Climax Mine may reawaken
Sunday’s paper carried a story that should have stirred the souls of a good many people in Summit and Lake counties. The news is that the rising price of molybdenum has the owners of the dormant Climax Mine on Fremont Pass thinking about a reopening.Molybdenum is employed to harden steel, among its many uses.The Climax Mine is often associated mostly with Leadville and Lake County, but in its day, many people in Summit County worked there and many of those old-, and not-so-old-timers are still around.In fact, the main mine lies in Lake County, but the tailing ponds sit in Summit. It took a court battle in the 1920s to determine exactly where the county line was. The result was huge property tax revenues accrued to Lake County.Three old Summit County mining towns lie under the tailings ponds, Recen, Kokomo and Robinson. Ten Mile Creek has its start in a water treatment plant at the tailings ponds.In its day, Climax was a company town with schools, neighborhoods, stores and even a car dealer. A ski area built on Chalk Mountain, across Highway 91 from the mine, helped pioneer the sport and the industry in Colorado.The town disappeared in the 1950s and 1960s as the mine transformed from underground tunnels to open pit. Many of the dwellings were moved to Leadville.When the mine started faltering in the 1980s, the economic effects devastated Leadville and Lake County, in particular. It finally closed in 1995, going into mothball status. Locals have always understood that the mine could reopen some day, depending on the price of molybdenum and the life of the Climax Molybdenum Co.’s other mine, the Henderson Mine in Empire over in Clear Creek County.The Henderson Mine has been running big ads of late to recruit workers.If molybdenum’s up, that means steel production is up. Fast-developing China is putting demand on the steel market, a fact that comes into play as the Summit County government strives to develop a medical office building next to the new St. Anthony Summit Medical Center.Jumping steel prices proved to be a difficult issue in trying to fix a price for the building, which has its groundbreaking today at 12:15 p.m. Local history fans would enjoy reading “Climax: The History of Colorado’s Climax Molybdenum Mine” by Stephen M. Voynick. If it’s not available in local bookstores, where you should look first, Google the title for on-line vendors.
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