Gold mining in California dates back over 200 years and has been an important industry for the state. The Mesquite Mine was established in 1957 and expanded in 1986 as gold prices climbed and the mine is now one of the largest gold mines in the country. While geologists anticipated the mine's gold would be exhausted by 1999, improved extraction methods have kept the mine in production.
The mine is in the Mojave Desert, surrounded by a frail ecosystem. Consequently, the gold extraction methods, using cyanide washes, are carefully monitored using field samples, aerial photography, and satellite imagery. Additionally, plans are underway for a major landfill to collect waste products shipped from Los Angeles, 200 miles away. The landfill will be adjacent to the mine operation, increasing the need to monitor land use changes.
Landsat imagery acquired in 1982, 1987, and 2011 show the growth of the mine and the imagery provides an important tool for monitoring regional development.