Last week I had the privilege of visiting an operating gold mine near Elko, Nevada. I say privilege, because the hoops through which I had to jump in order to be allowed to enter were nothing short of tortuous...though for good reason, which I found out after spending time there. The other reason I would say privilege is that I actually got paid to be there, which is always a cool thing.
I won't bore you with the details of what I did, but let it suffice that it involved checking out almost every building and structure in the mill area...lots of walking and climbing many, many stairs.
As impressive as these machines are, perhaps what is more impressive are the steps the mining companies take in environmental protection and restoration of the land. I have to confess to a crisis of conscience when the offer to bid came into our office. Having recently read articles about mining and recent accidents where many miners were killed, I wasn't so sure I wanted to be involved in this industry. However, a little research showed me how modern mining techniques significantly reduce the adverse impacts and a shift in the attitudes of the mining companies showed a strong commitment to the protection of workers. This was made very apparent in the mine safety classes I was required to take, which were followed by additional classes on-site to become familiar with the site's specific hazards. Having met and worked with a number of people directly involved in the extraction of the minerals out of the ground, as well as those most involved with the protection of archeological and cultural resources, I felt much better about the process...though I have a very healthy respect for the nasty things some of those chemicals can do!
By the way, did you know that Nevada is the largest gold producing state? Did you also know that Nevada has the largest open-pit gold mine in North America? Yes...both are true.