Mining Remains Vital Piece of Rural Nevada
Mining and Nevada have gone hand in hand since the 1800s, thanks to the silver rush. That industry is still alive and well.
Mining and Nevada have gone hand in hand since the 1800s, thanks to the silver rush. That industry is still alive and well. 14,000 people work in Nevada mines, making an average annual salary of $90,400. The mines create $10 billion of economic output, both directly and indirectly. Coeur Rochester is a mine in Pershing County, about 30 minutes from Lovelock. More than 300 people work there, and others work for companies that contract with the mine.
"We support 500-600 families," Robert Stepper, General Manager of Coeur Rochester said. "It's a big, big effort just from mine employees but contractors outside the mine."
Coeur Rochester opened in 1986, and continues to produce up to 5 million ounces of silver per year. The mine's success creates a large amount of income for the small town of Lovelock.
"We buy our goods here, we live here, we put our money back into the communities, a lot of school activities that we're a part of," James Polanco, Process General Foreman at Coeur Rochester said. "We're able to contribute and donate to our towns."
Nevada mining companies pay more than $200 million of state and local taxes per year. Many also donate money for causes and community services. Coeur Rochester hires about 25 college students during the summer, as well as interns. It also provides 15 college scholarships.
"You can't work for a place that does anything better than that," Tate Morehead, Utility Crew at Coeur Rochester said. "They do a lot of things for Winnemucca. They do a ton of things for Lovelock."
Times are much better now than they were several years ago, when the mine operations stalled during the permitting process. Coeur Rochester continued to process silver but the bulk of the operations stopped and only a fraction of its employees kept their jobs.
"I grew up there, in Lovelock," Morehead said. "I watched the town suffer, and then when I came back to work here in 2011, you could kind of see everything coming back, people coming back to town, businesses opening."
Coeur Rochester is awaiting approval of more permits that could extend the life of the mine through 2037, allowing one of the town's biggest sources of income to continue for another generation.
"We're leaving a legacy behind that's going to outlive us," Polanco said. "So, the next generation of people can follow in our footsteps and continue on that tradition, that excellence."
Mining does have its drawbacks, though. The landscape is permanently altered, and the environment around the mine sites can be impacted. Mining companies are required to have a reclamation plan in place.
"Reclaiming the land is a high priority for us," Polanco said. "Taking care of the land, the resources, the water, the wildlife as we're producing our ore is just as important. We manage it, we do inspections regularly, we monitor our systems to make sure we have no environmental releases of any sort."
Reclamation will continue, even after the mining operations are finished. In the meantime, crews will continue to drill, dig and crush rock to retrieve the silver and gold.
"It's good work. I mean, what young man, when he was growing up, didn't want to dig in the dirt, play in the dirt the rest of his life, right?" Stepper said.
According to Applied Analysis, 10,255 people worked directly for a Nevada mine in 2014, and 18,700 other people worked for companies that provided goods and services to the mining companies.