During the last two decades, Eureka County has experienced significant mining activity especially in the northern part of the County. Approximately 29 percent of Nevada’s 2017 gold production comes from Eureka County mines (See Figure 3-10). However, the mine workforce and associated population largely reside outside the County. Table 3-3 shows trends in the Eureka County labor force as compared to resident employment. The total number of jobs in Eureka County in 2016 was 4,491 slightly lower than 2012 at 4,736 jobs. The resident labor force saw small declines between 2016 and 2017 and have remained relatively stable of the past eight years. There are several reasons for this condition. Most notably gold prices have stabilized and range between $1,200 and $1,350 per ounce.
Due to historic employment trends and residency, Eureka County derived most of its mining related benefits through local tax revenues such as sales tax collections, property tax, and net proceeds of mines tax (See Figure 4-2). The private sector in Eureka County traditionally saw little direct benefit as the resident labor force is about 23 percent of the entire mining workforce in Eureka County. Employment gains have been muted as were personal income and wages of Eureka County residents.
In terms of per capita income Eureka County ranked 13th among Nevada’s 17 counties in 2016 (Table 3-5). The local retail and service sectors saw little increase in activity as the demands for goods and services largely went elsewhere. Eureka County even experiences a poverty rate higher than the State of Nevada as a whole.
Eureka County housing and property values remain some of the most affordable in all of Nevada (See Figure 2-7). Due to the County’s remote location, construction of stick-built housing and even the availability of financing have been very limited. Over 62 percent of housing units in Eureka County were manufactured homes in 2017 (Table 2-3). However, with the anticipated long-term nature of several mining projects in Eureka County, new conventional stick-built homes and rental housing may increase. Other sectors of the Eureka County economy remain stable with little noticeable change during mining cycles. Agriculture, for example, remains one of the County’s base industries and has been relatively stable. However, its total output is sometimes affected by mining due to acquisitions of ranch operations and the change in place and manner of water use. Several large ranches in northern Eureka County are now owned by mining companies. Currently, mining companies own over 51 percent of all agricultural private lands in Eureka County and over 56 percent of total private lands in the County. Since 2013 mining companies have purchased approximately 1,300 acres.
Since the beginning of the current mining expansion (2004 - ), the population of Eureka County has exhibited small and consistent increases (See Figure 2-1). Historically, mining operations in Eureka County were primarily located north of Interstate 80 with a few smaller operations scattered throughout the County. As a result, the significant growth in the Eureka County workforce at Carlin Trend mines did not translate into large local population gains due to the proximity of neighboring communities outside Eureka County.
Several mining projects with strong prospects of reaching full operations in and around the Diamond Valley/Town of Eureka area could add significant increases in operation phase employment not including any of Barrick’s existing operations at Cortez Hills and Bald Mountain. As Barrick’s operations move further south along the Carlin trend, an increasing number of employees will choose to live in the Diamond Valley/Town of Eureka area. Barrick’s Horse Canyon/Cortez unified project (Gold Rush Deposit) is the company’s next flagship project located six kilometers from the Cortez mine, is one of the largest and highest-grade gold discoveries of the last decade. Measured and indicated resources stood at 10.09 million ounces at the end of 2017. Operational employment is expected to be on par with Barrick’s other major Carlin Trend mines.
Eureka County made substantial public expenditures over the last ten years just to maintain basic government services such as public safety, municipal utilities, and services to meet the projected demands of mining related growth. At the same time, Eureka County remains mindful of cyclical downturns in mining and must be prepared to handle significant losses in tax revenues as seen from 2013 to 2017. In 2017 Eureka County government employment reached its lowest point since 2003. Total government revenues peaked in 2009 and 2011 at just over $32 million in comparison to the $20.5 million collected in 2017. Eureka County maintains several government funds (i.e future reserve fund) to offset future inevitable declines in the mining industry when the non-renewable mineral resources are mined out. The cyclical nature of mining will ultimately result in future downturns and contractions in local economic activity which will erode fiscal conditions in Eureka County. The dual mandate, to accommodate growth and plan for future declines, places Eureka County in a challenging fiscal position going forward