Mining in Colorado: Past, Present, and Future

The mining industry plays a significant role in Colorado and remains an important and critical economic driver in the state. In order to understand its significance better, let’s look at the history of this industry, and how it has been changed throughout the decades.  


The history of mining in Colorado started with the Colorado Gold Rush, originally known as the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. It began in 1858 and became the second largest mining rush in the country after the Golden rush in California a decade earlier. Approximately 100,000 people participated in the Pikes Peak Gold Rush and were cold “Fifty-niners” as a reference to the year 1859 when the Colorado Rush reached its peak. The starting mining in Colorado at the end of the 19th century was accompanied by the dramatic flow of immigrants into the region. This led to the creation of many cities, including Denver and Boulder, and many other small mining towns, many of which became ghost towns. To haul gold from the mountains the railroad lines were built, which had a positive impact on the economy of the state.  
The second mining boom occurred in 1878 when the silver was discovered in the town of Leadville. By 1880 the population of the town had jumped to 40,000 and turned Leadville in one of the major mining districts in the United States.  


Today mining remains one of the most important industries in Colorado. There are 86 mining companies headquartered primarily in Denver with over 57,000 direct and indirect jobs and almost $7 billion contribution to the state’s GDP. 

The biggest mining companies in Colorado at the moment are Newmont Mining Corporation, Westmoreland Coal Company, Gold Resource Corporation, and Royal Gold.  

Mining in Colorado comprises precious metal mining (gold and silver), mining for fuel extraction (uranium and coal), and mining for building material quarrying (marble, iron, and gypsum). All minerals are mined in different parts of the state: coal – in Northern and Western parts, iron – in the central Rockies, gold – in Cripple Creek, and silver – in Southwest Colorado.  

There are though certain issued faced by mining in Colorado. The uranium and coal mining industries, for example, are facing challenging of aging infrastructure, more affordable energy alternatives, and environmental concerns. As for metal mining, it is currently in need for massive capital investment. Though mining is believed to be a tough business, it still remains important and impactful in Colorado.  


The future of mining Colorado remains promising. With 10 of the nation’s 100 largest natural gas fields and 3 of its 100 largest oil fields, Colorado continues to expand the production of oil and gas year after year. Moreover, Colorado has enormous deposits of oil in the western part of the state with about one trillion barrels of oil. If mined, this will be equivalent to the entire reserves of oil in the world. Also, Colorado is the top state for coalbed methane reserves with nearly 30% of the national total. This all proves that Colorado has a very bright mining future. 

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