The Robinson district at Ely, Nevada produced about 3,000,000 troy ounces (93 t) of gold through 1990, as a byproduct of copper mining.
Ely was home to a number of copper mining companies, Kennecott being the most famous. With a crash in the copper market in the mid 1970s, Kennecott shut down and copper mining disappeared (temporarily). With the advent of cyanide heap leaching—a method of extracting gold from what was previously considered very low-grade ore—the next boom was on. Many companies processed the massive piles of “overburden” that had been removed from copper mines, or expanded the existing open-pit mines to extract the gold ore. Gold mines as widespread as the Robinson project near Ruth, and AmSelco’s Alligator Ridge mine 65 miles (105 km) from Ely, kept the town alive during the 1980s and 1990s, until the recent revival of copper mining.
As Kennecott’s smelter was demolished, copper concentrate from the mine is now shipped by rail to Seattle, where it is transported to Japan for smelting. The dramatic increase in demand for copper in 2005 has once again made Ely a copper boom town.