The Last Operation at The American Eagles Mine
The American Eagles Mine, near Cripple Creek, Colorado, was one of my favorite operating sites. It was a Colorado landmark that moved from a productive gold mine to tourist attraction but in 2016 closed some of its historical sites to the public.
New mining operations has put some old historical sites off limits. The original gold mining was done using vertical shafts, now the mining is done in open pits that use explosives to break up the ore for gold extraction. They will drill 50 to 100 holes and stuff them with explosives and blow a whole hill side down.
Having unauthorized people in the area, especially ones with radios is not possible. The “Blasting Zone Ahead” and “Turn Off Radios and Cell Phones” signs are posted along the roads to the mine.
Gold was pulled from American Eagles mine from the time it opened in the late 1800s until 1940. Then, in 1995, the highest mine in the area at 10,750 feet was transformed into American Eagles Overlook and Historic Mine, and became a popular tourist destination.
When i was operating at the American Eagles Headframe, I could walk around the old wooden (60 foot high) structure and use it as a reflector because the steel elevator cables were still in place. Just to the north there was a fence that kept cars and visitors from dropping off into the 1500 foot deep open mining pit. (W0C/FR-135, Bull Hill, which is a little further up the hill maybe inaccessible for a long time).
Many of my Pedestrian Mobile radio operations there took place using my PRC319 Military Backpack radio and my handheld Elecraft KX1 Radio. My Antenna was a 10 foot center loaded foot whip and a 13 foot drag wire for 20 meters. The radios run on LiIon Cells.
In the fall there are wild raspberries that grow along the county roads around the mine, But you don’t want to be eating any of the berries growing below the ‘leaching ponds’. Actually, Cripple Creek has only 3 seasons: Winter, Spring (with snow showers) and Fall (with snow showers). It’s never Summer at these altitudes.
This is the area of the 1859, ‘Pikes Peak or Bust’, Colorado, ‘Gold Rush’. Today’s gold ore is scooped up and trucked to the crusher and then it is spread in piles over hundreds of acres, then a lattice of pipes over the ore drips a diluted solution of sodium cyanide (Na(CN)) into a ‘leaching pond’. As the cyanide leaches through the crushed rock, it dissolves all the gold it touches “like sugar in coffee.”
The solution (called gold mud) seeps to the bottom of the pond, hits a rubber liner and flows through a drain leading to the processing plant where gold is removed from the solution. Once the cyanide and gold are separated, the metal is melted down and formed into 80 pound ingots ($1,000,000 each).
Some years ago some of the employees were caught stealing 3 million dollars of ‘waste material’. They shipped it out of the plant in barrels for ‘additional processing’. Waste Water Engineering has a different meaning up here.
The story of the Mine is at: