Technical tours

Saturday, 22 June 2024


Leaders: Uwe Kackstaetter and Barb Echohawk, Metropolitan State University
Cost: $150

The Northern Colorado Front Range Geology

Tour description

Itinerary: This day-long, easy-going field trip explores the geology of the Northern Colorado Front Range from north of Boulder to the Wyoming state line and can be enjoyed by those unable to hike long distances. We will explore the region’s geologic record, from the Precambrian to the Quaternary, including a nonconformity that encompasses almost a third of Earth’s history. Participants will see strata inclined at a steep angle against the foothills and evidence that the Ancestral Rockies preceded today’s Laramide Rocky Mountains. At several sites we will build our understanding of the causal relationship between inclined strata, differential weathering, and the topography of the foothills and adjacent plains. Along the way, we will see examples of topographic highs that represent inverted topography, vegetation that relies on ancient volcanic ash, and evidence of the Cretaceous Seaway. Close to the Wyoming border, we will pass through the site that will soon be Northern Colorado’s newest reservoir; observe fault-block faulting; visit a spectacular magma-mixing outcrop in a ring-dike complex; and see a deeply weathered diamond pipe discovered by MSU Denver students and faculty. Throughout the trip, we will consider petroleum and mineral resources found along the northern Front Range.

Approximate distance: 180 miles.

Saturday, 22 June 2024


Leaders: Ben Poppel, Liberty Energy, and Egor Dontsov, ResFrac
Cost: $150

Hydraulic Fracturing Site Tour

Tour description

Itinerary: Depart from Denver Marriott West. Lunch and drinks on bus. Tours of the lab and the fracturing site will be led by experienced professionals involved in state-of-the-art fracking projects.

Upon arrival we will break into two smaller groups. The first group will do a lab tour first and then a yard equipment tour. The second group will first do a yard tour first and then the lab tour.

  • All visitors first get PPE and have a safety briefing.
  • The lab tour includes a demonstration of a cross linked gel and a review of other laboratory equipment that is commonly used for testing.
  • The yard equipment tour includes a walk around hydraulic fracturing equipment that is used in field operations but not currently in use. This includes fracture pumps, blenders, and other equipment. Since the equipment is not in operation, it is quiet, there is no high pressure, and it is safe to come close and explore it in details.

Once both groups have completed the lab tour and yard equipment tour, we will board the bus and head to an actual hydraulic fracturing location. The precise location will be determined later, but it will be approximately within an hour driving distance.

After arriving at the field location, we will split into smaller groups again and tour the following locations:

  • Data van – the brain of all operations on site
  • Back side (or low pressure side) of location
  • Blender, chemicals, sand and water – the key ingredients of hydraulic fracturing operations
  • Wireline operations

After all groups have seen every area, we will return to the bus and drive back to Marriott Denver West hotel.

Approximate distance: 55 miles.

Sunday, 23 June 2024


Leader: James P. McCalpin, Colorado Geological Survey
Cost: $150

Colorado Front Range Geohazards

Tour description

Planned itinerary: Travel north from Golden and visit slope failures from Golden to Boulder to Lyons to Horsetooth Reservoir. Continue up into the mountains and visit the site of the catastrophic Big Thompson Flood of 1976 (subsequent flood also in 2013).  Continue to the near-failure of Olympus Dam at Estes Park, and into Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Trail Ridge Road (tundra and permafrost, and also deep-seated-gravitational failures [sackungen] on Trail Ridge). We will also visit the Lawn Lake dam failure and flood of 1982.

We will stop at an overview and discuss the Bureau of Reclamation’s Big Thompson Project, which brings water from western slope reservoirs, tunnels it under the Continental Divide, then runs it through a hydroelectric station and into Lake Estes. From there the water goes into the Big Thompson River or into aqueducts to the eastern Plains. This is a unique water-diversion system that will be enlightening to most trip attendees. Then the trip goes southward on the Peak-to-Peak highway through Allenspark, Hidden Valley, Ward and its historic mining district, and on to Nederland. Depending on time, we will return to Golden by descending either Boulder Canyon (a deeply incised canyon in granite) or Coal Creek Canyon.

Approximate distance: 140 miles.

Thursday, 27 June 2024


Organizer: Priscilla Nelson and Erik Poeck, Colorado School of Mines
Cost: $150

Climax Mine and Edgar Experimental Mine

Tour description

Itinerary: This tour involves underground guided tours of the Climax Molybdenum Mine near Leadville, Colorado, and the CSM Edgar Mine (CSM Experimental Mine) at Idaho Springs, Colorado.

In the 1870s, the Edgar mine, the Colorado School of Mines Experimental Mine, was one of the many mines in the Colorado Mineral Belt that produced high-grade silver, gold, lead and copper. Today, as an underground laboratory for future engineers, it produces valuable experience for those who are being trained to find, develop, and process the world’s natural resources.

The Climax Mine ore body is a porphyry molybdenum deposit, with molybdenite as the primary sulfide mineral. Many intersecting small veins of molybdenite form a stockwork in an altered quartz monzonite porphyry. It is a low-grade ore deposit, but the ore bodies are very large. The first production from Climax was in 1918, but production lasted only 10 months. The mine closed when the molybdenum market collapsed following the WWI Armistice of November 1918. A new block-cave underground mining system went into operation in 1934, and the cost-efficiency of block-cave mining, together with mass electric haulage, exceeded even the wildest projections. As mining costs plummeted, Climax metallurgists introduced an advanced line of high-strength “moly” steels. With high mine production and soaring profits, Climax turned in the best financial performance of any Depression-era American company. The mine was shut down between 1995 and 2012 due to low molybdenum prices. In May 2012, following a 17-year shutdown, the Climax mine reopened as an open-pit mine.

The current Climax mine is an open-pit mine and includes a 25,000 metric ton-per-day mill facility. Internal discussions are ongoing about whether to switch back to underground operations (2024). Climax has the capacity to produce approximately 30 million pounds of molybdenum per year. The available mining fleet consists of ten 177-metric ton haul trucks loaded by two hydraulic shovels with bucket sizes of 34 cubic meters, capable of moving an average of 90,000 metric tons of material per day. The highest bench elevation in the open-pit is approximately 4,050 meters above sea level and the ultimate pit bottom is expected to have an elevation of approximately 3,100 meters above sea level. The operations encompass approximately 14,350 acres, consisting primarily of patented mining claims and other fee lands.

Approximate distance: 100 miles.