Nevada is the leading U.S. producer of gold, silver, and barite; the second largest producer of diatomite and lithium and the sole producer of mined magnesite and mercury. Nonfuel mineral production of the more than 100 active mines in Nevada in 1989 is summarized in the table below. Lithium and magnesite are not listed in the table to avoid disclosure of company proprietary data. According to the U.S. Bureau of Mines, Nevada ranked third in the nation in the value of nonfuel minerals production.
Gold production reached a new high of five million ounces in 1989, despite drop in average gold prices from $438 per ounce in 1988 to $385 per ounce in 1989. Average silver prices also dropped, from $6.54 to $5.54 per ounce, yet production increased slightly above 1988 levels. Newmont Gold Company was once again the largest producer of gold in the state, at 1.47 million ounces, or 29% of the total. According to the Metals Economics Group, Newmont is the first U.S. gold producer to pass the one million ounce mark in annual production.
Major expansion programs took place at a number of gold operations in 1989. Newmont Gold Company successfully started its new # 4 mill. American Barrick Resource Corporation is developing the Betze deposit at its Goldstrike property as an open-pit mine. Freeport- McMoRan Gold Company completed a major expansion program at its Jerritt Canyon milling complex and new processing facilities at the nearby Big Springs project. Both operations received new fluid-bed roasters, designed to treat highly refractory ore. The new mill at Echo Bay's McCoy/Cove mine began commercial production in mid-1989. The company is expanding Cove to mine deep ore, building a ramp for access. Echo Bay merged the Manhattan mine and mill with the Round Mountain gold mine in January 1989. Alta Bay Venture's Robinson mine began mining the Ada Hill deposit. Construction of a new mine and mill was completed in February at the Getchell mine of FirstMiss Gold Inc. By fall of 1989, two of three autoclave trains for processing sulfide ore were successfully started. The Ren property, a small satellite heap-leach operation at the Dee mine, was placed into production in July. Cortez mines, Placer Dome Inc., shifted to mining the oxide reserves on the fringes of the London Extension pit at Gold Acres. The mill was remodeled to treat carbonaceous ores. A number of new operations were brought on-stream in 1989. U.S. Nevada Gold Search, a joint venture of Gexa Gold Corporation, U.S. Precious Metals, Inc., and N. A. Degerstrom, began constructing pads and facilities at the Mother Lode deposit in July, and started producing in November. First gold was poured in July at the Bond International Gold Inc. Bullfrog mine. Amax Gold, Inc. began production mid- year at Wind Mountain, shipping gold-silver precipitate to the Sleeper mine for smelting. Alta Bay Venture's Golden Butte heap-leach operation started in July; their second new operation, Easy junior, opened in late 1989. The Marigold mine heap-leach operation (Rayrock Yellowknife Resources, Santa Fe Pacific Minerals, and Placer Dome) started production in September after one year of stripping. The Alta Gold Company and Nerco Minerals Elder Creek mine was placed on-stream late in 1989. The Willard deposit of Western States Minerals Corporation was placed into production in May. USSRAM Exploration Company started operations in the Eureka district in January at Project Glister. Mining will be open-pit and will include processing of old mine dumps.
Three new mines are expected to open in 1990: the Denton-Rawhide mine (Kiewit Mining Group, Inc.), the Rabbit Creek mine (Santa Fe Pacific Minerals), and the Fondaway mine (Tenneco Minerals).
Several mines were closed or placed on standby in 1989. The Tonkin Springs project of U.S. Gold Corporation suspended operations during a $20 million expansion program, including a bioleaching operation and a carbon-in-leach mill. Nevada Goldfields' Kingston mine was placed on standby in November. The mine had been operating at a loss for several quarters. Reserves at the Preble mine were expected to be mined out in 1989. Facilities will be used to process ore from the Kramer Hill deposit in 1990 and 1991. Reserves at the Alligator Ridge mine were exhausted in December. Heap- leaching at the Illipah mine was completed in the summer of 1989 and the mine closed late in the year. Coral Gold Corporation's Robertson project halted mining operations in the fall of 1989 after intermittent production for less than one year. AMAX Gold Company signed a letter of intent with Coral Gold for further exploration and development in 1990. Reserves at the Trinity silver mine were exhausted in 1989 and the operation closed in August.
Production of copper and molybdenum in Nevada increased substantially in 1989 with the Cyprus Tonopah mine reaching full capacity after starting in late 1988. Copper production at the Tonopah mine is expected to rise in 1990. Mining and stockpiling of ore at Alta Gold Cornpany's Ward mine, begun in 1989, promises to add to Nevada's base metal output. The Taylor mill was leased from Nerco Minerals and converted to process base metal ores; production is scheduled to begin in spring 1990.
In 1989, domestic gypsum board, the major end use of gypsum, dropped 4% in price. This, combined with a decline in the number of annual residential housing starts, led to the expectation of a weaker gypsum market. Despite this pessimistic outlook, Nevada gypsum producers operated at near capacity, up about 10% over 1988, to 1.7 million tons. The U.S. Bureau of Mines notes that the negative market factors were offset by a net increase in exports of wallboard products and continued strength in the remodeling markets. The strong market for Nevada producers is also attributed to the healthy Las Vegas construction market. The Nevada lime industry, partially construction related, also remained strong.
Simplot Silica Products, Nevada's only producer of silica sand, is one of the nation's top ten producers. Production at their plant in Clark County increased 100,000 tons to 706,000 tons in 1989. Sales in the dominant market for silica sand, the glass industry, remained buoyant, and the foundry section of the market improved.
Total production of barite in Nevada, from five producers and two mines, was less than 10% of the high reached in 1981. The mines operate intermittently, most production is from stockpiled ore. M-1 Drilling Fluids, Inc. expects to increase production substantially in 1990 due to a drop in rail freight rates. The company is shipping crude barite from Beowawe.
The largest clay producer in Nevada, Industrial Mineral Venture, was purchased at the end of the year by a subsidiary of U.S. Borax and Chemical Company. The new operation name is IMV--a division of Floridin Company. Sales are up and the company is doing well.
The largest mercury producers in Nevada are the McDermitt and Paradise Peak mines. Production of mercury increased by about 10% from 1988.
Further information on the mining industry of Nevada can be found NBMG Special Publication 10 "Major Mines of Nevada 1989 " (announced on the back page of this newsletter), and in the forthcoming NBMG Special Publication MI-1989 "The Nevada Mineral Industry 1989".
---Keryl Fleming, Geologic Computer Specialist