Looking down the street in the St. Elmo Historic District, 1997.

National and State Register

The Mining Industry in Colorado

Mining was far and away the most significant industry in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Colorado and has remained important since that time.  The Pike’s Peak Gold Rush brought unprecedented numbers of people into the region and that in turn led to powerful social, economic, and political changes that brought about the creation of Colorado Territory in 1861, culminating in the admittance of Colorado to the Union in 1876.

Mining in all its phases remained the great engine of the Colorado economy until the early twentieth century.  The industry also contributed to significant technological advances and that, combined with the professional studies of all aspects of the industry, had powerful ramifications in the industry’s global expansion in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Though sometimes derided as a “mom and pop” industry and one of quaint ruins, mineral development in the Centennial State both reflected and contributed to the dramatic industrial and technological advances of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Moreover, the powerful advance of industrial metal mining, coupled with immense coal production, contributed immeasurably to state, national, and international development.

This document provides a basic historical overview of mining activities and related technology in order to assist cultural resource professionals, landowners and managers, and the general public in identifying and evaluating mining and mining-related properties in relation to the eligibility criteria established by the National Register of Historic Places.  The document focuses on the three closely related mining industries-precious and base metals, coal, and industrial metals.  The geographic area includes the entire State of Colorado, although mining activities, particularly of metal ores, occurred primarily in the mountainous western half of the state.  As the document’s title infers, the historic contexts relate to the business and technology of the major mining functions of extraction, beneficiation and refining.  The development of railroad transportation is also discussed, as railroads and mining grew, prospered, and declined in a symbiotic relationship.

The document develops four historic contexts:

  • Precious and Base Metal Mining Industry in Colorado: 1858-2005
  • Coal Mining Industry in Colorado: 1858-2005
  • Industrial Metals Industry in Colorado: 1870-2005
  • Mining Technology, Methods, and Equipment in Colorado: 1858-2005

The document defines eight property types associated with the four contexts:

  1.   Placer Mine
  2.   Hardrock Prospect
  3.   Hardrock Mine
  4.   Open-Pit Mine
  5.   Ore-Concentration Facility
  6.   Smelter
  7.   Coal Mine
  8.   Mining Settlement and Residence

Cover documentation accepted by the National Register on 9/18/2008.  

The following properties currently listed on the National Register are formally linked to this multiple property submission.