Idaho’s gold mines have done it again: they’ve produced more ounces of the precious stuff than ever before.
The 347,000 ounces that came from open pit and underground mines throughout the Gem State beat the old record - set last year - by about 47,000 ounces, according to the Idaho Geological Survey.
“It’s nice to see new mines producing like that,” said Virginia Gillerman, research geologist for the survey in Boise. “The numbers can change pretty dramatically with just a single mine opening.”
Last year looks to be the peak for gold production for the near future, according to state geologist Earl Bennett, also of the survey. Two mines operated by Inland Northwest mining companies will stop contributing ounces in 1997.
Pegasus Gold Inc.’s Black Pine mine has more gold to mine, but the environmental cost of getting at the metal would be too much to mine it efficiently, the company believes. Pegasus will spend several million dollars returning the mine to its original state.
Hecla’s Grouse Creek gold mine, which opened in 1994 with much optimism, will close soon and begin its multimillion-dollar reclamation effort. The mine should have been open far longer, but geologists overestimated the amount of gold in the mine.
Bennett said the state set the production record despite a falling gold market and a miserable economy for precious metals. He said the gold industry represents more than $130 million to the economy.
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