Gold; 9.5 cm tall, from the Little Jonny (Ibex) Mine, Leadville, Lake County, Colorado, USA, in the National Mining Hall of Fame Museum collection. Photo credit: Mark Mauthner.


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A metallic mineral has a distinctive, shiny, metallic luster. Metallic minerals such as gold and silver are also economic minerals. They are valued as beautiful collectible pieces and also for their widespread industrial use. The early history of the state of Colorado parallels the history of metal mining and is directly tied to the first significant and documented discovery of gold in the summer of 1858. A party of prospectors discovered placer gold in stream gravel at what is now downtown Denver, near the confluence of the Cherry Creek and South Platte Rivers (Auraria). This discovery led to the first Colorado gold rush. “Pike’s Peak or Bust” was emblazoned on many of the ox-drawn wagons carrying optimistic prospectors across the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

At various times throughout its history, Colorado has been the leading U.S. producer of gold, silver, molybdenum, lead, zinc, uranium, and tungsten. Other metals that have been mined in Colorado include copper, tin, vanadium, iron, beryllium, lithium, rare earth elements, thorium, tantalum, and manganese.

Total Metallic Mineral Production through 1953

Gold 1858-1953 39,937,129 fine ounces
Silver 1858-1953 750,098,322 fine ounces
Copper 1868-1953 640,702,430 pounds
Lead 1869-1953 5,303,666,583 pounds
Zinc 1895-1953 3,326,405,985 pounds