By Dana Bennett, NvMA President
From the glimmering lights of the Las Vegas Strip or the ski slopes surrounding Lake Tahoe, most Nevada visitors, and even residents, never get the opportunity to experience our state’s storied mining industry. Thanks to world-class deposits of gold and other precious metals, mining is Nevada’s largest export industry, and the Silver State is the largest gold producer the U.S. Recently, the world-renowned Fraser Institute named Nevada as the fourth best jurisdiction in the world for mining investments.
Beyond the precious metals, other vitally important minerals and metals such as molybdenum, lithium, gypsum, copper, and diatomaceous earth are mined here. Nevada is home to the only lithium mine in the U.S. and has tremendous, untapped geothermal resources. Minerals mined in Nevada are critical components in our cars, cell phones, computers, batteries, solar panels, beer production, and much more.
Examples of how minerals are utilized in 21st century technology include copper, which is a critical component of wind turbines. Silver paste is used in 90-percent of solar panels, according to the Silver Institute, a non-profit international silver industry association. NASA utilizes gold for it insulating properties – gold coated mylar sheets protect satellites from the sun’s rays and gold is used on the astronaut helmets. Even our food sources require minerals. Diatomite, made from diatomaceous earth, is used by farmers for pest control.
IF IT’S NOT GROWN IT HAS TO BE MINED
Nearly everything we use is made of metals or minerals or requires metals or minerals to produce.
Although mining drives the economy in rural Nevada counties and communities, many state lawmakers have little experience with the state’s original STEM industry. Most lawmakers live in the state’s more populated counties, while the largest mines are in rural Nevada.
Sharing the industry’s key positions, innovations, and health in Nevada is one of the Nevada Mining Association’s (NvMA) key roles – both with policymakers and the public. To work with legislators and other state officials on issues that affect industry, NvMA regularly partners with its member mines to conduct mine tours and other educational opportunities. In recent years we have conducted tours at gold mines, silver mines, even salt and lithium mines, where our guests can see firsthand the exciting role mining plays in our state.
To further introduce new legislators to the industry and reconnect with veteran legislators, NvMA hosts Nevada Mining Day at the Legislature during each regular legislative session.
The latest mining day was held March 6. Legislators had the opportunity to drive a haul truck simulator, have one-on-one conversations with industry leaders, and hear firsthand about a miner’s daily work by chatting with people who work in Nevada’s underground and open pit mines. One of the highlights of the day was an impromptu speech from Governor Brian Sandoval – a strong supporter of the industry.
The industry is proud to have the support of Governor Sandoval, who also highlighted the important role of the mining industry in the state’s economy during his recent State of the State address
WOMEN IN MINING
As part of the NvMA’s ongoing efforts to ensure Nevada’s mining industry has the strongest workforce possible, the association is gathering data to better understand how to recruit and retain women in the mining industry.
Although largely unrecognized in Nevada’s early mining history, women were instrumental in Nevada’s silver rush, which began in 1858. Women have been a part of the state’s foundational industry ever since that time.
Maggie E. Smith Johnson, who was born a slave in Louisiana, became a Nevada mine owner by 1910 and was widely admired for helping her neighbors. Isabella McCormick Donohue Butler, better known as Belle, took it upon herself to lead an expedition to locate mining claims after her husband failed to do so. Those claims led to the development of Tonopah. Although Jim Butler often is credited for starting the 20th century gold rush, it was his wife, Belle Butler, who staked the claim that became the famous Mizpah Mine. Another Tonopah woman, May Bradford Shockley, became the first Nevada woman to be a U.S. Deputy Mineral Surveyor.
Today, across the U.S., women represent 13 percent of the mining workforce, according the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Mining offers rich career choices for women.
Average mining industry salaries in Nevada are more than $96,000, which is more than double the state’s average salary. Mines offer generous benefits packages, including retirement plans and health insurance. Since mines are 24 hour operations, they often offer women more scheduling flexibility than other industries.
STORIED HISTORY AND INNOVATIVE FUTURE
The mining industry dates to the dawn of civilization and, in Nevada m to pre-statehood. This long history can be attributed to the industry’s ability to be innovative and to growing social demands for numerous metals and minerals to power our 21st century lifestyle.
Mining companies continuously innovate to achieve higher levels of employee safety, more accurate assessments of where minerals are located and the best way to extract them, and determine creative and practical ways to be thoughtful stewards of the environment.
On behalf of the Nevada Mining Association and the thousands of Nevadans who make their living in mining, I invite you to explore Nevada’s 21st century mining industry, its economic impact on the Silver State and the vast array of metals and minerals beneath Nevada’s surface. Please visit our website at nevadamining.org, and signup for our newsletter.
Dana’s article appeared in Winnemucca Publishing’s Mining Magazine Spring 2017 issue