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Smoky Valley–Round Mountain Gold Operation

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1906, continual alterations. Junction of NV 376 and NV 378
  • (Photograph by Julie Nicoletta)

The extent of this enormous open-pit goldmining operation is visible from miles away. The vast bronze and silver-colored tailings and waste piles of the pit—8,000 feet long, 7,200 feet wide, and 1,200 feet deep—surround the site. This operation is the culmination of over ninety years of mining in the area. Prospectors discovered gold here in 1906. Operations began with placer mining, then graduated to gold-gravel washing, using a dredge in the 1920s. Hard-rock mining, using a method that could process 500 tons of ore an hour, began in the 1950s. Technological advances now allow the mining of microscopic amounts of gold; as much as 300 tons of ore are processed to retrieve one ounce of gold. This type of mining was impossible in earlier years, but the efficiency of the newer process makes such ratios cost-effective. The effort to recover such small amounts of gold relies on the quick processing of huge amounts of ore and on a favorable regulatory environment. The results are the enormous open pits we see today. In 1983 the mine produced 92,000 ounces of gold at a cost of $265 an ounce. In 1999 the mine produced 510,504 ounces of gold from 16 million tons at a cost of $198 per ounce.

The nearby town of Round Mountain has been affected by the changing fortunes of the mining operation. Few people live in the town today, and most of its historic buildings are gone. Instead, the majority of mine workers live on the other side of Nevada 376 in Hadley, a residential subdivision of trailers.

Writing Credits

Julie Nicoletta



Julie Nicoletta, "Smoky Valley–Round Mountain Gold Operation", [Round Mountain, Nevada], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Nevada, Julie Nicoletta. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, 201-201.

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