Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co. plans to add up to 130 employees starting late this year as it spends nearly $600 million during the next three years to expand the state's largest gold mine.
The expansion, which will extend mining at the site near Victor until 2025, also will create another 300 construction jobs to complete a new leach field, recovery center and milling facility. The construction project will allow the mine to expand its annual output by about 40 percent to 350,000 ounces of gold, said Ray DuBois, the company's vice president and general manager.
State regulators approved the project in September, the second major extension of mining at the site since operations resumed there in 1994.
Although the mine is constantly hiring to accommodate turnover and fill new positions, hiring for the jobs added in the expansion is expected to begin late this year or early next year with operator positions earning a starting salary of $16.54 an hour with full benefits, DuBois said. The mine now employs 520 earning an average wage of $23.50 an hour, up from 350 employees in 2009.
"The size and scope of the project has grown substantially since it was first proposed, primarily by increasing the capacity of the mill by four times so it can handle 2 million tons of ore per year instead of the 500,000 in the initial plans," DuBois said. "During the construction phase of this project, we and our contractors will employ about the same number of people - 1,150 - as the entire population of Cripple Creek."
DuBois said he is not concerned that falling gold prices - which have declined 25.7 percent in the last six months - will derail the project, since prices were lower in 2010 when plans for the expansion were developed. Some equipment purchases have been delayed as prices have declined to reduce production costs, he said.
David White, chief business development officer for the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, said he is excited about the mine's expansion and "the economic impact it will provide for Teller County and the entire region."
"These are good-paying jobs that will help families in our region enjoy economic prosperity like they haven't been able to before," White said.
John Posusta, executive director of the Southern Teller County Economic Development Coalition, called the expansion "a real shot in the arm for Teller County, particularly the southern half. It is great news."
Most of the expansion will be in an area called Squaw Gulch, a horseshoe on Colorado Highway 67 between Cripple Creek and Victor, where Shelf Road meets the highway. The company is building a leach field and recovery center there, which requires relocating part of Highway 67 and moving or demolishing several historic structures, including a crib wall, several old mine head frames and the blacksmith shop at the end of the line for the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad.
DuBois said mine management also is in the early stages of developing a plan to expand and extend the life of the mine through 2033, which also likely would involve underground mining for the first time in decades in the Cripple Creek area.
Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co. is owned by South African mining giant AngloGold Ashanti Ltd.
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