CARSON CITY – Nevada’s mining industry is stepping up to Gov. Brian Sandoval’s challenge asking businesses and all economic partners to help create 50,000 jobs over the next three years.
The Nevada Mining Association recently conducted an informal survey of its members and has estimated the industry will add 1,200 jobs this year, both in precious metal and industrial mineral production across the state. The survey could be underestimating the number of mining jobs being created this year since not all mining operations are members of the association.
This compares to 500 jobs created in the natural resources and mining sector reported in the 12 months through December 2011 by the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation on Jan. 23. There were 12,900 jobs in this sector as of December.
Mining has remained a bright spot in the jobs arena during Nevada’s long running economic downturn.
Nevada’s unemployment rate has begun to come down, but remained the highest in the nation in December at 12.6 percent.
“The precious metals mine operations are growing, expanding, starting up new operations,” said Tim Crowley, president of the Nevada Mining Association. “In addition to that there are a lot of industrial mineral mines that are coming on line. They may not be in production in 2012 but they’re working through the permitting process and getting closer to putting people to work.”
The survey does not count all the ancillary jobs related to mine operations either, Crowley said.
“With every new job at a mine site, we get 4.25 new jobs in the supply chain,” he said. “So there’s significantly more growth than what we’re accounting for in that survey.”
Examples are Cashman Equipment, a Henderson-based equipment company that will add 50 jobs this year just to serve its mining customers and Komatsu equipment, expected to add 15 jobs for the same reason.
One industrial mine expected to open this year if the permitting process is finalized as expected is General Moly’s Mt. Hope molybdenum project near Eureka, which is expected to ultimately employ 400 people. Molybdenum, or “moly” is a metal added to stainless steel to make it stronger, lighter, more rigid and noncorrosive.
“That’s a fantastic new project,” Crowley said. “Its applications are huge.”
Another project that is expected to see construction but not actual mining is Nevada Copper’s Pumpkin Hollow project in Lyon County, the Nevada county with the highest unemployment rate. The rate was 17.2 percent in December. The construction will add much-needed jobs, he said.
Crowley said the high price of gold has created a huge demand and has spurred the growth and expansion in precious metal mining in Nevada.
“We’ve had some great finds in the last couple of years,” he said. “Newmont has a couple of really big developments in the works. Barrick has some big developments. You name a mine site and they are in development.”
The association survey found that Barrick Gold Corp.’s recent expansions will bring on an estimated 300 jobs at its Cortez site. Newmont is expected to add 250 jobs company-wide.
The price of gold has also led to the reopening of some mining operations, Crowley said.
“There’s an old mine that has been reopened and is booming, a couple of them, in a big way,” he said. “The Hycroft mine out of Winnemucca, which is run by a company called Hycroft, (Allied Nevada Gold Corp.) and the Hollister mine which is run by a company called Great Basin Gold, they are both back up and running and employing people and growing.”
The Hycroft mine is expected to add 113 jobs this year. The mine is seeing major production increases in both gold and silver.
The high gold prices have allowed companies to invest in more efficient equipment to mine lower grade ores, Crowley said.
“We’re able to invest in looking for more ore bodies so we have the resources to do it right now,” he said. “Our future is really bright and we’re here for the long haul.”
Jered McDonald, an economist with the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said he expects to see the mining sector begin to grow at a faster rate.
“It really has to do with the length of time that it takes for these operations to get up and running,” he said. “It can take up to seven years for all the permitting processes to go through. I think going forward, yes, we’re going to start to see more and more mining jobs.”
Gold prices are expected to remain high as long as the economy continues to struggle, which is anticipated for at least the next couple of years, McDonald said.
“So we expect gold prices to stay high and employment in mining to increase,” he said.
Written by Sean Whaley from the Nevada News Journal