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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.

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

  • 7421: Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane)

2006 NOC-S

  • H611: Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane)

2011 NOC

  • 7521: Heavy equipment operators (except crane)

2016 NOC

  • 7521: Heavy equipment operators (except crane)

2021 NOC

  • 73400: Heavy equipment operators

2023 OaSIS

  • 73400.00: Heavy equipment operators
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
  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg

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.

Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane)

2006 NOC: 7421

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests


Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Traits & Skills
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.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Heavy equipment operators (except crane)

2016 NOC: 7521

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 182 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Jan 28, 2024 and Jul 12, 2024.

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.
Tasks: Operate heavy equipment
Tasks: Conduct pre-operational checks on equipment
Attention to detail
Work Site Environment: Outdoors
Work Setting: Various locations
Tasks: Clean and lubricate equipment and refill equipment tanks
Tasks: Secure special attachments to equipment
Type of Industry Experience: Road construction
Overtime required
Health benefits: Dental plan
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020
  • Minimum Education Varies

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

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2020
  • Certification Not Regulated

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.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 7521: Heavy equipment operators (except crane) occupational group, 78.6% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 7521: Heavy equipment operators (except crane) occupational group is expected to have an average annual growth of 2.4% from 2021 to 2025. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 380 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 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.

Source: 2021-2025 Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

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

Related Alberta Job Postings
Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2020

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Heavy equipment operators (except crane)

2016 NOC: 7521
Average Wage
Per Hour
Average Salary
Per Year
Average Hours
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

2021 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 7521 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

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.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

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.

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $20.00 $36.54 $28.29 $28.00
Overall $24.91 $46.92 $33.15 $32.50
Top $27.62 $55.00 $40.24 $40.00

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.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

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

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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