Monday, October 1, 2012


The Phoenix Gold Mine, down the road from Freeland and a “hop, skip, and a jump” up from Idaho Springs (or a 30-minute drive from Denver), sits at 8,200 feet in elevation, and is a working gold and silver mine owned and operated by third-generation hard-rock miner Alvin "Al" Mosch.
The mine's temperature hovers between 42 and 54 degrees F. year round, so it's a good idea to take a jacket no matter what month you arrive. Tours last between 45 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes, depending on how many questions you might have. It is a walking tour on a slight grade - no ladders involved - strollers and wheel chairs are permitted. For the enthusiast, the price of the mine tour includes a chance to try your hand at gold panning (gold pans provided) in the stream that runs through the mine property. There are also picnic tables and barbecue pits alongside the stream.
Originally discovered in 1871 by a miner named, appropriately, Miner. He, in turn, sold The Phoenix Vein to a Cornish miner who was said to have worked it until he was able to return home to England, a wealthy man.
In 1930, the mine was sold to a local real estate investor for $20.00 in taxes owed. The agent "salted" the mine by firing a shotgun loaded with gold into the dirt, and sold it to a family of two Minnesota farmers named Gunderson for $5,000. They went 30 to 40 feet further along the drift and struck ore. They continued down 100 feet and the vein was 11 feet wide, yielding a high output of 6 ounces of gold per ton of ore. In 1934, the government devalued the dollar, which raised the price of gold in the area from $20.00 to $35.00 per troy ounce.
In 1943, President Roosevelt closed all gold and silver mines to divert miners to mining minerals needed for the war effort. Mr. Gunderson was forced to close the mine in 1943, but did so as a very rich man.  After World War II, only a few mines re-opened. Gold was still valued at $35.00 an ounce but was costing much more, per ounce, to process. Small miners had a very rough time of it.
In the 1950's the mine was leased to three partners - these men swept the gold dust left in the stopes and tunnels and each man made enough money to buy himself a brand new Cadillac. It was not worked again until Al Mosch acquired the property in 1972, for that seemingly magic number of $5,000.00. At the time, he was working as a silver miner.  Al has since done a lot of "dead work," greatly adding to the original workings, creating tunnels, blasting stopes, installing support beams, laying track, etc.
Also seen on this tour are the tunnels and rooms of the Resurrection Vein. The Resurrection vein was discovered by Al’s teenage son in an outcropping of rock above the west side of the Phoenix tour of today. The Resurrection vein was mined through the original tunnel and led to the exposure of the High Grade ore found on the Phoenix vein, in the deepest part of the main tunnel of the tour. Al never mined the High Grade, which has enabled tourists over the past years to see just how the ore looks when it is still in the ground. The aqua-colored (from copper oxidation) vein is very evident in the ceiling of the Shaker Table and Ball Mill rooms.
Historical mining tools, ladders, milling equipment, buckets, emergency equipment and much more is on display throughout the tour. You will be able to see Gold, Silver, Copper, Iron Pyrite and Tellurium (Tellurium - the stuff they make solar panels out of - the lighting inside the Phoenix is all solar-powered), still in the earth.
"The Widow Maker"...a 150-pound compressed-air-powered, one-man rock drill that was just about guaranteed to kill its operator after three years of use (prior to the use of water to cut the dust that caused silicosis of the lungs).  GREAT tour guide!
"The Lucky Bucket" has stories of its own surrounding it, about hundreds of people who have rubbed, hugged, or kissed it, and had phenomenal good luck - we threw pennies in that day, but the 320 million dollar Lotto prize later that week eluded us.
Now, the fun stuff - those who know me, know that one of my silly self indulgences is my love for the unexplained or spooky.  I adore Stephen King novels and ghost stories; a good scary (not slasher) movie; and sitting in the complete darkness on a Friday evening, watching paranormal shows, which my husband rolls his eyes at and sleeps through. 
On the way out of the mine, my Mom (a very sane woman) quietly told me that she had turned at one point to see an old miner standing behind me in one of the tunnels.  The only persons on the tour (or in the mine at all) were my folks, me, and the tour guide...certainly no old miners.  Upon doing research for this post, I ran across the following, unexpected quote from a mining group..."In two of Al's mines, ghosts have been seen - most notably an old miner who has been seen by several people in both mines, as well as unexplained touches on the shoulder or hair, etc.".
And that leaves me with this final, ghostly shot from inside the mine, at the end of the tour.  This is the Shaker Table, which was used pretty much how it shake the gold from the rocks and debris when placed on it.  If you look to the right hand side of this photo, you will see one (ONE) glowing orb (I told you I watch the ghost shows - I tried to "debunk" this one, and can't)...the old miner from back in the tunnel?!!
I had taken photos throughout the entire tour, and not come up with flying dust specks on any of them, mind you (though conditions inside the mine would have been right, with the hard dirt floors).  This, and this alone, was the lone anomaly (ONE ORB - if it was dust there would have been more) I captured in all those dark tunnels.  Like I said before, this is my story, and I'm sticking to it...that's the old miner, right there!  I know it is...YOU know it is!
Something far less spooky...he'll be waiting for you, too.  If you want to take the tour, The Phoenix Gold Mine is open 10 to 6, daily...winter, weather permitting - Phoenix Gold Mine Website


Jackie said...

Wow! Cool stuff! I would love to pan for gold one day, it is on my bucket list! The orb is very spooky, thanks for my nightmare to night!

Anonymous said...

Good job Tony. Love you Mom

Colleen Mcgraw said...

Okay now I wanna go there:)

oldgreymare said...

well of course he would want to check out the pretty gal visiting him :D

Great story <3

Jody and Stan said...

Thanks for sharing your wonderful tour of the Phoenix Gold Mine. I loved it!


Dorthe said...

What an interesting post dear Tanya,
Old miner ghost or not, such a place must have sooo many things to tell, good ones and sad ones- and it must be so special to be down there,to see how it all worked back then!
Love the little fellow ,what kind is he :-)
Hugs from Dorthe

Bead and Needle said...

Dorthe - the little fellow in the bottom photo is a chipmunk. The photo up above (in the collage) shows both chipmunks and a ground squirrel...the ground squirrels have no stripes on their heads. XOXO Tanya

The Primitive Bucket said...

I see the orb!! And your mom did see him!! I believe there are there. We saw that ourselves at the cemetery!! Love you sis you go on such great adventures!!

vicki said...

Tanya -- what a great tour! How many people can say that they have been in a gold mine!!! Love the photos and truly love the little chipmunks!! That is some great photography!!