Gilman, Colorado is a ghost town perched on a 600-foot cliff over the Eagle River. Today, the colorful but graffiti covered housing and Eagle Mine operation stand empty along the slopes of Battle Mountain. Yet, in the 1880s, Gilman was counted among the notable Colorado Silver boomtowns.
A Brief History of Gilman, Colorado
Within the first year of the Colorado Silver boom in 1879, several mines are already popping up along the flanks of Battle Mountain. The 8,950-foot elevation and remote location does not deter driven miners in search of silver. Ambitions prospectors and speculators are drawn by successes such as the Ground Hog Mine—which discovers two vertical chimneys rich with gold and silver in 1887—and the profitable Iron Mask mine—which boasts numerous caverns of crystal formations and operates into the 1920s.
One such prospector, speculator, and judge is John Clinton, who buys up many mining operations in the area, including the Iron Mask. Through his efforts to optimize operations by housing miners on site, the town of Gilman is founded in 1886. By 1899, the population is around 300.
By 1905, miners are encountering ore with an increasing presence of zinc. Smelters refused the high zinc ore, prompting the installation of a roaster and magnetic separator to isolate the zinc as a separate asset. With this addition, a detrimental mineral becomes and asset. While the Eagle Mine in Gilman is the top producer of Colorado silver in 1930, it gradually transitions its focus to zinc.
Such a shift attracts the attention of the New Jersey Zinc Company. In 1912, the company buys all the primary mines in Gilman and continues zinc mining until 1930. Low zinc prices at the time prompt the company to switch back to mining copper-silver ores. Yet, by 1941, zinc production resumes and continues until the close of the mines in the 1980s.
According to 1970 totals, Gilman mines have produced 10 million tons of ore. Of this, 393,000 troy ounces of gold and 66,000,000 troy ounces of silver are extracted. Along with those precious metals come 858,000 tons of zinc, 148,000 tons of lead, and 105,000 tons of copper.
Gilman, Colorado Today
Contaminated ground water and 8 million tons of mine waste lead Gilman to be abandoned in 1984 when the EPA declares it a Superfund site. While there are plans to convert the region into a ski resort in 2007. These are abandoned a few years later and the status of the town remains in limbo. The town is in private hands and off limits to the general public. Yet, it is clearly visible from Highway 24 with a short drive outside of Leadville, Colorado.