While gold is what drew the first miners to Colorado, the production of fossil fuels is by far the most valuable resource extraction done in the state today, representing four-fifths of the state’s mineral output. Natural gas is the leading mineral product, taken from the ground at more than 7,000 wells across the state. The production of natural gas more than doubled between the mid-1980s and early 1990s. Rapidly falling prices for petroleum have decreased the value of its production and have made coal the state’s second most valuable mineral. Oil and natural gas are produced at more than 300 fields, although the most productive are found in the northwestern part of the state.
Bituminous coal is found in beds that underlie about one-quarter of the state. Extraction is about equally distributed between surface and subsurface mines, and Moffat and Routt counties in the northwest are the leading producers.
Nearly all of the coal is used to fuel electricity-generating plants inside Colorado and in nearby states. A small amount of coal is shipped to industrial centers in Utah and Illinois.
Colorado is the nation’s second leading producer of molybdenum, which is added to steel as a hardener. Other minerals produced in Colorado include sand and gravel, cement, gold, silver, zinc, stone, tungsten, limestone, helium, and lead. Vast reserves of oil shale underlie much of western Colorado. Colorado also has large tracts of oil shale lands, estimated to contain several billion barrels of recoverable crude oil. Attempts to extract this oil were made in the 1970s and 1980s. However, extraction of the oil was too costly to be practical.
Manufacturing in Colorado is dominated by the processing of local raw materials and by technology-dependent light industries. Leading manufactures include the production of scientific instruments, food processing, and the making of industrial machinery. The chief instrument manufactures are those making a variety of products for use in medicine, devices to measure electricity, and photographic equipment. The brewing of beer is the leading employer among food processing industries, although the state has a diverse selection of industries preparing and packaging Colorado’s farm output. Industrial machinery manufactures are led by the makers of computer storage devices and peripheral equipment. Other large employers in the state are firms engaged in making ordnance, components of guided missiles and space vehicles, and semiconductors.
The Denver metropolitan area is the state’s leading manufacturing center, specializing in food processing and in the manufacture of scientific equipment and electronic and transportation components. Industrial activity has developed in a number of other communities located in the Front Range area. In the university city of Boulder, printing and publishing, instrument manufacture, and research and development activities predominate. Heavy industry is still important in Pueblo. Colorado Springs has a wide variety of high-technology industries. Food-processing facilities can be found in many of the communities in the state. Most of the sugar refineries in Colorado are located in communities near the state’s chief sugar beet-growing areas in the South Platte Valley near Greeley. "Colorado" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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