Nevada mining makes a large contribution to the state’s economy. Tourism, gaming, mining and ranching are Nevada’s “big four” industry groups. According to nevadaworkforce.com, Nevada’s mining industry increased employment by 12.2 percent from the second quarter 2011 to the second quarter 2012, the largest percentage gain in those four industries.
More than 15,000 people are directly or indirectly employed in the Nevada mining industry. Average annual wages are estimated at $88,000. National Mining Association estimates taxes collected on worker contributions and mining industry sales were $417 million in 2011. (Its calculation is based on a combination of state, county and federal taxes.)
American Vanadium Corp. plans to develop the Gibellini Mine in Nevada, the only vanadium mine operation in the United States.
“The projected life of the mine is seven years with significant additional resources currently being evaluated,” said Michael Doyle, executive vice president of operations for American Vanadium, a Canadian-based company.
The project is in the permitting process. In a best-case scenario, the mine would open late this year.
The mine is 25 miles south of Eureka, 325 miles north of Las Vegas and 346 miles east of Reno. Although not near Nevada’s big cities, it will affect employment in Eureka, Ely and Elko . American Vanadium estimates 130 people will be employed at the peak of operations, with 91 employees in mining operations.
“The initial capital investment is estimated at nearly $100 million with infrastructure costs, including on- and off-site development for project access, material transport, water, sewer and administrative office construction,” Doyle said.
The new mine will have wide effect on the entire state with purchase and/or lease of manufactured material and equipment for development and operation of the mine. Estimated tax payments from operations are $12.3 million, excluding tax contribution from employee spending.
Vanadium, discovered in 1801, is a naturally occurring chemical element. Its characteristics give it wide use in the industrial and medical industries.
American Vanadium recently signed an agreement with Germany’s Gildemeister AG, a maker of vanadium redox flow rechargeable batteries.
A representative said, “Rechargeable batteries for electrical-storage offers renewable energy production and optimization of the nation’s energy grid.”
A successful demonstration of a vanadium redox flow battery was shown in the 1980s. In these batteries, the energy is actually stored in the vanadium, which represents 40 percent of its cost.
The Gibellini Mine production has the potential of creating ancillary businesses that may directly or indirectly benefit Nevada’s economy.
Not far from Nevada’s southwest border, about 100 miles from Las Vegas, Molycorp is planning to reinvest in a rare earth mine. In the periodic table, there are 17 rare earth metals , which are important chemical elements in everything from mercury-vapor lamps to lasers for both medical and industrial applications.
Ninety percent of these rare earth metals are produced in China, where 65 percent of the metals are consumed. Uses vary from smartphones and electric car batteries to missiles and energy facilities.
Molycorp is a worldwide company with 26 locations in 11 countries. It employs 2,700 people and mines 13 of the 17 rare earth metals. It began mining for bastnasite, a rare earth ore, at the Mountain Pass Mine on the California and Nevada border in 1949.
Molycorp is planning to invest an estimated $532 million in Mountain Pass . After a nine-year hiatus, the mine reopened in 2012. The rare earth metals sought are cerium, lanthanum and yttrium (all found in bastnasite).
Cerium is used in carbon-arc lights to illuminate movie sets and projector screens. It is also an element in the petroleum refinement process. Lanthanum is used in glass and camera lenses. It also is used in X-ray films and different types of lasers. Yttrium is used in microwave filters, laser systems and alloys of chromium, aluminium (a chemical element in the boron group) or magnesium because of its strengthening qualities.
Mountain Pass is the only rare earth mine in America. The reinvestment plan for the mine is to employ 200 people who will operate three shifts on a 24/7 basis. Many will commute from Las Vegas.
Molycorp’s website shows it is presently looking for a journeyman plant mechanic, mine operator, plant mechanic A, plant mechanic B, journeyman electrician and operator trainee.
Nevada is a storied mining state. The Comstock Lode opened silver mining in Nevada in 1859. In the 1870s, gold was discovered in Eureka County but the low-grade deposits were too small to create much excitement, at least until 1961 when Newmont Mining Corp. moved into the Carlin area and began producing gold from low-grade deposits.
In the late 1970s, when gold prices were deregulated, gold mining in Nevada boomed. By 2009, Nevada was producing 79 percent of all the gold in the United States.
Newmont Mining continued major mining operations in Nevada and employed 40,000 people worldwide. In 2011, 14 open-pit mines and four underground mines were operating in the Carlin area on the western border of Elko County. On March 8, Newmont’s website listed 38 job openings in Nevada.
Barrick Gold is the world’s leading gold producer. Barrick’s Goldstrike Complex is located on the Carlin Trend, the most prolific gold mining district in the Western Hemisphere. The Goldstrike operation includes the Betze-Post open-pit mine and the Meikle and Rodeo underground mines, which are just north of the Betze-Post pit, along the same mineralized trend.
Goldstrike is located 75 miles southwest of Elko and has 1,503 full-time employees and 200 contract employees. It produces 1.8 million ounces of gold and 117,750 ounces of silver. On March 8, Barrick’s website listed 57 job openings in Nevada.
Another gold mining company in Nevada is Scorpio Gold Corp. that holds a 70 percent interest in the Mineral Ridge Gold Mine (Waterton Global Value LP owns the other 30 percent). Mineral Ridge is 217 miles northeast of Las Vegas in Esmeralda County. It is one of the smaller gold and silver mining operations in the state.
It produces both gold and silver with most recent production showing 13,951 ounces of gold and 7,907 ounces of silver. Mineral Ridge employs 46 full-time personnel and two contract employees.
Sand and Gravel
An often overlooked and underappreciated mining operation in the United States is sand and gravel mining. Sand and gravel are certainly among the most accessible natural resources and are crucial components of the construction industry.
Construction sand and gravel valued at $6.4 billion were produced by 6,500 mining operations in 50 states in 2012 (2013 U.S. Geological Survey Minerals Information Report). Sand and gravel are used in road bases, concrete aggregates, blocks, bricks, pipes, plaster and many other construction industry materials.
In 2008, sand and gravel aggregate was the third most valuable commodity produced in Nevada , valued at $225 million. The most important source of sand and gravel aggregate is in the Lone Mountain area in northwest Las Vegas. One of the five biggest producers in 2008 was Impact Sand and Gravel. Each of the big five in Nevada produced more than 900,000 tons of aggregate.
Impact Sand and Gravel started in 1996 as Cactus Sand and Gravel with incorporation as Impact Sand and Gravel in 1999.
“Currently, there are about 60 employees at Impact Sand and Gravel,” said Alora Edwards in the recruiting administration department. “That includes in office and out in the field with approximately 45 full-time employees and 15 part time.”
“The skill set we look for in an individual varies depending on the position, but with all of our employees or candidates, we look for people who match our company and core values,” Edwards said.
There is a social consciousness in the employment practice of Impact Sand and Gravel, according to Edwards, who said, “We have hired several homeless people to fill security and labor positions.”
Just as in any mining operation, Impact looks for equipment operators, mechanics, accountants, administrators, leaders and scale house operators.
“At the moment, our most difficult position to fill is the mechanics position,” Edwards said. “In general, we do have some difficulty finding qualified individuals to fill our higher management positions.”
Impact operates four quarry sites in Southern Nevada — one near Cactus Avenue and Maryland Parkway, one at Rail Road Pass, one at Lone Mountain and one in Boulder City.
When asked about how the business is affected by the economy, Edwards said, “The economy hurt almost everyone in 2009 and 2010. Fuel prices and the lack of construction have been the biggest challenges.”
In terms of direct employment, Nevada’s mining industry is at the bottom of nonfarm payroll employment but the industry directly employs 16,300 full-time employees, according to the Nevada Workforce Research and Analysis Bureau. Mining is at the top of employment percentage increases on a year-to-year comparison of the four major industries in Nevada.
The Bureau of Land Management reports, “In 2011, the top four gold producing countries in the world were, in order, China, Australia, United States and South Africa.”
The BLM noted that “Nevada has the largest mineral materials program in the bureau in terms of volume and value of mineral materials disposed.”
“In 2011, Nevada’s gold mining industry produced approximately $8.8 billion in gross revenue,” a Gannett news service March 5 report on the Nevada Legislature said.
The Nevada Mining Association estimates that “ since 1990, mining has contributed more than $100 million each year to Nevada and local economies.”