 21 year olds in company owned restaurants start on £4.65 per hour and 22 years and above start on £5.55 per hour. The pay rates may vary in franchised restaurants. Trainee Managers receive a generous package with a starting salary between £18.5 and £21.5k per annum, six weeks holiday per year, Life Assurance cover and a Private Pension scheme.

The point of all this is that U.S. wages for essentially unskilled folk are low. Worst at McDonalds, not too bad at Wal-Mart, and better, but not impressive in the mining industry. And the difference between Wal-Mart and mining wages is, in my opinion, small considering the much more difficult working conditions at a mine as compared to a Wal-Mart store close to home.

US Coal Mine Wages - 2011-2012

Here from the CostMine report 2011 Survey Results, U.S. Coal Mine Salaries, Wages and Benefits are some wages earned by U.S. coal miners.

First wages at surface coal mines. In US$ per hour, here are minimum, average, and maximum wages for the 28 reporting mines:

  • Electrician = 24.25/28.21/36.47
  • Mechanic = 17.00/26.94/36.47
  • Welder = 24.25/26.37/34.82
  • Shove/Dragline Operator = 22.60/28.79/36.66
  • Drill Operator = 14.40/25.27/35.16
  • Production Truck Driver = 12.35/24.33/34.53
  • Laborer = 10.71/22.43/33.73

Thus we see there is a significant range of wages; the laborer illustrating with a low of $10.71 an hour, an average of $22.43 an hour, to the maximum of $33.73 an hour. That is a big difference and a big range. Some coal mines obviously pay more than others.

A similar tend prevails at underground coal mines. Consider the underground coal mine electrician with a minimum of 24.01, an average of 25.86, and a maximum of 34.00. A little less than on surface mines but nothing significant. Interestingly there is a different pattern for the underground coal mine laborer. They have a minimum of 22.77, an average of 23.51, and a maximum of 27.00 - a higher minimum, but a considerably lower maximum.

Part of the reason for the differences is the size of the mine: small surface coal mines pay less than large surface coal mines. Surprisingly, small underground coal mines pay more than large underground coal mines.

Another reason is variation in wages in different regions of the country. Consider these averages for an Oiler:

  • Eastern = 21.59
  • Central = 22.73
  • Southwestern = 27.34
  • Northwestern = 29.98

I suspect, however, looking at all these figures, that the biggest factor is the large range of wages is the result of difference between individual mines. Count yourself lucky if you are working on one of the high-paying ones.


SALARIES

In this section we take a look at salaries throughout the minerals, coal, and exploration sectors in the U.S. and Canada. Once again all these publications are based on CostMine Reports which can be purchased at CostMine.

Canadian Mining Salaries - 2013

More from the CostMine 2013 Survey of Canadian Mine Salaries, Wages and Benefits. This time we look at the annual salaries (in thousands of Canadian $) for mainly engineering types in Canadian mines. Some country-wide averages:

  • Mill Plant Superintendent = 138 K
  • Chief/Senior Engineer = 134 K
  • Mine Engineer = 100 K
  • Envirnmental Coordinator = 103 K
  • Surveyor = 73 K

Let us look in some detail at salary ranges and salaries by region of the country.

In the Eastern Region of Canada, the range for mill supers is 79 to 191 K, with an average of 130 K. In the Western Region the range is 113 to 205 K, with an average of 138 K.

It matters whether the mine is surface or underground. The average mill super's salary for surface mines is 135 K, and for underground mines is 143 K.

And the most important factor is the kind of mine:

  • Metal Mines = 146 K
  • Diamond and Industrial Minerals = 94 K
  • Fossil Fuel Mines = 178 K

The oil sands pay well!

Similar figures for the Chief/Senior Engineer are:

  • Eastern Region = 102 to 175 K and average of 137 K.
  • Western Region = 108 to 203 K and average of 133 K.

    Engineering technicians do not do too badly either. Overall the country-wide average salary is $76,700. The range in the east is 70 to 81 K. The range in the west is 73 to 89 K.

    Chemist Salaries at Canadian Mines - 2012

    Here are some statistics on what chemists at mines earn in Canada. I provide salaries from the 2012 Survey Results of Canadian Mine Salaries, Wages and Benefits from CostMine.

    The average salary for a chemist at a Canadian mine is reported to be $81,300. In the eastern region of the country the average is $73,100; in the western region it is $85,700. That is probably the result of the oil sands mines.

    At surface mines the ranges of the salary for a chemist on a mine in Canada is $51.500 to $120,400. The range on underground mines is $53,000 to $108,000. Oil sands mine classify as surface mines, thus the greater upper salary.

    My thesis of the skewing effect of oil sands mines is proven by these averages for the salary of a chemist/assayer on Canadian mines:

    • Metal Mine = $81,400
    • Diamond Mines = $58,300
    • Fossil Fuel Mines = $88,800

    Keep in mind that these salaries for those chemists who are scientists by training. Chemical engineers earn a great deal more on Canadian mines. The range is $94,700 to $177,000. Obviously the upper range is for those on oil sands mines.

    Thus the message: chemists do well at mines, although not as well as I would expect. But chemical engineers do far better. Expand that science degree into an engineering degree and double your salary.

    South African Mining Salaries - 2012

    Here from the CostMine 2012 Survey Results for African Mine Salaries, Wages and Benefits are some South African mining salaries.

    First let us look at engineers. Here are some annual salaries in thousands of US dollars:

    • Mining Engineer (10 to 40 years experience) = 96 to 288
    • Mining Engineer (1 to 10 years experience) = 43 to 90
    • Rock Mechanics Engineer (5 to 35 years experience) = 86 to 151
    • Engineering Superintendent (16 to 35 years experience) = 62 to 86
    • Mechanical Engineer (5+ years experience) = 50 to 86
    • Mine/Production Geologist (1 to 10 years experience) = 23 to 46

    I see no salary for civil, geotechnical, or tailings engineers. Probably they all work for consultants who do not publish salaries.

    Thus let us look at the salaries of some technical folk on South African Mines. Here again are annual salaries in thousands of US dollars:

    • Artisan (Fitter, Millwright, Boilermaker) = 49 to 61
    • Drill and Blast Foreman = 35 to 49
    • Mechanic (Diesel, Heavy Equipment) = 24 to 49
    • Laboratory Technician = 22 to 42
    • Rigger = 23 to 57

    The Survey appears not to deal with wages, which are the subject of so much unrest in South Africa. Keep in mind the above are salaries for relatively skilled folk, not the people who do the manual labor. They get considerably less, hence the unrest.

    HISTORICAL MINING INCOME DATA

    What follows is a collection of historical data was compiled previous to the current updated edition. It is a collection of CostMine data from surveys dating from 2012 and back. While it may not be of use in comparing current salaries or wages, it is still useful in observing trends and remains in this piece for the historic record

    Canadian Mining Salaries - 2013

    The CostMine 2012 Survey of Canadian Mine Salaries, Wages and Benefits is the only factual source of information that I know of on the salaries of technical, managerial, and administrative folk who work on Canadian Mines. The data come from fifty-six metal, industrial mineral, and fossil fuel mines. Fourteen are underground operations; thirty-three surface mines. Size ranged from one million to five million tonnes ore or product mined annually.

    Let us start with the Secretary; we all know and like them. And as one fellow said to me yesterday: "I could not function without her - she keeps me informed and on track."

    In the eastern region of Canada, the secretary's wage ranges from $40,200 to $56,000 with an average of $50,800. In the western region the range is $47,100 to $63,400 with an average of $59,100. A big differencedoes it reflect differential living costs, more productive mines, or just the hammer-clout of fossil (oil sands) mines? This cannot be, for the average salary for an Administrative Assistant in the east is $55,500, and in the west it is $52,000. Maybe they just define secretary and administrative assistant differently across the country. In fact the Secretary, on average, at metal mines makes $53,700 a year; at diamond and industrial mineral mines $40,200; and at fossil fuel mines $59,000. Diamonds are not the secretary's best friend.

    But then, consider: the eastern accountant on a mine gets, on average, a salary of $76,500 whereas the counterpart in the west gets, on average $91,600. Guess accountants know how to look after the money.

    Here are a few more ranges and averages for engineers and geologists (numbers in thousands of dollars per year; the first is the low, the second the average, and the third the upper; these are totals across the country.)

    • Senior Engineer = 94/122/177
    • Mine engineer = 66/91/126
    • Metallurgist = 52/86/115
    • Senior Geologist = 90/118/155
    • Environmental Coordinator = 63/96/183

    I am impressed by the mine environmental coordinator whose salary is $183,000 per year. The mine must have some profound environmental issues.

    I see little significant difference in salaries at surface versus underground mines. But there is a difference by commodity. Here are some numbers: the first for metal mines; the second for diamond and industrial mineral mines; and the third for fossil fuel mines. All in thousands per year.

    • General Manager = 200/156/191
    • Mine Manager = 144/124/168
    • Mill Superintendent = 128/114/153
    • Mine Engineer = 91/75/93
    • Surveyor = 68/59/66
    • Personnel Manager = 109/98/111

    A word of caution - these are but a few of the many numbers in the CostMine report. I highlight only those that interest me today. Do not get upset if your salary is way below - keep in mind fifty percent of folk get less than the average.


    Canadian Mining Salaries - 2012

    The CostMine 2012 Survey of Canadian Mine Salaries, Wages and Benefits is the only factual source of information that I know of on the salaries of technical, managerial, and administrative folk who work on Canadian Mines. The data come from fifty-six metal, industrial mineral, and fossil fuel mines. Fourteen are underground operations; thirty-three surface mines. Size ranged from one million to five million tonnes ore or product mined annually.

    Let us start with the Secretary; we all know and like them. And as one fellow said to me yesterday: "I could not function without her - she keeps me informed and on track."

    In the eastern region of Canada, the secretary's wage ranges from $40,200 to $56,000 with an average of $50,800. In the western region the range is $47,100 to $63,400 with an average of $59,100. A big differencedoes it reflect differential living costs, more productive mines, or just the hammer-clout of fossil (oil sands) mines? This cannot be, for the average salary for an Administrative Assistant in the east is $55,500, and in the west it is $52,000. Maybe they just define secretary and administrative assistant differently across the country. In fact the Secretary, on average, at metal mines makes $53,700 a year; at diamond and industrial mineral mines $40,200; and at fossil fuel mines $59,000. Diamonds are not the secretary's best friend.

    But then, consider: the eastern accountant on a mine gets, on average, a salary of $76,500 whereas the counterpart in the west gets, on average $91,600. Guess accountants know how to look after the money.

    Here are a few more ranges and averages for engineers and geologists (numbers in thousands of dollars per year; the first is the low, the second the average, and the third the upper; these are totals across the country.)

    • Senior Engineer = 94/122/177
    • Mine engineer = 66/91/126
    • Metallurgist = 52/86/115
    • Senior Geologist = 90/118/155
    • Environmental Coordinator = 63/96/183

    I am impressed by the mine environmental coordinator whose salary is $183,000 per year. The mine must have some profound environmental issues.

    I see little significant difference in salaries at surface versus underground mines. But there is a difference by commodity. Here are some numbers: the first for metal mines; the second for diamond and industrial mineral mines; and the third for fossil fuel mines. All in thousands per year.

    • General Manager = 200/156/191
    • Mine Manager = 144/124/168
    • Mill Superintendent = 128/114/153
    • Mine Engineer = 91/75/93
    • Surveyor = 68/59/66
    • Personnel Manager = 109/98/111

    A word of caution - these are but a few of the many numbers in the CostMine report. I highlight only those that interest me today. Do not get upset if your salary is way below - keep in mind fifty percent of folk get less than the average.

    Exploration Salaries - 2011

    For this survey a total of 129 exploration offices from 18 countries responded and were included in this survey. Of these, 100 represent medium to large companies, while 29 were junior companies. In addition 73 independent consultants provided responses. The data were collected between March 2011 and November 2011.

    Here are some reported annual salaries by country for the Exploration Manager:

    • Aisa: 168K
    • Africa: 173K
    • Australia: 231K
    • Europe: 212K
    • Canada: 163K
    • United States: 133K
    • Central America: 135K
    • South America: 158K

    As to be expected the exploration managers in Australia are doing better than the rest. Followed by the exploration managers in Europe, although surely they are looking for mines in places other than Europe at those salaries. The United States exploration managers languish in the doldrums, possibly because of the US economy, the near absence of significant mining hopes in the US, and a failure to diversify outside the US.

    Just to give a bigger picture of the US, here are the ranges for the Senior Geologist working for US exploration companies:

    • Minimum: 78K
    • Maximum: 173K
    • Average: 98K

    But what of the people who do the work as compared to the managing of exploration? Here are some annual salaries (in US dollars again) for Project Geologists:

    • Aisa: 127K
    • Africa: 39K
    • Australia: 125K
    • Europe: 73K
    • Canada: 81K
    • United States: 74K
    • Central America: 58K
    • South America: 67K

    Interesting that here the Asian project geologist is in the lead, followed by the Australian, and somewhere down the scale the Canadian. Which makes me wonder what is going on in Asia. I cannot wait until the 26 to the 30 March 2012 to attend the 8th Annual Asia Mining Congress to find out. Although if you look at the brochure they sent me, it promises to be a black-tie affair. In how many mining gatherings will you see all the men wearing suits and ties? I suppose only where the attendance fee is nearly $4,000.

    Here is the annual salary for expatriates working in exploration in Asia.

    • Exploration Manager: 201K
    • Senior Geologist: 198K
    • Project Geologist: 141K
    • Geophysicist: 175K
    • Landsman: 123K
    • Field Technician: 65K

    Consultant Exploration Salaries - 2011

    CostMine also gives us a rundown of the survey results that have been compiled on Consulting in exploration. These are some of the daily rates (as always in US Dollars) for North America and Australia:
    • United States: 616
    • Australia: 933
    • Canada: 565

    These are fair rate, in fact low rates, from what I know of consultant rates. Employ consultants if you seek a bargain. Here is how you may pay per experience per day for a consulting exploration geologist:

    • Less than 5 years experience: 355
    • 5 to 15 years experience: 555
    • 15 years experience: 704

    Again a bargain as far as I am concerned. But be careful, CostMine reports:

    "Some of the consultants require a monthly retainer from their employers. Others reported that their clients offered stock options, stocks, consulting, or finder’s fees as a part of the package. A few clients paid for medical and travel insurance. Several geologists reported personal truck and gear rental fees that are charged to the clients. All consultants charged back travel expenses to their clients. Several geologists reported charging vehicle insurance to the clients when working in a foreign county".

    Clearly, the point we take away from this is that you will pay for what you get, and you must be prepared to pay for success.


    US Mining Wages - 2011

    Let us start with some averages. Here is the average hourly base wage in U.S.$s per hour for various job titles. The first number is wages on small surface mines; the second numbers is wages on large surface mines (more than 100 employees).

    • Electrician: 22.63/25.45
    • Mechanic: 20.92/23.62
    • Heavy Equipment Operator: 18.96/22.37
    • Driller: 14.99/23.38
    • Production Truck Driver: 15.09/20.53
    • Labourer: 15.74/18.22

    Similar job titles earn only slightly more in underground mines. For example, an underground miner earns an average of $21.59 on small underground mines and $22.57 on large underground mines. The ranges are impressive. For example, the wage range for an underground miner is $14.91 to $37.30. The range for a laborer at a large underground mine is $13.99 to $30.25. Keep in mind that in addition to these wages, there are benefits, which average 42% of wages. How much do they get paid in the mill? On a large mine, the Mill Equipment Operator wage range is $14.50 to $35.04 with an average of $23.20. Not too bad.

    The survey notes that wages have increased only slightly in the past year. At precious metal mines, the increase is 2.4%; at copper mines also 2.4%; and on other metal mines a mere 1.7%. Still we all have jobs in the mining industry. Wages vary depending on whether you work on a precious metal mine, a copper mine, or an other metals mine. Consider the underground mine laborer. The numbers are $18.04/25.73/15.00. Big differences! Copper mines do pay well, but then we need lots of it in a green world.

    Then there are industrial mineral and aggregate mines. Here are wages for the Electrician (first number) and the Production Truck Driver (second number) at different types of mines:

    • Limestone Mines: 22.63/13.76
    • Aggregate/Sand/Gravel: 20.38/17.05
    • Other Industrial Mineral Mines: 24.20 / 19.82

    U.S. Metal & Industrial Mineral Mine Executive Compensation - 2010

    First the averages. Here are the average total compensation for major mining company executives in 2009 (figures in millions of dollars.)

    • Chairman: 7.8
    • CEO: 9.1
    • President: 9.9
    • Vice President: 3.0
    • CFO: 3.2
    • COO: 4.1
    What of average compensation for junior mining company executives? Here, this time in hundreds of thousands are the averages:
    • Chairman: 1,437
    • CEO: 1,446
    • President: 1,441
    • Vice President: 662
    • CFO: 716
    • COO: 984

    Next let us look at the maximum total compensation for Mid-Tier Mining Companiesback to millions of dollar per annum:

    • Chairman: 9.1
    • CEO: 9.1
    • President: 7.0
    • Vice President: 3.3
    • CFO: 3.2
    • COO: 5.8

    Of course, total compensation includes salary, pension, securities granted, and shares subject to resale restrictions. To come to earth and the paycheck at the end of each month, here are the maximum annual salaries for executives in major mining companies, in hundreds of thousands:

    • Chairman: 2,500
    • CEO: 2,500
    • President: 2,500
    • Vice President: 868
    • CFO: 834
    • COO: 868

    After taxes that works out to a salary check each month for about $100,000.

    U.S. Coal Mining Executive Compensation - 2010

    What do the people at the top of U.S. Coal Mining companies earn? Here are some data from the 2010 U.S. Coal Mine Salaries, Wages and Benefits Survey recently published by CostMine. This is the final article based on the CostMine survey of coal mines. Keep in mind they also have surveys on metal mines and on income at both U.S. and Canadian mines. Income to coal mine executives comes by way of the followingand to give you some idea of how much each contributes to the total take-home income, I give below the maximum paid to the Chairman of some profitable U.S. coal company (all numbers are in $1,000 for one year):

    • Annual Salary: 1,075
    • Change in Pension Value and Non-qualified Deferred Compensation Earnings: 573
    • Option Awards: 2,398
    • Stock Awards: 5,552
    • Non-equity Incentive Plan Compensation: 11,500
    • Other: 609

    That is correct. If you add it all up, some luck chairman took home nearly $20 million last year. The lowest paid of the coal company chairmen took home a mere $5 million. The average take-home by the average U.S. coal mine company chairman was $15 million.

    Here are the average annual salaries for the other executives in U.S. coal mine companies (again in $1,000)

    • CEO: 553
    • President: 489
    • Vice President: 326
    • CFO: 369
    • COO: 430

    Before you start to pity these lads their low salaries, here are the bonuses they received I quote the average:

    • CEO: 2,300
    • President: 637
    • Vice President: 339
    • CFO: 328
    • COO: 513

    These guys must know how to spend. I am not even sure what all other compensation is. Maybe private planes, golf club memberships, opera tickets, who knows. But they get these perks. Here are some numbersthis time maximum/average/minimum by job description:

    • CEO: 5,134/563/15
    • President: 775/125/15
    • Vice President: 4,427/1,149/209
    • CFO: 1,510/259/17
    • COO: 3,715/1991/350

    US METAL AND INDUSTRIAL MINERAL MINING

    Executives
    How do you distinguish a Junior Mining Company from a Mid-Tier Mining Company, from a Major Mining Company?

    You could say that a Junior Mining Company is one that is engaged in exploration, development, and hopefully production. You could say the Junior is smaller. You could say the Junior is more risky, but potentially more rewarding/profitable. But that is also true of the Mid-Tier and Major. So I propose another definition with numerical and quantifiable clout.

    Simply look at the average salary of the Chairman of the mining company.

    Just released by CostMine is the U.S. Metal & Industrial Mineral Mine Salaries, Wages & Benefits 2008 survey. It gives us vast quantities and quality of information about income in 2008 in the U.S. mining industry. In the days to come I will blog about all aspects of the information, but for now I return to distinguishing a Junior from a Mid from a Major on the basis of the salary of the Chairman.

    Here are the numbers:

    1. Major Mining Company Chairman Average 2008 Salary = $1,395,061
    2. Mid-Tier Mining Company Chairman Average 2008 Salary = $692,617
    3. Junior Mining Company Chairman Average 2008 Salary = $228,000

    Now those are numbers we can relate to. Not because we suffer the pain of spending a million dollars a year. But because they are not in billions and trillions, those new numbers that leave us cold and uncomprehending.

    Let us try this new criterion on the salary of the guy who does the work, namely the Chief Operating Officer. In a Major the COO gets $830,252, in the Mid the COO gets $460,333, and in the Junior the COO gets $247,821. Interesting though how the ratio of salaries changes, with the Major's ratio being 1.6, the Mid's being 1.5, and the Junior's being 0.9.

    That being said, let us look at what other executives earn in a Mid. In 2008 the CEO got $544K, the President got $516K, the Vice President got $299K, and the CFO got $329K. I bet Obama and Biden are not earning that much.

    What we do not know in 2009 is how many of these guy will still be employed or what they will earn if they are. Personally, I hope they are all still busy and earn even more. Talk about being a disciple of the trickle-down theory. I prefer to think of it as the keep-us-all-employed theory.

    Wages
    Turning from the CEO to the electrician, mechanic, and driller on U.S. Metal & Industrial Minerals mines and asking what did they earn in 2008, we find these averages for metal and industrial mineral mines in the United States. (the first number is the hourly base wage for small surface mines; the second number is that hourly base wage for large mines.)
    • Electrician = 21.46/24.05
    • Mechanic = 19.82/22.63
    • Driller = 17.45/22.77
    • Laborer 14.75/17.21

    To repeat here are comparable wages for small and large coal mines in the U.S.:

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

    Clearly coal miners are far better paid than surface metal and industrial miner miners. Is the same true for underground metal mines? Here are some numbers, again the first for small mine and the second for large mines:

    • Electrician: = $24.38/23.18
    • Mechanic = $19.64/21.88
    • Miner = $23.56/22.69
    • Underground Laborer = $15.67/21.95

    Seems the differences in wages in surface and underground metal mines is not that big, and that coal miners earn more regardless of whether you are in a surface or underground metal mine.

    Let us compare wages in the metal mine and industrial mineral mines:(the first for metal mines, the second for industrial minerals mines.)

    • Electrician: = $25.07/21.91
    • Mechanic = $24.10/20.46
    • Driller = $23.24/18.31
    • Laborer = $18.4/14.92

    A big difference between metal mines and industrial minerals mines. These numbers also point out the problem of averaging wages in metal and industrial mineral mines---they are different animals. For these number show that metal mine miners are better paid than coal mine miners---maybe? Certainly true for precious metal mine miners. Let us summarize the numbers for the famous electrician:

    • Precious metal mine = $26.40
    • Copper Mine = $22.63
    • Other metal Mine = $24.96
    • Industrial mineral surface mine = $21.91
    • Industrial mineral underground mine = $24.67
    • Surface coal mine = $25.63
    • Underground coal mine = $23.55
    • Limestone mine = $21.60
    • Aggregate quarry = $16.97

    Looks like the choice is a precious metal (gold) mine or a surface coal mine. Not a big difference, but enough to pay for a new GM truck.

    I notice that the total cost of benefits as a percentage of wages in 36.5 % for small metal mines and 40.51% for large metal mines. Miners at union mines get a benefits package that is about 40 to 47 percent of their base wage. Miners at non-union mines get benefits of between 31 and 37 % of their wages.

    As we noted before, the issue is how much everybody else gets paid. SO I pick at random a silver, lead, and zinc mine in Idaho. Here are some of their wages:

    • Hoistman Double Drum = $15.91
    • Miner = $14.41
    • Truck Driver = $ 14.03
    • Mill Leadman = $16.56
    • Crusher Operator = $13.49
    • Master Electrician = $18.64
    • Mechanic, Apprentice Class 2 + $14.03
    • Janitor = $13.49

    This must be one of those non-union places in a nice part of Idaho. Which left me wondering where all those high-paid electricians are. An unscientific survey shows they come from Texas, Utah, and Washington. Oh and some of those Californian quarries.

    Salaries
    For the 2008 survey, 122 mines responded to a questionnaire and provided salary data. Here are some annual salaries. The first number is for underground mines, the second for surface mines. All numbers are in US$1,000's.
    • General Manager = $147/124
    • Mine Manager = $110/103
    • Mill Superintendant = $104/87
    • Chief Engineer = $96/87
    • Mine Engineer = $ 63/65
    • Metallurgist = $81/80
    • Mine Geologist = $61/61
    • Health and Safety Coordinator = $69/68
    • Accountant = $55/65
    • Secretary = $34/34

    Interesting how close some salaries are at both underground and surface metal mines, yet how different some of them are. Start with the General Manager. $23K is not trivial. Or the accountant where the difference is near $10K. This is not a reflection of an overall difference in salary for people on underground versus surface mines. Consider the Mine Engineer, the person who really counts; of the Health and Safety Coordinator, another key person in my opinion.

    Some low salaries that surprise me include how little the accountant gets, but then is probably not a CPA we are talking about? Mine geologists are another group who do not get as much as I would have expected. In spite of what the magazines were writing, these are not salaries that, to my mind, reflect a shortage of skilled people. You should see what we were paying geologists and engineers in consulting companies in Vancouver last year. Enough to make you wonder why anybody works on a salary on a mine instead of for a consultant.

    The trouble is, the above numbers are averages. Here are numbers for the same job categories. This time however, the first number is for industrial mineral mines, and the second number is for metal mines.

    • General Manager = $111/159
    • Mine Manager = $88/126
    • Mill Superintendant = $76/102
    • Chief Engineer = $76/102
    • Mine Engineer = $ 60/66
    • Metallurgist = $NA/80
    • Mine Geologist = $71/59
    • Health and Safety Coordinator = $67/69
    • Accountant = $57/64
    • Secretary = $31/38

    At least the General Manager and the secretary get more on metal mines than on industrial mineral mines. For the rest the old geologist is badly done by. I find it hard to believe a geologist at the local quarry makes more than the geologist at a metal mine. Maybe too many geologists who do not want to live in town. Or is this the California effect - there are only industrial mineral mines in California, no metal mines to speak of - and you need to pay those California geologists a good sum?

    Here are the numbers for the average salary of the Mine Geologist, by mine type:

    • Precious Metal = $62K
    • Copper = $59K
    • Other Metal = $51K
    • Limestone = $ 61K
    • Aggregate = $56
    • Other Industrial Mineral = $90K

    Not much support for the California geologist theory; but where are those "Other Industrial Mineral" mines? Is it so hard for geologists to find other industrial minerals? Must be.

    No numbers; you will just have to believe me, or get a copy of the report. But the folk working for union mines make a lot more than folk at non-union mines. The folk at big mines make more than folk at small mines. Consider the Secretary who earns an average of $30,500 at a small mine and $38,400 at a large mine.

    Of course about fifty percent of people earn more than the average. Here are some salaries at a big (more than 500 people) mine in the Rocky Mountain area.

    • Plant Manager = $177K
    • Mine Manager = $130K
    • Manager, Financial Services = $120K
    • Senior Engineer = $105K
    • Geologist = $95K
    • Superintendent, Geotec and Hydrology = $94.
    • Senior Engineer , Mine Planning = $87KAssistant Administrative = $46K

    Now that is a mine to go work at: in the Rockies and at a reasonable salary.


    PETROLEUM GEOLOGISTS' SALARIES

    Nobody will ever tell you their salary. That is generally because it is less than they would like you to believe.

    Professors lie through their teeth about the salaries offered to their graduates. The higher the claim starting salary, the greater the number of new students they can attract.

    Reporters focus on high salaries and wages because the fashion-story right now is that there is a shortage of mining graduates and because it is easier to write about success than to write about true averages.

    These three personal opinion-observations are prompted by the following report from a Spokane newspaper. I repeat the report in its entirety. Then I repeat comments on mining salaries from a colleague who does not believe the report. You will have to make up your own mind as to whether the reporter or my colleague’s opinions are correct.

    Spokesman Review May 10, 2008

    Geology degree a hot commodity - High cost of metals, oil gives new graduates host of options by Shawn Vestal Staff writer

    It's a good time to be a geology major.

    Graduates in the field are facing lucrative opportunities as they enter the job market, thanks to record metals and oil prices. The average pay for a petroleum geologist with two years experience or less has risen about 60 percent in the past eight years.

    "This year it's just booming," said Peter Isaacson, professor of geological sciences at the University of Idaho. "It's really going great guns."

    Students in Isaacson's programs some of whom will graduate today can choose among jobs and salaries that would make many other graduates salivate. Some students may get signing bonuses.

    "We simply cannot provide enough graduates to meet industry demand," Isaacson said. "Bachelor of science graduates are being snapped up. I've never seen this before in my career. Currently, new hires are starting with salaries ranging from $80,000 to $140,000, depending on the degree."

    The average salary for new petroleum geologists has climbed above $80,000, according to a survey by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Salaries are similar in the mining industry.

    Judd Case, dean of the college of science, health and engineering at Eastern Washington University, said the job market is drawing more students to the field. EWU is also resurrecting a master's program in geology because of the growing demand.

    Case said mining has been the bigger career opportunity for EWU graduates, though he expects to see increased interest from oil companies.

    "There's lots of opportunities," he said. "The mining industry's snapping up our students at a high rate."

    The boom times have shown up in other places, too. EWU offers a three-day certification course in mining safety. For years it drew 20 to 30 students typically mine workers who want to further their careers.

    "It more than doubled last year and doubled again this year," Case said.

    Christina Bader, a graduate student in geology at UI, has interviewed with ExxonMobil for a possible job though she's not sure whether she'd accept it, because most oil jobs start in Houston and she doesn't want to live in a big city.

    "If you're young and ambitious and want to get a good job that pays well, you're going to get shipped to Houston to start," she said.

    Bader may decide to continue her graduate work instead, pursuing a doctorate in Alaska, studying the geology of natural disasters like volcanic eruptions. But she and her fellow students have options.

    "They need people," she said. "They really do. They're exploring everywhere, all over the planet, for oil."

    In the light of the gushing good-news that pervades this report, I hesitate to throw cold water on the parade or point out that maybe the Emperor is naked, but here goes. The following are comments from a colleague who doubts the veracity of the above report:

    We are in the process of completing a survey of Canadian Mine Compensation and International Exploration and U.S. mine salaries.

    With the exception of Canadian very remote mines and the oil sands, we are not seeing the highly publicized huge salaries, particularly for new graduates. It seems that an employee has to jump ship and head into these highly paid areas to capitalize on these wages. We also see very high wages in the coal fields in Wyoming - again, not a great place to live or work.

    Wages have increased over the last several years, and the shortage of qualified professionals is real. The industry is paying more for qualified professionals than ever before, but how much more?

    Note how, as reported in the Spokane newspaper article above, Christine Bader was "offered a job", but is going to graduate school instead to pursue natural disasters and volcanology. Seems that these people are being offered the big bucks but not actually taking the jobs. The American Association of Professional Geologist (AAPG) reports an "average" starting wage of $80K for petroleum geologists, but professors are reporting $80K to $140K.

    One major mining company in Denver told us a very interesting story. They offered three Colorado School of Mines (CSM) geology graduates salaries that ranged from $48,000 to $55,000 depending on experience with no signing bonuses. These were exploration positions in the U.S. They were turned down flat by the students to whom the offers were made; the students said that they were holding out for $80,000+ salaries that the schools said were available. Two weeks later, the same three graduates were calling back, asking if the jobs had been filled. I believe that the schools are perhaps touting much higher salaries than are really available.

    One CSM petroleum engineering graduate last year received three offers ranging from $62,000 to $80,000. Two were in Colorado, and one in Midland, Texas. No surprises, the Midland job paid the most and that was the one he took. He wishes now he had taken one of the lower paid jobs because of location. He reported that the company just hired two more CSM grads at $82K and he got a $5K raise. Again, even in the petroleum industry, the new hires are not getting the $100K+ offers, except for maybe in Houston. Two of his friends with degrees in mining engineering took jobs in the mining industry for about $50,000 to $55,000, one in Nevada and one in Montana.

    Oil and gas jobs in Houston seem to be the highest paidand not necessarily reflecting the same in the mining industry.

    Where is this going? Well, it would be interesting to see if the wages individuals report are substantially different from what the companies report. One wonders if bragging rights factor into what the schools and the graduates are reporting.

    I would love to see a survey for individuals, especially exploration personnel.

    There you are. Maybe you can get back to me and tell me what you were offered. Or just provide me with your opinion about the truth as told by professors versus reporters.

    PROFESSIONAL SALARIES

    The first house I bought in South Africa cost twice my annual salary and when I sold it after two renovations I sold at four times the purchase price. Unfortunately by then I was in Canada and the sales price yielded one times my annual salary. I promptly used that money to buy a house worth 2.5 times my annual salary. The 1983 mining crash reduced that house price to 1.25 times my annual salary, so I kept the house and paid for it over some twenty-five years. Now that house is worth about eight times my annual salary.

    Consulting in Albuquerque, I bought a house worth 1.75 times my annual salary and sold it six years later for $1,000 more than I bought it. I invested the money in a house in California worth twice my annual salary and now thanks to the magic of the property boom it is worth twenty times my annual salary, which hardly pays the rates and taxes-except that Proposition 13 saves us.

    I suppose that the point of all this is that the ratio of your house cost to your professional salary in the mining industry is irrelevant. Try buying a house as a newly graduated mining engineer in Fort McMurray, Alberta. No wonder they get paid over $40 an hour. Maybe the old way is the answer to the frequently heard cry: how do we recruit for the mining industry? How about doing what was done half a century ago: provide free housing, at least in the more expensive parts of the mining world?

    That said, let us see what CostMine has to say about salaries. Start with the mine manager. The average underground mine manger earned $122,200 in 2005. You did bit better if you managed a metal mine, namely $132,700. (Believe it or not, I never saw house number 1, which was inhabited by the mine manager and hidden down a long driveway behind high, dense trees.)

    I see that the mine engineer got $60,000 a year in 2005. Now it is clear why there is a shortage of mining engineers. Young consulting engineers in California earn this much straight out of university. Maybe less talk and more money will change the desire to live in southern California and earn more than you could in a remote mining village.

    Even in Canada the mine engineer earns but $72,000 (Canadian), the mine geologist but $68,000, and the environmental coordinator $74,400. Well here at least we see the future. Clearly salaries for professionals in the mining industry are too low. A simple apartment in North Vancouver is nearly four to five times this salary. Maybe we should go back to the Big Mac and house-price-ratio method of establishing salaries if we wish to attract young professionals to mining.


    EXPLORATION SALARIES

    CostMine's Exploration Salaries, Wages & Benefits, 2008 International Suvey can help us look at exploration salaries world-wide.

    The survey reports on information from 162 exploration offices from 38 countries. Information comes from 113 medium to large mining companies and 49 junior mining companies. Salaries are reported for 104 exploration managers, 116 senior geologists, 136 project geologists, and 28 entry level geologists. Also there is information from 50 independent consultants on what they charge to do exploration.

    The good news is that the highest paid professionals were American, Canadian, and Australian nationals working either on foreign assignments or in their home countries. The bad news is that the lowest paid were nationals living in Columbia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, and Papua New Guinea. Colombian geologist made as little as $15,000 per year in U.S. dollar equivalents.

    Here are some average salaries for 2008the first number is for the international average; the number in brackets is for the U.S., Canada, and Australia only:

    1. Exploration Manager = $133,700 ($132,700)
    2. Senior Geologist = $92,800 ($94,600)
    3. Project Geologist = $67,200 (67,200)
    4. Junior Geologist = $49,500 ($49,500)
    5. Geophysicist = $92,100 ($79,900)
    6. Landsman = $67,000 ($68,900)
    7. Field Technician = $32,100 ($45,000)
    8. Secretary = $29,500 ($38,000)

    Seems it is better to be a secretary in the US than elsewhere! The real difference is at the top. In the U.S., the top Exploration manager made $215,000, the top Senior Geologist $158,000, the top Junior Geologist $52,000, and the top Secretary $45,000.

    Expatriates always did better the Nationals. For example, the average Expat junior geologist made $80,000 comparedto the National who made $49,500.

    Turning to consultants, we find that in America the average daily consulting rate for an Exploration Consultant is $734, in Australia $510, and in Canada a mere $480. The top Canadian consultants were charging as mush as $800 a day. The top American consulting geologist was getting $1,500 a day.

    Once again we have no idea if these salaries will hold up through 2009. As the survey notes:

    For most of 2007 and 2008 exploration professionals were in short supply. As a result, exploration wages increased. For example, in 2006, U.S. senior geologists working in the U.S. were paid on average US$88,400 per year. In 2007 this increased to US$95,800. The numbers for Australia are A$100,000 increasing to A$112,700.

    OTHER DATA SOURCES

    The salary news I liked best is at Salary.com-at least the salaries they quote are higher than any other site. They note that in Long Beach, California the 75th percentile of a mining engineer's salary is $103,656. Now that is reasonable.

    I do not know what the cost of living is in Australia, but the salaries sound good. The University of New South Wales, School of Mining Engineering reports, "A survey of the 2005 final year students in Mining Engineering at UNSW found their mean starting package was $81,950 per year and ranged from $72,000 to $96,000. The median starting salary for UNSW mining engineering graduates in 2003 was $70,003 (source: 2003 Graduate Survey, May 2004). In recent years mining engineering graduates have been one of the highest paying professions, followed by dentistry ($46,450) and pharmacy ($45,000). The table compares the starting salaries for a range of professional courses over a three year period.


    Median Graduate Starting Salaries: In 2000, the average salary package of mining engineers in Australia was $146,200. The average of those in the top 10% bracket was $246,100. (Mining Engineering is in pink.)


    I do not know how they get their data, but CanadaVisa.com gives the average mining engineer's salary as $44,502. Luckily for the private sector, the government-run site, Natural Resources Canada on Minerals and Mining employment, salaries, and wages is out-of-date and replete with news of mining strikes, a Canadian national sport. No point in seeking information there.

    Even less helpful are the sites that promise to tell you how much you should be earning. Weave you way through the multiple questions and you suddenly realize that you have told them where you work, what you qualifications are, and what you do, and also HOW MUCH YOU EARN. Then they somehow or other make it impossible to go further. My advice is to stay away from them. They are just mining for data that they will probably package and sell to high bidders. Not folk like you and me who are simply curious? Maybe that is how Salary.com got such high salaries in Long Beach?


    CONCLUSIONS

    I acknowledge that my facts are slim, my arguments skinny, and the case weak. I have been lucky and done well from the mining industry and, on average, from the property market. I see what my kids and their spouses earn: one as a cable installer, two as geotechnical engineers, one as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, and one managing the distribution of Frito Lay products. And their salaries vary from low to high. I know what I earned in full-time employment, and now in retirement (WOF, either Working Over Fifty or alternatively, and my preference, Working Old Fart) employment. I know what I earn as a consultant to lawyers defending mines. And still I cannot shake off the conviction that engineers, environmental coordinators and miners are not well paid. Maybe this is but a legacy of years of low materials prices. But that is past, and now after looking at the wages and salaries published by CostMine, I will no longer shake my head in agreement when some old investor mutters sagaciously at a conference about the difficulty of recruiting people to the mining industry. You get what you pay for, and it is competitive out there, so pay more.

    AND THE ANSWER IS

    To finally answer the 27-year-old's question, namely what is in it for me? Your father worked the mining industry to earn the money that gave you a privileged upbringing. Because of mining you enjoyed a life of luxury and ease and pleasure the likes of which no previous generation has known-even in the upper classes of the past. Your challenge and your opportunity are to take this gift and use it to benefit others.

    To do this you must obviously be educated, work hard, use your talents, and advance the mining industry as countless fathers did before. You must apply new knowledge, new procedures, and old-fashioned morality and ethics to mining. Thus you will earn a reasonable salary, maybe even a good one, and others too will earn money to raise their families.

    You could choose to do nothing and one day live of the proceeds of your father's property. Investment in real estate will give you the inheritance to be a playboy. After all, I earned almost as much in property appreciation as in working the mining industry and my kids drive new convertibles where I drove gray minis (the original size).

    The decision is yours, for your world is big enough to accommodate your choices. You have chosen the mining industry because it is booming. But recall that we thought likewise and for the greater part of our careers it crashed. So you will have to be ever vigilant, ever attentive to improving your skills, and ever ready to change as the world of mining changes. Good luck and make sure you buy property as soon as possible. Oh and do something about global warming.


    A FINAL OBSERVATION

    Having written what is above, I came across this report in the Economist:
    In one area, America's sense of self-defeating imperialism is truly evident: taxation. Unlike most developed countries, America taxes the income of its citizens even when they work abroad. This has long discouraged companies from employing Americans internationally, particularly in expensive places. These reservations were compounded last month when the tax on Americans abroad was increased substantially by a provision included by Charles Grassley, a senator from Iowa, in-ironically enough-a $70 billion tax-cut. The change, optimistically projected to raise $2.1 billion over the next decade, is also politically symbolic: it is the Republican Congress's first renunciation of its widely trumpeted vow to block any increase in personal income taxes. Workers on foreign assignments are apparently not thought to be a particularly threatening lot. Based on tax filings from 2003, the higher taxes will affect 300,000 people, although future tweaks could ensnare many more. The increase to what is formally known as Section 911 of the tax code was buried in the broader tax-cut legislation at the last moment, and thus circumvented debate in Congress.

    I wonder how many in the mining industry are affected by this measure from a farming state? No mystery why the Canadians dominate South American mining. Is there any comment from the mining companies? Or will they simply increase wages to cover the increased taxes. Maybe the sad answer is that given by the Economist:

    American companies say it has become increasingly hard to convince their employees that moving abroad to work in a rapidly growing market is financially worthwhile. Which means more will stay at home.

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