Nevada mining is dynamic—an evolving industry that changes over time. From our 21st century perspective, after many years of solid gold production numbers, it can be hard to imagine a time when gold was not the preeminent mineral in Nevada. There was a time – a long period of time – when gold mining was essentially dying in this state.
In 1942, the U.S. War Production Board ordered the closure of non-essential gold mines in order to concentrate the production of minerals needed for the war effort. Some Nevada mines closed completely, but some, such as the Getchell Mine in Humboldt County, were able to remain open by focusing on the production of industrial minerals.
After World War II ended and gold mines were allowed to open, Nevada’s gold industry was slow to recover. Production continued to decline. Nearly 20 years after the federal government order, Nevada’s gold production dropped to the second-lowest point in all of Nevada history.
Instead, Nevada’s mining industry focused on industrial minerals, producing iron, lead, manganese, tungsten and zinc in the early 1950s. Lander County produced world-renowned turquoise. By 1957, however, even the industrial mineral industry began to slide.
In 1960, stable commodity prices and determined exploration efforts helped to restore some mineral production in Nevada, but gold mining continued to lag. By the beginning of 1965, copper was 60 percent of Nevada’s mineral production, and Getchell was the state’s largest gold mine, but that wasn’t saying much as the actual output was quite low.
For more than two decades, Nevada’s gold mining industry was nonexistent, and some authorities claimed that the bonanzas were gone for good.
A hallmark of Nevada mining, however, has been innovation. The industry has continually evolved as new technologies have been developed. In the early 1960s, a key innovation was the improvement of the open-pit mining process, which has been credited to Isbell Construction Company. In 1964, Newmont contracted with the Reno-based contractor to work on its newly-identified site on what became known as the Carlin Trend.
When Newmont poured the first gold bar from the Carlin Trend in 1965, it represented the rejuvenation of an iconic Nevada industry. Knowing that these miners had endured a 20-year depression in the industry, it’s not hard to imagine their jubilation at that ceremonial pour, which marked the beginning of modern mining in Nevada.
The Nevada Mining Association congratulates Newmont on the 50th anniversary of that seminal event and salutes all Nevada miners for their perseverance, optimism and innovation.
A hallmark of Nevada mining, however, has been innovation. The industry has continually evolved as new technologies have been developed.