Salary in gold and plane ride to work: how do miners of precious metals live in Alaska - ForumDaily
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Salary in gold and plane ride to work: how precious metal miners live in Alaska

Justin Peterson, 41, works as a gold miner in Alaska. He said Insider about his exhausting but well-paid job.

Top view shot of two industrial workers wearing reflective jackets standing on mining worksite outdoors using digital tablet,


About 20 years ago, Justin moved to Alaska from Oregon to find work.

It mines gold, but Alaska also has the world's largest mines of zinc, lead, silver and platinum.

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The number of TikTok users talking about the benefits of working in gold mining is growing exponentially. Although many of these workers live in Australia, Justin captured the audience's attention sharing your experience in this area.

“It's not always glamorous. Working as a miner in Alaska for over 20 years showed me the challenges of this career,” he said.

Pros and cons of shift work

Shift work in Alaska is when companies fly employees to a mining site to work there for two or three weeks at a time. These earners are then taken home for the same two to three weeks of rest and relaxation.

In Alaska, rotational work cycles can last up to six weeks without a break.

Mining companies fly workers from Anchorage or Fairbanks to various sites across the state. Chief among them is the North Slope oil field.

The work camps, Justin says, are good but simple. There are full-time employees who manage the facilities. Some work camps have additional amenities, such as basketball courts or saunas. Most camps have a recreation area and a gym. The company provides food and shelter.

In their free time from work, people can travel or relax.

“As someone who lives in Wasilla with my wife and 18-year-old son, my travel options are more limited. The cost of living is high here in Alaska,” Justin noted. “But if you live in a cheaper state or are independent, you can spend more money on travel.”

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Many people living in Alaska enjoy horseback riding, hunting and fishing during their "rest and relaxation week."

Justin enjoyed working shifts because he could mine in his free time. It was hard for his family at first, but they soon saw that Justin could earn more money and save up his days off. When he was home, the family enjoyed his free time longer.

Harsh conditions

The physical conditions for mining precious metals in Alaska are harsh.

Winter is especially difficult. Temperatures are extreme and often drop to -40 degrees. Companies usually do not suspend operations. People are expected to work in such conditions.

Some jobs will require you to dive into a dredge, a type of mining. Workers have to plunge into icy water and extract precious metals from the river bottom using a suction hose. This is one of the preferred mining methods because it is easy to organize.

In addition to the conditions typical of Alaska, the nature of this lifestyle is also harsh. It requires a lot of physical labor. An injury or illness jeopardizes your ability to keep your job.

After his first six weeks of shift work in 2006, Justin lost a finger during a week of rest at home. This was before his first 90 days at his new job, so he had to cover his own medical expenses. Because his injury prevented him from returning to work on time, he was fired.

Big Money

Justin worked as a rotational worker for a while, but now works as a welder six or seven days a week in support of various mines and oil field developments. At his current job, there is no time for “rest and relaxation”, as is usually the case with a shift schedule.

He now makes just over $30 an hour. Justin works about 12 and a half hours a day, 72 or 84 hours a week. In those 72 hours, he makes about $3500 before taxes, which works out to about $175 per year before taxes.

“I'm planning on taking seven or 10 days off in August to watch the Strongest Man on Earth competition in Colorado with my son. These are the only days that I plan to take as vacation this year, because I need to catch up,” explained the head of the family.

According to him, over the years of activity in gold mining, he earned both more and less than now. The government contractor usually pays miners more.

When Justin earned significantly less than now, he partially compensated for the low salary with gold.

“It was sort of a verbal agreement with my employer. At the time I was making just over $1800 for 82 hours a week. Although the salary was small, I could keep some of the gold I found, up to 60 or 100 ounces, depending on how the company was doing,” he explained.

Gold is easy to sell in Alaska. Today you can get about $2400 per ounce. Justin liked to sell it in small pieces - less than $600. He did this for the tax benefits. Although, the more gold you sell, the greater the revenue will be.

Options are now limited

Last year, Justin worked 12 and a half hours a day, six or seven days a week, with only about 10 days off a year. He plans to do this for another two years to save money. Justin then wants to return to shift work so he can have more time to enjoy life.

“I don’t really want to work much in these conditions, but this is the industry I came into. These are the opportunities available to me right now,” he noted. “My dream is still to work at a remote mining camp like Skookum Gold Camp and Chicken Gold Camp in Alaska. There, people who find gold can take it for themselves. And in winter there are opportunities to travel to other mining sites around the world, such as Australia.”

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