Mining salaries: Mayor's figures overstated?

Friday 27 April 2012, 8:33PM

By Dave West



Last week, the Rawene Newsletter commented on a media release by Far North Mayor Wayne Brown, under the heading “Mining: Open minds need information”. There was one claim in the media release that we didn’t address at the time: “Voters might also have been aware that the mining, resources and energy sector was the highest-paid sector in New Zealand last year, with workers earning an average of $111,378”.
This claim appears to be based on a media release put out by SEEK, an internet-based job site. SEEK’s figures are based on salaries advertised in job ads. Many of the ads don’t mention the salary range, so the average figures cited by SEEK are based on only some of the ads. SEEK’s “mining, energy and resources sector” also covers a wide range of activities, including electricity generation; some construction tasks (eg drilling foundation holes for high-rise buildings); and oil exploration and extraction, as well as mining, which includes quarrying. The ads also include positions for professionals such as high-level managers, geologists, and other specialists, and cover often highly paid “back office” tasks such as public relations and communications; transport managers and so on. SEEK also advertises positions in Australia and other places on its NZ website.
A Newsletter search of SEEK for “drilling and blasting” jobs in NZ produced three ads posted to the site in the past 3 months. Two of these positions paid “up to” $70,000, the third “up to” $100,000. A search for fulltime mine operators produced four ads for work in NZ.   Two of them specified a salary range: one for a quarry manager at $85,000-$95,000; the other for a Junior Mining Engineer at $110,000-$120,000. This job required a mining engineer’s degree and at least one year’s experience in open-pit coal or metal mines. The other two jobs required university degrees and up to 8 years’ mining experience.
The Rawene Newsletter does not believe that SEEK’s job ad figures are a reliable guide to actual salaries. A job advertised as “up to $100,000” could be accepted by someone at a starting salary of $60,000, for example. CareersNZ says that pay for miners varies depending on experience, rosters, and allowances. Figures for late 2009 show that new miners could earn between $35,000 and $45,000 a year. Miners with three or four years' experience could earn between $45,000 and $65,000. Miners with more than six years' experience could earn between $65,000 and $90,000. [Figures provided by Solid Energy, 27 November 2009].