Mining president touts importance of the industry

Community members learned of the growing importance of mining in almost every Nevada county Wednesday at the monthly breakfast sponsored by the Churchill Economic Development Authority’s Business Council.

Dana Bennett, president of the Nevada Mining Association (NMA), has led one of the state’s largest industries since December 2014. The NMA has been a fixture in the state since 1913 with its main office in Reno.

According to Bennett, 430 companies belong to the association. She said the minerals mined in Nevada are used in many products that people have used in their lifetime, but her emphasis focused on more of the Silver State’s role in mining.

“Nevada’s mining accounts for 11.55 percent of all American mineral production,” she said.

Bennett said every Nevada county — except Douglas County and Carson City — is producing minerals from active mines. She called northeastern Nevada the “word-class gold belt” because of its production of the precious metal. If Nevada were a country, she said the state would rank fourth in world gold production.

Bennett said mining produces more than 29,000 jobs with the average wage at $93,444 compared to the state average of $47,372. She said that makes mining one of the highest paying industries in the state.

“We’re starting to see the state average creep up,” Bennett said, “which is good for our state.”

Bennett said mining jobs tend to consist of shift work and are available to individuals with high-school diplomas. She said other jobs in the mining industry require college degrees. Bennett said the NMA partners with Great Basin College in Elko to train and produce diesel mechanics or teach students instrumentation with the job placement rate at 98-99 percent.

Over the years, Bennett said mining was considered to be “a man’s job.” Slowly, she said, more women are being employed by the mining companies and some are serving on boards. Citing statewide statistics, she said 13 percent of the mining professionals are women and 28.5 percent have college degrees. Almost 73 percent consider the work environment as good or great. Other statistics provided by Bennett show 11.2 percent of women are managers, and 14.9 percent are company board members.

Newmont, one of the largest gold producers in the world, has a large presence in Elko County. Bennett said Newmont’s board consists of 40 percent women.

Bennett said upward to 200 mines are in current operation, while 2,200 businesses provide goods and services to the mining industry. During the Great Recession that began in 2008, Bennett said gold mining increased and continued to pump money into the state’s economy.

“People around the world saw gold mining as a safety net,” she said.

Bennett said mining provides $11.3 billion of Nevada’s gross domestic product (GDP) GDP and produces 4 percent of the taxes going into the state’s general fund. She added mining accounts for about 10 percent of all sales tax revenue in the state primarily due to the purchasing of equipment. During the recession, for example, she said mining paid $1 billion in taxes.

“This money goes to state and local coffers,” she added.

Bennett said the NMA supported the Commerce Tax, an annual tax passed by the Nevada Legislature during the 2015 Legislative Session. The tax is imposed on businesses with a Nevada gross revenue exceeding $4 million in the taxable year.

“We supported that tax program proposed by Gov. (Brian) Sandoval,” she said.

She said the NMA supported the bill because it provides additional funding for education, and it will be good for Nevada’s future.

Bennett said Churchill County has mining, but its production is not as great as other Nevada counties. Geothermal, salt and diatomaceous earth are among the top mining activities. In the past, she said Churchill County also mined gold, silver, copper, tungsten and lead. Net proceeds from taxes derived from the current mineral production, she pointed out, generates more than a half-million dollars annually to Churchill County.

She said the NMA has ensured mining operations rehabilitate thousands of acres of wildlife habitat, and the association has provided classes and teacher workshops.


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