Colorado has a great variety of mineral resources that society, both modern and prehistoric, has found useful or necessary for survival. Indigenous peoples mined clay and sand to use in house construction as well as to make pots and decorative items. Obsidian, chert, chalcedony, and other forms of silica were quarried in Colorado and used to manufacture tools and weapons 13,000 years ago. Hard, crystalline igneous and metamorphic rocks were used for grinding stones. Tools and weapons made from Colorado resources were transported to, and traded in, neighboring regions. The economic importance of Colorado’s mineral (gold, molybdenum,aggregate, sand and gravel, gypsum, nahcolite) and mineral fuel (coal, uranium) resources continues today. The total value of production in 2010 was $2.1 billion.

Coal Pit

Colorado’s most famous mines, and the cornerstone of the state’s pioneer history, are those that produced precious metals. When prospectors discovered gold in the gravel of the Cherry Creek and South Platte Rivers in 1858, the rush was on. The pursuit of gold is responsible not only for the development of many mines, but also for settlement of many new cities including Denver. Later discoveries resulted in metal mines throughout the mountainous areas of the state where gold, silver, lead, zinc, molybdenum, copper and tungsten were mined. More than 770 minerals have been catalogued in Colorado.

Remnants of Colorado’s gold mining boom near Nevadaville. Photo credit: John Karachewski.

Resources Presentation:
The talk “The Global Scramble for Natural Resources–Its Impact on Colorado” by the former Director of the Colorado Geological Survey, Dr. Vince Matthews, has been given to more than 35,000 Colorado citizens. The talk can be viewed online as a video, courtesy of the University of Colorado-Denver Business School. To download the updated PowerPoint presentation from the talk, click here. To download a PDF of the PowerPoint presentation, click here.