Lode Mines

Gold and Silver Mining, Colorado

Gold and Silver Mining, Colorado, 1800

Another type of mining very different from placer mining or “panning for gold,” is called underground mining. This is the type of mining most people thinking of when they think mining: it's digging holes into mountains, underground tunnels and caverns. This is also called “hard rock mining” or “lode mining.”

Diamond Lode building in mountains, 1996

Diamond Lode Building in Mountains, 1996

After prospectors established placer mines all over Park County's gulches, they moved on to the more difficult mountain veins to plunge the depths for riches. Lode mining costs more than surface mining, and there are also significant risks to this method including a loss of air supply, explosions, and implosions.[1]

Mine shacks on Mt. Bross at Buckskin Gulch in 1971

Mine shacks on Mt. Bross at Buckskin Gulch, 1971



Like everyone who came West had hoped, gold was found in the lode mines. The first lode mine in the Alma district was located in Buckskin Gulch, and it was explored by local icon Joseph Higginbottoms, aka Buckskin Joe.[2] That first claim was called the Phillips Lode Mine. In the first two years, the mine produced $300,000 worth of ore.[3] That’s a lot of money even today, and in the 1860s it was an incredible amount. Once the gold had dried up in Buckskin Gulch, they moved on to quartz.[4] 

Paris Mill

Paris Mill

Paris Mine, also located off Buckskin Gulch, is another lode mine producing oxidized gold.[5] Off Mosquito Gulch, the London Lode Mine produced gold, silver, and copper. Magnolia Mine in Montgomery was well known for producing gold, lead, silver, and copper, but it also produced quartz, pyrite, and limonite.[6][7]

[1] Columbia University and Paul Lagasse, “Mining,” in The Columbia Encyclopedia, 8th ed. (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2018).
[2] Horace B. Patton, Arthur J. Hoskin, and Gurdon M. Butler, Geology and Ore Deposits of the Alma District, Park County, Colorado (Denver, Colorado: The Smith-Brooks printing, 1912), 149.
[3] Patton, Hoskin, and Butler, Geology, 149.
[4] Patton, Hoskin, and Butler, Geology, 149.
[5] Patton, Hoskin, and Butler, Geology, 174.
[6] Western Mining History, “Magnolia Mine,” Accessed on October 30, 2019. https://westernmininghistory.com/mine_detail/10215513/.
[7] Patton, Hoskin, and Butler, Geology, 226-227.