Photo: Flickr / justified sinner
A boom in metal prices has high school grads in states like Alaska, Nevada and Idaho dreaming of the day they’ll trade in their textbooks for hardhats and overalls, reports NPR’s Jessica Robinson. There’s the lure of six-figure salaries and job security, plus the opportunity to put off college or avoid it altogether—a smart idea considering it’s a $100 billion bubble of debt in this country right now.
But earning $100,000 a year while your friends are flipping is burgers is nothing compared to the risks of losing one’s life on the job.
The U.S. Department of labour’s Mine Safety and Health Administration considers mining one of the world’s most dangerous occupations, with 71 fatalities reported in 2010 due to an explosion, up from 34 in 2009.
The average number of injuries from 2006-2007, the years most recent data was available, tallied in at 11,800.
The mining industry has made tremendous strides in improving worker safety in the past century, introducing safer machines and systems, labour laws and accident-awareness prevention programs.
But not every family feels comfortable knowing their child’s income depends on market fluctuations—or how well his body holds up in stressful conditions.
One child Robinson spoke to said had to promise his grandmother he’d leave the mines for college in a few years, a tough choice given all the money he’s making.
“Askin’ mum and dad for money and stuff—that sucks,” he said. “And then, like, a lot of (friends) keep asking me how much I make. They’ll be telling how much they’re going to be making and I’m like, yeah, you’re going to have a ways to go to catch up to me.”