Gold Mines in Nevada: 12 Things (2023) You Need to Know

When most of us think about Nevada, we imagine Las Vegas, slot machines, and winning big jackpots – but gold mines?

Nevada may be called The Silver State, but it’s the main producer of the precious, shiny yellow stuff!

Since its discovery in the mid-1800s, individuals and big corporations have tried their luck at making it rich.

Some succeeded, and some failed, but Nevada’s gold mining industry became one of the state’s economic staples.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, don’t worry!

We’re going to look at the most interesting things about gold mines in Nevada.

So, get ready to pan for gold, and let’s head to Nevada!

1. What is The Largest Mining Company in Nevada?

The largest mining company in Nevada, by far, is Nevada Gold Mines.

This group isn’t your normal mining company–not a chance!

Nevada Gold Mines was actually formed by two of the state’s most powerful companies: Barrick Gold Corporation and Newmont Corporation.

Barrick Gold owns 61.5% of the operation, and Newmont Corporation owns the other 38.5%.

The joint venture began in 2019, and it owns all the major mines operating in northern Nevada.

Here are some of the top mines owned by the company

bulletGoldstrike

bulletCarlin

bulletCortez

bulletLong Canyon

bulletPhoenix

bulletTurquoise Ridge

You may be wondering how much gold Nevada Gold Mines produces; well, it’s pretty staggering.

In 2020, the mining company was responsible for 75% of the entire state’s gold production,  bringing over two billion dollars into the economy.

So, yeah, as the name suggests, the company is a gold mine!

Nevada Gold Mines is responsible for employing more than 7,000 employees.

But the company isn’t without controversy.

Multiple workers have come out and accused the company of risking people’s safety for the sake of profit.

Its sites in other parts of the world are also known to have questionable safety records.

Despite the so-so reputation, the mining company undeniably brings in the most gold in Nevada and is dominating the industry.

2. Where is The Most Gold Found in Nevada?

Most gold is found in the northern part of Nevada, which is where the highest-producing mines are located.

Nevada’s single largest gold producing complex is called Goldstrike and is operated by Barrick Gold–the state’s largest mining company that also operates the joint venture, Nevada Gold Mines.

Not only is Goldstrike the highest-producing site, but it’s also the largest gold mine in all of North America–impressive, right?

Since Barrick Gold took full control of the site in 1987, the mine has operated virtually 24/7–it is a non-stop money-making machine that has uncovered more than 40 million ounces of gold, and that number keeps going up and up.

There’s believed to be another 35 million ounces of gold still in Goldstrike’s gold reserves (reserves refer to how much gold is believed to still be in the ground).

That’s quite a bit of gold.

But Nevada’s gold resources are much larger than just one mine.

The Carlin Trend, a strip of various gold deposits, is believed to be one of the world’s largest gold resources. It’s where many of the most successful gold mines in Nevada have produced billions of dollars.

So, if you’re feeling lucky, head to the Carlin Trend!

3. Can you Find Gold Nuggets in Nevada?

Before you buy mining gear, you should know what to expect from your efforts.

In Nevada, it is still possible to find gold nuggets.

Of course, you’re more likely to find specs and flakes of gold, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

Because actual mining equipment is far too expensive for the average person to even consider, most people have fun searching for gold with metal detectors and pans.

Just know that your chances of stumbling upon a fist-sized golden nugget are as unlikely as winning the jackpot on a Las Vegas slot machine, but that doesn’t make the activity any less fun!

But you can find gold!

So, give it a shot!

4. Where Can You Dig for Gold in Nevada?

You don’t want to go to just any old place in Nevada and start digging for gold.

Unless, of course, you’re not interested in really finding gold flakes and nuggets.

So, where should you go?

Fear not, because we put together a list of the best places to look for gold.

These areas might not produce as much as the super gold mines in Nevada do, but hey, you might find something to bring home as a souvenir!

bulletPershing County

Pershing County has been a lucky spot for recreational gold seekers.

Many people have found decently-sized nuggets in the area.

There are several districts to explore, like Even Troughs District and Sawtooth District.

bulletRye Patch Area (Part of Pershing County)

Rye Patch is hands down one of the most popular places to pan and metal detect for gold.

It’s part of Pershing County, but it’s so well-known that it deserves its own section.

The site is great for metal detectors because the gold isn’t deep under the soil.

It’s also home to the highly sought-after chevron gold, which is popular in the world of collectors.

bulletHumboldt County

Humboldt County was a popular mining territory in the mid-to-late 1800s.

Today, it’s not just an interesting place to see old mining sites, but it’s a great spot to pull out your metal detector and look for gold.

Check out locations like the Dutch Flat Mine area and the Rebel Creek Mining District.

5. Do Gold Miners in Nevada Make Good Money?

Gold mining is considered to be a good career with significant room to grow.

The salary of gold miners at a big company like Nevada Gold Mines ranges from about $40,000 to $80,000.

Senior managers and geologists can make upwards of $200,000, so what you make depends on your experience and field of specialty.

The mining industry is similar to construction, where employees can start at the bottom and work their way up the ladder.

Of course, people who have studied engineering or geology can land more specialized positions without having to break their backs as miners.

So, will being a gold miner make you rich?

Not exactly.

But the workers get a decent salary.

6. When Was Gold First Discovered in Nevada?

Gold was first discovered in Nevada in July of 1849, about a year after the California gold rush began.

The man who made the discovery was Abner Blackburn, who had been part of the Mormon Battalion–the only religious military unit in the United States.

Another discovery was made a year later, and by 1851, around 200 miners were in Nevada, determined to hit the jackpot.

Some of these people had already tried their luck in California but found the area was seemingly dried up, so they returned to Nevada, where there were fewer claims.

But another discovery was made eight years later in 1859, when Peter O’Riley and Patrick Mclaughlin, two miners, struck silver–a lot of silver.

This caused a new wave of miners to flood the territory and uncover the precious metal.

As more and more silver was discovered and the Carson City Mint was established, Nevada was finally made an official state and referred to as The Silver State.

7. Why is Nevada So Rich in Gold?

Nevada is home to a unique and expansive geology that plays a big part in why the state is so rich in gold.

Gold is found deep underground and exists in a molten or solid form.

Unlike some other resources, Earth does not produce the material, which means there’s a finite supply–one day, we very well could run out of it.

The location of gold is due to geothermal activity that spreads the resource in vein-like routes throughout Earth, creating deposits that we can access by digging.

Nuggets and flakes from these deposits often get swept into bodies of water, hence why we’re able to pan for gold.

Thanks to Nevada’s geological faults, which are havens for gold deposits, it’s one of the richest gold areas in the world.

8. How Much Gold is Left in Nevada?

There is a limited amount of gold on Earth, and it’s possible that all of it could one day be extracted.

So how much gold is left in Nevada?

An official number of how much gold is still in the state has not been calculated, but researchers believe that around half of the state’s Carlin-type gold has already been mined.

As of now, according to geologists, Nevada’s rich mining districts have a good 20 years left unless another gold vein is discovered.

Although the exact amount of remaining gold is unknown, it’s fairly safe to say that Nevada’s best gold-mining years are in the past.

That doesn’t mean that companies won’t continue to pull in billions of dollars, but things will likely start to slow down.

At that point, mining companies may direct their attention elsewhere, looking for new, rich land.

9. What is the Cycle in Mining?

The process of mining gold breaks down into a few simple steps known as the mining cycle.

Here’s how the process of mining goes in its simplest form.

bulletGeoscientists search for potential mining territories.

bulletPotential territories are tested for gold.

bulletPlanning, investing and developing begin if the site appears to be rich in gold.

bulletEquipment is brought in, and facilities are constructed.

bulletThe extraction process begins.

bulletExtracted gold is sent to a refinery to be refined.

bulletThe gold is delivered in whole pieces (usually in the shape of bars, unless it’s being used for coins and jewelry).

Steps 5 through 7 are repeated until the territory’s gold has been exhausted. At that point, the entire process would be repeated again.

Massive mining companies, like Nevada Gold Mines, don’t have to worry about finding initial investment money, giving them a massive advantage over those who are trying to break into the scene.

10. What Equipment is Needed in Gold Mining?

Gold mining is a very expensive process that requires a lot of machinery.

Mining companies in Nevada need vehicles that can push massive amounts of dirt, large trucks to transport dirt, machinery to smash rocks, and items to sift out the gold.

It’s a laborious process that needs a motivated crew of workers to get things done quickly.

Let’s take a look at some of the most common equipment used in gold mines in Nevada.

bulletMining TrucksThese aren’t the standard trucks you see on a highway.

Mining trucks are specifically designed to haul huge loads of dirt.

Without mining trucks, moving payloads from one place to another would be a very slow process.

bulletDozers Dozers are used to push dirt and flatten surfaces.

Mining companies need them to keep the mining site maintained and to rip out the ground to continue digging.

bulletExcavators Large machines used to excavate materials and unload them onto trucks.

A mining site will usually have multiple excavators of various sizes that are constantly digging.

bulletDrill Rigs Gold mines will often have rotary drill rigs and rock drills that ultimately serve the same purpose of drilling into the ground.

These heavy-duty drills will make holes for explosives to be dropped into or for wells to be made.

bulletGold Wash Plant Gold wash plants are a crucial part of the mining process as they are used to separate dirt and gold.

They can range from large plants to simple, small machines.

bulletGraders Vehicles used to create roads for the mine.

Often mining sites are far from civilization or paved roads, and the company has to clear them.

This list only covers the main equipment needed to operate a gold mine in Nevada.

It doesn’t include the countless other vehicles, parts, and tools required on a day-to-day basis!

11. What Is a Carlin-type Gold Deposit?

A majority of Nevada’s rich mining districts are thanks to Carlin-type gold deposits.

But what exactly does that mean?

Carlin-type gold deposits refer to microscopic gold particles, often called invisible particles, that are embedded in pyrite minerals that are within sedimentary rocks.

The gold’s invisible nature makes discovering these deposits very difficult–as you can imagine.

Since this type of gold is impossible for the naked eye to spot, it took about 100 years for it to be discovered in Nevada.

In fact, Newmont, one of the mining corporations that makes up Nevada Gold Mines, was reasonable for discovering the state’s main Carlin-type gold deposit in 1961.

A couple of decades later, in 1986, Barrick would take the mining of these deposits to the next level and ultimately change the gold industry in the United States.

12. Does gold mining cause contamination?

In short, yes – mining can cause environmental contamination.

In fact, Nevada releases more toxins per square mile than any other state – and four of the five top offenders were gold mines held by Nevada Gold Mines LLC.

Having said this, the total release numbers do not necessarily indicate whether the environment is being contaminated.

According to the mining industry, most of these releases are in the form of contained rock, which are held on-site and later reclaimed.

Furthermore, there are both state and federal laws designed to safeguard water, soil, and natural resources against mine waste and other pollutants.

Thus, today’s mining operations are nowhere near as damaging as they once were.

Yet despite this, unregulated, abandoned, and poorly maintained mines do have the potential to cause significant contamination.

This is usually in the form of acid mine drainage, which occurs when mine ore rich in sulfide minerals reacts with air and water to form an acid.

The acidic water eats away at surrounding rock and can become contaminated with the heavy metals (such as arsenic) contained within.

If not restrained, this mine wash will then eventually flow into nearby water sources.

Acid mine drainage has been a problem in the past, and several regions in the state, such as the Carson River Basin, have been designated as superfunds due to legacy mine pollution.

Therefore, check for nearby hotspots if you plan to buy rural land in Nevada’s gold country!

Final Thoughts

The days of individuals hoping to discover gold and make it rich may be behind us, but that doesn’t mean gold isn’t still being mined.

The gold mines in Nevada are producing shocking amounts of the metal, putting billions of dollars into the economy, and employing thousands.

And there is still gold for you to personally hunt for!

Nothing is stopping you from grabbing a pan or a metal detector and going to the state’s most popular gold mining counties to find your own flakes and nuggets.

Whether you choose to mine for gold or not, visiting historic gold mines in Nevada is a great way to learn more about the state’s history and understand how it became what it is today.

Happy mining!

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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants, or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.

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