Northern Nevada is one of the most productive and sought-after gold mining regions on the planet. For decades, competition between two global mining titans – Newmont and Barrick Goldstrike – defined the state’s gold industry. Then, in 2019, Barrick and Newmont merged their Nevada mines into a joint-venture under the name Nevada Gold Mines, with Barrick holding a 61.5% controlling stake in the new company. NGM now produces 75% of Nevada’s gold, making it one of the largest gold miners in the world. The company’s size and the absence of competition left the industry-reliant local community, the workforce, contractors, and Indigenous nations on whose ancestral land much of the mining takes place little recourse or power to negotiate. The importance of NGM in Northern Nevada is hard to overstate. It’s the state’s second-largest taxpayer and the largest in several rural counties. It manages millions of acres of ranch land and many important water rights. The company employs more than 7,000 people, 4,000 contractors, who in turn employ thousands more – all this in an area with barely more than 30,000 people total.
Last spring, FIJ Grantee, Nick Bowlin and Daniel Rothberg of the Nevada Independent realized that both of them were reporting on workforce issues at NGM. They decided to combine our reporting. They found a disaffected workforce, with widespread dissatisfaction with the merged company. Miners reported anti-labor activity. Older workers said they had been pushed out in a sustained display of age discrimination. Others said that pressure to meet production quotas ratcheted even higher in an already hard-charging industry. And with only one major employer around, many workers felt they had few options. They relied on a wide array of sources to report this story. Court records, company earnings calls, and affidavits and other evidence from a case bought against NGM by the NLRB left us with thousands of pages of documents to sift through. They conducted an interview with company executives. They also talked to dozens of Northern Nevada locals, including many current and former employees. They didn’t want to just rely on a few loud voices; rather, we wanted to be absolutely sure that the workforce dissatisfaction post-merger was widespread. Their reporting overwhelmingly confirmed this. They also spoke to members of local tribal governments, most of which have agreements with the mines that regard care for cultural artifacts found during mine operations and jobs for tribal members. Several local tribes feel that the company is not meeting its stated commitments. This is, in many ways, a deeply local story. It involves an often ignored section of rural Nevada. But in that it involves a corporation grown to a large size, so big that other institutions struggle to hold it accountable, it is very much an American story of this moment.