Thursday, 23 July 2020

Colorado: the beautiful home of the SME

Coronavirus permitting, my next venture out of Cornwall will be next February for the Annual Meeting of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration (SME) in Denver. The "mile-high city" is the home of the SME, its headquarters being in the suburb of Littleton.
I first attended an SME Meeting in 1987, held in Denver, and over the years the SME Annual Meeting has become a regular fixture in my diary, and because of it I have had the opportunity of visiting many American cities, but none better than Denver, where the meeting is now held every other year.
Barbara accompanied me to Denver for the first time in 1991, and this was perhaps our most memorable visit, as it gave us the chance to explore beautiful Colorado, and particularly the old mining towns in the Rocky Mountains. It is a magical area and my only regret is that our many visits have been only in winter, as I am sure that summer in Colorado would be equally as stunning.
We arrived at Denver International Airport in February 1991 totally exhausted!  In the previous week we had been in Singapore for Minerals Engineering '91 (MEI Blog 20 February 2011). After a 14 hour flight to Heathrow, we transferred to Gatwick Airport for the 10 hour flight to Denver, a total of 15 time zones.
We were with Phil Newall, of CSM Associates, the organisers of Minerals Engineering '91, and in Denver we met up with Nigel Powell and Connor Spollen, of Camborne School of Mines. Nigel was a lecturer in mathematics and Connor a final year student. Connor's final year project, supervised by me and Nigel had led to a paper which Nigel would present at the SME Meeting.
At the Paramount Cafe, Denver, with Nigel, Connor and Phil

As this was the first time that Barbara, Phil, Nigel and Connor had visited USA, we had set aside a week after the meeting to explore the Rocky Mountains area close to Denver.

A visit to Golden gave us the chance to see the "other CSM", the Colorado School of Mines, and to spend a memorable evening with Errol and Jan Kelly. Errol was a visiting Professor from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and a co-author with David Spottiswood, of Colorado SoM, of the text-book Introduction to Mineral Processing, which had been published 9 years earlier.
Golden, and the Colorado School of Mines
In Golden with Errol Kelly (centre) and his wife Jan
From Golden we travelled to Colorado Springs to the Garden of the Gods, with its towering red sandstone rock formations against a background of snow-capped 4,302 m high Pikes Peak.
Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs
In the background is Pikes Peak
Then on to Central City, a historic mining settlement founded in 1859 during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, and which came to be known as the "richest square mile on earth" a soubriquet shared by the Gwennap copper mining district of Cornwall (MEI Blog 27 October 2018).
Central City
Stamp Mills- a reminder of the mining legacy
Crossing the Continental Divide we spent our last few days in the Summit County ski resort of Copper Mountain, debut skiing for Barbara, Nigel and Connor, and only my 2nd venture on skis.
With Connor, Nigel and Phil at Copper Mountain
1990s ski fashions on display at Copper Mountain
So impressed were we with the snow, lifts and people at Copper Mountain that in all our subsequent travels to Denver for the SME Meeting we have always found time to take the Colorado Express shuttle from the airport into the Rockies, and have based ourselves in the lovely old Victorian town of Breckenridge. The town was founded in the mid 19th century to serve the miners working rich placer gold deposits along the Blue River, hard rock mining soon following as the prospectors followed the gold source to its veins in the hills.
Breckenridge main street
One of the old alluvial gold dredges, now converted into a restaurant
The skiing at Breckenridge is superb and for those of you who might visit I published my favourite route in the posting of 27 February 2015.
Barbara skiing down to Breckenridge with the Continental Divide in the background
So for those of you who are thinking of attending the next SME Meeting, if you love the mountains, mining history and beautiful scenery I would strongly recommend you plan to stay a few days in Colorado. It is magnificent- I just wish that we could see it in summer!


  1. Now I know the "home" of SME.
    I visited Colorado School of Mines when Rex Bull was Professor there; I did nor see all the beauty of the place but for me that visit was like visiting one of the Temples of very good work done in Mining and allied fields.
    My first M.Tech student from Indian School of Mines did Ph.D. from there.
    You Blog brought back to my memory, my very warm and professionally very satisfying association I had with David Spottiswood over quite a few years--somehow I lost touch with him now.
    Barry,good thoughts on future laced with your sweet memories---all the best-

  2. Greetings from Golden. I hope to see you at the SME next year.

    1. Hope to see you too. The only problem being that I don't know who you are!


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