While average wages in North Dakota have dropped slightly – by about two percent, primarily due to the slowdown in the oil industry – wages in coal country continued to rise.
"They generally range between $70,000 and $80,000 at the mines and the power plants," said Steve Van Dyke of the Lignite Energy Council. "And they continue to be some of the best-paying jobs in North Dakota."
Van Dyke says the jobs turn out to be good careers for roughly 4000 people. He says it also shows North Dakota’s lignite industry has been so far immune to the job cuts and coal company bankruptcies seen elsewhere.
"Our mines are built adjacent to the power plants," Van Dyke said. "We've eliminated the transportation costs, which is often by rail. By doing that, our electricity is some of the most competitive in the nation."
Van Dyke says the lignite industry generates about $3 billion in gross business volume in North Dakota.