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The Comstock Lode is Alive Again
by Harry Spencer
Aug 18, 2012 | 6845 views | 1 1 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy Photo
Comstock Mining President and CEO Corrado De Gasperis.
Courtesy Photo Comstock Mining President and CEO Corrado De Gasperis.
Life has returned to the Comstock Lode. The dormant hills of Virginia City and environs are now alive with economic activity.

This transformation recently began when Comstock Mining, quite appropriately named, began activity in the Gold Hill area. In addition to revitalizing Virginia City’s first industry, Comstock Mining is on track to make northern Nevada a significant presence on the international monetary system.

To this end, Comstock’s President and CEO Corrado De Gasperis will be the featured speaker at the 7 a.m. breakfast meeting of the NNDA Wednesday in Carson City at the Carson Nugget.

De Gasperis is an enthusiastic and eloquent speaker, whose background qualifies him to speak on the importance of today’s Global Gold Industry. His presentation is to include a discussion of the shifting global economy, strength of demand, scarcity of supply and most importantly the fiscal and monetary policies facing our economy today and tomorrow.

Comstock Mining itself is no stranger to the Comstock region. It has been acquiring properties on the Comstock since 2003. Since that time, the company has amassed the largest known repository of historical and current geological data on the Comstock. In addition to its mining activities, Comstock Mining has integrated itself into the area’s society by purchasing the Gold Hill Hotel and the Cabin in the Sky Restaurant. Also, it has sponsored numerous local events such as the famous Virginia City Camel Races.

For long-time residents, as well as the throngs of tourists, Virginia City and its history have been a magnet in northern Nevada.

I can recall my first visit to VC while attending the University of Nevada circa 1950, which incidentally is the date that active mining almost ceased in the area. Walking the steep wooden sidewalks of the historic town and going into the historic saloons and businesses is an exploratory treat that cannot be equaled anywhere else in the world. For me, the highlight of my first visit was seeing Mark Twain’s desk. During those early years there was a magnificent newspaper, “The Territorial Enterprise” published by bon vivant Lucius Beebe. I had the extreme pleasure in the late ‘50s of visiting Beebe and his partner Charles Clegg at their palatial home in Virginia City. The occasion occurred when Beebe invited movie star Marie MacDonald, who was appearing in the Skyroom of the Mapes, to be his guest for lunch. Reno auto dealer Doug Cloud supplied the new Lincoln to traverse the twisty Geiger Grade to VC. The luncheon itself was a sumptuous affair.

Over the years Virginia City’s main industry, like the rest of Nevada, has been tourism but with the current recession there has been a dramatic slowdown in the tourism industry. Comstock Mining’s current endeavors are set to breathe new life into the unique community. Because mining itself was the original creator of the entire state of Nevada, with its tendrils stretching far beyond Virginia City’s limits, it is more than fitting that mining should rise again much like the fabled Phoenix from the ashes.

As is usually the case, controversy surrounds Comstock Mining’s efforts. A group of residents of the area have been vociferous in their objections to the project. In spite of their continued obfuscation, Comstock Mining has secured the permits necessary for its initial endeavors.

As every Nevada school child knows, or should know, the story of the Comstock Lode is one of the most important in the history of the Silver State. As a matter of fact, its discovery around the time of the Civil War hastened Nevada’s statehood and created the state’s nickname “Battle Born” which incidentally is going on the helmets of the UNR football team this year.

Actually, as famous as it was, the glory days of the Lode lasted a mere 20 years, but in that short period of time it did much to create the much larger community of San Francisco. While Nevada became known as the Silver State, California because of the ‘49er gold rush became known as the Golden State. According to Wikepedia, the total product of ore extracted and milled in the Comstock District, 1860 to June 30, 1880, was 6,971,641 tons, and 640 pounds. Peak production from the Comstock occurred in 1877, with the mines producing more than $14 million of gold and $21 million of silver that year (about $270 million and $400 million, adjusted for inflation as of 2007 respectively). It led famous journalist of that period Dan De Quille to say, “The discovery of silver undoubtedly deserves to rank in merit above the discovery of the gold mines of California, as it gives value to a much greater area of territory and furnishes employment to a much larger number of people.”

Today, Virginia City still sports such major tourist attractions as Angelo Petrini’s Delta and Marshall McBride’s Bucket of Blood. These two establishments attract the majority of visitors to the mountain town that has been described as “The Liveliest Ghost Town in the World” or “The Way It Is--Is the Way It Was.” Despite the proliferation of hot dog machines, the town still retains a certain air of Western authenticity.

Virginia City probably attained its most recent fame worldwide when it was included in the TV show “Bonanza.” During the height of this production, which had its world premiere in Reno, the town was utilized for several special events featuring the top flight cast members of the show. Hoss and Little Joe had as much fun touring the town as the most wide-eyed Easterner. A host of special events, mainly on the weekends during the good weather months, currently provide the lifeblood to the area. Hopefully the attraction of the recently completed V&T Railroad from Carson City will further enhance the tourist experience. Economically, Comstock Mining could be the new engine that drives the local economy and extends tourism throughout the Comstock region.
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Don I Phillips
August 20, 2012
The Hills are alive with the sound of money, with songs they aint heered in a hunnered years!
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