Stepping up

by | Apr 12, 2019 | Inside Mines, Spring 2019 | 0 comments

The new manager of the Edgar Experimental Mine knows the unique educational and research facility perched above Idaho Springs well.

Mines alumnus Lee Fronapfel ’96 spent a lot of time up at Edgar, both as part of his coursework en route to a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering and as a student employee of the mine. 

“That experience helped in my own career. It gave me an idea of what’s out there and what might be needed,” Fronapfel said. “What a great lab—you can’t beat it.”

His career in the mining industry includes 19 years with mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, the last five of which he managed Colorado’s Henderson Mine, one of the largest primary producers of molybdenum in the world.

“Mines could not have found a better person to take the Edgar on,” said Priscilla Nelson, professor and head of the Mining Engineering Department. “Lee is a graduate of Mines and knows Edgar well. His experience in managing major mines—including the Henderson Mine—clearly supports the excellence of his preparation for the challenge of managing Edgar into the future.”

Named after the Edgar mineral vein that runs along the hillside above the mine, the Edgar Mine was a working operation in its early days, producing high-grade silver, gold, lead and copper in the 1870s. Today it provides a valuable hands-on experience for Mines students, operating as both a classroom and research facility. 

“There’s a lot more that can be done—it’s not just for mining,” Fronapfel said. “There are opportunities for petroleum engineering, robotics, geology. There are many fields out there that could utilize the mine and give students, researchers, grad students that hands-on experience.”