There are a number of creative uses for closed or abandoned mines around the world and now, for the first time, a former Superfund clean up site will be repurposed.
The Argo Tunnel and mill in Idaho Springs, CO will get a new lease on life as a tourist attraction that developers hope will provide an economic renewal while also preserving the areas mining heritage.
“We want to be an economic engine. We want to help Idaho Springs be that hub again,” said Mary Jane Loevlie, the founder of Idaho Springs-based Shotcrete Technologies, who last year bought the Argo Gold Mine and Mill with a group of six investors told the Denver Post.
Their plan is to build a 160-room luxury hotel and convention center discretely built into Rose Gulch and flanked by a dozen cabins abutting 400 acres of trailed open space.
While the plans call for a modern buildings, the areas rich mining history will also be kept as part of the attraction for the town that has been a mining hub since 1859 when gold was first discovered in Clear Creek.
Until 1943, the town was an epicenter of Colorado’s gold rush, with the Argo Tunnel and Argo Mill at the middle of it all. The tunnel, an engineering marvel to this day, stretched more than 4 miles to access more than 250 miles of mine shafts. The tunnel drained water from the mines and rumbled with ore carts that fed the Argo Mill. The mill’s steam, electric and compressed air-powered machinery ground ore into powder, processing more than 300 tons a day. Those machines defined mining technology and techniques for decades.
Then one day in 1943, tunneling workers tapped a vein that sent acidic water cascading into Clear Creek, a massive rupture that flooded the tunnel, closed the mill and pretty much ended hard-rock mining in Idaho Springs.
The 400-mile drainage basin of Clear Creek was named a Superfund site in 1983, and since the early 1990s, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment and the Environmental Protection Agency have spent about $1 million a year operating the Argo Tunnel Water
Treatment Plant at the mouth of the tunnel, filtering and treating about 300 gallons a minute of tainted water still flushing from the tunnel.
For a complete report, including an interactive video of the project visit the Denver Post.