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Leadville District, Lake Co., Colorado, USA

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A former Ag-Zn-Au-Pb-Cu-Mn-Fe-S-Bi-Cd-V-W mining district. The district extends from Leadville East to the crest of the Mosquito Range and from Canterbury Hill and Prospect Mountain on the North to Empire Gulch on the South. It includes about 30 square miles, mostly in T9S, R79 & 80W. The most intensely mineralized area lies immediately East of Leadville and covers about 8 square miles. Operated during the period 1860 to 1999. Coordinates provided by the USGS MRDS database are to the approximate center of the district.

NOTE: Alternate names for this district include: Empire District; California District; Evans District; Iowa District.

At today's metal prices (2006), Ag, Zn, Au, & Pb are the main products of the district; Cu is a byproduct. Manganiferous iron ore was used in steelmaking; iron-silver and iron-manganese-silver ores were produced for smelter flux. Bi & Cd were recovered as byproducts of smelting. Pyrite was used to make sulfuric acid. Tungsten minerals (in one orebody) and vanadium minerals are reported but have not been recovered.

Mineralization is comprised of replacement deposits (Deposits data: Model code 72; USGS model code 19a; Deposit model name: Polymetallic replacement; Mark3 model number 47;; Model code 56; USGS model code 17a; Deposit model name: Placer Au;; Model code 224; USGS model code 32a; BC deposit profile E12; Deposit model name: Mississippi Valley, S.E. Missouri Pb-Zn; Mark3 model number 42) hosted in rocks of the Curtis Formation (dolomite). The host rocks include Proterozoic Sawatch Quartzite; Cambrian Peerless Shale; Cambrian Manitou Dolomite; Ordovician Parting Sandstone; Devonian Dyer Dolomite; Devonian Gilman Sandstone; Late Devonian Leadville Dolomite; Mississippian Belden Formation black shale; Pennsylvanian Minturn Formation arkose; Pennsylvanian porphyry (Pando, Lincoln, Evans Gulch, Sacramento, Johnson Gulch, rhyolite, and fragmental porphyries). Associated rocks include Tertiary St. Kevin Granite. Gangue contains manganoan siderite (manganosiderite). Local alteration includes silicification & sericitization. Local rocks include Laramide intrusive rocks.

Major minerals in each of four types of orebodies are listed: (1) hypogene oxide-silicate ore, (2) hypogene sulfide veins and stockworks, (3) blanket or manto replacement ore, and (4) oxidized or supergene ore.

Granitic and metamorphic basement rocks are overlain by 500 feet of east-dipping marine Paleozoic sedimentary rocks, cut by numerous faults, and intruded by many Tertiary igneous rocks. Five types of orebodies are: (1) hypogene oxide-silicate ore, (2) hypogene sulfide veins and stockworks, (3) blanket or manto replacement ore, (4) oxidized or supergene ore, and (5) placer deposits.

Local geologic structures include numerous faults of several periods.

After 140 years of nearly continuous mining activity, the Leadville district ranks among the most productive areas for base and precious metals in the U.S. First, gold placer deposits, then lode gold deposits were worked, from 1860 to 1875; oxidized silver-lead ores were dominant from 1876 to 1902; then oxidized zinc ores were worked from 1902 to 1923; finally, mixed sulfide base- and precious-metal ores were mined from 1924 almost continuously until 1999.

Production information: An estimate of total metal production, based on published reports and the reporter's estimate of recent production, includes 3,250,000 ounces of Au, 270,000,000 ounces of Ag, 53,000 tons of Cu, 1,200,000 tons of Pb, and 1,235,000 tons of Zn. Nearly 29 million tons of ore were mined. Almost 1,000,000 tons of manganiferous iron ore and 2,900,000 tons of iron-silver and iron-manganese-silver ore, plus an unknown quantity of pyrite, was produced.

For the 1860-1999 cumulative production listed in the previous comment, assuming the amounts are metric tons, at 2010 prices, the commodity importance order and dollar value in millions is: Ag $4.9 Au $3.7 Zn $3.0 Pb $2.6 Cu $0.4 For the 1860-1963 cumulative production, Tweto, 1968, lists the relative economic importance as follows: 37% Ag; 22% Zn; 21% Pb; 13% Au; 3% Cu; 4% other including Bi and Mg.

Production statistics data: Year: 1999 (period 1860-1999): Ore mined: 29,000,000 metric tons.

Production history details: Primary recovery: Ag: 8,400 metric tons; Zn: 1,235,000 metric tons; Au: 101 metric tons; Pb: 1,200,000 metric tons; and, Secondary recovery: Cu: 53,000 metric tons.

Reserve resource information: Low-grade manganese resources may total 2,000,000 tons of oxidized ore, containing 10% to 35% Mn, plus 2,000,000 tons of primary (manganosiderite) ore, containing 14 to 20% Mn. (Hedges, J. H., 1940).

Mineral List

Mineral list contains entries from the region specified including sub-localities

137 entries listed. 104 valid minerals. 1 (TL) - type locality of valid minerals.

Localities in this Region


The above list contains all mineral locality references listed on This does not claim to be a complete list. If you know of more minerals from this site, please register so you can add to our database. This locality information is for reference purposes only. You should never attempt to visit any sites listed in without first ensuring that you have the permission of the land and/or mineral rights holders for access and that you are aware of all safety precautions necessary.


Emmons, S.F., Irving, J.D., and Loughlin, G.F. (1927), Geology and ore deposits of the Leadville mining district, Colorado: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 148, 368 p.

Hedges, J. H. (1940), Mineral industries survey of the United States, Colorado, Lake County, Possibilities of manganese production at Leadville, Colorado: U.S. Bureau of Mines Information Circular 7125, 23 p.

Behre, C. H., Jr. (1953), Geology and ore deposits of the west slope of the Mosquito Range (Colorado): U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 235, 176 p.

Harrer, C.M., and Tesch, W.J., Jr. (1959), Reconnaissance of iron occurrences in Colorado, U.S. Bureau of Mines Information circular 7918, 82 p.

Tweto, O. (1968), Leadville district, Colorado, in Ridge, J. D., editor, Ore deposits of the United States, 1933-1967 (Graton-Sales volume): New York, American Institute of Mining Engineers: 681-705.

Smith, D.A. (1977), Colorado Mining - A photographic history: Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 176 p.

Johansing, R.J., and Thompson, T.B. (1990), Geology and origin of Sherman-type deposits, central Colorado: Economic Geology Monograph 7.

Thompson, T. B., and Arehart, G. B. (1990), Geology and the origin of ore deposits in the Leadville district, Colorado: Part I. Geologic studies of orebodies and wall rocks: Economic Geology Monograph 7: 130-155.

Dunn, L.G. (2003), Colorado mining districts: A reference: Golden, Colorado, Colorado School of Mines Library, 364 p.

Leach, D., Sangster, D., Kelley, K., Large, R.R., Garven, G., Allen, C., Gutzmer, J., and Walters, S. (2005), Sediment-hosted lead-zinc deposits: A global perspective. Economic Geology, 100th Aniversary Volume: 561-607, appendices A, B, C, D, E, and supplement.

USGS (2005), Mineral Resources Data System (MRDS): U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, loc. file ID #10008106.

U.S. Bureau of Mines, Minerals Availability System (MAS) file ID #80650007.

Sharps, Colorado School of Mines Mineral Industries Bulletin: Volume 6, No.___ (reference truncated by MRDS database).

Sunshine Mining Co. Colorado exploration files, unpublished data, Colorado Geological Survey.

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