Remarks by Jonathan G. Price
Director and State Geologist, Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
on the 50 millionth ounce of gold produced from the Carlin trend, Nevada
16 May 2002

Welcome to the W.M. Keck Museum, the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, the Mackay School of Mines, and the University of Nevada, Reno. We are here this evening to celebrate a landmark in gold production for Nevada and the United States. Last month the mines of the Carlin trend reached 50 million ounces of gold production. This is a truly remarkable achievement for the local economy, for the country, and for the Mackay School of Mines.

Named for a town on the banks of the Humboldt River, the Carlin trend was largely overlooked by the '49ers who rushed by, along the Emigrant Trail, on their way to the gold fields in California. Because of the extremely fine grain size of its gold particles, the Carlin deposit was missed by the '49ers and by the prospectors who combed the hills of the western United States in the late 1800s.

The Carlin trend is one of the world's leading mining districts. It is a belt of gold deposits, primarily in Paleozoic sedimentary rocks, that is about 5 miles wide and 40 miles long, extending in a north-northwest direction through the town of Carlin, Nevada. Gold was first discovered in the area in the 1870s, but there was very little production until 1909, and only about 22 thousand ounces was produced from then through 1964. Until 1961, when the Carlin deposit was discovered, nobody fully appreciated the impact of what has become known as Carlin-type ore.

The success of gold mining on the Carlin trend and other areas of Nevada can be attributed to achievements in science and engineering.

The science of geology (with the geologic mapping by USGS geologist Ralph Roberts and others, funded in part by cooperative agreements between the USGS and the State of Nevada through the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, and the insight, detailed geologic work, and geochemical exploration by John Livermore and Alan Coope of Newmont Mining Corporation) led to the discovery of the Carlin deposit. John and Alan followed up on Ralph's mapping, which had revealed the potential for exploration in lower-plate rocks below the Roberts Mountains thrust, a major fault along which one package of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks was shoved on top of another about 350 million years ago.

Sadly, Alan Coope passed away last year, but, interestingly, Alan was the person who pointed out to us that we were rapidly approaching this landmark in production.

After leaving the USGS, Ralph Roberts became a successful consultant in the minerals business and endowed the Mackay School of Mines with a lecture series and the Center for Research in Economic Geology.

John Livermore left Newmont to explore on his own, quite successfully, and he too has shared his good fortune with the Mackay School of Mines in many ways, not the least of which are student scholarships and the endowment for the Arthur Brant Chair in Geophysics.

Since 1961, many other Carlin-type deposits have been discovered in Nevada and elsewhere. These and similar fine-grained, disseminated gold deposits have contributed to the spectacular production boom that we are experiencing today.

Deposits on the Carlin trend have set new standards for gold mining throughout the world. Technological advances, such as agglomeration of crushed rock to improve heap leaching, improvements in autoclave design, development of larger trucks, bio-oxidation, and computer-assisted controls in surveying, assaying, mining, and processing, have made what beforehand was essentially worthless rock into valuable ore.

The Carlin mine began production in 1965, with about 128 thousand ounces in that first year. The production boom of today is the result of increases in gold prices in the 1970s and 1980s; improved technologies, spurred by research here in Reno by the U.S. Bureau of Mines and by the companies, often in collaboration with faculty and students from the Mackay School of Mines; and further discoveries of large-tonnage, relatively low-grade deposits of disseminated, fine-grained gold.

How significant is 50 million ounces of gold production? We have a poster here that highlights some of the importance of this achievement. In terms of value of production, the 50 million ounces were worth $20 billion in today's dollars, and John Dobra, Director of UNR's Natural Resources Industry Institute, estimates that the expenditures for goods and services required directly and indirectly by the mining operations increased the economic benefit to $34 billion in today's dollars.

The Carlin trend currently produces nearly 4 million ounces of gold annually, contributing about $1.8 billion to Nevada's economy (about 2.5% of the Gross State Product).

Gold mining directly provides thousands of jobs for Nevadans, indirectly provides thousands more, helps build and maintain infrastructure in rural parts of the state, and broadens the tax base for education and other government programs.

Highly skilled miners, including heavy equipment operators and mechanics, engineers, and individuals well versed in computer operations, earn the highest average wages of any industry in the state.

The Carlin trend production helped put us where we are today, in the midst of the biggest gold-mining boom in American history. Current levels of production, about 11 million ounces in the US and 8 million ounces in Nevada per year, greatly exceed the production peaks from the California gold rush and the Comstock era in the 1800s and collectively at many mining camps in the western US in the early 1900s.

The US is a net exporter of gold, one of few mineral or fuel commodities for which we have a positive balance of payments. Although used primarily for jewelry and bullion, gold has many industrial applications in such areas as electronics and telecommunications, lasers and optics, medicine, and transportation. For example, all computers and cell phones contain gold because of its superior electrical conductivity and resistance to corrosion.

Just how much gold is 50 million ounces? If you put all that gold into one cube, it would be 4.3 meters (14 feet, 2 inches) on a side. It weighs 1,714 short tons (1,555 metric tons). In comparison, all the gold ever mined in Nevada (about 135 million ounces) would fit into a 6.0-meter cube; all the gold ever mined in the U.S. (about 479 million ounces) would fit into a 9.2-meter cube; and all the gold ever mined in the world (about 4.5 billion ounces) would fit into a cube 19.4 meters on a side.

One of the interesting industrial uses of gold is reflective coatings on windows. You've seen these on hotels in Nevada (such as on the Mirage and Mandalay Bay hotels in Las Vegas). This coating, which takes advantage of gold's unique property of reflecting infrared light and heat while transmitting green and blue light, thereby reducing the costs of air conditioning, is only a few atoms thick. 50 million ounces could cover the State of Nevada with a sheet of gold one atom thick.

There's more to come! The companies have discovered more gold on the Carlin trend, and exploration continues. Known reserves and resources, some of which will depend on higher prices for gold or better technologies for mining and processing, stand at about 40 million ounces of gold. This more or less guarantees another decade of production, and exploration should extend production for many years beyond that.

You may note that the "t" in "trend" is not capitalized when Carlin trend appears in a sentence on the poster. This is an oddity of geological and geographic editing style. When the dimensions of a geographic feature are not exactly known, the editing style is to have the feature in lower case letters. We really don't know the ultimate dimensions of the Carlin trend -- either extensions to the north toward or beyond the Ivanhoe district, to the south, laterally, or at depth. Promising high-grade mineralization is known to occur deep along the trend, and exploration will undoubtedly discover more ore.

New exposures in mines and research in recent years have revealed much about the character and origin of the Carlin-type deposits, but much remains to be learned through detailed mapping and description of the ore deposits by the company geologists and through research by students, professors, and government geologists. The knowledge gained will help in the discovery of new deposits and, perhaps, new types of deposits on the Carlin trend.

The education of geologists and engineers continues to contribute to the success of the mining industry. We are especially pleased that the mines of the Carlin trend, operated by Newmont Mining Corporation, Barrick Goldstrike Mines, and Glamis Gold, chose to donate the 50 millionth ounce commemorative coin to the W.M. Keck Museum at the Mackay School of Mines. As an aside, the companies donated the 50 million and first ounce to Governor Guinn at a ceremony in Elko on April 17th. This coin, which will be on display here at the University of Nevada, Reno, is numbered "001" as the official 50 millionth ounce. Thank you.