Hughes tells how he missed out on $1 million from Gold Hill
Dave Hughes unveiled some of Gold Hill's past - and in the process some of his own - during a presentation at the Old Colorado City History Center July 25.
After the local gold-milling era ended with the shutdown of the Golden Cycle mill in 1949, millions of dollars worth of unprocessed gold - about 7 percent of what had gone through - remained in the abandoned mill tailings, explained the long-time Westside business and civic leader. When gold prices rose and new processing capabilities emerged about a quarter-century later, he became part of a joint venture that planned to extract about half of that gold over six years, then reclaim the land for real-estate development. However, plans soured between the two principals - Bill Wiley and Richard Hadley - and to this day the Golden Cycle pile remains the largest batch of unprocessed tailings outside of Johan-nesburg, South Africa, Hughes said.
He himself stood to earn about $1 million (5 percent of Wiley's 50 percent) if the extraction plan had succeeded, he told the audience, followed by the word “Sob!” in his accompanying PowerPoint presentation.
Ironically, the name of Wiley's group, for whom Hughes was the manager, was Gold Hill Mesa Corp. Gold Hill Mesa is also the name of the current residential- commercial development that's taking place on the 214-acre property south of Highway 24 and east of 21st Street.
Bob Willard, manager of that effort, was in the audience for Hughes' talk, and wound up answering a few questions. Because of concerns about arsenic from the tailings, he said the project's air quality is constantly monitored, and during construction the Colorado Department of Health requires a barrier of “clean dirt” over tailings dirt.
Hughes kidded Willard that maybe if the price of gold continues to rise, there will be a time when he'll want to “tear down the buildings” and start processing the tailings.
By way of response, Willard noted that Gold Hill home-buyers will not own any mineral rights. “I don't want them digging in their basements,” he said.
When previously asked why he opted not to process the tailings, Willard said the idea was considered, but the overall cost, due to modern requirements for safety and environmental concerns, would have been too great. Just putting a real-estate development on the site now is “extremely difficult and expensive” for those reasons, he said.
In the early part of Hughes' talk, he described the original Westside mills after Cripple Creek gold was discovered in 1891: the Colorado-Philadelphia and the Standard (both near present-day 31st Street south of the highway), the Portland (at the site of present-day Penrose Stadium) and the Telluride (on Gold Hill). All of these were gone by 1905, after which Golden Cycle came in (taking over the Telluride Mill site) with a then-advanced cyanide-based processing capability. It had the additional advantage of being able to handle more tonnage per day than the previous mills, its ownership had the Midland Railroad, and it could handle lower grades of ore more profitably.
Labor issues - lack of workers after World War II and a Midland Railroad employees' strike - combined to close the Golden Cycle mill. A new mill, the Carleton, was then built in Cripple Creek, Hughes said.
Westside Pioneer article