ELKO — Production. Resources. Reserves. These are terms that help the mining industry define progress and prospects. Yet even with the best science, neither the past nor educated guesses can predict the exact future of mining.
Commenting about the future of mining is like forecasting the weather, said Nevada Mining Association President Dana Bennett, because so many factors can affect the outcome. With caution, people do analyze the data with the hopes of unearthing the mystery of the potentially profitable industry.
“Gold’s there. I suspect for a long time here in Nevada. It’s just we can’t put a number on it,” said John Dobra, a retired University of Nevada, Reno, professor of economics, specializing in resource and mineral economics. “Experience tells us there is a lot of it out there, and it’s kind of silly to think that we have found it all.”
He has learned in his 30 years of mining industry experience that estimates evolve. “We had 5 million ounces in reserves in 1990, and we were saying, ‘Well, we have eight years’ worth of production,’ because you just divide current reserves by production to get mine life,” Dobra said. “From there, as exploration started in the 1990s, mine life and reserves grew up to close to 40 million ounces and 10 or 12 years of mine life left.”
Only a fraction of Nevada’s gold resources has been mined, experts estimate today. Large companies such as Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Mining Corp. constantly add to their reserves, or gold ounces that could make economic sense to mine.