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Despite pandemic, rural economies remain golden


While Nevada’s big cities battle to stabilize economies hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, rural communities are doing just fine, thank you.

In October, newly released state figures show the number of unemployed in Eureka County was precisely 31 people, and the county’s unemployment rate stood at 2.8%. That compares with a jobless rate of 6.3% in the Reno-Sparks region and 13.8% in Las Vegas.

In neighboring White Pine County, the area around Ely, the jobless rate in October stood at 3.6%. In Elko County, unemployment was 3.9%.

The reason? Look no farther than the price of gold, which was about $1,825 an ounce this week, more than 22% above its price of $1,450 a year ago.

As gold prices rose, mining companies added nearly 15% to their workforces statewide.  Today, the state estimates that 12,600 Nevadans earn a living from mining metals such as gold, silver and copper.

That’s a big deal in the mining-dependent communities of northern Nevada, and the state’s biggest mining company expects its employment to remain stable for the foreseeable future.

“Recruiting at our Nevada mining operations has remained steady, yet challenging as we seek qualified talent in areas such as industrial maintenance, engineering, geology and other professions,” says Kathy du Plessis, a spokeswoman for Barrick Gold Corp.

The Toronto-based company says about 7,000 employees and 4,600 contract workers hold jobs in its Nevada Gold Mines operation.  Last year, Barrick and Newmont Gold, the state’s No. 1 and No. 2 gold producers, combined their Nevada operations to create a joint venture that’s the largest gold-mining complex in the world.

Du Plessis say Barrick has created a 10-year plan that envisions development of new properties and careful management of existing mines to extend their lives. Executives, she says, believe the plan will “enable us to continue to provide good-paying jobs for thousands of Nevadans well into the future.”

To build a strong and diverse pipeline of new workers, she says Barrick is working closely with the state’s colleges and universities — including UNR — and the Nevada Mining Association on next-generation initiatives.

John Seelmeyer
John Seelmeyer
John Seelmeyer is a business writer and editor in Reno. In his 40-year career, he has edited publications in Nevada, Colorado and California and written several thousand published articles about business and finance.




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