Frisco Historic Park unveils mysteries of Climax Mine mineral Molybdenum |

Frisco Historic Park unveils mysteries of Climax Mine mineral Molybdenum

Breeana Laughlin
Breeana Laughlin/

As many as 150 claims were staked in the Climax Mine area when miners realized the value of the once mysterious mineral molybdenum.

Molybdenum was first discovered during the Leadville Silver rush of 1879 by Charles J. Senter, a Civil War veteran, Indian fighter, mule skinner and prospector, said Tom Randolph, a local historian and former Climax employee.

The dense, silver-colored metal is primarily used for alloying steel, Randolph explained to a crowd of more than 50 people at Wednesday’s lunchtime lecture “History of the Climax Mine in Colorado,” at the Frisco Historic Park and Museum.

At certain points in the mine’s history, it was surrounded by a fence and armed guards. It once housed a full-blown bomb shelter. Climax was also a town, which in 1953 featured 73 homes, a baseball diamond and an ice rink, Randolph said.

The historian also highlighted the background and landmarks of the Climax Mine from the time it was first discovered until 1986.

Frisco Historic Park and Museum director Simone Belz said she’s been impressed with the caliber of professionals and hobbyists who’ve presented a variety of historic tidbits that have shaped Summit County through the lecture series this summer, as well as the turnout of local visitors who have come to watch their presentations.

“We’ve been averaging about 70 people per lecture. It’s been wonderful,” Belz said.

Wednesday’s speaker Randolph is a longtime Frisco resident who worked at the Climax Mine. He has been involved with the museum for about a decade, helping museum staff with everything from the design of the train diorama, to collecting oral histories from longtime residents, to presenting the lecture on Wednesday, Belz said.

The mine first started to take off in the first part of the 20th century, Randolph told the audience during his presentation.

The Germans were using molybdenum to alloy steel as they built up for World War I, he said. When their supply in Norway dwindled, they caught wind of the Climax supply and began shipping it back to their country under the name American Metals, he said. When the United States got involved in the war, they decided to cut off the shipments to Germany and use it themselves, according to the local historian.

In 1957, Climax was the largest molybdenum mine in the world, he said. From the mine’s inception to the time it closed in 1986, there were 81 fatalities directly related to mining, Randolph said, including five who were killed in an explosion while he was an employee.

The mine was booming in the 1970s, he said. In 1976, the annual value of ore that came out of the mine totaled $4 billion. That same year, the single-day maximum amount of material was extracted from the mine — 51,133 tons, he said.

There are two more opportunities to join the Frisco Historic Park’s Lunchtime Lecture Series. Next Wednesday Bob Schoppe will present “Railroads of Summit County.” The final museum-sponsored presentation will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 28 when Sandie Mather will present “Dillon, Denver and the Dam.”

“We’ve been lucky to have the caliber of people who have this passion and are willing to come share it,” Belz said.

Lectures are free and held at noon in the Frisco Historic Park and Museum located at 120 Main St. in Frisco.

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