VIRGINA CITY, Nev. (AP) — The company that brought gold and silver mining back to the historic Comstock region around Virginia City says the operation is proving as successful as expected and new discoveries have it even more optimistic about the future.
Comstock Mining Inc. began mining the craggy hills of the Virginia Range southeast of Reno seven months ago and now is on the verge of reaching production goals.
Ore is being pulled from an open pit at Gold Hill at a rate of about 4,000 tons per day, hauled to a nearby processing plant at American Flat. After heap-leach treatment, it’s being poured into bars of blended gold and silver at a rate of nearly 300 ounces per week.
That’s close to the 2013 goal of 400 ounces per week and an annual production of 20,000 ounces, said Corrado De Gasperis, president and chief executive officer of Comstock Mining.
“We’re only weeks away,” De Gasperis told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “April will be a milestone for us. It’s a stabilizing point.”
Company geologists point to an important discovery made during underground exploration of terrain across Nevada State Route 342 and east of the existing pit mine.
There, De Gasperis said, is located the so-called “Chute Zone,” a small but highly concentrated ore deposit that could yield $10 million in revenue from mining that could occur over a relatively brief period of time.
The Chute Zone is similar to the Woodville Bonanza, the last of more than 30 bonanza deposits discovered on the Comstock during its heyday that was mined from 1872 to 1875, company officials said. The deposit’s existence is encouraging evidence that other high-value deposits are likely awaiting discovery, De Gasperis said. He said he’s confident some $5 billion worth of gold and silver still exists on the Comstock and that the true value may extend beyond that.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” De Gasperis said. “It means a lot about what’s there and what potentially is there. We’ve been saying consistently there really was not a question about these higher grade (deposits) still being resident in the Comstock. This does seem to validate continuation of the high-grade, bonanza-grade geology.”
Critics of the mining include the Comstock Residents Association, which argues additional mining could produce serious environmental problems, destroy a rustic lifestyle and damage the Virginia City area’s tourism economy.
“They’re polluting the land. They’re tearing up the hillside,” said Joe McCarthy, a member of the association. “Open pit mining is going on in a National Historic Landmark and it’s destroying precious, archaeologically sensitive artifacts, significant historic land forms and the culturally historic landscape.”
Claims by the company that it intends to preserve historic resources can’t be trusted, McCarthy asserts.
“It’s absurd to think a junior mining company that is struggling to finance itself can be believed,” McCarthy said.
De Gasperis counters that his company has shown itself to be responsible over the last year and much of the criticism by critics “simply wasn’t true.”
While he said there’s likely no way Comstock Mining will ever satisfy all its critics, the scope of opposition at least from his perspective appears to be diminishing.
“I don’t know of anything we’ve done that demonstrates anything but social responsibility,” De Gasperis insists. “We’re getting much more genuine support for the economic activity we are engaging in.”