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Participants in the Pike's Peak Gold Rush from 1858 to 1861 were called Fifty-Niners, and many of the new arrivals settled in the Denver area. Gold in paying quantities was also discovered in the Central City area. In 1879, silver was discovered in Leadville, resulting in the Colorado Silver Boom.
Many early mining efforts were cooperative ventures. However, as easy-to-reach surface deposits played out, miners increasingly turned to hard rock mining. Such industrial operations required greater capital, and the economic concept of mineral rights resulted in periodic conflicts between the mine owners, and the miners who increasingly sold their labor to work in the mines.
As the mines were dug deeper, they became more dangerous, and the work more arduous, creating the conditions for conflict. In 1880, Colorado Governor Pitkin, a Republican, declared martial law to suppress a violent mining strike at Leadville. In the 1890s many Colorado miners began to form unions in order to protect themselves. The mine operators often formed mine owners' associations in response, setting up the conditions for a conflict. Notable labor disputes between hard rock miners and the mine operators included the Cripple Creek strike of 1894 and the Colorado Labor Wars of 1903-04.
Coal mining in Colorado began soon after the first settlers arrived. Although the discovery of coal did not cause boom cycles as did the precious metals, the early coal mining industry also established the conditions for violent confrontations between miners and mine owners. The usual issues were wages, hours, and working conditions, but miners were also concerned about issues of fairness, and company control over their personal lives. Early coal mining in Colorado was extremely dangerous, and the state had one of the highest death rates in the nation. During the three decades from 1884 to 1914, more than 1700 men died in Colorado's coal mines. Coal miners also resented having to pay for safety work such as timbering the mines, and they were sometimes paid in scrip that had value only in the company store, with the cost of goods set by the company.
A strike in 1913 resulted in the 1914 Ludlow massacre. Another coal strike in 1927 is best known for Colorado's first Columbine massacre. In 1933, federal legislation for the first time allowed all Colorado coal miners to join unions without fear of retaliation.
Like all resource extraction, mining is a boom or bust industry, and over the years many small towns were established, then abandoned when the ore ran out, the market collapsed, or another resource became available. There were once more than a hundred coal mines in the area north of Denver and east of Boulder. The mines began to close when natural gas lines arrived. Coal and precious metals are still mined in Colorado, but the mining industries have changed dramatically in recent decades.
Reports of the revival of molybdenum mining in 2007 resulted in ambivalent responses with Leadville welcoming the opening of the mine at Climax, but strong opposition in Crested Butte over proposed operations at Mount Emmons Opinion in Rico, site of the Silver Creek stockwork Molybdenum deposit is more divided. There, land slated for development is being bought up by a mining company.
Today there are many small mining towns scattered throughout Colorado, such as Leadville, Georgetown, Cripple Creek, Victor, and Central City. Although many of the mines no longer operate, the remnants of the operations can be seen in the form of mine shafts, outbuildings, and mounds of rock extracted from the hills. Many former mining towns turned to gambling to draw visitors, with Blackhawk and Cripple Creek serving as good examples.
This photograph was taken at Devil's Backbone in Loveland,CO
December 1st, 2012
Viewed 171 Times - Last Visitor from Loveland, CO on 07/17/2014 at 7:17 PM
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