The US gold mining industry is a major contributor to the world gold market. As of 2003 it was the world’s second largest gold producer behind South Africa, generating more than 285 tons. However, this was a large decrease from the 355 tons produced in 2000. In the year 2003, gold was generated at over 53 lode mines across the country, more than 12 large placer mines, almost all which were located in the state of Alaska, and a handful of small placer mines, located in Alaska and the western portion of the country. Of all the mines in the United States, just 30 generated over 99% of the gold in the country.
The US gold mining industry has a long history which began in 1799 when the first gold was discovered in North Carolina at the Reed farm. Gold was discovered in the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia about 30 years later and the California Gold Rush followed shortly after and lasted from 1848 to 1852 in the Sierra Nevada. As time passed, many additional states became involved with gold extraction, including Alabama, Texas, Virginia and Alaska.
Naturally occurring gold can be found in almost all 50 states, but a total of 23 states have a history of gold production. During the 1989s gold production increased because of high prices and the use of a new extraction technique called heap leaching. The peak of the US gold industry took place in 1998.
Nevada is currently the state with the highest level of production in the US gold mining industry, accounting for 3/4 of the nation’s gold. The largest producer of this precious metal is Newmont Mining, which generates large amounts of gold through operations located in Elko, Nevada. This company is also responsible for located the Carlin Trend in 1961. Since that time, it is opened 21 underground mines throughout the state of Nevada and created jobs for over 3,000 citizens. Other top mining companies in the United States include Placer Dome and Barrick/Homestake and Echo Bay Mines.
Of all the countries in the world, the US gold mining industry produces gold at the lowest cost. Other countries with a low cost of production include Canada, Australia and South Africa. Unfortunately, the cost to produce this precious metal is on the rise and some Nevada mines have recently seen employee layoffs and mine suspensions due to this increase.
Photos by Dave Schumacher