Report: Average mining wages climb to $81,755 |

Report: Average mining wages climb to $81,755

ELKO (AP) – Mining wages have climbed in Nevada, but the number of mining jobs in the Silver State has declined, according to a report by the Nevada Mining Association.

Average metal mining wages in 2009 were $81,755 a year, up from $78,567 in 2008 and $80,236 in 2007. The average earnings of all industries statewide was $42,746 in 2009, the report found.

The report obtained by the Elko Daily Free Press shows that employment is down, with direct mining jobs totaling 11,609 in 2009, compared with 14,600 in 2008 and 14,470 in 2007.

John Dobra, an associate economics professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, attributed the decline to the industrial minerals sector.

Industrial minerals include gypsum, lime, aggregate and others that are used in construction. A gravel pit can employ 100 to 200 people.

“They were hurt badly by the recession and still are,” he said, but the precious metals sector is “good time Charlie.”

Dobra hailed the report’s finding that mining production costs are down for the first time in eight or nine years.

He said major mines did a good job of containing costs, and supplies also loosened. Mines faced problems buying steel, tires and equipment during a shortage two or three years ago.

The report rates Nevada as the world’s sixth-largest gold producer behind China, South Africa, Australia, Russia and Peru. Nevada previously had been the world’s fifth-largest producer.

The Nevada Division of Minerals reported exploration expenditures from survey respondents totaled $110 million in 2009, down from $158 million in 2008.

Because larger mining companies primarily respond to the survey, the figures don’t reflect all of the smaller exploration companies and their expenditures, Dobra said.

Still, new reserves “are way up,” he said, and companies have enough gold for production for the next 13 years without new finds.

Proven and probable reserves of gold increased in 2009 to more than 75 million ounces, compared with more than 70 million ounces in 2008, according to the report.