Where Have All the Mining Towns Gone?

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Train

As I sit in a beautiful Colorado setting, my view overlooks a wonderful little tourism town. The narrow gauge train leaves town every morning and I have the pleasure of listening to it chug along with the sound of the engine echoing through the valley and right up to my deck.

I love the US wild west history, the legends that made for interesting and formative times. I love how the country was created from this mix of fearless, smart people with incredible work ethics and an understanding of the land. I love the indigenous culture and the strength of a People who have faced many challenges. And I love old mining towns.

St Elmo, Colorado

For fun, Bill, my husband, and I will pop into little towns like St Elmo, dogs in tow, enjoying access to such beautiful places, thanks to our mining history in the United States.  Most places we enjoy (such as Aspen or Telluride) started as a mining town, mines that brought infrastructure to what eventually become tourist towns. These towns and the industry creating them built jobs, universities, hotels, theatres, trains, powerlines, all within a global powerhouse of an economy that produced goods and services for the country and the world.  It works that way because mines and resource extraction have the capital to build the infrastructure tourism operations could not afford, yet eventually benefit from.

It’s a fact many people either don’t know, or choose to overlook in its importance: tourism is often what the industry towns turn to when the infrastructure is in place and the high-paying jobs and high tax revenue industries dwindle away. Without this understanding of resource development, and development in itself, our economic prosperity, both as a country and as a citizen, is at risk. This risk can lead to a diminished standard of living and limited future opportunities in secondary economies like tourism.

As we fail to produce essential minerals we need, or fail to provide for ourselves, we give our power away to other countries that may or may not be our allies. We become dependent on others while also impoverishing our rural communities, eliminating our middle class and healthy pay cheques and tax revenue built on self-reliance as a nation thanks to our mineral endowment.  And sadly, we negatively impact our domestic security.

Aspen, Colorado in 1890

I could make this depressing and go down some rabbit holes about how this plays out, none of which are good. Or I can envision a country that I believe in, and that I believe can right this ship and provide for itself – from medicine to food to minerals to energy. I see a country where rural communities flourish, build technical jobs that create careers and families with high incomes. A country that enhances educational institutions that create the beautiful minds of tomorrow. We can be the fearless, independent, hard-working people like the ones who created this incredible country. And all possible from mineral extraction in a first world country with leading environmental practices, human rights and labour standards. In a country that created the world’s largest economy through hard work and ingenuity, it’s completely possible.

Full-powered mineral dominance. It’s why I work in this great industry and think more people should. Think about it… maybe a few tourism towns will come out of this too…


About the Author

Janet Sheriff

An innovative entrepreneur, Janet brings her extensive experience in all aspects of strategic planning, management, indigenous affairs and communications to start ups, new ventures and the mining & exploration sectors. Janet focuses her entrepreneurial spirit, leadership skills and vision to create new opportunities, award-winning innovative programs and new ways of conducting business. Her strong commitment to community engagement, sustainability and inclusion provides her the proven ability to work effectively and respectfully in cross-cultural environments.