In 2010 and beyond, key environmental issues for the industry are likely to include:
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by exploring
opportunities to save electricity and fuel through improved
heavy machinery efficiency, reducing emissions by using
alternative fuels such as biodiesel, and using cogeneration
techniques at processing facilities to capture heat from
processing for additional energy supply.
- Continued work with wildlife agencies and
stakeholders to develop management plans for wildlife species
as sage grouse and mule deer.
- Continuous improvement in water management
by striving for greater efficiency in water use, protection
of existing water quality, and balancing the needs of various
water users. Pressure on water resources due to rapidly
growing populations will make water management—individually
and in collaboration with stakeholders—a priority
- Learning to use the BLM’s new adaptive
management plan process, intended to adjust environmental
protection measures in response to impacts over the life
of a mine.
The mining industry depends on continual exploration to identify new mineral resources to open new mines and extend the life of existing operations. Despite its long history of mining, Nevada still possesses considerable mineral reserves and its untapped geologic potential continues to make the state one of the most prospective mineral provinces in the world. For example, estimates of gold reserves have remained at 10-12 years of projected production consistent for the past two decades. This trend indicates that Nevada is nowhere near running out of gold.
Demand for Nevada's substantial deposits of silver, molybdenum, copper, tungsten, lithium, uranium, and industrial minerals such as gypsum, diatomaceous earth, and limestone is likely to grow significantly over the coming years. Exploration suggests that companies are investing now to develop these new resources: exploration spending in 2008 totaled $158 million, and although spending was down in 2009, it is expected to rebound in 2010.
Exploration and capital investment in mineral resources by US and foreign companies is mobile, directed to areas with the highest likelihood of superior return on investment. While the quality of mineral resources impacts this selection process, the regulatory environment
and taxation regime also play a significant role. The long-term
vitality of Nevada’s mining industry depends to a great
extent on maintenance of a balanced business climate to attract
Mining is likely to remain an important part of Nevada’s
economy for many years to come. However, social and environmental
trends will pose new opportunities and challenges for our
industry in the future. These include:
- Energy generation and climate change. Mining
requires energy, and while industry growth will increase
demand, we recognize our responsibility to address climate
change through initiatives to reduce energy consumption
and develop renewable energy. Fortunately, there is significant
potential in Nevada to develop renewable energy. According
to the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissions,
aggressive energy efficiency programs and the state’s
abundant wind, solar, and geothermal resources could provide
all of Nevada’s energy in the next 15 to 20 years.
The challenge lies in taking steps to realize this potential.
- Water. As the driest state in the nation
and one of its fastest growing, Nevada faces major challenges
in balancing various demands for water. Increasing efficiency
of water use in our operations and supply chain, and working
with partners in civil society and government to conserve
water resources will be important for the future of the
mining industry and the state.
- Urbanization. Nevada is an increasingly
urban state. These demographic changes will not only place
new demands on natural resource, but also change the stakeholder
landscape for mining. Engaging with urban stakeholders is
important for the industry to increase knowledge about mining
– a largely rural economic activity – and to
understand evolving expectations about the social and environmental
performance of the industry.
Tackling these future challenges will require continued industry
collaboration amongst our membership and with our partners
and stakeholders. Our 150 year history in the state is a strong
foundation for such partnership. Like all good partnerships,
it requires shared decision-making to meet challenges and
seize opportunities, both present and future. The Nevada Mining
Association will continue to play a key role in facilitating
communication and collaboration to foster responsible, and
sustainable, growth for the mining industry in Nevada.