The Smuggler Mine, a silver mine with a 133-year history in Aspen, CO is up for sale for $9.5 million. The Aspen Times reported that while the property still includes an estimated 807 kt (890,000 st) of ore, it might be its location near the ski town that is as of much value.
The property includes two side-by-side developable lots with expansive views of town and Aspen Mountain.
Chris Preusch is president of New Smuggler Mining Corp., a group of seven partners who are only the third owners of the Smuggler Mine in its 133-year history. They are all longtime locals and some of them have been actively involved for decades in continued low-key mining operations and giving tours through a small section of the many tunnels.
The 12 ha (29.7-acre) site consists of the 3.9 ha (9.7-acre) mine site and two 4 ha (10-acre) lots to the northwest.
While the formal subdivision process has not been done, each site could accommodate a home of up to 4,500 m (15,000 sq ft) with the purchase of transferable development rights (TDRs), under the Pitkin County code, according to listing broker Matt Holstein. The property is outside of the city limits; the county allows the larger homes through the purchase of TDRs, which sever development rights from remote properties elsewhere.
However, Preusch told The Aspen Times that he hopes that a buyer will embrace the mine’s historic significance and allow its longtime stewards to continue offering Smuggler tours to schoolchildren and the general public. There’s long been a dream for a small museum at the site, as well, he said.
The mine site is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is actually only the tailings piles that are designated as historic. The buildings and equipment have been collected from around Aspen and elsewhere over the years.
While Aspen as a whole was a major player in the production of the world’s silver in the late 1800s, it was the Smuggler that produced the world’s largest silver nugget. Taken from the mine in 1894, the giant chunk of nearly pure silver weighed 834 kg (1,840 lbs).
It was the 1893 repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which mandated silver purchases by the U.S. government, that led to the silver bust.
The repeal of the Silver Purchase Act deflated the value of the nugget, when it was extracted a year later, but the history of the nugget led to the Smuggler’s listing on the historic register.
Other material that came from the Smuggler led to the mine’s listing as a Superfund site almost a century later. The mine, and a lot of surrounding land beyond the mine’s present borders that was affected by the Superfund designation, have since been delisted by the Environmental Protection Agency. Much of the area, on Aspen’s east side, has long been developed with residences, Holstein noted.
Meanwhile, mining can still occur at the Smuggler on a limited basis. The New Smuggler Mining Corp. holds an exploration permit for work in the mountain, and posted a bond to clean up the site should operations under the permit cease. That could occur, resulting in the disappearance of all but the tailings piles, if that’s what a buyer wants.