Saturday, February 18, 2012

Good blue collar jobs back in mining country, for now

NPR reported yesterday from the Silver Valley in northern Idaho, a place like some others in the West where the rising value of precious metals has mines reopening--and hiring. The same is happening in mining regions of Alaska, Montana, and Nevada. Jessica Robinson's story, which is headlined, "Big Bucks Attract High School Grads to Mining," features an interview with the shop teacher at the high school in Mullan, Idaho, population 692. The teacher, Don Kotschevar, is also the assistant principal and the school's basketball coach, but he notes the salaries being paid by the mines "in the first six, with months ... absolutely crush mine." Entry-level mine jobs can pay $50,000 a year. Indeed, "the average mine worker in the Silver Valley now makes $70,000" while some earn six-figure salaries. Meanwhile, "[m]any people's paychecks have remained stagnant--or disappeared--in this area over the past few years."

One reason the jobs pay so well is because of the risks associated with them. The Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan was closed temporarily in January because of safety concerns. Two miners were killed there last year.

Some young people will find those risks acceptable; others won't.

No comments: