The Importance of the Continental Divide

the COS mental divide crosses the United


from the northwest corner of Montana to

the southwest corner of New Mexico in

Colorado it follows a series of Peaks

through the Rockies

the tallest of these is also the tallest

in the state Mount Elbert

this hiker attempting the summit of

Mount Albert's 14,000 433 foot peak is

walking the ridge that literally splits

America into any rain or melting snow to

his left flows west towards the Pacific

supplying water to thirsty populations

in the southwest the water that falls to

the right of this Ridge flows east

towards the Atlantic and helps nourish

communities and farms from Colorado's

Plains all the way to the Mississippi


a quarter of all water in the u.s.

originates here in the Rocky Mountains

which is why protecting this watershed

is so important

the problem is but the mountains along

the divide also holds some of the

richest mineral deposits in America the

challenge is to get those minerals out

without polluting the drinking water of


25 miles north of Mount Albert the

climax mine straddles the Continental


it's the largest producer of molybdenum

in the world Mali as it's known for

short he's a key mineral used in the

production of steel to mine it this

company cuts away the earth under the

ore and then as the rock above falls and

breaks gathers it for processing

inside this giant dome chemicals are

used to separate the valuable

molybdenite from surrounding rock

the chemical waste is then sent to pawns

which covers several square miles but

underneath these pawns

a constant stream of groundwater flows

directly to Denver's water system

he in order to keep this water source

pure these tailings ponds have to be

carefully designed and managed so that

mining chemicals don't leach into the

groundwater below and pollute the

watershed of the Continental Divide