There are conventionally 2,080 work hours in a year. Thus somebody earning a wage of $20 an hour gets the equivalent of a salary of about $42,000. Considering the mine manager makes about $100,000 to $150,000 a year, it is interesting to take a look at actual wages paid to miners in the United States in 2011. The following numbers come from the CostMine report 2011 Survey Results, U.S. Metal and Industrial Mineral Mine Salaries, Wages and Benefits.
By job title, here are the average hourly wages for small and large surface mines respectively:
- Electrician = 24.19/26.62
- Mechanic = 22.52/24.67
- Driller = 18.75/24.46
- Production Truck Driver = 16.17/22.35
- Laborer = 17.00/18.95
Thus we may quickly conclude that those on large surface mines (more than 100 employees) make about ten percent more than those on small mines.
What about underground mines? Here are some averages, again for small and large underground mines:
- Electrician = 21.56/26.08
- Mechanic = 20.86/25.71
- Miner = 23.32/25,09
- Underground Laborer = 16.75/22.39
Again those on large mines make more than those on small mines. There is, however, no clear trend that I can discern about whether it is more lucrative to work on a surface as compared to an underground mine. All we can say it that the electrician and the underground laborer head the pack in wages. So if you intend to go wage mining, become an electrician.
Of course many other factors enter into the average wage. The CostMine report breaks it down by region, metal or mineral mined, and other distinctions. Here is one. The first wage is for precious metal mines, the second for copper mines, and the third for “other metal” mines:
- Electrician = 28.72/23.44/27.59
- Heavy Equipment Operator = 25.68/22.13/23.62
- Laborer = 20.41/15.58/23.40
Electricians, Equipment Operators, and Laborers at copper mines do badly by comparison with those at gold and silver mines. Maybe the copper mines are many and work in bulk? Or is the cost of living in places where there are copper mines less than those places where there are gold and silver mines? Southern Arizona versus Alaska? I would appreciate your opinion on this one. If it is not cost of living, why do the copper miners not go gold mining?
PS. A word about the photos that accompany this posting. I took them in Santiago, Chile, The first is what will become the tallest building in South America under construction. This building could never be in the absence of mine work and wages. Hence it is a kind of testament to miners everywhere. The second is of Kentucky Fired Chicken–my favorite fast food, in America and Chile. Need I say more?