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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 $64,411.00
  • Avg. Wage $30.70
  • Minimum Education Varies
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 15,900
  • In Demand Medium
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) 
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 Dec 16, 2016

In Alberta, the surface mining industry is primarily concerned with mining:

  • energy minerals, such as coal or heavy oil sands
  • 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 typically 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.

2 basic types of mining methods (or a combination of both methods) may be used for surface coal mining and oil sands mining in Alberta:

  • 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 that may have huge buckets (up to 44 cubic metres in capacity) to 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.

Working Conditions
Updated Dec 16, 2016

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. Occasionally, they are required 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 work colleagues.

Safety precautions and personal protective equipment (safety boots, gloves, hard hats, glasses and hearing protection) are required to reduce the risk of injury associated with working near or with machinery. The work also requires climbing, stooping, crouching and bending. Lifting up to 20 kilograms routinely may be required.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 20 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Surface mining equipment operators need the following characteristics:

  • good hand-eye co-ordination to effectively and safely operate large equipment
  • good hearing and eyesight
  • good health with reasonable strength, agility and stamina
  • no fear of working in high places
  • ability to judge distances and visualize 3-dimensional layouts
  • ability to remain alert while performing repetitive tasks
  • respect for safety procedures and regulations
  • ability to work independently as well as with others
  • 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.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 16, 2016

There are no standard education requirements for surface mining equipment operators. Employers generally prefer to hire applicants who have a high school diploma and experience working in a mine environment or operating heavy equipment in an industrial environment. 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 be required to pass a medical exam, pre-employment drug screening test or Differential Aptitude Test (DAT).

Companies provide on-the-job training that 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.

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 CMCP website.

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

Portage College

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

Certification Requirements
Updated Dec 16, 2016

Certification is not required, as there is currently no legislation regulating this occupation.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 16, 2016

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

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

As a condition of employment, surface mining equipment operators may be required 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 in this occupation will be 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 (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

In Alberta, the H611: Heavy Equipment Operators (Except Crane) occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 0.4% from 2016 to 2020. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 78 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 16, 2016
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 $18.00 $37.00 $24.84 $24.00
Overall $22.29 $39.46 $30.70 $30.54
Top $25.19 $45.00 $36.52 $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
Oil & Gas Extraction
Other Services (Repair, Personal Services and Related)
Wholesale Trade
Business, Building and Other Support Services

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 Dec 16, 2016

Canadian Mining Certification Program website:

Mining Industry Human Resources Council (MiHR) website:

For more information on career planning, education and jobs call the Alberta Supports Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-644-9992 or 780-644-9992 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Supports Centre near you.

Updated Mar 26, 2016. 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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