While many mining museums commemorate the collection of precious metals, the New Mexico Mining Museum in Grants highlights a material that only gained value in the mid-20th century: uranium. Located 78 miles west of Albuquerque, Grants, New Mexico has experienced many booms, from railway to logging to carrots. But when a local Navajo shepherd named Paddy Martinez discovered uranium ore in nearby Haystack Mesa in 1950, Grants was flooded with uranium prospectors and experienced a mining boom spanning the 1950s to the 1980s.
New Mexico has the second highest Uranium reserves in the United States, after Wyoming. The particularly rich Grants mineral belt stretching across McKinley and Cibola counties in the north west of New Mexico accounts for the majority of that uranium. The uranium boom brought prospectors, jobs, and money to Grants and neighboring communities. Uranium mining slowed and gradually died out in the 1980s when the price of uranium fell with demand. While mining has ceased in the state, the New Mexico Mining Museum preserves the history.
The museum is conveniently right off of I-40, tracing the rough path of historic Route 66. In the entry take a moment to spot the petrified wood, dinosaurs bones, and other artifacts that had been collected by local miners during their career in the uranium mines. A short but informative video provides a quick overview of the history and uranium mining of the area.
Along with numerous displays of geiger counters, headlamps, and yellow cake is an lower level mine model with an audio tour.
Take an elevator below the New Mexico Mining Museum for a walking tour through the a uranium mine display. Visitors can walk through examples of uranium mine workings complete with ore carts, dynamite drilling, mucking tools, and a lunch room.