Mining Industry Update: Salaries and Hotspots

Mining Industry Update: Salaries and Hotspots

By its very nature, mining requires a large workforce possessing a diverse set of skills, and experienced in a wide range of operations in numerous locations around the world. Mining companies often need to relocate employees and their families to developing countries, creating a new challenge in recruiting and retaining talent. People with a background in mining engineering and geology are in high demand everywhere and, as a result, the sector is often very rewarding for those willing to relocate to a new location.

The global mining sector employs over 3.7 million people. Another 20 million are engaged in small-scale mining. Jobs in mining are not restricted to direct mining alone, but also in related industries such as oil & gas, construction, transport, and so on. According to the ILO, in 2010, 1.5 million people worked in mining in developed countries, and 2.2 million in developing/ emerging countries. More than 100 countries are engaged in some sort of mining activity, while the World Bank considers 50 of these as ‘mining countries’ due to their reliance on mining for their exports, domestic markets and employment. Mines have a high ‘multiplier effect’, generating employment by creating demand for equipment, maintenance and other ancillary services.


You could be making…

…very good money in mining. The industry, by its very nature, requires people who are mobile and willing to go to work at mine sites in all corners of the world. For this, they are rewarded very well, in monetary terms as well as other benefits, such as lifestyle benefits and lenient leave policies.

Salaries in mining vary by location, and of course, by experience. In 2010, the average salary in the Australian mining industry was about 108K Australian dollars (US $110K) per annum – even including part-time and lower-skilled workers. In terms of specific profiles, a civil engineer in Australia would make a median salary of US $141K per year, an engineer, approx. $125K, and an equipment operator would earn $83K. In South Africa, engineering managers make a median salary of US $100K per year. Environmental engineers in the US draw $75K per year, geologists $69K, while health and safety managers make as much as $150K per year. Canada, too, has a bustling mining industry and companies here pay environmental technicians a median of $62K, exploration geologists about $78K, and geologists a median of $86K per year.

Given the severe skills shortage in mining (more on that later), “You’re seeing double-digit wage growth in a lot of regions,” says Tom Albanese, CEO, Rio Tinto PLC, the world’s third-biggest mining company, by sales.


-        Australian government’s Bureau of Statistics


-        CareerMine Salary Survey,

Skills shortages

Commodity prices drive the global mining industry, and the growing demand in countries like China makes skilled workers a prized commodity. Even when prices for a certain commodity dip, having well-trained staff on site makes all the difference between success and failure. Experienced professionals help reduce overheads and are essential for maintaining health and safety standards as well as mechanical operations.

Mine managers and engineers are most sought-after, and in many places, they enjoy a fly-in-fly-out culture, where they are on site for a specific period of time and then flown back home for a period of rest. These professionals are paid enough during their on-site stints to last them the year. In addition to core mining operations, companies also put in place risk management teams who are in charge of health and safety.

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Employee benefits

Experienced professionals in mining are globally mobile, creating a new set of considerations for benefit provision by their employers. Many employers build international insurance into their benefits package and offer flexible savings options through tie-ups with various finance providers. Relocation assistance and free or subsidized childcare are also par for the course. To accommodate employees with a wide range of backgrounds and aspirations, companies offer flexibility in benefits selection. Here, the employee chooses the specific benefits he prefers and tailors his remuneration package to his liking.

Even where retirement is concerned, this industry is different from any other. Employers often offer ‘phased retirement’ where employees nearing retirement are allowed to reduce their work commitments, though still working on a part-time or contract basis. Tailored career development options means that employers invest in employee growth by enrolling them for training and development, and allowing them to choose the next steps in their career.


Country focus: The hotspots

Behind the growing need for miners is a construction boom in China and other emerging economies. This has ramped up demand for metals and minerals including iron ore, used to make steel, and other metals used in construction, such as copper, typically used for wiring buildings.

With an estimated US $2.5 thousand billion worth of mineral reserves, South Africa is the world’s richest country in mineral terms. According to research conducted by Citigroup, Russia is second and Australia is at third position. US $2300 billion of reserves in South Africa are in the platinum group metals, while Russia’s iron ore reserves are valued at US $794 billion, ahead of Australia’s at US $737 billion.

South Africa, Guinea, the Ukraine, India and Kazakhstan have mineral reserves unrelated to energy worth over US $200 billion each. At current rates of exploitation, mines in these countries will last more than 100 years.

In contrast, mines in China have an average lifespan of 17 years, which is why China invests heavily in metals and mining, specifically in copper, iron ore, coal and uranium.

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 South Africa

Thanks to mining, South Africa is Africa’s richest and most advanced economy. The country has witnessed diamond and gold rushes, and it remains the world’s fifth largest producer of gold. It is also very mineral-rich and is the world’s largest producer of chrome, manganese, platinum, vanadium and vermiculite, while also being the second-largest producer of ilmenite, palladium, rutile and zirconium. Apart from this, the country is among the world’s largest producers of iron ore and coal. South Africa remains one of the world’s favorite destinations to work in mining.


Russia has one of the world’s leading mineral industries, with prolific production of metals, industrial minerals and mineral fuels. While the country produces everything from arsenic to copper, diamonds to tungsten, iron ore to natural gas, yet, oil revenues account for over 10% of its GDP.


Mining is on an upswing in the APAC region. In 2013, mining suppliers in Asia-Pacific have the highest average annual marketing budgets of US $4.5 million.

Of these countries, Australia has always been a haven for expats. With over a quarter of its population born outside the country, Australia has among the highest proportion of immigrants in the world. Mining is one of the sectors that attract a large percentage of these expats. 2.2% of the total labor force in Australia is engaged in mining. In spite of this, the sector contributes 5.6% of the GDP. The country is the world’s largest iron ore exporter, and forecasts its exports to rise by 14% in the current fiscal. Australia produces various metallurgical and non-metallurgical minerals, most of which are exported overseas for processing. Almost 70% of Australia’s exports to China comprise energy and minerals, and 50% of the country’s iron ore exports head to China. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal, iron ore, lead, diamonds, rutile, zinc and zirconium, and among the top exporters of gold, uranium, aluminum.

The Minerals Council of Australia predicts the need for an additional 86,000 mining professionals and skilled mine workers by 2020, to add to the current workforce estimated at 216,000 people. To attract and retain this workforce, mining companies here offer high salaries and a good amount of time off from the mine site. The country also affords excellent opportunities for promotion and career advancement.



Since 2010, ‘Support activities for metal mining’ has been the fastest-growing industry in the US, followed in third place by ‘Industrial sand mining’. Nearly 50% of the 5100 jobs in the metal mining sector are based in Nevada and employment has grown by 53% since 2010, also creating supply-chain jobs in the wider economy. According to EMSI’s 2013.2 employment data, four of the five fastest-growing industries in the US are connected with mining or oil & gas. From North Dakota to Pennsylvania to Texas, the growth in oil and natural gas production is fueling rapid growth in employment. Since mining requires a lot of equipment and materials, every job created in metal mining also creates 6.1 supply-chain jobs elsewhere in the economy. In all, 644,165 estimated jobs in the US are directly linked to mining and oil & gas.




 Other countries

In Canada, the Mining Industry Council foresees a shortfall of 60-90K workers by 2017. Peru is also a hotspot for mining and must find 40K additional workers by the end of this decade. The biggest shortfalls today are in Western Australia, Chile and Africa.




Profiles in demand

  • Exploration geologist
  • Geophysicist
  • Mine geologist
  • Resource geologist
  • Surveyor
  • GIS technician
  • Mechanics, boilermakers, maintenance technicians & welders
  • Electrician

At the upper end of the scale, those with a background in geology or geosciences, environmental, surveying, management & administration and those with engineering experience are highly valued.


-        CareerMine Salary Survey,


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