You may have thought that mining on the Comstock stopped decades ago. And it is true that the big boom, the “Big Bonanza” as it was called, petered out around 1880, and after that Virginia City started its slide towards being a ghost town. And the rebirth the town has seen lately has only been because of tourism.
But that doesn’t mean all mining stopped. During the 20th century, small mining operations continued as ore extraction technology got better and better. The largest evidence of this are the several open pits that are in the area. Those pits were dug about 50 years ago by companies looking for gold and silver. Rather than having to find a vein and follow it, like the hard rock miners of old, they just scooped up dirt by the bucketful and processed it all. As long as the price of gold stayed high, they could make a profit doing this.
Now that the price of gold is back up, hitting record highs this year, companies are investing in the Comstock more. Which brings us to this story, where a mining company is working in Gold Canyon between Silver City and Gold Hill, and they’ve found a good spot to dig. The problem is, it’s right underneath the highway. So the company is proposing to move the highway a bit to the west, so they can have free reign to dig up all the gold they can get at.
Now, realigning the highway is going to take some time. Their estimates are a year, between negotiating with NDOT, engineering the new road, and actually doing construction. And who knows, gold prices have been dropping for several months, so maybe by the time they’re ready to move the road it won’t be worth it anymore. But it’s an interesting reminder that the Comstock is not dead, and never will be as long as there’s one flake of gold or silver left in the ground.