Go Tell It on the Mountain

For accused con man Christian Lawless Harper, a mine is a terrible thing to waste.

The guide who takes visitors through the mill and tailings pile is still enthusiastic about the Argo Tunnel project. "This will be the site of a five-star hotel, parking structure and train to Central City," he tells an astonished group of tourists, adding incorrectly that an "eastern investment group" has bought the old mill.

The two-foot-wide tracks that carried the ore carts into the Argo Tunnel are still there, as is a rusted-through ore train complete with a beat-up locomotive. Part of the mill has become a home for pigeons, but visitors can still see the crushers and holding tanks that made the Argo Mill one of the largest gold mills in the world. Today the wind whistles through the mill's thin wooden walls, but it isn't hard to imagine the racket that would have been produced by tons of ore being dumped out of carts, ground and pulverized to extract gold.

The grounds around the mill are now littered with the mining implements nobody else had any use for. "No trespassing. Violators will be shot and burned at sunrise," announces a sign on the fence.

A truck driver from Iowa who stopped for the tour looks at a visitor and smiles. "I think all the gold is gone from this place," he says with a shrug.

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