CARSON CITY — Looking for a well-paying career? You might have to move to Elko or Carlin, but the average mining job in Nevada paid $78,579 in 2008.
That’s nearly $30,000 a year more than the average pay earned by all Nevada workers that year, according to a National Mining Association study.
Nevada is the fourth most active state in mining behind Wyoming, West Virginia and Montana, according to the study by PricewaterhouseCoopers . The top three states all produce a lot of coal, while the Silver State produces 77 percent of the nation’s gold. The price of gold topped $1,400 an ounce for the first time last week and was selling for $1,352 an ounce Thursday.
The National Mining Association commissioned the study to determine mining’s impact. Directly or indirectly, mining created 50,750 jobs in Nevada, or 3.2 percent of all jobs in the state, according to the study. Nationally 1.8 million jobs are attributed to mining activity.
In Nevada, the mining industry has come under increasing attack by groups that contend it is not contributing enough in state taxes.
The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada proposed a constitutional amendment that would have tripled the tax on the net proceeds from mines, but failed last summer to get enough signatures to place it on the ballot. The increased tax would have brought in $264 million, the group said.
Citizens during meetings in 2008 called for increasing mining taxes, but state legislators made no attempt to impose higher mining taxes in the 2009 session.
During a special session in February, legislators approved a one-time increase in mining claims fees designed to bring in $26 million. Small miners contend it will deter exploration and not produce the revenue lawmakers expect.
According to the National Mining Association study, Nevada miners paid $1.6 billion in federal, state and local taxes, of which $643 million went to state and local government.
The 50,750 jobs created by mining are because of what is called the “multiplier effect,” said Vince Popovich, vice president of External Communications for the National Mining Association in Washington, D.C.
“If you are a miner, you are spending on groceries, housing, dry cleaning, insurance, gas for your car and sending your kids to school,” he said Thursday. “If they took your income away, there would be fewer other jobs. There wouldn’t be taxes to pay for teachers.”
Mike Draper, a spokesman for the Nevada Mining Association, hopes urban residents don’t rush off to look for mining jobs because they pay well.
“Certainly wages are good, but mining employment has been relatively flat,” he said. “These are high-skilled jobs, engineers and geologists. There are jobs available, but you need skills.”
Draper added the National Mining Association, as well as the Nevada Mining Association, annually do studies on mining’s economic effects. They are not designed to head off moves for tax increases, but to show what mining contributes to the economy.