It is fair to say that modern America was built on precious metals, particularly gold. Yes, agriculture and commodities like corn and cotton have powered its economy since it was first founded. However, if not for gold and silver, the USA would look decidedly different.

After all, it was the Gold Rush that first attracted settlers to states like California and Arizona. As soon as gold was discovered, arid deserts were transformed into bustling communities, many of which turned into rich and powerful cities.

It was this wealth that attracted so many rich people to the area and created so many other rich people. And most of the money they earned was spent on US soil, helping to transform the economy and lay the first blocks of what would become San Francisco, Los Angeles and other giants of the West Coast.

The Gold Rush is long gone, but there’s still gold in those hills.

Modern Gold Rush

The issue with modern gold prospecting in the United States is that it needs a lot of capital. In the old days you just needed a set of pans and a little ambition. Today you need millions of dollars in equipment; you need to pay for surveys, workers and machinery, and file the necessary paperwork to mine in any given area.

Gold is usually the thing that attracts a company to a certain area, with silver often found by accident. You need the same equipment to get both of these metals, but one of them will bring you just $15 or so for an ounce, while the other will bring you $1,500+. So mining companies set out to find gold, and mine silver, copper and other metals only when they accidentally discover it.

Because of this, the biggest mining companies tend to work in a number of metals, rather than concentrating on just one.

The Process

Finding gold is a three-step process from the perspective of a mining company in the United States. These steps can all be done by the same company, but in many instances there are companies who specialize in each step.

  1.  Exploration: The first step is the legwork, exploring a particular area to determine if there is likely to be gold there. There is no definite way to find gold, so much of this is guesswork, but they have enough experience to make educated guesses and if they explore in areas that have produced gold before, including states like Arizona and Nevada, their chances are high.
  2.  Development: After proving that a certain area is rich in gold, the next step is to access it. This is an expensive process and one that low-capital companies can simplify by selling gold they have yet to discover in return for a cash injection.
  3.  Production: The final process is to bring the gold out of the mine at a steady rate, selling it directly or sending it to a refinery to be processed and then sold.

The Companies

Below is a short list of the biggest gold and silver mining companies operating in the United States at the time this article was published.

  • Newmont Mining
  • Royal Gold
  • Gold Reserve
  • Golden Star Resources
  • Coeur Mining
  • NovaGold Resources
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