A brief look at the long, storied history of silver mining in Nevada, as well as an overview of a few companies mining the white metal in the area.
Silver mining has a long, storied history in Nevada, and to this day the state’s silver deposits remain economically important. So much so that Nevada is nicknamed “the Silver State.”
According to the Nevada Mining Association, Nevada’s silver deposits led the way to it joining the United States, as they drove the economy and the development of settlements. Indeed, silver and gold were involved in the state’s first mining boom from 1849 through the 1880s, and then in the resurgence of mining activity at the beginning of the 20th century.
Much of the silver discovered in Nevada during the first mining boom was present at surface in heavy grey crusts known as horn silver; miners could simply scoop it off the ground. The resource in this form is now depleted — miners quickly had to turn to tunneling underground — but silver still abounds in Nevada. Currently, the state is the second-largest producer of silver in the US after Alaska, according to the US Geological Survey.
Silver mining now takes place throughout several regions of Nevada, but the most important area in the state is the Comstock lode. It was the first major silver discovery in the US, and is in the western part of Nevada, as per Legends of America. After it was found, Western Nevada became a hotspot for silver mining, and many mining camps and towns emerged, some of which became hugely important and influential parts of the landscape of the west.
Here are a few of the producers currently operating in the state.
Newmont Mining (NYSE:NEM)
Newmont Mining has been working in Nevada since 1965. The company also has operations in Australia, Peru, Indonesia, Ghana, New Zealand and Suriname, and was founded in 1921. Though its core commodities are gold and copper, its Nevada operations produce silver as well as gold. The company has community and sustainability initiatives that aim to increase shareholder returns and keep the communities where it operates safe and economically healthy.
Newmont’s Nevada operations span 100 miles in the northern part of the state, and include 11 open-pit and eight underground mines, as well as 13 processing facilities. With those facilities, the company can recover gold from many types and grades of ore, and can pour gold on site.
Allied Nevada Gold (TSX:ANV,NYSEMKT:ANV)
Allied Nevada Gold owns the Hycroft open-pit gold and silver mine near Winnemucca, Nevada. Plans are currently in place to expand the project, according to a news release from October 15. A recently updated feasibility study projects that the mine will produce an annual average of 22.9 million ounces of silver for the first five years following the expansion.
The mine produced under other owners from 1987 to 1998, and produced around 1 million ounces of gold during that time. Under Allied Nevada’s ownership since 2008, the mine has produced has 700,000 ounces of gold and 3.6 million ounces of silver. The expansion plan involves creating a milling and oxidation plant to process sulfide reserves, along with the oxide reserves that the company currently mines at the site.
Coeur Mining (NYSE:CDE)
Coeur Mining is a primary silver producer — the largest in the US. Its gold production is also growing. Its Rochester silver-gold operation in Nevada, owned through its wholly owned subsidiary Coeur Rochester, consists of two deposits. It is near the town of Lovelock in West-Central Nevada, and is a surface mine.
The Rochester district itself has a rich mining history, dating back to the days of the first discovery of silver in Nevada. Currently, Coeur Mining’s Rochester project is in the residual leaching stage, as well as the new mining and leaching and exploration stages. In 2013, the Rochester mine produced 2.8 million ounces of silver and 30,860 ounces of gold. Its proven and probable resources amount to 101.4 million ounces of silver and 681,000 ounces of gold.
Comstock Mining (NYSEMKT:LODE)
While Comstock Mining may be more known for its gold deposits, it has a rich history of silver deposits in Nevada as well. Its worked is centered in the Comstock lode district, which has seen 400 companies pass through. The company recently came out with a commemorative pure Comstock silver medallion celebrating Nevada’s mining history. In two to three years, the company has mined almost 27 million ounces of silver in all resource categories, averaging about 10 ounces of silver for every ounce of gold resource.
The company is looking to start drilling again at the end of the month to expand its project and is planning on expanding its development of the Dayton area next year.