Why Mining Matters to Colorado
Mining is tough business, but resilient and has statewide impact
The oil and gas industry receives a lot of attention in this state, but mining is historically significant and remains an important player and critical economic driver in Colorado.
The state has a rich history in mining that expanded as silver was found from the Front Range to the San Juans. In fact, Leadville came close to being named the State Capitol. Coal came next, and many areas of the state were settled by coal miners. Denver has been considered the historical center for mining in the U.S. ever since the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Today, there are 86 mining companies headquartered here, including one of the largest gold mining companies in the world – Newmont Mining Corporation. The industry represents some 57,000 direct and indirect jobs and a more than $7 billion contribution toward Colorado’s GDP.
Mining holds its own among Colorado’s top 100 publicly traded companies, including:
- Newmont Mining Corporation, which employs 30,000 out of its Greenwood Village office, serving as the only gold producer listed in the S&P 500 index
- Westmoreland Coal Company, an energy company out of Englewood with 17 coal mines across the U.S. and Canada representing the sixth largest North American coal producer
- Gold Resource Corporation, a Colorado Springs-based gold and silver producer
- Royal Gold, a Denver-based organization with a $5 billion market cap and is a leader in mining finance.
Mining is a diverse term and industry within our state. Colorado mining comprises precious metal mining – including gold and silver – mining for fuel extraction including coal and uranium – and for building material quarrying – including iron, gypsum and marble.
Coal mining, which is responsible for 60 percent of Colorado’s electricity primarily takes place in the northern and western parts of the state, while molybdenum – used in alloy steels to make automotive parts, as a high-grade lubricant and for important environmental and safety applications – is mined, when prices allow, in the central Rockies. Meanwhile, Cripple Creek boasts a world-class gold mine and there is also silver mining in southwest Colorado.
Mining also contributes significantly to our standard of living in the state. From flicking a switch and heating our homes with electricity, to an array of materials made from steel and concrete, minerals are found in many of the products we rely on each day and coal alone reaps benefits that are widely felt in everyday life. Your computer, stapler, clock, bike and kitchen appliances are all touched by mining.
The mining industry faces similar challenges as oil and gas. The coal and uranium industries are facing a perfect storm of aging infrastructure, environmental concerns and cheaper energy alternatives. Metal mining faces the need for massive capital investment and volatile commodity prices. Commodity price swings combined with a lack of public understanding of the benefits of mining make it an industry where owners and workers have to take the long-view. Mining may be a tough business, but it’s resilient and continues to be impactful in Colorado.
In the next installment of this three-part series on mining, we’ll explore coal in today’s political climate, including a review of the openings and closures of mines across the state, impacts on employment and infrastructure, and what this means for Colorado’s economy looking forward.
Paul Hilton is a partner at Hogan Lovells and Elizabeth (Liz) Titus is counsel also at Hogan Lovells. Hilton and Titus are members of Hogan Lovells’ Energy and Resources team, serving regulatory, litigation and corporate governance roles on behalf of mining clients in Colorado, nationally and globally.