FEATURE COVERAGE

Thu
04
Oct

THE MINE NEXT DOOR: PART 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Mine, New Tricks

Prospecting for Innovation at the Idarado Mine

Part 10 in “The Mine Next Door” Series

by Samantha Tisdel Wright

The mining camps of the San Juans were the innovation boot camps of the late 1800s – the Silicon Valley of their time. The mountains, and the mines, were full of challenges looking for solutions.

Some of the most distinguished innovators of the era came here to solve them – from Otto Mears, the “Pathfinder of the San Juans”, to Lucien Nunn, Nicolai Tesla and George Westinghouse, the founders of the Ames Power Plant and AC electricity.

The old-school miners whose names have been lost in time were brilliant innovators too, solving problems on the fly with their wits, their brawn, and whatever tools they had on hand.

Thu
04
Oct

THE MINE NEXT DOOR: PART 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like Water for Power
Building Bridges (and Pipelines) at Bridal Veil Falls

Part 9 in The Mine Next Door series

by Samantha Tisdel Wright

Thu
04
Oct

THE MINE NEXT DOOR: PART 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Legacy of Land
… And Other Perks of Having a Mining Giant in Your Back Yard

Part 8 in “The Mine Next Door” Series

by Samantha Tisdel Wright

Just past a tight S-curve at mile post 82 on Red Mountain Pass – up above Idarado’s old company houses – there’s a little hill that the Idarado Mine blasted flat for a scenic overlook.

If you go up there on a quiet autumn day, you can almost imagine Fred Searls, Jr., Fred Wise and Johnny Wise standing off to one side, hands stuffed in pockets, peering out at the remnants of the mine they helped spawn all those years ago.

Back in the 1940s and ‘50s, Idarado’s founding fathers bought up thousands of acres’ worth of historic mining claims in the Red Mountain and Telluride area and stitched them together into the biggest mine that ever existed in the San Juan Mountains.

Thu
04
Oct

THE MINE NEXT DOOR: PART 7

 

 

 

 

 

Windows in Time
Historic Preservation at the Idarado Mine

Part 7 in The Mine Next Door series

By Samantha Tisdel Wright

Master carpenter Loren Lew balanced on the steep, ramshackle roof of the old Lewis Mill, chainsaw in hand, on a summer morning in 2002. His mission: to stabilize this marmot high-rise at the head of Bridal Veil Basin, even as it was falling apart in slow motion all around him.

So little time, so many of these old mining relics worth preserving.

“Where do we start?” Lew wondered out loud. The time-varnished building popped and creaked its inscrutable response. There was no instruction manual for a project like this. No safety net to catch Lew if the beam he stood on collapsed from rot.

Thu
04
Oct

THE MINE NEXT DOOR: PART 6

 

 

 

 

 

Grass on Gray Mountain

Adventures in Tailings Remediation

by Samantha Tisdel Wright

Every workday morning back in the 1970s, Joe Smart would kiss his wife and little son goodbye, step out into the bracing dawn, and tune his ear to the rhythm of the Pandora Mill, a mile and a half up the valley from his company house in Telluride.

As long as he could hear the tick-tick-tick-tick-tick of the big gray mill’s powerful vacuum pumps, that meant it would be a good day.

“But if the mill wasn’t running, I knew it wasn’t gonna be a good day,” Smart said. “Everybody would be scurrying to get the mill back running.” Every minute the mill was down, the Idarado Mine lost money. Muck-bound ore. Idle miners. Cranky bosses. Empty con trucks. Not a pretty picture.

Fri
10
Aug

THE MINE NEXT DOOR: Part 5

 

 

 

 

 

A Tale of Two Watersheds

by Samantha Tisdel Wright

Deep inside the guts of the San Juan Mountains, thousands of feet beneath the ragged ridge line that parts the mighty San Miguel and Uncompahgre river watersheds, two headlamps bobbed along like buoys in an inky sea – Alfred Berry in front, George Cappis right behind him – on the abandoned 2000 level of the Idarado Mine.

The year was 1991. Idarado was proactively working on mine closure, even before the Redial Action Plan that would ultimately guide that closure was negotiated and signed. A skeleton crew on a shoestring budget did the dirty, dark and dangerous work of re-activating the long-neglected underground workings, to make them safe for future closure activity.

Fri
10
Aug

THE MINE NEXT DOOR: Part 4

 

 

 

 

It’s a RAP
The Battle over Idarado’s Reclamation

by Samantha Tisdel Wright

Locals called it the Toxic Twinkie.

By the time the Idarado mine shut down in 1978, the enormous loaf-shaped mound of tailings at the edge of Telluride – otherwise known as the Number 6 tailings pile – had taken on a life of its own in the town’s collective consciousness.  

On gusty days, 20-foot-tall dust devils lifted off the tailings and swept through town, inspiring KOTO (Telluride’s local radio station) to broadcast “tailings alerts” warning town residents to take cover. No one really knew what was in that dust, or what it might do to them when they breathed it in.

Some folks joked (and perhaps secretly fantasized) that the Toxic Twinkie would roll out of town one day of its own accord, like a giant jellyroll filled with slime.

Fri
10
Aug

THE MINE NEXT DOOR: Part 3

 

 

 

 

Snow is the New Gold
Telluride’s Transition from Mining to Skiing

by Samantha Tisdel Wright

In a small upstairs room at the Telluride-Miners-Hospital-turned-Historical-Museum, Bill Mahoney’s first skis are mounted to the wall, convalescing like stout wooden soldiers beside a window that looks out over the ski area he helped create.

The next room over, a handful of Mahoney’s mineral specimens sparkle inside a glass case. Tidy little cards identify what they are, where he found them – mostly deep within the Idarado Mine.

Fri
10
Aug

THE MINE NEXT DOOR: Part 2

 

 

 

 

 

Miles of Tunnels

by Samantha Tisdel Wright

A Brief History of the Idarado Mine

The history of the Idarado Mine is as long the tunnels and as rich as the ore veins that riddle its guts. Its stories are stoked by volcanic tantrums, and sculpted by the winds of history that blew Americans across the West.

How far back do you want to go – World War II? Manifest Destiny of the 1800s? Dominguez and Escalante in 1776? The Tertiary period 35 million years ago, with its great belching supervolcanoes and collapsed calderas that spawned the fabled ore bodies of the San Juan Mountains?

All had a role to play in the rise of the largest mining operation that ever existed in the San Juans.

The Big Bonanza

Fri
10
Aug

.THE MINE NEXT DOOR: Part 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Samantha Tisdel Wright

Getting to know the Idarado Mine is a little bit like that poem about the blind men and the elephant. Depending on which part of the elephant each man encounters, he declares it to be a wall, a tree trunk, a spear, a fan, a snake – never grasping the whole animal for its bewildering array of parts.

Likewise, it’s hard to imagine that the scattered remnants of the Idarado Mine could possibly all belong to the same being:

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