Nevadans have long bet their lives, fortunes on mining


It has forged human history since its Egyptian debut 5,600 years ago. It has launched wars, pulled populations across continents and captured the imagination. As a metaphor, it’s an exemplar: Worth its weight in gold. A heart of gold. The Golden Age. The Golden Rule.

Most importantly for you, gold is a pillar of Nevada’s economy. As MINExpo rolls into the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, gold is the ascendant global commodity. Its price moves toward $1,800 an ounce, up more than 500 percent since 2000. For countries boosting reserves to tweak currency values or investors buying to hedge against a devalued U.S. dollar, gold is more precious than ever.

And its impact on Nevada, where gold accounted for 90 percent of the gross proceeds of mined commodities in 2011, is equally compelling. Mining, and gold mining in particular, means well-paying jobs and revenue for Nevada’s private and public sectors, from Las Vegas companies tapping into the business to stay afloat to governments that share industry taxes.

But gold mining’s concentration in Northern Nevada means locals don’t think much about it. Given gold’s importance in global markets, it’s time to brush up on the business.


Ask a Las Vegan to name Nevada’s economic lifeblood and he’ll say tourism. That’s because the state’s mining industry is out of sight, out of mind.

Fact is, Nevada dominates gold mining as much as it reigns hospitality. Las Vegas perfected "what happens here, stays here." Northern Nevada’s gold industry invents mining techniques and produces metal destined for all corners of the globe.

To know just how important mining is to Nevada, consider that the state’s gaming industry reaped $10.7 billion in gaming revenue in 2011. Mining brought in $9.6 billion – $8.8 billion of it gold and silver proceeds. A chunk of that money makes its way into local coffers in ways you probably don’t think of – in schools, in social services, in health care assistance.

What’s more, mining’s been around these parts much longer. A century before Frank Sinatra did it his way and Elvis made "Viva Las Vegas" our town’s first real catchphrase, Nevada’s economy centered on mining and ranching. No one thought of Nevada as a place to get lucky at Megabucks; they imagined it as a place to make megabucks tapping into ore veins. Hundreds of mining bergs flowered across the desert and withered into ghost towns long before Hoover Dam’s birth in the 1930s.

Nevada mining dates to the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode. You’ve heard about the boom towns: Virginia City surged to nearly 30,000 after the Comstock discovery, its fabled riches drawing the journalistic interest of Mark Twain. For a spell in the 1860s and ’70s, Virginia City was the biggest town between Chicago and San Francisco. The state’s motto, "Battle Born," harks back to Nevada’s 1864 entry into the Union, partly as a source of silver and gold to finance the Union side of the Civil War. Because silver production outweighed gold in the state’s earliest days, Nevada became the Silver State.

Those early booms have nothing on today’s gold-mining explosion.

The Comstock Lode yielded about 8 million ounces of gold in 23 years. In 2011, Nevada produced 5.5 million ounces of gold, the equivalent of an empty Boeing 747 in weight and worth $8.7 billion at 2011’s average price of $1,572 an ounce. That meant a daily average of $23.8 million in Nevada gold for national and international markets.

Gold mining’s modern era dates to 1968, when Newmont Mining Corp. invented large-scale heap leaching west of Elko on the Carlin trend, a massive gold deposit 50 miles long and 5 miles wide that ranks as one of the world’s best ore veins. Heap leaching, which uses cyanide to pull gold from rock, makes it profitable to extract trace metals from low-quality ore.

Mines everywhere now use that process, which helped drive global gold production from 47.5 million ounces in 1970 to nearly 91 million ounces in 2011.

London-based mining consultant CRU ranked the United States the world’s third-largest gold producer in 2011, after China and Australia. U.S. mines produced more than 7 million ounces of gold in 2011, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Around 75 percent of that came from Nevada. If the Silver State were a nation, it would be the world’s fourth-largest gold producer, according to the Nevada Mining Association.

What’s more, the world’s two largest gold miners, Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont, get big chunks of their output here. Half of the 7.7 million ounces Toronto-based Barrick produced in 2011 came from the United States, and 80 percent of that came from Nevada. Forty percent of Denver-based Newmont’s 5.2 million ounces came from here.

"Nevada is primarily where it’s happening," says John Mudge, Newmont’s vice president of environmental and social responsibility, of U.S. gold output.

That lends Nevada national significance and an economic lifeline. 


Today, as during the Civil War, Nevada’s gold has strategic national importance.

"Gold is used in electronics, space equipment and high-tech equipment, and generally, the United States doesn’t want to be dependent on other countries for precious metals," Mudge says. "If our supply from other countries got cut off, what would we do?"

Plus, mining gives Nevada value for its dirt in the form of employment, income and revenue, he says. The average metal-ore mining salary in the state was $87,900 in 2011, compared with $43,100 for all industries, according to Las Vegas research firm Applied Analysis. Nearly 20 percent of Nevada’s job growth since 2009 has come from mining, though the industry makes up less than 5 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.

And mining paid $231.3 million in net proceeds of minerals taxes in 2011, with roughly 97 percent of that generated by gold and silver mines. 

"Mining pays some of the highest wages and salaries anywhere in the state," says Jeremy Aguero, of Applied Analysis. "On a per-employee, tax-revenue basis, it generates as much as or more than the gaming industry. When we’re looking for economic opportunity, the mining industry is making investments, hiring employees, developing resources and developing technology. It’s doing everything we want an industry to do in Nevada. We don’t have a deep well of bright spots right now in our economy, but I think mining is one."

But is this party too good to last? Mining is famous for booms and busts, and Southern Nevadans know what happens to dominant industries when the music stops.

Potential obstacles to mine development include a shortage of skilled labor, a long and sometimes unpredictable permitting process, rising costs of exploration and extraction, access to investment dollars, and public perception, according to an Applied Analysis report.

The Nevada Division of Minerals says the state had gold reserves of 81 million ounces in 2010, the latest year with available numbers. That’s enough to last about 15 years at current production rates.

How long those reserves go depends partly on prices. High prices extend the life of mines as companies extract poorer-grade ores that don’t pay off during low-price periods and save high-quality ore for tougher times.

Plus, companies get better at finding reserves. Barrick listed 6.3 million ounces in reserves at its Cortez mine near Elko in 2006. That number jumped to 14.5 million ounces by 2011. And Newmont is exploring at Long Canyon near Wells. Mudge says the project could be the beginning of a new geologic trend. The company estimates resources of 8 million ounces at the site.

"We’ve got many, many decades of reserves in process and planning for the future, and we continue to explore to replenish what we mine," he says.

Nevada Mining Association president Tim Crowley says companies constantly look for new reserves. Those mining the Carlin trend have averaged 10 to 12 years of reserves since the 1960s. Reserves have stayed between 75 million and 80 million ounces since the late 1990s, despite companies pulling 5 million to 8 million ounces a year out of the ground since then.

"Most people assume we know the extent of resources out there, and that 81 million ounces is the extent of gold reserves in the state. But it’s not," Crowley says.

"What that represents is the ounces mining companies have identified and can prove. Companies are always looking for new resources. I would say every indication is that we’re going to be going strong for decades."

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at or 702-380-4512. Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.

Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
Casinos to be penalized for allowing drug-impaired customers to gamble
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo talks about an amendment making casinos subject to the same disciplinary standards of preventing people to gamble if impaired by drugs as they are for letting them play while intoxicated by alcohol.
Terrible Herbst to open large travel center in Southern Nevada
The 50,000-square-foot commercial travel center will include 96 fuel pumps and the third White Castle restaurant in Southern Nevada. Wade Tyler Millward reports.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Hooters owner talks about room upgrades at his hotel-casino
George Ruff, founder and senior principal of Trinity Hotel Investors L.L.C., owner of Hooters Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, talks about recent room upgrades at the hotel. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Passengers Discuss Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air passengers voice their views on the airline at McCarran International Airport on April 16, 2018. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes
Trump Slams Amazon for Not Paying Enough in Taxes Trump tweeted his concerns about the company on Thursday. This isn't the first time Trump commented on the issues via Twitter. August 2017 December 2017 Amazon did hold back on paying state taxes in 1995, but the company has been routinely collecting state sales taxes since then. In 2016, the company's report from the Securities and Exchange Commission confirmed it paid $412 million in taxes.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
eyecandylab CEO shows augmented reality during NAB
Robin Sho Moser, CEO and co-founder of eyecandylab gives an augmented reality demonstration at his booth during the National Association of Broadcaster Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Trends in access to capital for local black business owners
Denette Braud, owner of Braud’s Funnel Cake Cafe, talks about what owning her own business means to her.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Adobe unveils #HackTheBracket application for March Madness
Adobe unveiled their #HackTheBracket application at the Adobe Summit trade show at Sands Expo. People can use data from Adobe Analytics to make their bracket for March Madness. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Adidas Signs Yankees' Star Aaron Judge
Adidas Signs New York Yankees Star Aaron Judge The slugger is set to don a new set of stripes this season after signing with the apparel company. Aaron Judge Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The deal includes branding on his batting gloves and wristbands. Judge, the AL's reigning Rookie of the Year, was previously under contract with Under Armour since 2014. Judge won the American League Rookie of the Year award last season after setting an MLB record for most homers in a rookie season (52).
Esports athletes are sponsored, too
Meet Red Bull-sponsored professional esports player Daryl S. Lewis, better known by his in-game name Snake Eyez. Nicole Raz Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Bettor Investments turned into a bad bet
Bettor Investments formerly operated a Nevada-licensed entity betting operation. The company promised “conservative growth, profits and stability for our investors.” Matt Stuart, who ran the fund, shut it down in late 2016 and never made good on an agreement with shareholders.
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design
Starbucks Will Give You $10 Million for a Better Cup Design Get your thinking caps on because the company is looking for a new cup that's easier to recycle. The $10 million grant challenge sees Starbucks partnering with investor group Closed Loop Partners for the project. According to CNN Money, Aside from the new cup design challenge, Starbucks stated it will test a cup with an inner lining made from plant fibers to prevent hot liquid from leaking. Will you join the challenge for #Bettercups?
Las Vegas bartenders who worked the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival question what they were paid
Reneé Black, left, and her husband Griffin Black talk to the Review-Journal at their home in Las Vegas, Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Reneé was a bartender at Route 91, and Griffin was a bar back. They were hired as independent contractors, but received forms months later indicating they were employees. They also were never paid their last day of tips. Nicole Raz/Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Bad-beat jackpot money will finally be awarded
People who thought they had won in Station Casinos’ “bad beat jackpot” poker promotion were unhappy. They waited months to get paid. And now the bad-beat jackpot is gone.
New developments coming to Las Vegas' Craig Road
Gina Gavan, economic and business development director for North Las Vegas, discusses new development projects on Craig Road in North Las Vegas. Art Marroquin/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Companies bet their futures on cryptocurrency
Two Las Vegas entrepreneurs talk about finding their niche in blockchain enabled technologies and digital currency.
Solar panels reduce energy bill for CCSD
Wilbur and Theresa Faiss Middle School is one of 42 CCSD schools with solar panel installations, saving approximately $514,000 per year in energy costs.
Dallisa Hocking And A Grandmothers Psychic Gift
Dallisa Hocking’s new “boutique soul center” pays tribute to her late Grandma Ellie. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Can't pay the IRS? You do have options
There's a little more than five weeks until this year’s tax filing deadline of April 17. But many small business owners are wondering, “How am I going to pay my taxes?” When owners haven’t set aside enough money to cover what they owe the government, they have options. — The easiest and cheapest alternative may be to dip into personal savings. — If you have available credit, you may want to borrow from a lender or credit card. — Also, the IRS can work out an installment payment plan.
Amazon Offering Discounted Prime Memberships to Medicaid Recipients
Amazon Offering Discounted Prime Memberships to Medicaid Recipients Individuals with a valid Medicaid or Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card The $5.99 membership can be renewed every year for up to four years. The reduced Prime membership comes with the same benefits of a standard one, including free two-day shipping, Prime Video, Prime Music and Prime Now. Last year, Amazon also joined a USDA pilot program that allows those receiving government assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to buy groceries through online markets like Amazon's FreshDirect or Walmart.
Jeff Bezos New Net Worth Revealed, Still Richest Man Alive
At the end of 2017, Bezos was estimated to be worth $112 billion, earning the top spot on Forbes' world's billionaires list. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the Amazon founder's net worth is now $127 billion, which the report states is the combined wealth of 2.3 million Americans.
Dick's Sporting Goods Ends Sale of Assault Weapons Florida School Shooting
Dick's Sporting Goods Ends Sale of Assault Weapons Florida School Shooting The retailer announced the move in an open letter and an appearance by CEO Ed Stack on 'Good Morning America.' Ed Stack, (Good Morning America) Ed Stack, (Good Morning America) Dick's is also ending the sale of high-capacity magazines and sales of guns to people under 21 years old. The company ended the sale of assault weapons at Dick's-branded stores after the Newtown, Conn. school shooting in 2012. However, they were still selling them at its 35 Field & Stream locations. Nikolas Cruz, 17, shot and killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14.
Black History Month panel gives Las Vegas entrepreneurs advice
Five people with experience in business and government spoke Friday to the Urban Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas Among their advice: line up potential clients before starting a business, attend networking events and seek advice from experts in the industry The chamber, founded in 1980, has hundreds of members and focuses on the welfare of black-owned businesses in Las Vegas
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like