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Gold Versus Water In The Western Drought


Yerington pit lake
Associated Press/Marilyn Newton

Water fills up a mine near Yerington. The mining industry's use of water is under scrutiny because of the continuing drought.

With Nevada going through a prolonged drought, water use is a hot topic in urban areas.

The issue of drought is also being heavily debated in rural parts of Nevada because of the impact of current and future pit lakes left by mining operations.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada recently released a hydrology study of the impacts of mining on the Humboldt River.

The study finds the largest gold mining companies use an enormous amount of water and are pumping record amounts.

Will Nevada soon have to decide if water is more precious than gold?

Nevada Mining Association president Dana Bennett, Ph.D., had the following to say in response to an interview request from KNPR's State of Nevada:

“Nevada’s mining industry has been sensitive to Nevada’s limited water resources since long before this drought began.  Water is a precious resource and the drought is something all Nevada industries should take seriously.

“With regard to dewatering, the Mining Industry spends millions of dollars every year to ensure mining activity does not adversely affect other water rights holders and protects the resource.  Dewatering activities are carefully monitored not only by the industry, but also by the State Engineer’s office.  Furthermore, research by federal agencies and research institutions show dewatering activities do not significantly impact the flow or water resources of the Humboldt River.

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“The mining industry is and will continue to be transparent in its water uses.  In accordance with State Water Law and in cooperation with the State Engineer, mining conducts responsible dewatering at its operations.  Water is returned back to the subsurface environment from where it was taken or substituted for water rights that already exist.  If the naturally occurring water quality allows and the circumstances dictate, water may be discharged to surface water, but only with appropriate permits.

“Nevada’s mining industry will continue to work with communities, regulators, and agencies to monitor the affects of the drought on Nevada’s most precious resource.  Meanwhile, mines will continue to persist in responsibly managing Nevada’s natural resources.”   


Laura Martin, associate director, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

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