Mining plays a pivotal role for Colorado’s booming industry. Historically, mining has had some influence on social, political, and structural changes, particular in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, many don’t realize just how crucial mining practices still are to the welfare of Colorado’s economic health. What does mining in Colorado today look like?
As was the case in days gone by, mining practices contribute a significant amount to Colorado’s economy, but the natural resources exhumed from the rich earth and rock of this mountain state don’t just keep Colorado on the up, mining in the Centennial state also bears some influence to the world markets.
The people of Colorado have an almost symbiotic relationship with mining practices. When it prospers, we prosper. Let’s explore the time-tested connection between the landscape we call home and the industry that keeps it that way.
The History Of Mining In Colorado
Mining in Colorado may have become a booming industry, but it all started with the hopeful individual panning for gold.
The Real Golden State
Once the profitable gold strikes were established, those individuals spearheading the movement realized they could work more efficiently in small teams. And so, the small pans were abandoned, and long wooden sluices were crafted to take their place.
These teams of men then set themselves the task of locating the gold-bearing mineral veins snaking through the bedrock of the streams, marking the genesis of hard rock mining in the state.
As these early prospectors made gleaming discovery after discovery, it wasn’t long before word got out that Colorado was abounding with “the color”, enticing the first wave of settlers from beyond the eastern border.
With the sudden influx of miners arriving, the small teams of men quickly grew into full-blown mining camps, attracting the attention of grocers, hardware dealers, hoteliers… you name it. Slowly, but surely, what started off as a few tents and the odd log cabin adjacent to creek beds and ravines, became immensely prosperous towns.
So, as you can see, those small flecks of gold panned from the mountain water and silt were the seeds from which the entire modern mining industry in Colorado flourished, alongside some of the state’s proudest communities.
In fact, it was the miners arriving to capitalize on the gold rush that eventually led to the formation of Colorado as territory and its subsequent acceptance into The Union in 1876.
There’s Silver In Leadville
With the gold mining industry gaining serious momentum, a corporate structure was forming around it out of necessity, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the 1870 slump in the economy. Thankfully, a wealth of silver was discovered in the Leadville area, saving the state from economic devastation.
Coal Is The Key
The coal mining industry grew in tandem with the mineral efforts in order to keep locomotives running, factory machinery working, and the people of Colorado warm.
During the tail-end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, the Colorado mineral mining industry went into a phase of significant diversification.
A wide variety of precious materials, including lead, molybdenum, copper, marble, tellurium, uranium, aluminum, zinc, iron, gypsum, tungsten, radium, and titanium were being discovered and harvested from the now sprawling Colorado mining camps and towns.
What Resources Are Mined In Colorado Today?
Fast-forward to modern times and seven primary resources are mined from the Colorado landscape:
Coal is by far Colorado’s most abundant resource, and thus, is the most cost-effective way to keep the lights on across the state. As it stands, coal is responsible for over 50% of Colorado’s electricity.
Used to make things like cement, wallboard, and plaster, gypsum is indispensable in the construction industry.
Gold doesn’t just make fancy jewelry; it also plays a major role in the tech and medical industries.
This versatile material is used in all kinds of things, from car alloys to solid lubricants.
The Colorado streets you and I walk every day are partially made from limestone, as are all the major structures that make up the urban areas of our home state.
With uranium, a power plant can generate emission-free electricity.
Sodium bicarbonate is used in all manner of things, including, but not limited to, toothpaste, baking soda, and animal feed.
How Do We Reach These Resources?
Resources close to the Earth’s surface can be accessed via manual and mechanical excavation and surface mining, the three most common types of which are strip mining, open-pit mining, and quarrying.
Precious materials situated deeper underground can only be reached via tunneling using various mining technologies; however, no matter the depth of the resource, drill and blast mining is the quickest way to break ground and get the ball rolling on excavation.
As is suggested in the name, drill and blast mining involves using powerful drills and explosives to penetrate the surface rock and gain access to the resources beneath.
Mining In Colorado Today: How Does This Industry Impact Day-To-Day Life?
Without the formative impact of the mining industry, human settlement across the state of Colorado would be completely different. In fact, if the gold rush never happened, our proud state’s entire history would be rewritten. Even now, the mining industry shapes our lives in a number of ways.
A study carried out by the National Mining Association concluded that the mining industry has created upward of 57,000 jobs in Colorado. In many instances, the majority of a community will be employed and supported by a local mining company, and as mining jobs are some of the highest-paid industrial positions, they facilitate a high standard of living.
Mining often gets vilified in the media for having a negative impact on the environment, but all AMS operations are carried out with the deepest respect for the landscape and its inhabitants.
Did you know that mining activities only affect around 1% of Colorado’s land surface? What’s more, mining enterprises allocate millions of dollars a year to protect and stabilize the environment.
The Colorado mining industry contributes roughly $7 billion dollars to the state’s gross domestic product, and it ranks fourth of all the US states in terms of mineral royalty reimbursement. About 50% of these royalties are then pumped directly into the public school system, while mineral severance taxes help to prop up local governance and support safety initiatives such as avalanche prediction and prevention.
Not all mining is done strictly to retrieve valuable resources from the Earth. A lot of the projects we take on here at AMS are civil in nature. What is civil mining? Well, in a nutshell, civil mining is any facet of mining applied to the building of an infrastructural complex.
In other words, civil mining is all about working with public and private entities to develop structures, such as roads, bridges, tunnels, and sewer systems… any structures that will benefit a community at large.
The Future Of Mining In Colorado
Mining as a whole is on the verge of widespread positive transformation thanks to three trends: digitization, electrification, and automation. With these principles, mining can become even more…
- Environmentally Sound
… And here at AMS, we’re dedicated to leading the way into this bright new dawn.
Combining our rich, cultural, Colorado heritage with our professional expertise and modern technology, AMS will set the standard for all mining companies to come.
AMS Industrial: Finding The Worth In The Earth
Having worked with every commercially viable metal and mineral, no matter the scale or nature of a prospective mining project, AMS, a mining services company, has the resources and experience required to get the job done safely and to an impeccable standard.
Whether you and your team are in need of drill and blast services, mine rehabilitation/sealing, general rock excavation, underground development, equipment installations, tunneling, highwall work, or staff training, AMS has you covered. Contact us today, and we’ll move heaven and earth (well, earth anyway) to bring your plans to life!