Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Area reports: domestic 1978-79
Year 1978-79, Volume 2 (1978-1979)
Starch, Karl E.
Colorado, pp. 105-121 ff. PDF (2.2 MB)
105The Mineral Industry of Colorado This chapter has been prepared under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Bureau of Mines, U.S. Department of the Interior, and the Division of Mines of the State of Colorado, for collecting information on all nonfuel minerals. By Karl E. Starch' The value of nonfuel mineral production in Colorado was $649 million in 1978 and $826 million in 1979. These figures indicate a yearly continuing trend of new highs in the State's mineral industry production. The totals, however, are misleading as to underlying mining conditions. Much of the increase in value resulted from two factors, a general rise in prices and an increase in production of a relatively few commodities, most notably molybdenum. Generally, production of nonmetallics increased during this biennium, whereas that of metals, with the notable exception of molybdenum, decreased. A number of the State's most important base and precious metal producing mines were closed or reduced operations during the period. Colorado ranked 10th among all States in value of production of nonfuel minerals. Molybdenum continues to provide an increasing portion of this total; one-half to two-thirds of the total in recent years. Colorado, however, has a more diversified mineral resource than most other States: 24 nonfuel minerals are produced in the State, 10 metals and 14 nonmetallic minerals. In 1977, for the first time, the value of metals produced exceeded that of petroleum and natural gas. The value of metals produced was 70% of the total nonfuel mineral value produced in 1978 and 80% in 1979. Colorado was ranked first in the Nation's production of molybdenum, tin (a byproduct of molybdenum production), and vanadium (largely a byproduct or coproduct of uranium pro- duction); second in tungsten (also largely as a byproduct of molybdenum production) and carbon dioxide; third in silver and lead; fifth in gold; and sixth in zinc. Much of Colorado's copper, gold, lead, silver, and zinc occur together in some combination in complex base metal ores. Most of Colorado's metal production is shipped from the State to national and international markets. The number of people employed in the mining sector in Colorado, relatively stable for a number of years, has increased at a nearly 14% rate annually since 1974. This trend, continuing through 1978-79, marked 5 straight years in which the rate of employment increase was greater in mining than in any other employment sector. However, mining employment is only 2% of the total employment in the State, and much of the increase in employment in the past 2 years resulted from energy companies moving their headquarters to Denver, an activity representing an increase in office workers (in the mining sector) rather than in the actual, number of miners. The closing of several major mines in 1978 actually reduced the number of working miners in some areas of the State. In 1979, about 10,400 people were employed in metal mining in Colorado. The value of nonfuel minerals produced in Colorado was about $259 per capita in 1978 and $329 in 1979, compared with a national average of $90 per capita in 1978.
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