Colorado State University Geologists Take a New Look at Colorado’s Mineral Belt

Geoscientists at Colorado State University are conducting work along the Colorado Front Range to improve understanding on how Colorado was first assembled tectonically, and they are using the state’s historic mines to help chart Colorado’s geological history.

The Colorado Mineral Belt falls along Colorado’s historic mining communities from Boulder to Silverton, hitting Central City, Breckenridge, Lake City and Aspen along the way. It has long been hypothesized that all of the mines lie relatively along the same line in Colorado because the belt marked old and deep weaknesses in the Earth’s crust.

“We were interested in why specific metals were deposited along this path across Colorado, and our thought was to test the long-standing idea that perhaps the Colorado Mineral Belt was the line where North American tectonic plates came together about 1,700 million years ago,” said John Ridley, professor of geosciences in CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources. “There are too few differences between the rocks on either side of the belt. We are confident that this belt does not mark the line where North American tectonic plates came together, but we do know that the belt is of historic interest in better understanding Colorado’s geological history.”

Ridley and his doctoral student, Zak Wessel, in collaboration with Jonathan Cain of the U.S. Geological Survey are presenting this research at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. About 6,000 scientists are expected to attend.

About the Warner College of Natural Resources
The Warner College of Natural Resources offers a comprehensive range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs that address current environmental issues and societal concerns. The college is one of the largest in the country with 1,200 undergraduate students; 300 graduate students; world class faculty; and 500 scientists, researchers, support staff and student employees. Programs range from tourism, forestry and geosciences to conservation biology and ecosystem science. For more information, visit