Dana Bennett, the interim president of the Nevada Mining Association (NVMA), has been involved with mining policy for most of her career. A history buff, she was raised in Nevada and worked for the Nevada legislature as a researcher, where public lands policy was central to her work. In Nevada, most of the mining takes place on public lands. She eventually started her own business as a lobbyist, working with government affairs firms and mining companies. She was named president of the NVMA in 2014 and retired in 2020.
Last year Tyre Gray stepped down as president of the NVMA and the association asked Bennett to serve on an interim basis as they searched for a new president. “From the outside, this job looks like a lot of fun and there are a lot of really fun things about this position, but it’s a tough job,” Bennett said. “My six years with the association were some of the most challenging and fun years of my career.”
The overall goal of the NVMA has not changed, since it was first established 110 years ago, Bennett explained. “Beyond being a champion for the state’s mining industry, the association educates the public about how modern, responsible mining takes place in Nevada,” Bennett said. “The mining business is highly regulated and we are also available as a resource to policymakers for fact-based information.”
The NVMA is also very good at facilitating the business-to-business relationships between miners and suppliers. So our membership represents the entire supply chain from exploration through construction and operation to closure and reclamation. We are all working together toward the same goals.”
Nevada’s political environment is very much driven by its population centers, and nearly three quarters of the state’s population lives in the Las Vegas area. “That creates some challenges and some opportunities,” Bennett said. “Nevada is very different than other states in the West. Ironically, we are considered one of the most urban states because of that high population in Las Vegas, but really Nevada is one of the most rural states in the country.”
With that large land mass and few people, Nevada’s options for tax revenue are limited. The state’s constitution prohibits personal income tax, so it relies heavily on sales tax and taxes related to the hospitality and mining sectors.
Nevada’s miners pay their fair share. “Our taxes per employee are twice the state average per employee,” Bennett said. “Mining companies pay the same taxes every other business pays, such as sales and commerce taxes, and more. The mining industry pays a higher rate on the modified business tax. And then we have two specific taxes on top of that. When we add all of that together, our tax burden is twice that of other industries in the state.”
Nevada is primarily a public lands state and public lands are managed on a multiple use concept. “We’re quite proud of the work that we’ve done in terms of conservation, especially for sage grouse,” Bennett said. “All of the scientific studies have shown that mining does not have an excessive impact on sage grouse. Other development, and other land uses are impacting that habitat, but we have stepped up and improved the habitat. We participate in the state’s conservation point system, and we are helping to solve the issue. We’re not contributing to it.”
When asked about the federal permitting system, Bennett chuckles. “The federal permitting system is a reality of mining in Nevada and any industrial use on public lands in Nevada, whether it’s opening a new mine or building a renewable energy project or energy transmission lines,” she said. “All of those activities on public lands face a stringent environmental permitting process.”
The NVMA developed a flowchart for permitting from start to finish. “It takes into account all the steps that a mining company needs to accomplish, whether it’s achieving a permit or publishing a report, from exploration through development of the orebody to the closure of the mine,” Bennett said. “And if you print it out in a legible font, the map is 20 ft long and 6 ft tall.”
The NVMA facilitates conversations between the regulators and companies seeking permits. “We host events where regulators and operators share their perspectives,” Bennett said. “It’s an ongoing conversation.”
The NVMA is always looking for opportunities to engage the urban areas in Reno and Las Vegas. “Most of the time, we are the face of mining in those locations,” Bennett said. “We look for opportunities to partner with organizations that truly help to advance our mission. A great example is our partnership with the Nevada Women’s Fund.”
The Nevada Women’s Fund has been granting scholarships to women pursuing secondary and post-secondary education for 40 years. About a quarter of these graduates go to work in rural Nevada, Bennett explained. “By partnering with the Nevada Women’s Fund, we are helping to support educational opportunities for women who might go to work in mining, but they may also play a supporting role with other super important jobs in our rural communities, such as education and nursing,” Bennett said.
Bennett believes the NVMA is the best mining association in the country and perhaps even the best in the world. The recruitment process is well under way and the association will likely name a new president soon.