KayLynn Roberts-McMurray
A blast was launched during a tour of the Gold Rock Mine Project. These blasts happen regularly.

The Bureau of Land Management Ely District, issued the Record of Decision for GRP Gold Rock, LLC’s Gold Rock Mine Project in rural eastern Nevada in September of last year.

The decision authorized the mining operator to re-open and expand the existing Easy Junior Mine.

The Gold Rock Mine Project’s construction and operation of the project will result in about 3,901 acres of authorized disturbance, which is located entirely on public land administered by the BLM.

The project is located in the White Pine Mining District in White Pine County, about 50 miles west of Ely, and 30 miles southeast from Eureka, Nevada.

Andy Britton, vice president and general manager for Fiore’s Gold Mine in White Pine County led The Ely Times on a tour of the mine.

Safety is the first thing that is discussed, as we enter a mine truck, honking the horn before the ignition is turned, before the truck is placed in drive, and anytime the truck is parked or moved.

“We are not only the safest but we are one of the cleanest mines,” Britton said, explaining that cleanliness and ensuring things are picked up are one of his obsessions.

The mine is like a small well-tuned operation in the middle of nowhere. A safety building, administration building, fire pump house, laboratory where the ore is processed, a place where the processing side of extracting the gold out of the rock is located towards the entrance of the mine facility.

In addition, an ambulance barn houses their ambulance, a requirement from the state with the distance of the mine from a local hospital. Having four EMTs on site is very helpful.

Ledcor, a mining contractor company, is on-site as well. They handle the mobile equipment mining, working with handling the haul trucks and other heavy machinery. A truck shop that Ledcor plans on bringing in is in the works Britton explains.

The mine is a open pit concept, with two main pits. There is a North Pit and a South Pit. It’s where the extraction takes place, the material is picked up, tested to see if it’s waste or ore and then move to the leach pad or the waste truck dump.

A blast was launched during the tour, something that is regular routine for the mine. The countdown, is heard over the radio, then a visual of small puff of dust. It only takes one person to initiate the shot, the blasting crew is apprised of 4 people, that are in charge of loading this particular blast, something that could take up to a day in for this particular blast.

Ammonium nitrate mixed with a type of petroleum is utilized. This mixture is reportedly safe for the earth, and breaks down into fertilizer after it is discharged.

Back to safety where a quarter mile radius has to be cleared, all radios go into radio silence mode, in the event something goes wrong. Trucks block the road for safety purposes.

Britton said, “working with such large equipment and so many employees, safety is critical.”

As a very small amount of dust rises from the blasting area, Britton is questioned on the amount of water is utilized at the mine. Britton explained in the summer 200-250 gallons of water a minute is used. The water trucks on-site carry up to 18,000 gallons of water. The trucks are used to keep the dust down, which is another requirement by governmental entities.

Mining reclamation takes place as the mining operation moves forward. “We do reclamation at the same time in areas we don’t intend to go back into. This road was built this wide because during construction they needed to bring some big units in, and now we don’t need it, so now the edges are reclaimed.”

The North Pit is described as the area that started the entire mine. It was discovered by a gentleman named Lyle Campbell in the last 60s to early 70s.

Britton said, “A geologist who was out looking for the type of rock that typically carries gold found the rock, began doing more exploration throughout the area, and then it was drilled, the price of gold fluctuated, and it was never developed until Midway Gold began processing, at the time when gold prices were on the rise.”

At one time during the process of permitting the property, gold hit almost $1,700 a ounce. Gold is back down to $1,500 an ounce. The property is feasible on the current gold price and what it costs to produce. Gold is produced at about a $1,000 an ounce, and depending on the month, gold prices are estimated at $1,500 an ounce.

Large blast hole rigs are assembled along the side of the pit drilling out hundreds of holes.

After the blast, flags are placed in the different areas to ascertain waste, hard or soft ore. The minerals are placed into massive haul trucks by loaders.

There are two types of ore, hard rock that when put into water, is not going to dissolve or change, but with the right blend figured out between the soft and hard rock ore, the water will go through it making the processing of it, more refined.

Safety was mentioned a number of times. The staff take it seriously, especially since it is a hazardous industry, and anything can happen.

Britton said, “Planning is a part of that, and once you foster that mindset, planning out your job, making sure hazards have been identified and realizing your not gonna get in trouble for taking time to do that, that’s the big thing.”

The mine life reportedly has 3-5 years of mine life left at the rate minerals are being processed.

Britton said, “We are in process of more exploration drilling, which could extend that mine life out.”

A very intricate process of permits, and approval from environmental entities, and other government agencies takes place whenever mine extension is in the works.

The mine is comprised of 160 staff members, where Britton explains, everyone knows everyone.

“I’ve been told by some this is the best mining job they have had, we are a small knit.” Britton said. “It is very much a business, we run on net prism value and economic evaluations on a daily basis. We have just like other industries have, safety and environmental top priorities.”

In next week’s article, we are guided through the crusher, leach pad and processing areas.