Colorado’s historic mining districts tell the tale of a state rich in precious minerals. From silver and gold to globally-ranked quantities of industrial minerals and coal, Colorado has a bit of everything. Geologists and miners recognized a broad area throughout central Colorado that contained many precious minerals: the so-called Colorado Mineral Belt. This region has produced much of Colorado’s mineral wealth for many decades, beginning in the 1800s. Prospectors came from all parts of the world to seek their fortune in the mountains of Colorado. When prices of minerals were high, mining hit boom times, creating large communities like historic Leadville, towns often disappeared after mineral prices fell or when mineral deposits were depleted.
Many mining-related structures stand as a testament to Colorado’s mining history. Some may be seen in towns such as Idaho Springs and Silverplume along Interstate-70. Mine tailings and spoil piles may be spotted covering hillsides throughout the state.
The prior CGS website hosted an extensive set of information on historical metal mining districts from across the state. We recently re-compiled that information into a downloadable data package and a GIS map:
ON-007-08D Historic Metal Mining Districts of Colorado (Data) – v20201112 — Includes a compilation of individual mining district reviews, organized by county, as well as GIS shapefiles of all districts.
ON-007-08M Historic Metal Mining Districts of Colorado (Map) – v20201112 — This GIS map includes the most current information for this project.
Four additional publications have sections on the particular historic mining districts in each county.
RS-37 Geology and Mineral Resources of Gunnison County, Colorado — Includes section on mining districts located in the county.
RS-40 Geology and Mineral Resources of Park County, Colorado — Includes section on mining districts located in the county.
RS-42 Geology and Mineral Resources of Lake County, Colorado — Includes section on mining districts located in the county.
RS-44 Geology and Mineral Resources of Saguache County, Colorado — Includes section on mining districts located in the county.
Colorado State Publications Library Annual Mining Reports — between 1893 through 1965 the State Bureau of Mines generated reports about the mining industry.
Mindat.org — the world’s largest open database of minerals, rocks, meteorites, and the localities they come from.
Russell L. & Lyn Wood Mining History Archive (at the Arthur Lakes Library, Colorado School of Mines) — established in 1995 through the generous donations of former Mines Board of Trustees member Russell L. Wood and his wife Lyn, the archive supports research on the history of mining, with emphasis on Colorado and the US West.
USGS Mineral Resources Data System (MRDS) — a collection of reports describing metallic and nonmetallic mineral resources throughout the world. Included are deposit name, location, commodity, deposit description, geologic characteristics, production, reserves, resources, and references.
USGS Prospect- and mine-related features on USGS topographic maps — a compilation of data points representing prospect pits, mine shafts and adits, quarries, open-pit mines, tailings piles and ponds, gravel and borrow pits, and other features.
Western Mining History — Contains a wealth of resources on mines across all western states.