Pay holds steady despite the ‘great resignation’
Wages fluctuated wildly in 2021, proving that in yet another way, it wasn’t a normal year. A comparison of the past 10 years wages for mechanics, equipment operators, and labourers at surface and underground mines in Canada indicates that there was a decrease in wages in the 2021 reporting period. The data is slightly misleading as more than half the mines that reported to the survey provided an increase in wages that averaged 2% and the other mines reported that there was no change in wages. No mines indicated a decrease in wages. The overall decrease in wages should be attributed to the “Great Resignation.” Senior miners opted to retire in 2021 and the positions are being filled with workers with less experience. Those workers are still starting with a higher wage than past years.
Underground premium eroding?
There was a time when it was thought to be more lucrative for a miner to work underground. Is that still the case? Costmine compared wages for mechanics, equipment operators, and labourers in surface and underground operations over the last 10 years.
Costmine has published the Canadian Mine Salaries, Wages and Benefits report annually since 1996. That year, underground labourers had a wage 22% higher than their surface mine counterparts, the underground mechanic was 11% higher and the underground equipment operator was 6% higher. The 2021 report showed a shift in favour of the surface equipment operators, while the underground labourers are still making more than those in the surface mines.
Figures 1 through 3 illustrate the wages for the underground and surface positions of mechanics, heavy operators/underground equipment operator, and labourers over the past 10 years. These show that the base pay has been fairly similar.
The difference in base wages between a surface mine mechanic and an underground mechanic was more evident in 1996, when the Costmine survey began. In 2021 the base wages were more similar, shown in figure 4.
While the charts show that the wages are similar, it is still generally understood that underground workers are more highly paid than surface mine workers. The difference now comes from bonuses. In 2021, 77% of the underground mines reported providing an incentive plan, while only 50% of the surface mines reported having an incentive plan.
Since 1990, Costmine has been surveying operating Canadian mines for the latest in mining wages and benefits. For more information or to participate in or purchase studies, contact Costmine at +1 (509) 328-8023 or www.costmine.com.
Sources: Canadian Mine Salaries, Wages & Benefits, 1996, 2012-2021