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Surface Mining Equipment Operator

Surface mining equipment operators use heavy equipment to recover minerals from near the earth’s surface in open pit or strip-mining operations.

  • Avg. Salary $63,241.00
  • Avg. Wage $30.77
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 13,400
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Loader Operator, Miner, Open Pit Mining Equipment Operator, Scraper Operator, Strip Mining Equipment Operator, Surface Miner, Truck-Shovel Operator

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane) (7421) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane) (H611) 
  • 2011 NOC: Heavy equipment operators (except crane) (7521) 
  • 2016 NOC: Heavy equipment operators (except crane) (7521) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

Average Wage
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Interest Codes
The Surface Mining Equipment Operator is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane)

Interest in operating bulldozers and heavy dredging, paving and surfacing equipment to deepen waterways, reclaim earth fill, lay, spread and compact concrete, asphalt and other surface materials during highway and road construction; and in operating power shovels to excavate rock, ore and other materials from open-pit mines, strip mines, quarries and construction pits


Interest in comparing information to move, load and unload cargo and to clear brush and stumps before logging activities using bulldozers and other heavy equipment


Interest in conducting pre-operational checks on equipment and in cleaning, lubricating and refilling equipment, and in building roads at logging and surface mining sites using bulldozers and other heavy equipment

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Updated Mar 31, 2020

In Alberta, the surface mining industry is primarily concerned with 2 kinds of operations. These include the mining of energy minerals (such as coal or heavy oil sands) and extraction of non-metallic minerals (such as sand, gravel, and lime).

The mining methods and equipment used vary with the type and location of mineral.

Surface mining equipment operators operate equipment such as:

  • Backhoes
  • Large tractor and rubber-tired dozers
  • Rubber-tired scrapers
  • Electrical or mechanical drive haul trucks
  • Graders
  • Front-end loaders
  • Service, water, or other types of trucks
  • Draglines
  • Hydraulic or cable shovels
  • Utility vehicles and tractors for handling high-voltage cables
  • Packers
  • Surface mine dewatering equipment
  • Equipment transporters
  • Stationary plant or conveyor systems

Surface coal mining and oil sands mining in Alberta use 2 basic mining methods (or a combination of both):

  • Open pit mining involves removing the overburden (topsoil, regolith, and waste rock) by drilling holes with self-propelled drills in a blasting pattern.
  • Strip mining uses draglines, cable, or hydraulic shovels to remove the overburden and expose the ore.

In most situations, surface mining equipment operators use large front-end loaders or power shovels with huge buckets (up to 44 cubic metres in capacity). These can load broken overburden and ore into large rear dump trucks (up to 360 metric tons). Truck drivers haul overburden materials to waste dumps and ore to ore-processing plants. In some situations, materials are moved by conveyor belt.

Surface mining equipment operators must identify hazards and controls, as safety is a priority. They must inspect their equipment, report any need for repairs, and maintain operating and service logs. They are in charge of cleaning, lubricating, and refueling their equipment. They may be assigned other duties associated with overall mining operations.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Surface mining equipment operators generally work shifts in environmentally controlled cabs or control rooms. They must be able to sit for long periods of time with exposure to vibration and jarring. They sometimes need to work outdoors. At mines in remote locations, operators may be away from home for 2 to 3 weeks at a time, living and working closely with their colleagues.

Safety precautions and personal protective equipment (PPE, including safety boots, gloves, hard hats, glasses, and hearing protection) are required. PPE reduces the risk of injury associated with working near or with machinery. This occupation also involves a lot of climbing, stooping, crouching, bending, and heavy lifting.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Surface mining equipment operators need:

  • Good hand-eye co-ordination to effectively and safely operate large equipment
  • Good hearing and eyesight
  • Writing skills
  • Mechanical aptitude
  • Good health with reasonable strength, agility, and stamina
  • No fear of working in high places
  • The ability to judge distances and visualize 3-D layouts
  • The ability to remain alert while performing repetitive tasks
  • Respect for safety procedures and regulations
  • The ability to work independently and with others
  • The willingness to work a variety of shifts and schedules

They should enjoy operating heavy equipment, having clear guidelines and organized methods for their work, and solving problems.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Heavy equipment operators (except crane)
NOC code: 7521

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 37 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Oct 28, 2021 and Jan 17, 2022.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Operate heavy equipment
Conduct pre-operational checks on equipment
Clean and lubricate equipment and refill equipment tanks
Secure special attachments to equipment
Perform minor repairs to equipment
Type of Heavy Equipment Operated: Backhoe excavator, loader
Operate two-way radios and other communication equipment
Type of Heavy Equipment Operated: Loader
Type of Heavy Equipment Operated: Front end loader
Type of Heavy Equipment Operated: Grader
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020

There are no standard education requirements for surface mining equipment operators. Employers often prefer applicants who have a high school diploma and experience working in a mine environment or operating heavy equipment in an industrial setting. An Alberta Class 5 driver’s licence usually is required. Construction Safety Training System (CSTS) and Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training are definite assets. Applicants may need to pass a medical exam, pre-employment drug screening test, or Differential Aptitude Test (DAT).

Companies provide on-the-job training. This includes an orientation to mine operations and information about health and safety practices, hazardous waste handling, environmental reporting procedures, standard practices and procedures, and waste management.

Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

High Velocity Equipment Training College

Keyano College

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020

The Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) offers the Canadian Mining Certification Program (CMCP). This industry certification is available to surface miners working for CMCP-participating employers. It recognizes and certifies the skills and competencies of unregulated occupations in the mining industry. For more information, visit the MiHR website.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2020

In Alberta, most surface mining equipment operators work in rock quarries, or in open pit mines that extract oil sand or coal.

Surface mining equipment operators most often start as helpers, labourers, or truck drivers. With experience and on-the-job training they can advance to larger or more complex equipment and possibly to supervisory positions.

As a condition of employment, surface mining equipment operators may need to join a union.

Surface mining equipment operators are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 7521: Heavy equipment operators (except crane) occupational group. In Alberta, 82% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook [pdf] in this occupation is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Trends and events affecting overall employment, especially in the industries listed above
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

In Alberta, the 7521: Heavy equipment operators (except crane) occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.4% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 195 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the 195 new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2020
Heavy equipment operators (except crane)

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $16.54 $37.00 $25.63 $25.00
Overall $16.54 $39.90 $30.77 $32.00
Top $19.15 $48.08 $36.15 $38.00

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.

Industry Information
Transportation and Warehousing
Forestry, Logging, Fishing and Hunting
Public Administration
Wholesale Trade
Business, Building and Other Support Services
Oil & Gas Extraction

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years


Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties


Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months


Vacancy Rate

Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Driver Training
  • Trades, Industrial and Related Training
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2020

Canadian Mining Certification Program website:

Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) website:

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2020. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook, and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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