They say all that glitters is not gold, but here in Nevada that amounts to only about 15 percent.
Gold mining accounts for 85 percent of mineral revenue in the state, Nevada Division of Minerals Administrator Rich Perry recently explained. Still, there are a couple dozen other minerals that are regularly mined here – in addition to resources such as geothermal, oil and gas — and some of them have significant economic potential.
Northeastern Nevada’s quest for diversification beyond gold may include some of these marginal minerals. So far, it’s been a mixed bag.
Elko County’s fracking “boom” seems to have stalled out as quickly as it started. Noble Energy has drilled several exploration wells but whether they go into production depends on test results and oil prices – which have been at rock bottom.
The drilling activity has boosted production of barite, including a grinding mill constructed by NOV Minerals at Elko’s railport. Barite is used as a weighting agent to prevent blowouts during oil well drilling, and it is one of the diversification minerals being pursued by Northeastern Nevada Regional Development Authority.
Elko seems to have entered the fracking fray at the tail end of its surge, however, so don’t expect oil and gas production to provide much of a boost in the near future. In fact, Nevada’s meager oil production has been declining in recent years, according to Perry.
Geothermal energy is also regulated by Perry’s office, and it has seen a healthy increase in recent years – including facilities in our own backyard. Elko has benefited directly from this natural heat source since Elko Heat Co. began serving large downtown buildings three decades ago.
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