Story by Suzanne Featherston
Mining and natural resource industry advocate Liz Arnold is the 2021 recipient of the Prazen Living Legend of Mining Award from the National Mining Hall of Fame in Leadville, Colorado.
The award is given annually to an individual or organization for extraordinary work in educating the public on the importance of mining to everyday life.
Arnold studied at the University of Idaho before her marriage to a mining professional took her to mining communities in the West, including Elko, and abroad. Through her travels and relationship to the industry, she recognized a need to advocate for the livelihoods of miners, loggers, ranchers and farmers.
In 1993, she joined the grassroots group that became People for the USA! and led the organization that had 13 chapters in Nevada. She went on to work as a consultant for issue campaigns, ballot initiatives and candidates.
Recently, Arnold has immersed herself into founding the Nevada Women’s Leadership Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring and training women to engage in government.
She is married to Tim Arnold, chief operating officer of Integra Resources. They have two adult children living in Nevada.
What does it mean to you to be recognized with this award?
My nomination was a labor of love by people I have known in the industry for years. I feel as though any recognition I get is based on me standing on the shoulders of every volunteer who ever said “yes.” …
I was involved in community organizing before it was cool and traveled all over the state of Nevada, all over the West. The organizations I’ve worked with are numerous.
I got my start in Elko, for example. [I] got involved with People for the West!, way back in the way back, 1993 or 1992 or so.
The mining industry has many experts throughout the industry on all sorts of levels. I worked with many of them to formulate messaging and to organize people around a certain cause … so there was a lot of people I worked with to help get information out and get people to be responsive … .
When there was a regulatory regime that needed to be understood, I relied on the experts then communicated that with others and got them to transfer the messaging to the people in power or newspapers, media, et cetera.
So when this award came along, I feel like it is a group thing because I worked with so many different people over the years. It is recognition for their hard work, as well, because I was more of a conduit.
The one thing I brought to the table was the ability to be enthusiastic about a cause and let that enthusiasm be contagious, and people would respond positively, and that I’m thankful for because you can’t achieve anything in terms of public support for any issue, mining or otherwise, unless you have people behind you.
I am very honored that I am recognized at such a high level — because I’m not a professional in the industry like a mining engineer or geologist or environmental permitting specialist, but I did have an impact in many different states on mining issues and natural resources industry issues in general. So I feel like it is a recognition for all of that.
Tell me a little bit about the organization that started you off, People for the West!, that became People for the USA!, and how it grew from there.
It was a natural resource industry rights advocacy organization. This was an organization that brought an umbrella to many different types of coalitions and activist organizations that were dealing with issues on the ground.
In early ’90s and throughout the ’90s, the environmental movement got very extreme in many ways. When Bruce Babbitt was the Interior Secretary there was a lot of impact to the timber industry and the mining industry, and specifically a lot of regulatory changes and a lot of misinformation.
That organization was strong in all states across the West, and we had memberships and chapters on other side of the Mississippi, as well. [It covered] anything dealing with property rights or natural resources industry in general. Mining was our biggest focus area … .
[When that died out in about 2000,] I was living in Lovelock and got involved in other types of campaigns. … I started doing ballot initiatives and legislative stuff after that, dealing with forestry issues: Healthy Forest Restoration Act was passed in 2003, and I worked on that.
[I was] also very involved in local community stuff for mining industry support, like if there was an [Environmental Impact Statement], or if there was hiring that needed to be done or just general community outreach.
Then we went up to Alaska, and I worked on all kinds of stuff up there. There was a big ballot initiative to impose a tax specifically on the mining industry that put a lot of different mines across the state out of business because of the margins that they operate on.
I also did community relations for a mine in Canada, trying to get support in the local southeast area of Alaska.
I’ve also worked on all kinds of candidate campaigns across many states including in Nevada.
Any candidate or organization I work for has to be on the same page as me in terms of making resource development a viable option.
Why do you feel that these industries are worth defending or advocating for?
So there are all these environmental tradeoffs that go on forever, and that is well-known for mining and logging, but it is not well-known for everything that everyone wishes they could replace them with.
It’s a never-ending battle and never-ending misinformation campaign from environmental zealots that want you to think something is possible that hasn’t clearly been thought through in a lot of ways.
[It’s] the never-ending saga of “What are the tradeoffs? What are the impacts? And is the tradeoff worth it? And can you mitigate?” The same thing that every mine and resources industry [considers], whether its agriculture, ranching, farming. They all have to ask those questions, and they all have to answer them for regulators and the communities they live in.
It’s something that needs to be well-understood by the public, and that problem hasn’t been solved. We still need people to understand what all the impacts are and whether it’s worth it.
In a time when mining and other natural resource industries are not popular, what do you tell people who are skeptical?
[I would also ask them] just to be willing to consider, “Have you thought this through? Have you looked at all the implications of not having this particular mine in operation here?”
Where is that resource going to be produced? Because we know it’s going to be used. Is it going to be shipped from China, for example? Our big problem right now [is] who controls the market for rare earths. They are rare earths because they are not all ubiquitous throughout the world, and they are very expensive to mine and produce. So everything that you rely on that you might not be aware of [including phones, power lines and solar panels] all rely on rare earths.
There needs to be an understanding that the environment is impacted by all of the above. You need to realize how much of the earth you are hurting over time, or [that] producing a product here can be produced more responsibly in the United States than it is done in other places.
There is a lot of interconnectedness in how a mineral comes to market. [People] don’t realize who they are empowering when they say, “Let’s not have this mine in this location in the United States.” …
I care as much about the environment as much as anybody. I want it to be clean, pristine and useful. We have to survive on this planet and that’s the only way we can.
When you have production dominated in other countries, like China and some places in Africa, for example, you’re not going to get that regulatory oversight [or] concern … so I would much rather have someone I know and trust … who understands the impacts of what they’re doing and does it right, than to get from it from somebody who is letting a kid dig up cobalt in Africa, for example. There are a lot of issues like that that need to be put in the whole big picture before you make a decision to oppose something.Can you tell me more about the Nevada Women’s Leadership Alliance?
I’m working with a number of other people to formulate this. We are currently working on the bylaws and getting the paperwork put together to become a nonprofit.
It’s meant to mentor women who want to learn how to be active, whether to serve on a board or a resource advisory council through the Bureau of Land Management or run for city council or run for Assembly. …
It’s meant to be an organization that will mentor people to do that — provide all kinds of training like media training, how to run a meeting, parliamentary procedure [and] how to be effective in terms of issue education, writing letters to the editor — simple things like that. You don’t always recognize that there are some simple things you need to follow [when] writing a letter to the editor or lobbying a senator, for example. …
In this day and age, the public and the voters want to see more women run for office. We don’t have a mentor organization that exists in the state of Nevada to serve center-right or conservative women to help the build up their confidence and train them to be better leaders and train them to be better advocates. That’s the purpose of the organization. ￼
Editor’s note: Answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length. Read the complete interview on MiningTheWest.com.