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Mining Facts & Resources


Minerals such as gypsum are used to produce wallboard in our homes, cement from limestone is used to build our sidewalks, gold is found in computers and medical equipment, and molybdenum is used to strengthen steel in automobiles, and to help provide for a clean environment. Coal is the fuel source for most of the nation’s electricity needs. The mining industry is also one of the cornerstones of the American economy.

The United States is the world's second largest producer of coal and gold. The U.S. is the world's largest producer of clay, copper, gypsum, lithium, magnesium, phosphate, salt, silica and sulfur. Overall the U. S. produces 78 major commodities. Nearly 270,000 people work directly in mining throughout the United States.  Employment in industries that support mining accounts for nearly 3 million additional jobs.


Colorado has a rich mining heritage, beginning with the discovery of gold in 1859, and the industry in this mineral rich state continues to evolve, with the discovery and development of new reserves. Colorado’s present day industry is a modern, innovative, safe and environmentally responsible citizen that extracts a wide variety of minerals from the earth valued at more than $2 billion. The following minerals are produced in significant amounts in Colorado: Coal, gold, gypsum, limestone, silver, molybdenum, soda ash and sodium bicarbonate. A thriving aggregates industry (sand, gravel, crushed stone) also exists. When both the direct and indirect benefits of mining are considered, the industry in Colorado contributes about $8 billion to the state’s economy.

Colorado’s mining industry directly employs 12,000 persons in the mining industry and generates more than 46,000 jobs in related industries such as engineering, consulting, finance, transportation, geotechnical and utility services, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Colorado ranks 6th among the states in mineral royalty receipts; In 2008, the state of Colorado received $178.4 million in coal, other mineral, oil and gas production royalties, half of which are used to fund public schools. Mineral severence taxes support local governments and important state programs, such as geologic hazard detection and avalanche prediction and prevention.

Source: National Mining Association Facts About Minerals 2005; Leaming, Mining and the American Economy, 1999; Colorado Geological Survey Mineral Fuel Inventory Report (2004); Colorado Mining Association Survey of Coal and Mineral Producers (2004); Colorado Mining Association Survey of Coal Producers (2008).

Unique Facts About Colorado Mining

  • Colorado coal producers mined 29 million tons of coal valued at $1.1 billion in 2012. Colorado ranks 9th among the states in coal production.
  • Coal is the fuel used to generate more than 66% of the electricity consumed in this state. With an average BTU content of 9,900 to 13,100 BTU and average sulfur content of less than .53%, Colorado coals are among the highest quality, cleanest fuels found anywhere in the world. Most Colorado coals are clean enough to burn without washing or further preparation.
  • Two-thirds of Colorado’s production comes from extremely productive longwall underground mining operations. In June, 1997, The Twentymile Mine (now owned by Peabody Energy Corp) broke the world record for single month production, becoming the first operator to produce more than 1 million tons (1,001,401) from a single longwall system.
  • The most productive gold mine in Colorado’s modern history, the Cresson Mine, produced more than 258,000 ounces of gold in 2008. The mine is operated by a subsidiary of AngloGold North America, Inc. Colorado ranks 4th among the states in gold production.
  • Colorado is home to one of the largest primary producers of molybdenum in the world - the Henderson Mine and Mill operated by Climax Molybdenum Corporation, a subsidiary of Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold. In 2008, the mine produced 40 million pounds of molybdenum. Although molybdenum is traditionally used in alloy steels, the "moly" produced in Colorado is used in a variety of applications to protect human health and safety, as well as the environment. For example, products from the Henderson Mine are used in the manufacture of automobile safety air bags. Moly is also used to remove sulfur from crude oil, helping to provide for cleaner air and a cleaner environment. Colorado is the nation's second largest producer of molybdenum.
  • Denver, Colorado is the headquarters of the world’s largest gold producer, Newmont Mining Corporation
  • Colorado’s Piceance Creek Basin contains the only known source of natural sodium bicarbonate.
  • The largest titanium resource in the United States is located in Colorado.
  • The marble used in the construction of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came from the Colorado Yule Quarry.
  • Miners are the highest paid industrial workers in Colorado, with average annual wages of $98,250 in 2008. This is roughly double the average wage earned by workers in the private sector.


Most folks don't spend much time thinking about where their food comes from or what went into the manufacture of their houses, homes and computers, just to name a few examples. Yet the National Mining Association states that the average American consumes about 40,000 pounds of minerals each year. Many of these minerals are produced right here in Colorado and are used in everything from stainless steel sinks and cement sidewalks to cars and computers. A description of the minerals produced in Colorado and their uses follows:


Coal - is a very complex and diverse energy source. It is a combustible material formed from the remains of trees, ferns, and other plants that existed and died during the time of the dinosaurs. There are four basic varieties: lignite, bituminous, subbituminous, and anthracite. Most of the reserves in Colorado are of the subbituminous and bituminous variety, and are used for generating electricity. Coal is the most widely used, inexpensive source of electricity. It is used to supply approximately 72% of Colorado's electricity needs.


Gold - is used in dentistry and medicine; in jewelry and arts; in medallions and coins; in ingots as a store of value; for scientific and electronic instruments; for computers; as an electrolyte in the electroplating industry. Leading producers are South Africa, U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, China and CIS. The major gold producer in Colorado is the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company's (CC & V) Cresson Mine approximately 1 hour west of Colorado Springs in the historic Cripple Creek Mining District.


Gypsum - is processed and used in a prefabricated wallboard or an industrial or building plaster. It is also used in cement manufacture, agriculture and other uses. American Gypsum Company's Eagle Gypsum Mine in Gypsum, Colorado, produced approximately 620,000 tons of gypsum ore in 2004.


Limestone & Marble - Limestone is a rock consisting mainly of calcium carbonate, often composed of the organic remains of sea animals, such as mollusks, corals, etc., and is used as building stone, a source of lime, etc. When crystallized by heat and pressure it becomes marble. Colorado marble was used in the construction of our national monuments, including the Tomb of the Unknowns and the Lincoln Memorial.


Molybdenum - is used in alloy steels (47% of all uses) to make automotive parts, construction equipment, gas transmission pipes, stainless steels (21%); tool steels (9%); cast irons (7%); super alloys (7%); and chemicals and lubricants (8%). As a pure metal, molybdenum is used because of its high melting temperatures (4,730 degrees F), as filament supports in light bulbs, metalworking dies and furnace parts. Colorado molybdenum is used in the construction of automobile safety airbags and as an agent for removing sulfur from crude oil.


Nahcolite (Sodium Bicarbonate) - The “Green” Mineral. Nacholite is used in baking soda, toothpaste and food industries. It is Colorado's "green" mineral, used in industrial applications to protect the environment.  It is also used in glass container manufacture; in fiberglass and specialty glass; in liquid detergents; in medicine; and as a food additive, just to name a few uses. Colorado is home to the only pure sodium bicarbonate (nahcolite) deposits in the United States.


Silver - is used in photography, chemistry, jewelry; in electronics because of its very high conductivity; as currency, usually as an alloy; in lining vats and other equipment for chemical reaction vessels, water distillation, etc.; as a catalyst in the manufacture of ethylene; in mirrors; silver plating; table cutlery; dental, medical and scientific equipment; bearing metal; magnet windings; brazing alloys, and solder. Mined in 56 countries, silver's largest reserves are in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Peru and CIS.


Titanium - is a metal used mostly in jet engines, airframes, and space and missile applications. Colorado is home to the largest titanium resource in the United States, the White Earth Project near Gunnison, Colorado.


Uranium - is used in the production of clean, emmision free nuclear energy, which accounts for 20% of the electricity generated in the U.S.

Source: Facts about Minerals, National Mining Association

Did you know?

Did you know that mining is crucial to the tools of modern communication? Most modern electronic devices contain over 35 minerals.


In 2009, there were 9 active coal mines in the state, 6 surface mines and 3 underground mining operations. The state ranks 8th in total demonstrated coal reserves, with reserves estimated at 17.1 billion tons. Colorado coal miners earn top wages and benefits averaging more than $98,250 annually.



Total Coal Produced


29.5 Million Tons

Total Coal Sold in State


9.2 Million Tons

Out of State Sales


18.7 Million Tons

Number of Employees



Total Payroll & Benefits


$251.8 Million

Property Taxes


$14.5 Million

Severance Taxes


$13.9 Million

Black Lung Taxes


$19.1 Million

Abandoned Mines Fees


$4.5 Million

Federal/State Royalties


$58.1 Million

Total Taxes, Royalties, & Payroll


$390.5 Million

Total Value of Production


$1.129 Billion

Average Wages and Benefits




Source - Colorado Mining Association Survey of Coal Producers (2012)


Although the mining of gold, silver and other precious and base metals is a proud part of Colorado’s heritage, many are surprised when they learn that modern, efficient and environmentally sound mining of gold, silver, molybdenum, gypsum, uranium and vanadium continues, with some of these sectors producing at record or near record levels. Although the number of mines has diminished, the economic value of production remains significant. In fact, as demonstrated by the table below, the two most economically valuable mines in Colorado are metals mining operations. They are, respectively, the Climax Molybdenum Company’s Henderson Mine in Empire and the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Company’s Cresson Mine in Victor. Both are within a two-hour drive from Denver and are open and available for tours by the public (subject to availability and mine schedule - advance notice required). The preliminary estimate for the value of non-energy minerals and uranium mined in Colorado in 2008 is $2.155 billion.