Mining merger in Nevada could mean job losses, dip in rural economy, leading state senator says

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By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers

The merger of the local assets of Nevada’s two largest gold-mining companies — Barrick Gold Corp. and Newmont Mining Corp. — could mean a loss of jobs and and a dip in the economy in rural Nevada, a leading state senator said this week on Nevada Newsmakers.

“A lot of my constituents are concerned, especially in the Elko area and on down to Humboldt County, Lander County and Eureka County.” said state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka. “Anytime you make a change like that — and of course they have conjoined the operation — there are going to be a lot of mid-level jobs, especially mid-level supervisor jobs, that I think will go away with the consolidation.””So there are a lot of people worried,” Goicoechea said.

“It may impact the wages and benefits in that region,” he added.

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More than 12,000 people are directly employed by the Nevada mining industry, predominantly in rural Nevada. Mining-company employees earn some of the highest annual salaries in the state, averaging $83,000, according to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Mining also requires an extensive support system. For every mining job, about four other jobs provide goods and services used by the mining industry, according to state statistics.

Barrick has 3,780 employees in Nevada, according to The Associated Press. The AP also reports Newmont has about 5,000 employees and contractors in North America but does not divide them by the state or province where they work.

Newmont and Barrick agreed to merge their Nevada assets earlier this month, forming the world’s largest precious-metal mining operation, according to reports.

Veteran Nevadan Journalist Ray Hagar is known for fair and tough reporting and invigorating commentary.

The pooling of assets includes mines, processing facilities and infrastructure stretching from Wells near the Utah border to Winnemucca on the Interstate-80 corridor. Barrick will own 61.5 percent of the operation with Newmont owning 38.5 percent, the companies said in a recent news release.

“I see areas like maybe Humboldt (County) and Winnemucca and Battle Mountain impacted more as they move to a corporate-office focus right in Elko,” Goicoechea said. “But yeah, the true impact will be some reduction in forces.”

The merger will also end the ability of miners to pick and choose the company which employs them, Goicoechea said.

“And the other piece of it, you always had the opportunity that if you got mad at Barrick, you could go to work for Newmont, if you were a good guy and a lot of those guys are great miners,” Goicoechea said. “Some little thing will tick them off and they will change companies. They have that opportunity now and I think a lot of people are concerned.”

Although jobs may be lost, the merger probably ensures the mining giant will be in the state for a long time, Goicoechea said. It could also bring more industry to Nevada over the long run.

“With this merger, they are definitely here for the next 40 years,” Goicoechea said. “That might bring you an industry into the (Interstate-) 80 corridor that we could dove tail and put about 1,000 people to work.”

Goicoechea agreed with host Sam Shad that Nevada lost a lot of federal clout with the retirement of former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV.

Yet Goicoechea, a longtime Republican, praised the work of Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto, D-Nv, who replaced Reid.

“Sen. Masto, party politics completely aside from it, is a good person and she is trying hard for Nevada,” he said.

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