By Beth Dodd
The logo for Portraits of the Pikes Peak Region is a based on a line drawing of the Theresa Mine west of Goldfield, which was created as a gift for me by my dear friend Debbie Smith of Loomis, CA. The mine’s head frame, hoist house, and other surface structures date back to 1934, when the original wooden mine structures burned down and were replaced with metal buildings. The Theresa Mine and its associated buildings are clearly visible from County Road 81 through Goldfield, east of Victor.
Today the mine is part of the Vindicator Valley Trail System, which meanders through the original mining structures left from the hey day of the gold mining era in the Vindicator Valley. The towns of Independence and Altman once flourished nearby. If you visit the Theresa Mine today, a well-researched interpretive sign tells the history of the property. The mine began production in 1895 during the earliest days of the gold rush, just a short distance north of Stratton’s bonanza Independence Mine. The Theresa Gold Mining Company only operated for five years before being purchased by the Golden Cycle Mining Company, which later dominated mining operations in this part of the gold camp. As was typical of most mines, the Theresa changed hands many times as mine owners wheeled and dealed to maximize their profits. The Golden Cycle Mining Company sold the Theresa to the Vindicator Consolidated Gold Mining Company. In 1922, that company was purchased by the United Gold Mines Company, which later became part of the Golden Cycle Mining Company. Apparently, Golden Cycle liked the Theresa Mine so much that they bought it twice! Separate parties often handled the ownership and operation of mines in the gold camp.
The Theresa Mine was leased and operated by various managers, and sometimes lay idle for years at a time. For example, the mine was not worked from 1915 until 1930. Just before World War I, which the U.S. entered in 1916, gold prices dropped precipitously and stayed low throughout the 1920s until gold prices rebounded during the Great Depression. In 1930, a new lessee took over the Theresa. By that time the main shaft was 1,620 feet deep. To resume mining they had to re-timber tunnels through old stopes full of waste rock from the main shaft. They also retrofitted the original boiler and steam powered hoist with a 75 horsepower electric motor and compressed air. The improvements were short lived. The original wooden head frame and all of the other surface structures went up in flames in 1934. New steel buildings were erected in their place, and still stand today to be photographed and drawn by the locals and their friends. As gold extraction technology improved with time, the Theresa’s waste rock became valuable. In 1946, when gold mining resumed after being shut down by the government during World War II, the mine’s original rock dump was removed to be processed at the Golden Cycle Mill near Old Colorado City, probably on the Midland Terminal Railway. The Theresa Mine and many others closed for good in 1961.
New exploration at that time did not look hopeful, and the Carlton Mill was closing. The Carlton Mill, owned and operated by the Golden Cycle Corporation, had extended the life of many Cripple Creek District mines by pioneering the process of cyanidation for the extraction of gold. Then in 1980, the price of gold rose to a record $800 per ounce after free market gold trading resumed in 1975 after many years of the price being fixed at $35 an ounce. Active mining returned to the area. In 1981, the Theresa gave up its riches one more time, when more of the original waste dump rock was removed for heap leaching, the modern method of extracting gold from lower grade ores. Over all the years and through the ups and downs of the fickle gold mining industry, the Theresa Mine produced over 120,000 ounces of gold. That’s worth around $196.5 million at today’s gold prices, which in May of 2012 hit $1,638.00 per ounce. If you visit the Theresa Mine today, the rusting buildings creak and rattle in the wind, and only a few birds or the occasional hiker pass by. The hoists, cables, and hoist controls are still there, making it easy to imagine this ghostly remnant of days gone by as it once was, full of dust, motion, and noise as men worked to extract the wealth from the depths of the earth.