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Crested Butte Coal Mine
OverviewLocation: Gunnison County, ColoradoYears of Operation: 1895-1952Total Production (tons): 10,248,600Also Known as "Big Mine"
HistoryThe town of Crested Butte was incorporated in July 4th, 1880. A Colorado Coal and Iron company mine named Joker was established a year later. The Mine was known as Jokerville, or Joker. The Joker Mine experienced a major accident and was closed. A secondary access to the same coal seam was established for the next ten years as a continuation of the Joker Mine. The closure of the second Joker mine and the discovery of a new coal seam in 1895 prompted the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company to open the Crested Butte Coal mine.
In October of 1892 the CC&I company merged with the Colorado Fuel Company to become the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. This moved the Joker mine and much of the surrounding land into the hands of the newly merged CF&I family.
A new coal seam sixty feet above the original Joker seam, that was mined in the first two Joker ventures, was opened the 1895 when the second access point was abandoned. The newly tapped coal seam was estimated to be between six and fourteen feet thick bituminous light coking coal. The coal produced was primarily sold locally to D.&RG. Rail company, and other local mining companies, smelters, and domestic markets, where roughly forty-four percent was used to produce coke at Crested Butte itself.
In 1895 the CSCo. took control of the Crested Butte Store. By the end of the 1890's Crested Butte had one hundred and fifty four coke ovens on site. Early in the 1900's the CF&I also established a school with kindergarten as well. By 1902 Crested Butte became the commercial center of what was called the great Elk Mountain coal and metal mining district.
In November of 1917 CF&I purchased the lands and coal from the Durango Land and Coal Company. A year later in 1918 however demand for coke coal had dropped significantly which caused the closure of the coke ovens on site. Total coke production from the Crested Butte mine is estimated to have been one million two hundred and sixty nine thousand nine hundred and thirty four tons of coke.
In 1927 the Crested Butte mine was capable of producing between seven hundred to eight hundred tons of coal a day. The mine employed roughly two hundred worked. There were forty nine tenant houses for rent from the company, where the other employees either rented or owned their own homes in Crested Butte which had a population of about one thousand two hundred people.
In May of 1944, CF&I acquired the coal reserves of another mine in the same general location named Bulkley #2. The purchase included one hundred and eighty five acres of land and an estimated million tons of recoverable coal. The Bulkley mine was originally opened by the Crested Butte Coal Company in 1920, and then in 1927 taken over by the Elk Mountain Coal Mining Company. The Bulkley mine was shut down but access to the mine and its coal were possible through the Crested Butte Mine. The CSCo store was closed permanently along with the mine in 1952, the school had been taken over by the state.