The desire of local Mormon settlers for economic self-sufficiency led to mining by missionaries for lead at Potosí. In 1858, Nathaniel V. Jones was sent to recover ore from the “mountain of lead” 30 miles southwest of the mission at Las Vegas Springs. About 9,000 lbs. were recovered before smelting difficulties forced the remote mine to be abandoned in 1857. Potosi became the first abandoned mine in Nevada.
In 1861, California mining interests reopened the mine, and a smelter and rock cabins for 100 miners made up the camp of Potosi. Even more extensive operations resulted after the transcontinental Salt Lake and San Pedro R.R. (now the union pacific) was built through the county in 1905.
During World War I, Potosi was an important source of zinc.