Always hard to contain my enthusiasm about Tucson… The world’s largest annual gathering of mineral people and mineral specimens from around the globe never disappoints – it is a great time full of great minerals.
OK, I admit it’s also a sunny and warm break from Canadian winter. While many others in North America seem to be having a bit lighter winter than usual, we’ve had lots of snow this year in the Bancroft area. It began in November and now the snow is high. A February 2017 snowbank by our house:
Tucson’s surroundings are obviously a real contrast to home, both as to weather and scenery.
During the show, there is so much to see and do with the minerals and mineral friends that, in the limited time of a Tucson trip, there is precious little chance for exploring the surroundings. However, every step out in the area is worth it!
As every year, the mineral events around Tucson are spread over many different show venues, over a few weeks. From one year to the next, dealers come and go, and move about. New shows pop up, older shows wane and sometimes disappear altogether, and then some rise again from the ashes. So, always something new and interesting to discover out there in the urban field-collecting jungle.
I thought maybe I’d start with my favourite warnings and signs from around the shows.
I didn’t take a photo of the one in my rental car, but it was a winner: every time I turned on the car, a bright, bold electronic notice told me not to operate the car stereo while the car is operating, because it’s dangerous. (Thanks so much to the Mensa-candidate lawyer who came up with that one.)
At one show:
(People do this?)
I quite liked this lawn sign:
And at that same show, within about 40 ft of the one above:
Anyway… On to the minerals!
On the whole, there were some excellent finds, mostly of the small and isolated variety (rather than large-scale splashes of new discoveries). I’m going to start with Brazil, because over the past year, it has produced many fine specimens.
A small number of new wodginite crystals have been found. These are sharp and great for the species!
Wodginite, Linopolis district, near Divino das Larajeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 2.6 cm
Wodginite, Linopolis district, near Divino das Larajeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 3.2 cm
If you’d like to see more of these, I’ve posted them in the Wodginite Update (click here).
The workings at Novo Horizonte have produced more excellent hematite-rutile specimens. Most of these are not in very good condition, but a few are really super.
Rutile on Hematite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – 4.8 cm
Novo Horizonte has also been the subject of some additional mineral analysis, with very interesting results over the past year. One of these is a new mineral, published in 2016. The work on this mineral began with our late friend, Luiz Menezes – one of the most observant and careful people in mineral world, who never missed something new, never assumed an identification, and whose work contributed to the description of several new minerals. The work on this material was continued by a group of mineralogists, and in June 2016, the new mineral, parisite-(La), was officially regognized by the IMA. (The full group: Luiz A.D. Menezes Filho, Mario L.S.C. Chaves, Nikita V. Chukanov, Daniel Atencio, Ricardo Scholz, Igor Pekov, Geraldo Magela da Costa, Shaunna M. Morrison, Marcelo Andrade, Erico Freitas, Robert T. Downs and Dmitriy I. Belakovskiy.)
I am including a photograph of one of the best specimens – there are not many in existence. This one was available from Luisa at Luiz Menezes Minerals.
Just before leaving Novo Horizonte, I have a small final update. In November 2015, I had a few specimens from this locality on the website, sold to me under the label “synchysite”, and so-labeled on the website. Subsequent analysis by Don Doell has confirmed more about their identity. Having conducted semi-quantitative EDS at SGS Labs, Don found that these are in fact phosphate mineralization, and they are likely a combination of rhabdophane-(La), rhabdophane-(Ce), possibly including monazite-(Ce). They appear to be pseudomorphs after a REE carbonate, probably in the parisite group, given that this new parisite-(La) has been found at Novo Horizonte in crystals with a similar aspect and appearance, at a similar time. They could also be after bastnasite-(La), which has been described from the locality. For now, I’m labelling them rhabdophane, pseudomorph after parisite, with the proviso that the above is the technically closest identification information to date. Thanks very much to Don for this analysis! Very cool for rhabdophane. (If you’d like to see what these looked like, they are here.) Mine are all sold, but Carlos Menezes had a few thumbnail-sized specimens of this fascinating material available in Tucson.
Also from Brazil, there has been one I think will be underrated and missed by many collectors. From Mantena, Minas Gerais, there has been a find of beautiful muscovite crystals. Yes of course the mica group minerals are very common minerals, and one might be jaded and tempted to overlook them on that basis. However, it can be a challenge to acquire a genuinely good muscovite specimen. These muscovite crystals from Mantena have nice colour, giving depth and presence. I picked out the finest few I could find and they will be online in a coming update.
Muscovite on albite, Mantena, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 7.3 cm
I have always loved the blue fluorapatites from Ipira, but, although I always look for them, I am almost always disappointed. This is not because there aren’t any – it’s because very few of them are sharp and collection-worthy. The deposits mostly contain corroded-looking crystals with poor definition, and most crystals are broken crystal segments. This past year, Daniel Foscarini Almeida conducted significant mining operations in a zone that contained small, sharp crystals. Almost all had small chipping, but I went through hundreds and these best ones are extremely good. The colour with backlighting is hard to believe.
Fluorapatite, Ipirá, Bahia, Brazil – 3.2 cm
And finally from Brazil (for now), Minas Gerais yielded some very fine phantom quartz crystals this year, from the deposits at Presidente Kubitschek. As always with Brazilian quartz, it can be very hard to find specimens in excellent condition, but some of these are just great.
Quartz with phantoms, Presidente Kubitschek, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Crystal 2.0 cm wide
Moving on from Brazil to the African continent next, still on the quartz theme, there was a pocket of spectacular quartz with red phantoms from Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Red quartz has been produced from this locality for many years, however, long-time South African dealer Clive Queit told me he has never seen any he liked as much as these, because these have such distinct red phantoms enclosed in sharp, clear quartz crystals – in his view they are the best. The crystals themselves are relatively small, and my favourite specimens were the ones that had good proportions (of crystal size to the piece), so the ones I consider the best are not large specimens. They are superb.
Red Phantom Quartz, Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa – 5.0 cm
Red Phantom Quartz, Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa – 4.0 cm
Red Phantom Quartz, Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa – 6.1 cm
Further north in Africa, there’s something a bit different and new from Arrondissement Diako, in Mali. We’ve seen thousands of loose single garnet crystals from here over the years, and occasionally we’ve been lucky enough to see matrix specimens. A new find, at Diabe Sira, has produced some very attractive specimens with sharp, lustrous grossular crystals on matrix. As is the case with all localities, and particularly much of the Mali material (of the various minerals), so much is damaged – the devil is in finding fine, collection-quality specimens. I worked through a lot of this material and I found a few – they are really nice!
Grossular, Diabe Sira, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 9.7 cm
Further north still, I think we’ve all become a bit spoiled by the constant flow of excellent mineral specimens from Morocco in recent years. So it felt like a bit of a disappointment that there wasn’t a spectacular new find, and that some of the material we’ve seen in recent times is drying up. As I mentioned in my Ste. Marie post last summer, the Sidi Lahcen barites are no more – I love those specimens, and good ones are now already hard to find (and in some cases very expensive). Speaking of production that seems to have dried up, I was also surprised that there were hardly even any signs of the Mamsa aragonites (the ones posted here last fall). I had expected to see some of the lesser material at very least.
However, from Morocco there were some beautiful erythrites from the Bou Azzer district.
Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 1.3 cm crystal
China seems to have produced less in the way of truly new material. There are some new bluish-purple quartz specimens, highly priced and different dealers were giving different locality names – we’ll see what the future holds for these. From Huanggang, there were a few of the flat, discoidal calcites that made their debut last fall in Denver – here is a sweet small one.
Calcite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China – 3.3 cm
From Russia, the mines at Dal’negorsk continue to operate and there was a new pocket of sharp datolite crystals found at the Bor Pit. These crystals are a beautiful light green and they are highly lustrous.
Datolite, Bor Pit, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia – 5.0 cm
As you’ll know if you’ve read my posts from the past, I love Peru and Peruvian mineral specimens. Over the years, the large polymetallic mines have produced a variety of excellent specimens, and several workings undertaken purely for mineral specimen mining have provided spectacular pieces. However, this was really not a great year for new Peruvian specimens. Ucchucchacua has now produced no new specimen material in three years, and a new piece of unfortunate news from Peru is that the Lily Mine has ceased operations. Lily was operated for copper and is known to collectors for a few minerals – chrysocolla, and most notably some of the best atacamite and clinoatacamite specimens that have been found anywhere. I obtained only a few more of these, as good specimens are already scarce, and I’m told any future production is questionable.
In much better news, a Peruvian collection and the workings at Mundo Nuevo have provided some excellent specimens.
Pyrite and Lautite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Huamachuco, La Libertad Dept., Peru – 2.9 cm
Back to North America, I was lucky to pick up a couple of nice little wulfenite specimens from the Red Cloud Mine, including this one – it’s not big, but this thing is a red window pane.
Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine, Trigo Mountains, Arizona – 2.3 cm
(Crystal 1.0 cm across, 0.8 cm on edge)
Over the coming weeks, many of these finds – and more new material – will be posted on the website, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, as nice as it is to have had a break, it’s so great to be home. (You can take the Canadian out of the winter but you can’t take the winter out of the Canadian – at least not this Canadian.) It’s beautiful out here in the winter woods in February, as always!
Yes, the snow piles are high.
Another 9 ft tall snowpile. Granted, it reduces the view for a while.
And we probably shouldn’t expect this part of the garden to emerge until late May.
This year’s snow-management issues aside, it’s gorgeous and peaceful, with lots of active local residents in our woods…
Blue Jay, near Bancroft, Ontario
And there’s this one guy who loves winter more than any being I’ve known:
Every day from the first snows until the last snow patches are too small in spring, Emery does snow angels.
Well, that’s it, until the Rochester 2017 report.
If you haven’t yet seen them, this year’s Rochester Mineralogical Symposium program and registration materials are online here. Hope to see you there!
Meanwhile, of course these specimens will be coming online soon!
I’ve added a group of diverse minerals in this Peru Update (click here). I have selected these out over various trips – each is a beautiful specimen for the mineral! This update includes a gorgeous rhodonite from Chiurucu, a brilliant alabandite, a super specimen of bournonite cogwheel twins on matrix, a specimen of scheelite coated with bright green stolzite, fluorescent fluorapatite crystals and more.
Enargite, Quiruvilca Mine, Santiago de Chuco Province, La Libertad Department, Peru – crystal 2.4 cm
Chalcopyrite on Sphalerite, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru – 4.8 cm
Galena and Seligmannite on Quartz, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province,
Huancavelica Department, Peru – 4.6 cm
I’ve posted a new Brazil Update (click here), with superb, diverse specimens.
From the world famous morganite finds at the Urucum Mine, this crystal is likely from the 1973 pocket.
A one-of-a-kind specimen, this aqua-colours montebrasite crystal was found in a pocket in the 1970s. Most of the pocket material was etched and did not exhibit crystal faces.
From a new recent find, a small pocket at Novo Horizonte produced a small number of remarkable crystals, sold to me under the label “synchysite”. Subsequent analysis by Don Doell has confirmed more about their identity. Having conducted semi-quantitative EDS at SGS Labs, Don found that these are in fact phosphate mineralization, and they are likely a combination of rhabdophane-(La), rhabdophane-(Ce) and possibly including monazite-(Ce). They appear to be pseudomorphs after a REE carbonate, probably in the parisite group, given that parisite-(La) has been found at Novo Horizonte in crystals with a similar aspect and appearance, at a similar time. They could also be after bastnasite-(La), which has been described from the locality. For now, I’m labelling them rhabdophane, pseudomorph after parisite, with the proviso that the above is the technically closest identification information to date. Thanks very much to Don for this analysis!
Also from Novo Horizonte, a tabular crystal of rutilated quartz, in superb condition and with bright prismatic golden rutile crystals:
Rutilated Quartz, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – 7.6 cm
From Brumado, excellent pleochroic crystals of uvite tourmaline, exhibiting purple hues at certain angles and greenish hues when viewed from other angles. The first two photographs below are views of the same uvite crystal from different viewing angles.
Another unusual tourmaline for Brumado, green dravite crystals are quite uncommon.
Dravite Tourmaline, Magnesite, Brumado (Bom Jesus dos Meiras), Bahia, Brazil – 1.5 cm crystal
The update also includes specimens from other well-known finds and localities
Brazilianite, Telirio Claim, Linoplois, Divino das Laranjeiras, Brazil
Crystals to 3 cm
Fluorapatite, Bertrandite, Faria Mine, Golconda District, Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Crystal 1.5 cm
Hematite (Iron Rose). Coluna Mine, Miguel Burnier District, Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Field of view approximately 4 cm
Hydroxylherderite, Morro Redondo Mine, Coronel Murta, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 5.3 cm
I’ve added a new USA Update (click here) with excellent specimens from various localities, most of which were collected between 25 and 50 years ago. Some of the specimens are from the collection of Robert Bartsch.
Microcline var. Amazonite with Smoky Quartz, Jack Rabbit Mine, Crystal Creek near Crystal Peak,
Lake George District, Teller Co., Colorado – 5.7 cm
From the collection of Robert Bartsch
Microcline var. Amazonite with Smoky Quartz, Jack Rabbit Mine, Crystal Creek near Crystal Peak,
Lake George District, Teller Co., Colorado – 4.8 cm
From the collection of Robert Bartsch
Microcline var. Amazonite, Mona Mine, Specimen Rock Area, near Colorado Springs,
El Paso Co., Colorado – 4.1 cm
Fluorapatite, King Lithia Mine, Greyhound Gulch, Keystone District, Pennington Co., South Dakota
Field of view approx. 3.5 cm
From the collection of Robert Bartsch
Fluorite, Cave-in-Rock District, Hardin Co., Illinois
Field of view approx. 5 cm
Barite, Pack Rat Mine, Pryor Mtns, Carbon Co., Montana
Field of view approx. 4.5 cm
Quartz, var. Herkimer Diamond, Crystal Grove, Lassellsville, Town of Ephrata, Fulton Co., New York
Crystal 1.2 cm
I’ve added a new Morocco Update (click here) with some particularly fine specimens. I have managed to obtain five more blue barites from the Sidi Lahcen Mine in Nador that are worthy of including on the site. Although almost all barites from Sidi Lahcen have some amount of damage (many are badly damaged) these ones are in excellent condition – they are great high-quality pieces.
Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco – 10.7 cm
Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco – field of view approximately 10 cm
This update includes several wonderful individual specimens. A startling hot pink cabinet specimen of cobaltoan dolomite from Bou Azzer, a super sharp thumbnail-sized specimen of, and also a great glassy miniature of green fluorapatite from Imilchil, a sharp, gemmy brown titanite from Imilchil, a Tounfit fluorite that will have you looking a while to sort out the morphology, and an unusually fine specimen of sprays of goethite crystals included in quartz crystals from Tizi-n-Tichka.
Dolomite, var. Cobaltoan Dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 10.8 cm
Fluorapatite, Anezmy, Imilchil, Morocco – 4.3 cm
Fluorapatite, Anezmy, Imilchil, Morocco – 3.0 cm
Titanite, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco – largest crystal 1.5 cm
Goethite in Quartz crystals, Tizi-n-Tichka, Ouarzazate, Morocco
Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra, Morocco – crystal approximately 1 cm
Finally in this update, I have included a group of new specimens of yellow fluorite cubes with barite and quartz. Although Moroccan yellow fluorite is often attributed to “Aouli”, an abandoned historical mining complex which is not producing specimens, contemporary specimens are in fact from an area near Sidi Ayed. It is road-accessible, but it is relatively remote in a barren, windswept area, which sees sandstorms in the dry weather and roads washed out in the rain. These fluorites are nice for Sidi Ayed specimens, for a few reasons – they are isolated on quartz crystals rather than massed together, some of the quartz has some nice red colouring from hematite, and a few of the crystals show tiny irregular zones of greenish blue colour.
Fluorite, Sidi Ayed, Boulemane, Morocco – crystal 0.8 cm
Fluorite, Sidi Ayed, Boulemane, Morocco – crystal 1 cm
Bancroft, Ontario is well known among mineral collectors. For over 100 years, specimens from the “Bancroft Area*” have been added to collections around the world, gracing the display cases of museums and private collectors. Photographs of minerals from the Bancroft Area often feature in 20th century North American mineral literature. However, these days, so many of these minerals are classics and can be super hard to obtain – they are seldom available on the international market. Nonetheless, they can be field collected. Although some localities in the region will never produce again, Bancroft mineral collecting continues each year. Of course, finding amazing specimens usually requires tons of hard work and some good luck (knowledge helps too). We sure don’t always come home with awesome display pieces! But every year new great specimens are found in the Bancroft Area.
And fall is a beautiful time here… I thought you might like some glimpses of fall and recent mineral collecting in the Bancroft Area.
Fall colours, Bancroft Area, Ontario
(* For mineral collectors, the term “Bancroft Area” has been used informally and inconsistently over the years to refer to a broad region that extends in a radius of perhaps 50-100km from the town of Bancroft itself. The “Bancroft Area” has variously been considered to include parts of the Haliburton Highlands, Algonquin Highlands, Hastings Highlands and Madawaska Highlands, and I use it inclusively, as many of us do.)
North and Northwest of Bancroft
The regions to the north and northwest of Bancroft are stunning, but we have not seen too many spectacular mineral finds here in recent years. To the further northwest lies Algonquin Park, which is an amazing place (it’s also huge, at 7,653 sq km). It is not a mineral collecting area, but just to deviate from the minerals for a short moment, if you are a first time visitor to this part of Ontario, a drive through the park (and a stop at the interpretive centre) provides great scenery and a super introduction to the wildlife native to the region.
Autumn Blue Jay
By fall, the mosquitoes and black flies are no longer an issue. However, part of the reason the bugs are gone is the cold – by fall, it can be pretty chilly in the mornings. On the bright side, the frost can be a nice compliment to the scenery.
Frosty scene near Lake Opeongo, Algonquin Park, Ontario
At times, some of the fall colours can be so bright that they appear almost unnatural. (If only our minerals were equally colourful!)
Lake of Two Rivers, Algonquin Park, Ontario
The intense colours also make for beautiful more intimate scenes.
And there are lots of great wild animals and birds throughout the larger “Bancroft Area” region.
Curious White-Tailed Deer
Ok, ok, now back to the minerals.
North Baptiste Lake Road
In the area north of Bancroft, and not as far as Algonquin Park, one spot that has produced interesting mineral specimens in very recent times is a forested locality known as the North Baptiste Lake Road occurrence (on private land, permission/arrangements are required). My collecting partner David Joyce and I did some scouting at this locality this year for a couple of days. We found many mineralized zones with scapolite crystals, pyroxene (augite/diopside) crystals, and minor titanite crystals, but they were all in tight seams with poor crystal development and did not yield fine specimens. The most intriguing find from this excursion was a cool molybdenite crystal.
Molybdenite, 3.5 cm blocky prismatic crystal from North Baptiste Lake Road, Hastings Highlands, Hastings Co., Ontario. D.K. Joyce collection and photo.
Out of interest, here are two specimens I acquired from the collector who inspired us to go scouting at this locality in the first place. These specimens were collected in 2013.
Titanite (1.8 cm crystal) with Diopside and Scapolite, North Baptiste Lake Road, Hastings Highlands, Hastings Co., Ontario
Certainly an interesting and prospective area. However, time, hard work and knowledge must be supplemented with good luck too… maybe next time we’ll do a little better!
West of Bancroft
To the west of Bancroft, some of the area’s best localities continue to produce fine specimens and others are prospected in hopes of new finds.
[*Important Note: As of May 2016, the Bancroft Chamber of Commerce has sold the property on which the Bear Lake Diggings are situated. This property is now privately owned, and all collecting and visiting are absolutely prohibited by the new owners.]
One of the Bancroft Area’s most prolific localities from the 1980s through to 2015 was “Bear Lake”, also referred to as “the Bear Lake Diggings” and “Bear Lake Road”. For much of this time, the locality was operated on a permit basis for collecting by the public by the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce.
Bear Lake is a classic “calcite vein-dyke” occurrence that produced specimens of many minerals but it is best known for excellent lustrous brown titanite crystals (formerly named “sphene” – crystals can reach sizes over 20 cm), green to reddish fluorapatite crystals (in some cases Beak Lake fluorapatite has been faceted into beautiful green stones), very fine crystals of biotite, and the world’s finest crystals of ferri-fluoro-katophorite, for which Bear Lake is the type locality. (Note: ferri-fluoro-katophorite is a black amphibole, sometimes locally just called “hornblende”, but confirmed by electron microprobe analysis (Robert Martin and I did at McGill University) to be ferri-fluoro-katophorite. It has in the past been classified as fluor-magnesiokatophorite. (Tempting to offer editorial thoughts on amphibole nomenclature, but I digress… we’re all going to be tempted to revert to the incorrect “hornblende” pretty soon!) Some of the individual euhedral crystals at Bear Lake were huge: fluorapatite to 45 cm, biotite to 60 cm, orthoclase to 30 cm and ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals to 30 cm. However, the larger they are, usually the prettier they are not (!), and the fine mineral specimens are usually crystals under 10 cm.
I was out to Bear Lake a few times in 2014, but I confess with very limited success. I’ve been collecting at this locality since I was a kid, and have found many great things there over the years, but this year was more about scouting and test trenches – it did not yield much in the way of fine specimens. It was fun though!
David Joyce as we commence digging on a vein-dyke with promising ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals at surface. Photo of final trench is near the end of this post.
After two days of major digging (by hand), we had exposed walls of sharp ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals up to about 10 cm. Unfortunately, even down to depths of about 2 metres from surface, the crystals were either frost-fractured or otherwise weathered/damaged, and so although it was a cool crystal cavity to see, it did not yield fine specimens.
Ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals to 10 cm exposed on calcite vein-dyke wall after two days of excavation.
Herwig Pelckmans, about to start in on a Bear Lake vein dyke. This one ultimately produced a nice large cabinet specimen of sharply terminated biotite crystals.
Bear Lake was a fine example of a place where Mother Nature reclaims the forest incredibly quickly. Even though collectors had been digging trenches here since the 1960s, the forest is quite beautiful and the old workings are sometimes truly no longer apparent.
Of course, this meant that we had to be careful not to fall into any holes that had become obscured from view. But it also meant that there is one thing that all experienced Bear Lake collectors would dread. Nope, not the black bears that roam these woods. We would fear that after hours excavating a vein-dyke, we would find incontrovertible evidence that someone already excavated it years ago (and Mother Nature had reclaimed it just enough to mask that fact… and make look like a good fresh spot to dig…).
I don’t want to leave Bear Lake without doing it at least a tiny bit of justice – even if this was a low year, this locality has produced some great specimens in the past – here is a glimpse of examples of Bear Lake minerals from prior years.
Biotite (doubly terminated, floater), Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 5.8 cm
Titanite, Orthoclase and frosty little tracks of Anatase, Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 5 cm
Desmont Mine Property
Not too far from Bear Lake, another locality is generating interest – this is the Desmont Mine property, near the town of Wilberforce. Originally explored for uranium mineralization in 1954-55, this property includes more than one area of test workings which expose interesting minerals for the collector. We had a great day for an outing – I was there with local collector and Canadian mineral photographer Michael Bainbridge, Bancroft collector and geologist Chris Fouts and collector Herwig Pelckmans, as we scouted various zones of the property.
Small adit at the Desmont Mine property (me for scale). H. Pelckmans photo.
Herwig Pelckmans and Michael Bainbridge at the Desmont Mine property
At the Desmont, there are many unusual minerals and although many do not form euhedral crystals, there are some: particularly intriguing diopside crystals (including chromian diopside), sharp molybdenite crystals (apparently crystals to several cm in diameter) and most of all the locality is known for small maroon stillwellite crystals (up to approximately 0.5 cm known so far). Granted, the stillwellites are not easy to find, but they are cool for the mineral.
Stillwellite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 0.3 cm crystal (Note hexagonal pinacoid face)
Well-known Canadian mineral photographer and collector Michael Bainbridge has had some good recent trips to the Desmont Mine, having found stillwellite crystals up to 1 cm, larger than previously reported for the property.
Stillwellite (0.6 cm crystal) with Diopside in Calcite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario. M. Bainbridge specimen and photo.
I had an additional interesting find at the Desmont this year – a beautiful, sharp, complete euhedral crystal of albite, variety peristerite, with as bright a schiller as I have ever seen in an Ontario peristerite. It’s small, but sweet!
Albite, variety Peristerite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 1.5 cm crystal
The Desmont Mine locality is open to the public on a permit collecting basis – permits are obtained at the offices of the Highlands East municipality in Wilberforce. This municipality is very progressive and actively working to help mineral collectors access and open more localities in the Wiberforce area, so stay tuned! (The municipality also now administers permit-collecting access to the recently re-opened Schickler fluorite occurrence, where reddish and greenish fluorapatite crystals occur in calcite associated with deep purple granular fluorite.) Seems like the Wilberforce area will be a good one to visit over the coming years.
Northeast of Bancroft
Elk, near Hartsmere, Ontario
One of the most famous classic Canadian localities is often referred to in the literature or on old mineral labels simply as “Lake Clear, Renfrew Co.” The Lake Clear area, northeast of Bancroft, is actually not a single locality, but rather it includes several famous old mineral localities, including Turner’s Island, the Smart Mine, the Meany Mine, and the “Lost Mine”. (Lake Clear is approximately 100km northeast of the town of Bancroft – not so close – and is often considered by mineral collectors to be part of the “Bancroft Area”. In part, this is because of the geological and mineralogical similarities with other Bancroft Area localities, all part of the Grenville Geological Province). In recent years, in the forests east of Lake Clear, the Miller Property – in the immediate vicinity of the Smart Mine and which in fact encompasses the deposit formerly known as the “Lost Mine” – has produced some truly excellent specimens. This is another calcite vein-dyke locality, and this one is particularly known for the classic large red-brown fluorapatite crystals and excellent titanite crystals. Large augite crystals, orthoclase-microcline crystals and biotite crystals have also been found. Very rarely in the past this property also produced nice zircon crystals.
This year the Miller Property was the destination for a well-attended club field trip by the Walker Mineralogical Club and the Kawartha Mineral Club. A small group of us opened up a good vein dyke containing a large number of fluorapatite crystals.
Prominent Canadian collector Bob Beckett moved a lot of ground as we worked together at the fluorapatite trench. He did a good job hiding his disappointment we weren’t finding more biotite crystals.
As is often the case, we got very dirty excavating the fluorapatite crystals. This vein-dyke was narrow and tough to collect. R. Beckett photo.
The large complete crystal from this trench is now in the collection of Herwig Pelckmans. He parked his car beside the crystal for scale before taking this photograph.
Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario.
H. Pelckmans specimen, photo and car.
Partially excavated calcite vein dyke containing fluorapatite crystals. The large crystal here is the same one in the photo above, now in Herwig’s collection. It is 25.5 cm long. Note the crystals on the hanging wall. Most were attached and could not be collected (they shatter).
Many of the crystals in this trench were not so sharp and lots were frost-damaged, but there were some nice ones too. This one is quite typical for Lake Clear fluorapatite, if perhaps a little more pinkish than usual:
Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Twp., Renfrew Co., Ontario – 6.3 cm
Keith Miller, this property’s owner, is as generous and gracious about mineral collecting as I have ever seen – for club trips, he has opened the property up, including with heavy equipment, and the fees he collects per person are then donated to a local children’s hospital. Please note that one must absolutely not go to this locality (any locality, for that matter) without proper arrangements. This may include the specifically organized field trips that are set up by mineral clubs from time to time. It would be tragic should anyone undermine the goodwill and kindness between the collecting community and this remarkable property owner. How rare it is in this day and age that we (collectors) are fortunate enough to be accommodated, with specimens from a classic locality being preserved like this!
Excavator at the Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario.
One particularly interesting note from the club trip at the Miller Property this year – in the same area where the calcite vein-dykes occur, a pegmatite was excavated. The pegmatite included a few euhedral microcline var. amazonite crystals up to over 10 cm. Given the nature of the hard-rock occurrence, I am not sure how many of these were successfully removed intact but some certainly were. This is very unusual – I believe these would be considered the best amazonite crystals ever found in the Bancroft Area. We’ll have to keep our ears open to learn what other collectors managed to find in the pegmatite excavation during the field trip.
Microcline var. Amazonite in situ, with Canadian “Toonie” coin (2.8 cm diameter) for scale. Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario. R. Beckett photo.
Here are a couple of specimens found at the Miller Property in recent years:
Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Twp., Renfrew Co., Ontario – 8.0 cm
Titanite with Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario – 5.1 cm
Bancroft Mineral Collecting, 2014
Although awesome mineral specimens continue to come from many different mineral localities in the Bancroft Area, my own 2014 experiences produced only a very few interesting specimens. The large fluorapatite we found at the Miller Property is a remarkable specimen and a true classic, and there were certainly other cool pieces here and there this year. And yet, quite often, all that hard work and knowledge still leaves you at the bottom of a big freshly-dug hole without anything brilliant for the display cabinet.
At the bottom of a two-day hole at Bear Lake, dug together with David Joyce. No collection-worthy specimens from this effort. And no help from an excavator. Emery (at upper left) supervised.
D.K. Joyce photo.
So, this was not a year full of endless spectacular specimens, and I appreciate what we did manage to find. In any event, my excursions this year could not have been better for scenery, wildlife and good times with good friends.
It’s always worth going out in the woods, and you never know what lies around the next corner.
White-Tailed Deer – Doe and Fawn
Ice Crystals on Wild Strawberry Leaf
Chipmunk, Collecting Food for the Winter
White-Tailed Deer – Fawn
Bay Lake, Faraday Township
Thank you to Keith Miller, for graciously making the Miller Property accessible to the mineral collecting community, and also to the folks at Highlands East, who are working hard to bring more properties in the Wilberforce area online for collectors. And thanks to the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce for all that is done to keep Bear Lake open and accessible to all. I am grateful to Joe Neuhold for all that he does for the elk and the deer in the Hartsmere area. Thanks to Michael Bainbridge and Bob Beckett for the great photos, and thanks to both of you and Herwig Pelckmans for great times out in the woods this year. Huge thanks to my long-time collecting partner David Joyce, for all the fun and collaboration on our many collecting adventures (also the moly photo).
About the Minerals Photographed in this Post
Except as otherwise attributed, the minerals photographed in this post are included here because I love sharing them, not for sale. (Some of the ones that I personally collected are my children…)
About the Website
If you have landed on this post without having explored our website, please have fun looking around – there are tons of photographs of minerals from all over the world that are available for purchase (you can surf through by using the “Browse” options (click here , and you’ll see the Browse options at left). Other blog articles are under the tabs Adventurers and What’s New Blog (you may wish to scroll a bit to explore within the What’s New Blog, as all of the weekly specimen updates are under this tab too).
If you are interested in more information relating specifically to Bancroft, Ontario and minerals, have a look – there is a post about the Bancroft Mineral Museum (the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Museum) and also one about our annual Bancroft Mineral Shows. A brief more general introduction to Bancroft is under About Bancroft.
This Mexico Update (click here) features excellent new specimens from Mexico, including some exceptional fluorapatite crystals from Cerro de Mercado, beautiful wulfenite crystals with mimetite from the Ojuela Mine and a sweet azurite miniature from Milpillas.
Fluorapatite, Cerro de Mercado, Victoria de Durango, Durango, Mexico – 5.3 cm
Fluorapatite, Cerro de Mercado, Victoria de Durango, Durango, Mexico – 1.9 cm crystal
Wulfenite, Mimetite, Ojuela Mine, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico – crystals to 0.7 cm
This Brazil Update (click here) features a few selected excellent pieces from Brazil, from the unusual to the amazing.
Brazilianite on Albite, Telirio Mine, Linopolis , Divino das Laranjeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 7.5 cm
The update includes two remarkable brazilianite specimens from the closed Telirio Mine, a classic Medina aquamarine, a fantastic rutilated quartz from Novo Horizonte, tourmalines, Sapo fluorapatites, a super Brumado dolomite, blue quartz, and a Novo Horizonte hematite that is a black mirror.
Beryl var. Aquamarine, Medina, Jequitinhonha Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 5.5 cm
Rutilated Quartz, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – 8.2 cm
This Brazil update contains some brilliant specimens. Two matrix fluorapatites, in purple and blue, are really special! Two exquisite hematite iron roses – one is a great old-timer. The elbaite tourmalines and other fine minerals are excellent with lots of character, so I hope you’ll enjoy looking through them.