Video: Coal industry downturn rocks a Colorado mountain town

Former miners watch an iconic silo crumble, and discuss what it means for their community.


 


Last week, 1,180 sticks of dynamite toppled the coal silo at Oxbow's Elk Creek Mine, leaving a cloud of dust in place of the landmark that towered above the once-prolific mining community of Somerset, Colorado, for decades.

The April 29 demolition attracted a crowd and marked a historic moment for residents throughout the North Fork Valley, many of whom have personal or family ties to the coal industry. The event reflected the more widespread struggles of the industry and its diminished presence in the economy.

Mining operations at the Oxbow site have been idle since 2013, after a seismic event the year prior triggered a stubborn underground fire that made mining areas unsafe and trapped expensive machinery. Though some had clung to hope that the mine would resume operation, the mine’s dwindling resources and the dismal state of coal markets – largely undercut by the domestic boom in cheap natural gas – sounded a death knell for the Somerset facility.

Many onlookers took the occasion to reflect on the mine’s history, and were left wondering about the future that awaits the community after the mangled rebar and concrete are cleared from the demolition site. - Bryce Gray

Jay Canode is a freelance videographer based in Paonia, Colorado.

Photo of falling coal silo by Laura Palmisano/KVNF.