Thursday, January 25, 2018

Frosty January

January has been frosty, creating beauty wherever a person might look. I encourage you to click on the photos to look at them in detail. The second photo is of the clouds pushed up against the mountains (as seen from the overlook above town). In the third photo the snow was so dry and powdery. A person can actually see the arms of on the snowflakes. The fourth photo is of my ice plant in bloom during some of the warm weather. So nice to see flowers this time of year.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

A Fairy Census

It's been awhile since I posted about our Little Friends. But then, I think they are hibernating in these parts. I have heard rumors (via the Kitties, so who knows how true those rumors are!) that they are planning a development in the Spring. 

Back to the subject at hand....

There has been a Fairy census taken (wonder if my Little Friends took part?). The results can be read here! Or for questions answered or more information, go to The Fairyist.

Or to read abut the results of the census and other musings, go to Malcom's Musings.

A great source of information about those Little People can be found at this blog,  Living Liminally . In fact the writer of that blog released a book last year and has another scheduled to come out this year. And currently she is writing about Fairy Taboos to enable us humans to better understand and live side by side with them.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Newmont Mining Corp.

Newmont Mining Corp. will be mining here until at least 2025. This year they are planning on extracting gold from the place where it all started - Poverty Gulch. Loosening and breaking the rock apart is a key component in mining. And that process means that explosives must be used.
Globe Hill is the name of the bare round mountaintop. Poverty Gulch,
where the new digging is going to be, runs at an angle to the bottom right hand corner. The building at the left is the Visitor's Center. The dust in the air is from an explosion.
The ore in Poverty Gulch is the highest grade and in the highest concentration compared to other areas of the mountain. It is also the closest to town. Many of the residents on the east side of Cripple Creek (and on the west side as well) are concerned that the blasting may affect their homes. But modern day blasting is a far cry from the sticks of dynamite used a century ago. Today's explosives are dropped into a small, deep hole and then the hole is filled with sand. If it's done correctly, a person can stand in relative close proximity to the blasting hole and never know the charge ever went off.  Us? Not too concerned. Our house has been here 118 years and has seen a lot in it's time. I'm sure some of the dynamite charges set off during the labor wars rattled a few windows.

Playground, skatepark, & basketball court take up half a city block
(our blocks are about twice the size of normal) The Community Center
is behind the playground (building with wreath above door)
Newmont and the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine, like so many companies before them, contribute a lot to the local community. Generous grants are given to schools, museums, and the community center. The kids here have a fabulous basketball court, skateboard park, and playground.  A brand new adventure park complete with a bmx bike track, dog park, disc golf area and tons of state of the art playground equipment complete with a zipline! was just recently completed. Not too shabby for a small town.

This area has a tremendous amount of mining history. History which people travel from all over the world to come see. Newmont has recognized this fact and has done so much in trying to keep that history alive. A lot of the old mining buildings and ghost towns are on land owned by the mine. If mining operations threaten any of these structures, then they are moved and stabilized so people can enjoy them for many more years to come.

Altman backfill area with grass growing. 
Altman Backfill area with mine work on left side of photo and old headframe
Reclaiming the barren landscape is the final life stage of an area which has been mined. When the pit was first begun, bristlecone pines dotted the top of the mountain. Seeds from their cones were collected so that they might be used to grow young trees to reforest the mountaintop. Newmont is also working with a State University to develop a method to grow aspen from roots. Aspen are notoriously hard to transplant.  Areas which have been seeded - much like the road department will seed the side of the roadway - are constantly monitored for health and stability. But I have faith in the methods used by Newmont. This company won an award for its reclamation of an open pit coal mine in Nevada.

Young Bristelcone Pine trees.
Having the mine as a neighbor is not so bad. Our roads are in good repair and kept clear in stormy weather. Our town and other local institutions have many amenities that other small towns do not have. Of course, the casinos do play a small part in some of this. I will write about the casinos in the coming weeks.

Tours can be taken of the current mining operations. It's on the calendar for this summer.
***Yes. The aerial view of he mine does look like a SKULL!***

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine

I love my Mother Earth. And I have always seen an open pit mine as an abomination. And yet, I have willingly moved next door to one.  (click on pictures to enlarge - the photos do not capture the immense size of the equipment being used or the pits being dug!)

Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine seen from the sky.
The towns of Cripple Creek and Victor are marked.
Someone once said that until mankind quits devouring minerals like they were candy, mining and open pit mines will be necessary. A very true statement.

Gold was discovered in a gulch outside of Cripple Creek in 1890. Within five years the town had grown to 8,000 people. The neighboring town of Victor was founded in 1894 . By 1901, at the peak of production, there were 500 mines in the District and $77 million in gold had been taken from the ground. 

Gold production continued until it tapered off in the 1920's, with a brief resurgence in the 1930's. World War II saw a halt to all gold production. In 1995 , a new process of gold leaching was developed and extraction began again at the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine. But this time the ore wasn't coming out of shafts, it was being mined in an open pit. 

I am not going to give a lot of details about the early days of gold mining here in the District. That is a story for another series of posts. What I am going to write about is the modern day mining which is currently taking place just over the hill. The current owner of the Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mine is Newmont Mining Corporation, a world wide mining company.

Pit located on northeast section of mining area. This pit is now used for rock disposal.
An open pit mine is just what it sounds like. A great big hole in the ground that keeps getting bigger because of the rocks (minerals/ore) that are being taken out of the hole. Blasting (with explosives) is done which loosens the rock near or just below the surface of the ground. Large heavy equipment then takes out the loose rock to be processed. This process of blasting and hauling rock is repeated over and over until the ore is all extracted. Roads are built around the sides of the pit to allow the heavy trucks to drive down to the bottom.

This hillside is being stripped down to bare ground and will soon look like the photo below.

The gold found here is not in the form of a nugget or dust. It is found mixed in with other minerals and must be separated from these other components via a leaching process. The ore bearing rock is sent to a crusher then on to a mill for processing. Once the rocks have been milled down to a more manageable size,  they are then taken to a leach pit where the precious minerals are extracted. A diluted Potassium Cyanide solution is sprayed on the crushed gold bearing ore in the leach pit. The cyanide trickles down through the rocks, binding with the gold and silver. At the bottom of the pit are carbon filters which trap the cyanide/gold mixture. 

Leaching area
Once the gold and other precious minerals are trapped in the carbon, it is then sent to another processing station where the gold, silver and other minerals are separated from the carbon and smelted down into bell shaped forms called dores. These dores are then sent to a refinery in Switzerland so the gold, silver and other minerals can be separated.

The rock which has no mineral value is loaded back on to dump trucks and taken to a part of the pit which has already been mined. There the rock is dumped and the mountain begins to take shape once again.

Disposal pit with roads running around the sides.
Dump trucks can be seen bringing rocks to be dumped.

Dump truck bed now being used for a viewing platform near the disposal pit
We frequently follow tankers carrying potassium cyanide up the mountain road to Cripple Creek. Never see the gold shipment leaving the mine though. Wonder who's riding shotgun on that stagecoach?

On Monday, I will write about the new exploration going on at the mine and its impact on the local community. I'll also write about the community involvement of Newmont and the most important part of the mining process - reclamation.

Mountainside near disposal pit that has been reconstructed.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Truths & Misconceptons

Since moving to this quaint and quirky little mountain town, I have had many questions and  comments about various aspects of this area. Comments like, "Oh. You have electricity." or "You don't get mail delivered to your house?"

Cripple Creek seen from the overlook near Tenderfoot Pass
This post and several in the coming weeks will be written to enlighten people - especially those living in cities - about life in this small rural mountain town.

Electricity - Yes. We have electricity. In fact, Cripple Creek has had electric power since 1897.
Water - Yes. We have municipal water. Just like the majority of the people who are reading this. And yes, we have indoor bathrooms. Though the last outhouse was in use until the mid 1980's.
Internet - While we do have internet capabilities, they are not high speed. My internet arrives via a satellite dish.
TV - If a person would like a variety of channels (we only get two channels via an antenna), then a satellite dish is necessary.
Mail & Packages - Even though this is a municipality, we do not have residential mail delivery. A post office box must be secured to receive mail via the postal service.  (this has been one of the hardest things for people to wrap their heads around... go figure...)  Fedex and UPS do deliver here.
Streets - The majority of the streets in Cripple Creek are paved. But there are only two paved streets in the neighboring town of Victor. In order to pave streets, a city must have funds to do so. Victor does not have the funding nor the population to provide funds to pave streets. Victor has a population of 403 people. Cripple Creek has  a population of 1,175 people. Both of those figures were per the 2016 census.  

Weather - Even though we are located at an elevation of over 9400ft, the weather here is more temperate than most people think. Most of the weather systems arrive from the south and this brings us warmer, wetter weather than most places in the high mountains. We do get a lot of fog though. That's not to say that Cripple Creek doesn't get its fair share of snow and nasty weather. But those times usually occur in the Spring months.
Casinos - Yes, Cripple Creek does have legal gambling with numerous casinos located on the main road in town. No, this is not like Las Vegas. Victor does not have gambling. More on this later.
Gold Mine - Both Cripple Creek and Victor are located in an active mining area. This means that the landscape is subject to change. More in another post.

Stores - We have one convenience store, two gas stations, a hardware/lumber store, a medical clinic, a nursing home and a small grocery store here. Oh, and a Family Dollar store. There are several small touristy shops found here in Cripple Creek as well. The grocery store, while it is small, has everything that would be needed and the prices are really comparable to stores in the closest 'big city' of Woodland Park. I make a once a week trip to Woodland Park for groceries. There is also a library and school located here.
Commuters - Yes. Hubby is still working in Colorado Springs. There are quite a few people who commute from up here to Colorado Springs to work. He drives 48 miles into work and crosses two mountain passes. Less miles than many people elsewhere drive to work. It takes him less time than people commuting from the south side to the north side of Colorado Springs to go to work. He enjoys his drive - he says it gives him time to decompress from work and this is the type of traffic congestion he has now. 

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
If I have forgotten to address a topic, leave me a message in the comments or ship me an email! I will be expanding on many of these topics in the next few weeks. The first topic will be the gold mine. So stay tuned. Don't touch that dial!