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Rewind 150 years or so, and Tom Hendricks, wearing dusty dungarees and leather suspenders, would be at home among the prospectors who first struck Colorado gold in 1858. His eyes twinkle with optimism when he talks about what might be in the earth beneath his feet. Except Hendricks is no relic: He’s part of a new wave of miners.
The Colorado Springs native began consolidating mining claims—the rights to mine a specific location—41 years ago as a college student in Boulder. Since then, he’s amassed an encyclopedic knowledge of mining and 3.5 square miles of claims in an area west of Nederland. Geological studies indicate Hendricks’ claims could yield more than 5 million ounces of gold, worth about $7.9 billion today. (First, though, Hendricks has to haul the ore above ground and extract the metal; he and his business partners are seeking investors for the costly process.) “When I started up here, gold was $42 an ounce,” Hendricks says. “We think gold’s going to easily hit $2,000 this winter, and possibly go to $3,000.”
Based on the most recent U.S. Geological Survey data, Colorado was the nation’s fourth-ranked gold-producing state in 2010. That’s in part because of behemoths like South African corporation AngloGold Ashanti, owner of the state’s most productive gold mine, the Cresson Project, which ranks among the country’s top 10 gold-producing sites. (AngloGold plans to mine the area southwest of Denver through 2025.) And one of the world’s largest gold-mining companies, Newmont Mining Corp., is headquartered in Greenwood Village.
Even amateurs are getting in on the action. Mary Jostes, a Highlands Ranch homemaker, purchased her first gold claim in Central City six years ago. Today, she has 11 claims totaling nearly 50 acres. “I bet I’ve gotten five calls this year from people wanting to buy my claims,” she says. “Right now I’m hanging onto them.”
BY THE NUMBERS: GOLD DIGGER
225,736: Ounces of gold yielded from the Cresson Project, a mine southwest of Denver, in 2010
1.39 million: Ounces of gold yielded from the Cripple Creek Mining District in 1900, its peak year
40.78 million: Ounces of gold mined in Colorado from 1858 to 1965, second only to California
$1.43 billion: Value of gold produced in Colorado from 1858 to 1965, at 1965’s price
$64.14 billion: Value of gold produced in Colorado from 1858 to 1965, at this summer’s price