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Sweet Home rhodochrosite mine ends production

Brief by Central Staff

Mining – December 2004 – Colorado Central Magazine

One of Colorado’s few remaining hard-rock mines has closed its portal and gone out of production. The Sweet Home, which sat above Alma, started as a silver mine in 1873, but is best known for its production of rhodochrosite, a red gemstone.

It made the news in 2002 when Gov. Bill Owens signed a bill declaring the red stone to be the official state mineral. But even then, there was a problem, as owner Bryan Lees explained: the last new vein had been found in 2000, and the expense of mining exceeded the income from the declining number of crystals recovered.

Even though the mine used sophisticated ground-penetrating radar to search for crystals, it had reached the limit of current technology, Lees said. It closed on Oct. 18, and reclamation work will make it difficult to find the mine in a few years.

Sweet Home specimens adorn many museums, among them the National Mining Museum in Leadville, and they’re expected to gain in value now that no more are emerging from the earth.

Colorado Central published an extensive article by Steve Voynick about the Sweet Home in the June, 1995, edition; it’s on the web at

According to a Denver Post article, only two Colorado hard-rock mines are still working: the Henderson molybdenum mine near Empire, and Yule Marble near Marble. At this rate, we may need to replace the hammer and pick on the state seal.