Dispatch from Nevada: The town that gold saved – by Jeff Simon (CNN Politics – February 23, 2016)


Battle Mountain, Nevada (CNN)Many Americans listened to the sales pitch of the nation’s most powerful conservative voices during the last recession. And then they acted: They bought and stockpiled gold.

This small town roughly half way between Reno and Salt Lake City would like to thank them for that.

“Without the mines, we probably wouldn’t even be here,” says Jodi Moore, a local insurance agent and the vice president of the local Chamber of Commerce. “That’s what keeps us going.”

As many towns this size grew dilapidated in the face of overwhelming economic hardship, Battle Mountain, Nevada — population, 3,635 — thrived. They built a new football field, a new wing on the hospital, and, being the seat of Lander County, a new courthouse.

Not bad for a town so small it doesn’t have any traffic lights. It did used to have a 4-way blinking yellow light until a semi truck crashed into it a few years ago. It was never replaced.

How a small town prospers

The money for the new construction came from something called “net proceeds” — a tax on mining companies — and the tax paid huge dividends to the small county when gold prices hit record highs in 2011.

Mining companies pay the taxes directly to the county where their mines operate, and Lander County has several large mines that reap billions in annual revenue. That translated to $20.2 million in net proceeds for the county in 2014 — down from a high of $60.9 million three years earlier, according to the Nevada Department of Taxation. It’s a lot of money considering the county has roughly 6,000 residents.

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