Americans typically think of the Wild West when it comes to gold mining. Nevada is not only home to the gold and glitz of the casinos and luxury resorts that make up Las Vegas - Nevada is also the center of American gold mining.

More gold has been mined from Nevada during the last 50 years than all of the gold mined during the California gold rush of the mid-19th century. According to the United States Geological Survey, the Nevada Great Basin is one of the largest gold mines on the planet and accounts for approximately 11 percent of the world's gold. This continues to have a major impact on the country's history, modern economy and trade.

Due to their long history, the gold mines of fairly well understood. However, recent research conducted at the University of Nevada suggests the possibility of developing a new model for mining Nevada's gold reserves and finding new mine locations.

The gold deposits in Nevada are known as Carlin-type deposits. In Carlin deposits, fine pieces of gold are attached to large pyrite slabs. Researchers are attempting to better understand how Carlin deposits form so that the gold can be found and mined more efficiently.

"Understanding how these deposits formed is important because most of the deposits that cropped out at the surface have likely been found. Exploration is increasingly targeting deeper deposits... This could lead to identification of potential new areas of discovery," explains a University of Nevada geologist, John Muntean.

Having a better understanding of how Nevada gold mines form, researchers and miners might have better access to the mines and a leg up on the constant search for gold.