While some experts believe that the world has reached peak gold – that is, the height of gold extraction – they also estimate that there are roughly 50,000 tonnes (55,116 U.S. tons) left to be mined globally. Since 1799, the year that active gold mining began in the United States, the precious metal has been extracted from many states all over the country. Today, most gold-mining companies in the United States are based in the western part of the country, with Nevada being the top gold-mining state in the US. Other top active gold mines in the United States are in Alaska, Colorado, California and Arizona.
Gold Mines in Nevada
Names of gold mines in Nevada include Carlin, Cortez and Goldstrike. In 2017, gold mining companies in Nevada produced 71 percent of the gold extracted in the United States and over 5 percent of the global gold mined that year.
In 2020, Carlin was the largest gold operation in the United States and the second largest in the world. The top four gold-producing mines in 2020 were all located in the state of Nevada, where the metal is extracted from open pit mines and through the process of heap leaching, which uses a series of chemical reactions to extract gold.
Gold Mines in Alaska
Gold mining companies produced over 800,000 troy ounces of the metal in 2015, which equaled over 12 percent of the production in the United States that year. Overall, Alaska is the second-highest gold-producing state in the US.
Gold mining began in Alaska around 1880, and the state's Fort Knox mine was the seventh largest in the country in 2020. Most of the gold produced in Alaska is found in the areas near Juneau, Nome and Fairbanks.
Gold Mines in Colorado
Colorado has a long history of gold production, and the state was ranked in the top three in 2020. The only gold mine that is still active in Colorado is the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company at Victor, which is located near Colorado Springs. Opened in 1976, the the Cripple Creek & Victor mine is now a modern, high-tech operation.
Gold Mines in California
Gold was discovered in California between 1775 and 1780, and production peaked in the state around 1852. Ranked fourth in gold production in the United States in 2020, California gets all of its gold from one site, the Imperial County Mesquite Mine.
The Imperial County Mesquite Mine in California was inactive from 2001 to 2007, when gold production resumed. In 2018, California produced 140,000 troy ounces of gold.
Gold Mines in Arizona
Gold production began in Arizona in 1774, and the newest gold mine in the United States, Moss Mine, is located in Arizona.
Moss Mine is expected to produce 45,000 troy ounces of gold each year, with total extraction production in the state estimated at 16 million troy ounces.
Gold Mining in Other States
While the top five gold-producing states in the U.S. are Nevada, Alaska, Colorado, California and Arizona, gold has been extracted from many other states in America.
States along the East Coast, like Florida, Maryland and Georgia, have a history of gold production. Additionally, significant quantities of gold have been mined from other states in the western half of the country, like Wyoming and Idaho.
Large-scale gold production in the United States began in 1848, when the California Gold Rush began. Since that time, veins of the precious metal have been mined all over the country – even in unexpected places like Vermont, where farmers left agriculture to pursue the promise of riches along the rivers and lakes of the Green Mountain State.
About the Author
Meg Schader is a freelance writer and copyeditor. She holds a Bachelor of Science in agriculture from Cornell University and a Master of Professional Studies in environmental studies from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Along with freelancing, she also runs a small farm with her family in Central New York.
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