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Mining machinery companies still fixated on bottom lines

TOP coal mine managers are earning roughly the same as Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott with a major salary survey suggesting companies are still rolling out the gilded carpet to critical workers during tougher times.

Mining machinery companies remain fixated on their bottom lines, cutting an estimated 10,000 workers from Queensland and New South Wales operations since early 2012.

Coal prices are not expected to improve markedly in the coming year, so mines are forced to cut every dollar they can.

According to Stellar Recruitment's Salary Guide, typically high industry incomes will be protected.

Industrial austerity measures mean companies are less likely to poach staff and more likely to save by attrition, replacing workers only when necessary.

The only exception would be for always-in-demand engineers - whether electrical, mechanical or civil - the trade qualified, geologists or project managers.

According to Stellar, mine general managers in Queensland are earning between $300,000 and $380,000 a year - Australia's likely next Prime Minister Mr Abbott is currently on roughly $360,000.

The figure is also almost three times more than what truck or excavator drivers make on average, with even top operators likely to earn about $140,000.

The grass also appears the same shade of green on the other side, with equivalent roles in Western Australia earning a similar salary.

Fringe benefits will be a key target for industry bean counters unless the worker is a must-have.

In the report, Stellar mining division manager Matthew Gibbs said there was a cut-back to worker incentives and bonuses but "for some key positions, housing, rosters and other incentives have still been on offer to attract high-quality candidates".

For the past 12 months, companies also put a freeze on recruiting both internally and externally, although that stance is now beginning to thaw.

"Most mining companies have taken the last year as an opportunity to review their operations and make significant changes to the base cost," he said.

"This has concluded with shelving capital expenditure, expansions and exploration."

In May, Federal Government's mining experts revealed that $150 billion in Australian mining projects were delayed or cancelled in just 12 months.

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