The mining industry has been fundamental to Nevada’s economy since the state’s inception and continues to have a large impact today.
“Mining is truly the foundation of Nevada’s economy,” Dana Bennett, president of the Nevada Mining Association, said. “The state began as a mining state and it is still very much a mining state.”
The Nevada mining industry had a $10.3 billion total economic impact in 2015, according to a report titled — “The role to the state’s mining industry, 2016” — which was presented at the Nevada Mining Association’s annual convention. The report also showed there were 119 active mines in 2015. Bennett said Nevada has a mine in every county except for Douglas County and Carson City.
According to Bennett, the mining industry employs approximately 28,000 people or 1 percent of the Nevada workforce. The average salary within the industry is $96,000.
“They are a well-compensated group of employees because it is a very skilled workforce,” she said.
Bennett explained the mining industry tends to be countercyclical in nature.
“When the rest of the economy is doing well, mining is not necessarily sharing in that robust activity,” she said.
During the Great Recession, the mining industry was doing well when almost every other sector was struggling and reducing their workforce. She explained many people entered the mining industry not only from other industries but also from other states.
“We had great job growth during that time,” she said.
Now that the economy has rebounded and many of the other industries are thriving, there’s more competition for talent. According to the economic report, mining companies were anticipating workforce reductions over the next several years.
However, Bennett was still optimistic about the future of mining in Nevada.
“We are holding our own,” she said. “We are feeling pretty positive about the future.”
Bennett said a strong mining industry is fundamental to Nevada’s future, as well as other emerging economic sectors.
“For the success of Nevada’s new economic sectors, the mining industry needs to be healthy,” Bennett said.
Nevada produces around 20 metals and minerals — everything from gold and silver to lithium and molybdenite.
“Nevada is truly a mineral storehouse,” she said.
Nevada is the only producer of lithium in the United States. Companies like Tesla are using lithium for batteries. Currently, the only active commercial lithium mine is located in Silver Peak, and owned by the North Carolina chemical company Albemarle. However, there may be another on the horizon.
“There is a deposit in Humboldt County, which shows great promise as a significant producer of lithium” and it’s currently in its permitting phase, Bennett said.
Bennett highlighted several of the other recent developments and expansions within the industry. For example, Newmont Mining Corporation poured its first gold from its Long Canyon operation in November 2016. The operation is located in Elko County. She explained even though Nevada is called the Silver State there’s currently only one mine that predominantly produces silver. The mine, which is located in Pershing County, was recently approved for expansion.
“There are some real bright spots in terms of expansion in the future,” Bennett said.
Advancements in technology have also made the industry safer.
“There are certainly hazards in mining but we have learned to mitigate them,” Bennett said.
The Nevada Mining Association currently has around 425 members from across Nevada from various aspects within the industry.
“Our members represent the entire spectrum of the industry from exploration and discovery to construction and operation,” Bennett said.
For information about the Nevada Mining Association and to read the full report, visit http://www.nevadamining.org.