In celebration of the Nevada Mining Association’s 100th anniversary in 2012, we’ve been tracing the history of the mining industry in the state. Our last post had explored the industry up through World War II, which greatly increased the demand for minerals to make planes, tanks, bombs and other weapons and helped the Nevada mining industry recover from a downturn suffered during the Great Depression.
The production of base minerals would remain essential following the conclusion of the War in 1945. The post-war period was one of great industrial expansion with an increased need for copper, lead, zinc, iron and tungsten – all of which were provided by Nevada’s mines. Petroleum production also increased significantly during this period. The discovery of the Carlin trend in 1962 would prove to be the most significant find in Nevada mining history since the Comstock Lode in 1859.
The gold discovery at Carlin ultimately signaled the return to prominence for precious minerals within the Nevada mining industry. Newmont’s Carlin mine opened in 1965, and by the end of the year, it was the largest gold producer in the state and the second largest in the nation. This upward trend for precious metals continued throughout the 1960s. In 1969, Nevada’s gold production was the highest it had been since 1915. The price of gold was released from government control and allowed to seek its own level in the world market in 1972. This led to the opening of numerous gold and silver mines throughout the state, creating yet another mining boom for Nevada that would last through the 1980s.
While precious minerals were thriving, demand for base minerals had fallen. Copper would remain an important mineral to the state, but the overall market for base metals had significantly decreased from the 1960s to the 1980s. Nevada’s industrial mineral industry, however, saw growth during this period. The state began production of a variety of minerals including barite, gypsum, diatomite, lithium, limestone, sand, gravel and geothermal power generation. These projects contributed to Nevada’s mineral output, but gold and silver continued to be the most important for the state. By 1989, the production of precious metals had increased 200 times from about $9 million in 1965 to over $2 billion.
Our next blog in the NVMA 100th anniversary series will detail the rise of the modern mining industry throughout the 1990s, 2000s and present day.