I recently had the unique opportunity to visit and tour two Nevada mines: Barrick Turquoise Ridge and Coeur-Rochester. Beginning our day sharply at 6 a.m., we hopped in the suburban and started the trek out to Turquoise Ridge, about an hour outside of Winnemucca. Riding in the car at 6 A.M., staring out into the dark Nevada desert, gave me a feel for how miners begin their day; starting their ride to work hours earlier than we did.
Once we were on-site we heard a presentation that went over the basics of the mine including the important of safety standards, future expansion plans, and the dozens upon dozens of permits required to operate the mine. During this presentation, I met miners from South Africa, Canada, and as far away as New Zealand. Prior to the tour, I was aware that Nevada is the top gold-producing state in the US, but I didn’t realize how they compared to other mines globally, and just how many miners came from all over the world to work in Nevada.
Finally, it was time to put on our gear and head underground, which was one of the most exciting parts of the tour. We were each given a large set of coveralls, steel-toed boots, reflective jackets, gloves, helmets equipped with lights, and breathing masks. I was ready.
Stepping into the mining shaft elevator and being lowered into the tunnels was thrilling. Once we stepped out onto the ground I felt like I was on another planet, or part of Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Watching machine operators maneuver the large equipment to individually drill the spatially engineered holes so that the tunnel would be expanded in the right direction was eye-opening. The precision and detail of driving from location to location of an underground mine is incredible, but once you realize that each inch took hours to design, engineer, and mine, really helped me appreciate the hard work constantly being done every day.
Following the tour at Turquoise Ridge, we loaded back into the suburban and headed to Coeur-Rochester. I’m not sure what I expected in terms of a surface mine, but what I did see blew me away. Once we were on-site at Coeur-Rochester, we learned about heap leaching and the process of separating ore from dirt. Dana Sue Kimbal, an environmental manager at the mine, talked to us about how every step has a permitting process, an Environmental Impact Statement, and several other steps before a shovel can break the ground. I learned about how they are still harvesting an ore body discovered in the late 1980s, and will continue to do so in a way that is sustainable.
It was amazing to watch the colossal-sized trucks carrying hundreds of tons of dirt, which would later be processed and used in products we use every day, all while adhering to strict safety standards, and offering workers competitive wages and benefits. Hearing Dana Sue discuss why she loves her career made me proud of the work they do and made me excited to learn more.
As a student studying international environmental studies and an intern for the Nevada Mining Association, I am well-aware of the world’s need for the minerals we produce, and that mining is an essential part of Nevada’s economy; but this trip enabled me to gain confidence in the industry as a whole, knowing we are mining in a way that is safe for the environment, future generations, and workers. I look forward to learning more!
Brita is the NvMA’s Legislative Intern for the 79th Nevada Legislative Session.