Today, I thought we’d talk about another type of ore removal. Since a gold mine is normally thought of as a below-the-surface operation, we tend to think of mineshafts, elevators, and total darkness.
In reality, Cripple Creek District gold is just as likely to be found in surface material. Or, at least material that is easily collected at or near the surface. In Cripple Creek, the famous Molly Kathleen Mine, still in operation as a tourist attraction, began with a lump of Quartz found on the surface.
A lady named (are you ready for this?) Molly Kathleen Gortner went in search of the herd of elk her son had talked about. Stopping to rest, she looked at her feet and saw the rock. She knew enough about mining that if you found a piece of quartz that had shiny veins of gold running through it, you pick it up and stake a claim. She did, and soon became the richest woman in town.
The video shows a steam shovel (or bucket, depending on where you’re from) that was a tremendous improvement over backbreaking pick and shovel work of those early days in the 1890’s. It could be driven up to a hillside, and one person could move tons of material in no time. The equipment in the video is actually parked near the entrance to the Molly Kathleen Mine. From the looks of things, this steam shovel will still be there when you visit.
The active mines in the area to this day have resorted to this Open Pit type of mining. There is no danger of cave-in or elevator malfunction. Modern techniques consist primarily of explosives to blast sections of rock, then mechanical shovels to load it into trucks that haul it to a crushing mill. It may take tons of ore to produce ounces of gold, but this keeps the expense down so the mine can actually be profitable.
What aspect of mining most fascinates you?