March 30, 2021

The Nevada Gold Industry: The Story So Far

Gold mining has a long and storied history in the United States - arguably beginning with the Gold Rush of 1848 to 1855. In January 1848, gold was unexpectedly found by a man named James Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California. This news took the country by storm, and soon 300,000 people would come from the rest of the country (and all over the world) to try to capitalize on it.

Not only did this significant gold injection into the money supply help reinvigorated the United States economy during a time when it desperately needed it, but the massive increase of California's population also paved the way for fast statehood, too.

Which, of course, has very little to do with the state of Nevada.

The Nevada Gold Industry: The Story So Far

While people usually think the 1848 to 1855 Gold Rush is synonymous with concepts like the "forty-niners" and droves of people moving out west, keep in mind that they moved way out west - almost all the activity happened exclusively in California itself.

However, gold mining in Nevada was going on - it's just that this cottage industry didn't really "take off" until the price of gold started to climb, many years later, in the 1970s. What's interesting about Nevada gold mining is that the gold mined in places like Carlin Trend is usually invisible to the naked eye, thanks to the makeup of the ore where it resides. When someone mines for gold in Nevada, they probably don't have a pickaxe in their hand or resemble an old-timey prospector. Microscopic particles of gold are what they're focused on, which they recover from the ore through a number of methods.

If it sounds like a fairly thankless job, that's because it was - particularly in the 1970s.

But thankfully, in recent years, all of that has started to change.

A New Decade Brings New Opportunities to an Industry

Flash forward to 2019 and mining overall literally contributed a staggering $8.1 billion to Nevada's economy. However, a full $7.1 billion of that came from gold and silver mining specifically - pointing to the idea that Nevada may very well be experiencing a bit of a "gold rush" of its own. 

All told, gold production from Nevada was higher than any other state in the country. It produced 4.8 million troy ounces of gold in 2019, or roughly 151,410 kg. Even though this was actually a decrease of about 12.8% when compared to 2018, this still means that Nevada is solely responsible for 76% of all gold produced in this country and 4.4% of all gold produced anywhere in the world.

The Nevada mining industry also supported roughly 14,887 direct employees in 2019, with an additional 75,000 jobs relating to providing the goods and services needed by the mining industry to do better and more effective work on a daily basis. That human element - the hardworking men and women behind all of that gold production - may very well be the most important factor of all.