Being only 30 miles from the Cripple Creek and Victor mining district, we decided to check out the gold mines, old and new. In the late 1800’s, Victor was a thriving mining community of 18,000, (with 48 saloons), but all the mines closed by 1961, leaving it a ghost town. Then in 1976, the Cripple Creek and Victor Gold Mining Company restarted surface mining in the district, and have been very successful, although the population of Victor is now only 455. Over 23 million troy ounces of gold, along with silver, have been recovered from the District since 1890. That’s a lot of gold!
The company offers tours of the mining operations during the summer months, so we got to see the inner workings. We boarded a shuttle bus at the museum in Victor, after watching a safety video and being issued a hard hat and safety glasses. The mine is just a couple miles outside of town, and we rode along the bumpy dirt roads to watch them work.
The mine operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with the employees working 12 hour rotating shifts. It was noisy, dust, and smelly from diesel, and we didn’t think it looked like a fun job, other than getting to drive these enormous trucks.
After they get their load, they take it to the crusher, where the rocks are crushed and screened, and then moved to the leach fields.
At the leach fields, huge sheets of plastic are laid down and then covered with the crushed rock. Using drip irrigation tubes, they apply sodium cyanide to dissolve the gold. Somehow the gold is recovered with a carbon absorption process (using roasted coconut shells), the gold-rich mud is taken to the refinery furnace to separate the gold and silver from any non-metal, then it is shipped off to be processed into pure 24 karat gold. I have to apologize for my photographer, who failed to take any pictures of the leach fields, which were really interesting looking, as were the views of the surrounding area. Guess he was so caught up in watching the operations that he left the camera in his pocket! If anyone is really interested, the CC and V website does a better job of explaining the process.
The last stop on the tour was at the shop and “graveyard”, where the old vehicles and tires go to rest. Jim had fun climbing around this old German-made 300 ton Euclid, which cost $2.6 million, has 12.5 ft tires, and stands 47 ft tall.
The tour guide said they are not very reliable, and as they die off are being replaced by 250 ton Caterpillars, which cost a bit less.
For $5 a person, this was an interesting and educational way to spend a couple hours. If you are so inclined after the tour, Cripple Creek is only 5 miles down the road, and has many casinos where you could waste a lot more than $5.