Can Nevada’s mining industry help fuel the transition to renewable energy?
Nevada’s mining industry is poised to be a key player in the energy segment, and the state’s leading trade organization has tapped a familiar face as it looks for a permanent leader.
Dana Bennett has been named interim president of the Nevada Mining Association, after serving as president of the organization from 2014 to 2020. She succeeds Tyre Gray, who left the association in February to pursue other professional opportunities, according to NVMA.
Bennett said there isn’t a set timeline for when her replacement will be chosen, and the main focus of the association is Assembly Bill 313, which would ban pit lakes formed by mines across the state.
“We are always interested in legislation and regulatory activity that achieves that delicate balance between economic opportunity for the state with environmental responsibility,” she said. “One of the bills that we are concerned with and engaged in a working group with is Assembly Bill 313, which would require backfilling pit lakes.”
Outside of looking at legislation, a growing interest around mining is how the industry will help fuel the transition to renewable energy.
With the transportation sector accounting for one-third of Nevada’s greenhouse gas emissions, there has been significant effort to expand the use of electric vehicles and the infrastructure that supports it.
NV Energy is set to spend $170 million on electrification transportation. And in January, the U.S. Department of Energy proposed a $700 million construction loan for an open pit lithium mine in Esmeralda County. The following month General Motors Co. conditionally agreed to invest $650 million in a lithium mine in Humboldt County. Lithium is a key component for EV batteries.
“Mining the materials used in batteries presents a unique ability for Nevada to become a major player in the EV supply chain,” according to a report from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
But Bennett said the mining industry will still need to produce a variety of materials, not just focus on lithium.
“Look at all of the minerals that go into the development of a cellphone or an electric vehicle,” Bennett said. “They both use gold; they both use lithium; they both use copper; they both use numerous other metals and minerals, many of which Nevada produces but some of which we don’t.”
Bennett said even though there is opportunity for growth, the industry still faces challenges such as inflationary pressure and supply chain disruptions. It’s also facing a worker shortage. A report on the mining industry by Las Vegas-based firm Applied Analysis, commissioned by the NVMA, estimates the industry lost about 500 jobs between 2021 and 2022.
“All those challenges that you name are the challenges facing other industries in Nevada as well,” she said. “We’re sort of all in the same boat.”
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