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Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 06.12.2019 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

 

As spring unfolds in this part of the world in mid-late April each year, it’s time for the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium!

Of course, the extent to which it’s spring in this region depends on exactly where you are – Rochester was further ahead and this year there was still lots of snow up here in Bancroft. Even so, the first beautiful signs of the new season were emerging. (It has been a cold spring – our furnaces out here have been on still, into June (!)).

IrisFinal

Rochester 2019 marked our 46th year.

If you are new to the Symposium, it’s a unique event. It brings together professionals and amateurs, and a complete range of subjects in specimen mineralogy. It is collegial and friendly, meant for collectors and those who love to learn about minerals. The RMS prominently features What’s New in Minerals each year. It is also a mineral show with excellent dealers set up and open when the talks are not on. It may sound scientific and formal, but Rochester is perhaps the most welcoming and inclusive mineral gathering I know. It’s a time for hanging out and having a good time with mineral friends, new and old (of course new people come every year, and if you’ve never been, make 2020 your first!). It’s possible a drink or two is shared among us, and a few mineral songs are always sung.

Rochester is not meant to be a strictly scientific symposium – it is meant for anyone who wants to learn more about minerals. At Rochester, many of the best-known mineral people of our time, mineralogists, curators, collectors (including beginners) and students, all share and learn together.

We had a stellar cast of speakers this year! We began with three talks (Thursday night and Friday morning) about crystals, given by three friends who have been experts in crystallography for a long time.

John Jaszczak, Pete, John Rakovan at the Rochester Symposium, 2019

Three Crystal Rogues. From Left, John Jaszczak, Pete Richards and John Rakovan.

These three talks began with some fundamental questions and concepts, progressed into distortions and ended up teetering on the edge of the crystallography universe – I lightheartedly told our speakers they were taking us on a journey, From Cubes to Tubes.

Thursday Night

John Rakovan started us off with Crystal Growth: A Primer. He explored why it is that crystals form flat faces. It’s such a fundamental question, I’ve never thought to wonder about it (!). It’s easier to assume that we have an understanding of basic crystals if we understand the crystal classes. As a general rule, crystals have flat faces, at a macro level. However, at a microscopic level, crystal faces often display topography that can help us to understand how they grew. The short answer about flat faces is that the mechanism of growth prefers to add thin layers as a crystal grows, completing a flat layer and then beginning the next. The longer explanation as to why that is has to do with the way atoms bond to surfaces – an atom will bond much more easily if it can attach not only to the flat surface underneath, but also a step/bench on one side. If thought of as a cube, if the bottom and one side can be attached, the atom is much more likely to be bonded and stay in place, as is the next, and the next, until the layer has crept all across the crystal. Once a new layer starts, the process is repeated.

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Layered growth visible inside a Panasqueira fluorapatite crystal,
both on a macro scale and an incredibly micro scale.
John Rakovan specimen and photo.

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A beautiful illustration of layers on a pyrite crystal – this crystal surface is relatively flat
but with the right illumination, one can see the stepped growth pattern.

Friday Morning

R. Peter Richards opened Friday morning with a talk on Distorted Crystals. Many of you know Pete is often involved in unravelling some of the most interesting crystallographic mysteries in Mineral World. His presentation took us away from typical flat-faced, simple geometric crystal forms, into the realm of distortions of various kinds. Pete is an engaging speaker and this was a great talk!

Screen Shot 2019-04-20 at 1.13.23 PM

John Jaszczak then led us to the brink of the crystallographic abyss, with Criminal Minerals: Investigating Minerals that Break the Law. A subject that could easily descend into a very technical place and lose an audience, but there was no worry of that! Why? Well, other than the fact John is a great presenter in any event… he chose to explain the concepts using photographs of parked cars. Answering once and for all the age-old question (at least I’ve always wondered) can crystallographic issues be solved with parked cars…

Beginning with the illustration of a crystal on the right hand side of this slide…

 

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Explaining, for example, that complications can result in a crystal’s growth when something shows up where it should not, within a crystal’s lattice…

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Issuing a wanted-list for criminal minerals the offence of incommensurate modulation…

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… you might feel like “incommensurate modulation” is a good technical place to become lost… nope, turns out parked cars can illustrate almost anything, as this one example shows.

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OK, one _mineral_ example in photographs. This is cylindrite, a classic, with its cylindrical crystal morphology:

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Friday Afternoon – Contributed Papers in Specimen Mineralogy

Friday afternoon at the RMS, we have Contributed Papers in Specimen Mineralogy (we typically refer to it as the “Technical Session”). Our coordinator of this session and editor of the abstracts is Sarah Hanson – she runs the call for papers, and coordinates everything to put this program together. Our call for papers is usually out in December, but start thinking about it now – if you have a paper you’d like to contribute, we’d love to see your submission this year.

The session itself is moderated by Dr. Carl Francis. Friday afternoon is packed with great 15-minute talks on a range of topics, some completely specimen-oriented, some more mineralogical. I never write at length in these blog posts about the Technical Session talks, because the abstracts from the talks are published during the year in Rocks and Minerals magazine (don’t forget to watch for them!) and they are published in the RMS Program Notes (see the links section at the end of this blog post).

However, I do feel strongly about writing a just bit about it. The Technical Session is one of the features of the RMS that makes it unique, with professionals and amateurs all contributing. For collectors, there is a lot of interest in these talks – sometimes about rare or new minerals or finds, sometimes about localities, sometimes about scientific work done to establish fakes in Mineral World. We had a high percentage of truly excellent talks given by students. The group from the Department of Geology and Environmental Earth Science, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio did a particularly outstanding job. Too often, we look around Mineral World and see fewer young people than we’d all like – these students represent a bright future for mineralogy and the science that underpins everything we enjoy in Mineral World.

Friday Night

On Friday night, Terry Huizing gave “The Variety and Appeal of Calcite”. Terry has a superb calcite collection, and this talk was full of photographs of wonderful calcite specimens. He spoke about calcite colours and crystals – with Terry’s presentation, anyone could be tempted to specialize in collecting calcite.

Terry made one point that really struck me – it’s something I had never known about calcite, and I thought it was an awesome bit of mineral learning. Many people know that calcite is known for its huge variety of crystal forms, as over 800 have been described. It’s mind-boggling. I love poring over incredible intricate calcite crystal drawings in Goldschmidt and other publications. Terry pointed out that all of these complex crystals we see are combinations of two or more of only five forms, along with any twinning that may be present: the pinacoid, prism, rhombohedron, scalenohedron and dipyramid. (!) I loved learning that! Terry illustrated these, including some Jeff Scovil photos in the following slides:

Calcite - Pinacoid and Prism

 

Calcite - Rhombohedron

 

Calcite - Scalenohedron

 

Calcite - Dipyramid

Terry’s was mostly a talk comprised of great photos of beautiful specimens, including this wonderful piece.

Rhombohedra and dipyramid

Saturday Morning: What’s New in Minerals and Localities

Saturday morning is always dedicated to What’s New in Minerals – it has been at the heart of the Symposium from the early days, and it is an absolute highlight every year. We divide the morning into Parts I and II.

Jeff Scovil has been leading Part I for 25 years (time flies!), and even after Friday night’s fun takes us all well into the night, this talk is packed every year. Of course it is: this is the world’s great and famous mineral photographer showing us fantastic photos of the most remarkable new things he’s shot over the past 12 months. The jaw-dropping specimens and awesome photos mean this part is full of oooohs and aaaahs. Here are a few highlights from Jeff’s Part I this year:

CaliforniaGold

Gold, Colorado Quartz Mine, Mariposa, California – 2.7 cm high
Dave Varabioff specimen, Jeff Scovil photo

Cummengeite

Cummengeite, Curuglu workings, Boleo Mine, Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur, Mexico – 1.8 cm
Peter McGaw specimen, Jeff Scovil photo

PinkEuclase Euclase, Brumado Mine, Bahia, Brazil – 1.7 cm
Alex Schauss specimen, Jeff Scovil photo

MetaAutunite

Meta-Autunite, Golconda Mine, Governador Valadares, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 2cm
Marini & Gobin specimen, Jeff Scovil photo

EpidoteBowtie

Epidote, Kharan, Balochistan, Pakistan – 3.2 cm
Ziga Minerals specimen, Jeff Scovil photo

IrelandFluorite
Fluorite, Joe Larkin’s Quarry, Shannapheasteen, Co. Galway, Ireland – 8.5 cm
Dan Weinrich specimen, Jeff Scovil photo

SceptrePetersenMountain

Quartz sceptre, Petersen Mt., Washoe, Nevada – 25.6 cm
Jim and Gail Spann specimen, Jeff Scovil photo

Part II is led by John Betts – he coordinates the program team and assembles all of what’s new into slides. John then presents some of the material, while other team members speak about the contributions they’ve assembled. This year’s team included Jim Nizamoff, Mark Jacobson and me. Part II is great session, bringing together finds and workings from around the world with photographs of localities and specimens. Of course, our goal is to bring new specimens and stories to light!

I won’t go too far into this, as we covered a lot of ground, but here are a few photos to give a little glimpse, and I’ll finish with a particularly interesting story from Mont St. Hilaire.

John covered finds from all over, and he included some rather interesting new finds from Maine:

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The new finds I presented for What’s New have mostly already been posted elsewhere here on my website, including under What’s New Blog and New Specimens.

For example, the beautiful new fluorite specimens from Madagascar:

Fluorite, Mandrosonoro, Ambatofinandrahana, Amoron’i Mania, Madagascar

Fluorite, Mandrosonoro, Ambatofinandrahana, Amoron’i Mania, Madagascar – 11.0 cm
Mary Holdgraf specimen

On a very different note – a new identification – we had a great contribution from Lázló Horváth (thank you Les!). This story goes back to the 2013 approval of marshalsussmanite as a new species (an intermediate species between serandite and pectolite) and the subsequent 2014 Rocks and Minerals magazine article about it. Les wondered if perhaps some of the serandite specimens from Mont St. Hilaire might in fact be marshalsussmanite. In cooperation with the Canadian Museum of Nature, a survey of various Mont St-Hilaire serandites was commenced using several techniques, and a number were found to be in the marshallsussmanite range. Notably, one of them was from the major 1981 find, often associated with Ernie Schlichter. Single crystal structure analysis confirmed that the 1981 bladed serandite was marshallsussmanite. However, there’s more to the story…

This single crystal structure analysis also confirmed that the mineral named marshalsussmanite is identical to the mineral schizolite, described from Greenland in 1901 and unnecessarily dropped from the valid minerals list in 1955. There was no official discreditation at the time, because this predated the establishment of IMA. Now, owing to the priority of schizolite, marshallsussmanite has been discredited and the mineral is schizolite.

So where does this leave Mont St-Hilaire serandites? Well, there is no simple answer. It seems that so far, the 1981 Ernie Schlicter-find specimens tested are all schizolite. Initially, it had been thought that perhaps the thin, bladed habit might be reliable as a diagnositc indicator, but this has proven to be too simple and unreliable a conclusion. Ongoing study of specimens is being conducted by Tony Steede at the Royal Ontario Museum lab, and he has found crystals in the thin, bladed habit that are in fact serandite. It seems that the only way to know is to have every specimen fully analyzed. Further discussion of the schizolite story and findings are expected in an upcoming article by Peter Tarassoff in Rocks and Minerals magazine, and also in the highly-anticipated upcoming new book on Mont St-Hilaire (more on that below).

This is a confirmed schizolite:

serandite4-UL-0154

Schizolite with analcime and natrolite, Mont St-Hilaire, Quebec – 18 cm
Laval University specimen, Laszlo Horvath photo

Saturday Afternoon

Saturday afternoon, we began with “Mineral Collection Matters”, by William Severance. Bill has shared specimens from his collection with us in the display room at the Symposium each year for as long as I can remember! He gave a great talk about mineral collecting, illustrated with specimens from his collection. One of my favourite aspects of mineral collecting is visiting mineral friends and going through their collection together, hearing the stories behind each piece. Bill’s talk was very much like that, with provenance of the specimens and other background, lots of collecting wisdom gleaned over the years, and some fun stories. I’ll share the one that was my favourite laugh (and I was certainly not alone):

Bill was visiting with highly-accomplished Tucson collector Jim Blees, and they had been spending time going through Jim’s collection. Bill recalled what Jim said (and we can give a small tip of the cap to Apocalypse Now):

“A great mineral specimen always comes up at the worst possible time. The house needs a new roof. Your wife needs a new washing machine. Your daughter needs braces. At that moment, you’re either a collector or you’re not. Sell the house! Sell the wife! Sell the kid! Buy the rock!“

This talk was a treat visually as well, featuring many of Jeff Scovil’s photos featured in Bill’s chapter in the Mineralogical Record Supplement, Mineral Collections of the American Northeast. (Jul/Aug 2016).

Dioptase

Dioptase on calcite, Tsumeb Mine, Tsumeb, Namibia – 2.7 cm
William Severance collection, Jeff Scovil photo.

Azurite

Azurite, Tsumeb Mine, Tsumeb, Namibia – 9.5 cm.
William Severance collection, Jeff Scovil photo.
Ex Sid Peters specimen. Included in Julius Zweibel’s McDole
Trophy exhibit (1977). From Marshall Sussman (2003)

Calcite on Copper

Complex calcite twin over calcite phantom on copper, 6.4 cm, from the Copper Falls mine, Owl Creek fissure, Keweenaw County, Michigan.
William Severance specimen, Jeff Scovil photo.
Ex Clarence Bement collection (1900). Ex I. P. Scalisi collection.
From Stuart Wilensky (1999). Pictured in American Mineral Treasures (2008).

To close out our Saturday afternoon, Les Presmyk took the podium. Les has been a generous contributor in many capacities throughout Mineral World, and we were thrilled to have him back in Rochester. For those of you who might not know (or know of) Les, he has a superb collection of Arizona minerals, and has given presentations on a variety of Arizona mineral subjects. On Saturday he gave a talk he had just finished putting together, “Arizona Sulfates”.

I was intrigued by this talk as a subject matter, because when one thinks of Arizona, one does not usually jump to thinking of sulfates. Turns out there are lots of great sulfate minerals in Arizona! Far more species than only he ones that came to mind for me. Here’s just a glimpse (these are classics…):

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Spangolite, Czar shaft, Copper Queen Mine, Bisbee, Warren District, Cochise Co., Arizona

Sunday Morning

Sunday we capped off the 46th RMS with two more excellent talks.

Chris Stefano opened with his talk, “Lucius Lee Hubbard: One of the Copper Country’s Greatest Mineral Collectors”. Hubbard was a true Renaissance man, and he was passionate about minerals. Chris told Hubbard’s story with far more than mineral specimens – he included historic photographs and Hubbard’s original correspondence, working with Hubbard’s descendants. The Hubbard collection ultimately contained many exceptional specimens, including superb Michigan copper country specimens, and it was one of the three private collections that formed the foundation for the collection of the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum of Michigan Technological University.

Stefano Copper

Copper, Keweenaw Peninsula, 23 cm. Michigan Mineral Alliance specimen (UM 1674).
Christopher Stefano photo.

Stefano Silver

Silver, Cliff Mine, Keweenaw Co., Michigan – 10 cm A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum specimen (LLH 508)
John Jaszczak and Christopher Stefano photo.

And for our grand finale, Les Presmyk presented “Collecting Arizona Minerals: 150 Years of Mining, 100 Years of Statehood, and My 50-Year Journey.” This talk was awesome, featuring historical photos and packed with photos of killer specimens.

Wulfeniteonquartz.RedCloudMine.Scovil2011-04-0081

Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine, Trigo Mountains, La Paz Co., Arizona – 4.3 cm
Les and Paula Presmyk specimen, Jeff Scovil photo.

New Books!

Just a quick mention of three new books that are coming soon and were talked about a lot at the RMS – they are of particular interest to many of the people who attend RMS (and of course many more throughout Mineral World). I can’t wait for my copies of all three! Links for all of these are in the links section at the end of this blog post.

First, the project from George Robinson, Jeff Chiarenzelli and Michael Bainbridge, Minerals of the Grenville Province: New York, Ontario and Quebec should be out literally any day now (it can be ordered through Schiffer Books and will be on amazon… OR… if you will be at the Bancroft Gemboree this year (August 1-4, 2019), there will be a launch and signing, at the Bainbridge Photography booth (#145), and George Robinson will be there for a signing on Saturday, August 3, from 1:00-4:00 pm).

GrenvilleBook

The new book on Mont St-Hilaire is almost here too! Mont Saint-Hilaire: History, Geology, Mineralogy by Lázló Horváth, Robert A Gault, Elsa Pfenninger-Horváth and Glenn Poirier (ed. R.F. Martin) will be released in September 2019.

MSH COver

And the third is the highly-anticipated book about Bill Pinch and his collection: The Pinch Collection at the Canadiane Museum of Nature, by Michael Bainbridge (eds. Gloria Staebler and Tom Wilson). It will be published in fall 2019 and the link for pre-orders is in the link section below. Bill was very involved with the preparation of this book, and the collection described has been regarded by many as perhaps the finest private collection ever assembled. With photography by Michael Bainbridge, this will be an amazing work.

Displays

Every RMS, we have great displays in the Exhibit Room and this year was no exception. Some are contributed by museums and many are contributed by collectors attending the RMS.

I say that it was no exception, but it _was_ exceptional in one respect. We have now retrofitted all of the RMS display cases with super new LED lighting. Thanks to Brian McGrath for doing all of the hard work on this – they looked awesome! (A side note, if you are interested in lighting for your own display cases, these are from Graham Sutton, with contact information in the links section below).

Here are a few glimpses from among the many great displays.

Terry Huizing assembled a case of beautiful calcite specimens in support of his talk. Some great eye-candy here!

TerryHuizingCase

John Betts’s display, “Recent Additions”, included many sweet specimens.

JohnBettsCase

I could have chosen many for a closeup, but I chose this gorgeous chalcocite:

Chalcocite, Bristol Copper Mine, Bristol, Connecticut
Chalcocite, Bristol Copper Mine, Bristol, Connecticut – 5 cm (crystals to 2.6 cm)
From the private collection of Ex. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Wilke (1925-2014) of Eppertshausen, Germany, No. 193

The Mineralogical & Geological Museum at Harvard University brought a display of great calcite specimens:

HarvardCalciteTwins

Scale: specimen on the right approx. 4 cm.

Canadian collector George Thompson brought a case, “Canadian Quartz”, with many distinctive specimens from localities that are less commonly seen:

GeorgeCanadaQuartz

Don Dallaire had many excellent specimens in his case dedicated to the Minerals of New Hampshire – I thought this was truly exceptional quality for cordierite:

CordieriteDallaire

Cordierite, Richmond Soapstone Quarry, Richmond, New Hampshire – approx. 5 cm

Bob Morgan’s case was dedicated to Epitaxy – here’s a great albite on orthoclase specimen:

BobMorganEpitacticFeldspar

Scale: approx. 10 cm tall

Carl Francis brought a case of killer quartz specimens from Switzerland:

CarlFrancisCase

A couple of close-up photographs from Carl’s case – these are wonderful crystals:

CarlFrancisGwindel

Quartz gwindel, Fedenstock, Uri, Switzerland – approx. 9 cm

CarlFrancisLargeQtz

Quartz, Rhone Glacier, Wallis, Switzerland – approx. 25 cm

Fun

As I write every year in my RMS posts, a lot of the best of Rochester occurs beyond the talks – in the halls, over meals, and on the 4th floor (the dealer floor, open when talks are not on). Socializing continues well into the morning hours each night, and includes a few traditions – among others, the not-to-be-missed Saturday night mineral songs with David Joyce. (I assume most have heard Dave’s mineral collecting and mining tunes, but if not, I’m including a link below). Somehow, I had so much fun that I forgot to be taking pictures to include here. Oops.

We have a lot of fun together at Rochester – and if you’ve never been, I hope you’ll come next year and be a part of it with us!

RMS 2020

We have another great lineup of speakers shaping up – the dates are April 23-26, 2020. Our 2020 speakers will include Calvin Anderson, John Betts, David Joyce, Harold Moritz, Tony Potucek, Jeff Scovil and Terry Wallace.

RMS on Facebook

The Rochester Mineralogical Symposium is now on Facebook (here) (thank you Michael Bainbridge!). Our Facebook page is one good way to keep up with us – feel free to visit and give it a Like!

Until Next Year…

The Rochester Symposium is a great event, that has seen many of Mineral World’s most prominent names as contributors. At the same time, the Symposium continues to embrace contributions from all levels in mineral collecting – it simply would not be what it is without everyone who contributes.

Thank you to all of our amazing speakers this year! And thanks to our speakers and photographers for all of your help with photos to share through this report.

Of course, the Symposium could literally not happen without the dedicated efforts of the team who put it together – particularly Carl Miller, our registrar. Carl is The Man. Sarah Hanson does it all to put together the technical session and coordinate the abstracts. Tom White is our technical coordinator, insuring that all the presentations and recordings run without a hitch. Many thanks to all on our committee and those helping in the background year-round, including John Betts, Steve Chamberlain, Dan Imel, Betty Fetter, Carl Francis, Bruce Gaber, Brian McGrath, Bob Morgan, Susan Robinson, and Quintin Wight. Thanks to Paul Dudley for technical and website support. We also have a host of people helping us at the RMS and behind the scenes, including Mike Avery, Michael Bainbridge, John Diaz, Charlene Freundlich, Fred Haynes, Mark Jacobson, Jim Nizamoff, Ed Smith, Laurie Steele Sperber, Dan Sperber, Gloria Staebler, Lee Tutt, and Ken Wolf I sure hope I haven’t missed anyone!

Links and References

If you are seeking links for anything mentioned above, some of these may be of interest:

Our amazing professional mineral photographers (who – of course – take photos of private collection specimens for individual collectors): Jeff Scovil and Michael Bainbridge

David K. Joyce has written – and plays and sings, of course – the soundtrack for so many great times in minerals. The mineral tunes are available on itunes (enter David K Joyce in your itunes search window) or the CD is available from Dave – if you’d like to hear them, here is the page where you can listen.

If you are interested in display lights for your collection, Graham Sutton’s company, It’s West Display & Lighting, has great lighting solutions. We love the new RMS display case lighting.

Valium Online is the best benzo for long term, chronic anxiety and panic disorder. However, the hardest thing is if you ever have to stop it without switching to another benzo. The 2 side effects I had were the occasional headache associated with tiredness. ativanshop.com has the longest half life of any benzo and that is arguably why it is the hardest to stop after long term use. Be careful.

Here are links to the books:

Minerals of the Grenville Province (Click here) Or, as mentioned above, come to the Bancroft Gemboree and visit Michael Bainbridge. [NB as of the time of publishing this post, the only actively-shipping listing is the direct link through the publisher]

Mont Saint-Hilaire (Click here) [NB at the time of publishing this post, SP 14, Mont Saint Hilaire, was not yet listed at this page, but the book launches in September and it will be at this link!]

The Pinch Collection at the Canadian Museum of Nature (Click here)

When they are online, the 46th RMS Program Notes will be posted online here.

 

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 05.22.2018 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted a small number of excellent pyrite iron cross twins from Colombia in this update (click here).

“Iron-cross twins” are twinned crystals exhibiting the forms of two pentagonal dodecahedra (also known as pyritohedra). These twins display edges crossing at 90 degrees, and in an idealized/model twin, these edges form a cross. In nature, the edges that form the cross are sometimes not continuous or are not equal to one another, so a pyrite crystal that is twinned according to the iron-cross law may or may not exhibit an actual cross shape, but in any event the relationship of the crystals exhibits the “crossed” symmetry.

The iron cross twin law is well known and exhibited in specimens from various localities, but rarely does one find good-sized complete crystals. These remarkable specimens are from a find about a year ago near Gachalá, Colombia. They are superb iron-cross twins.

These were being sold as “limonite” pseudomorphs after pyrite, but they are not. They are pyrite crystals with a thin surface veneer of goethite.

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

 Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia – 5.0 cm

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia – 4.2 cm

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia – 3.8 cm

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia – 3.7 cm

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia – 2.9 cm

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia – 3.2 cm

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia – 2.9 cm

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia – 3.0 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 03.30.2018 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added excellent specimens from two great Peruvian localities in this Peru Update (click here) – tennantite specimens from Mundo Nuevo and pyrite specimens from Huanzala.

The Mundo Nuevo tennantites are excellent specimens for the species. Mined during 2014-15 specimen recovery work, they are part of a find that has now been analyzed quite extensively. Of those (over 40 specimens tested) all were tennantite except one that was a borderline tennantite-tetrahedrite. Accordingly, specimens from this find are now labelled tennantite. I have not had each of these analyzed, given the pervasive tennantite results (and not wanting to add to their prices by incurring unnecessary cost). These tennantites were originally posted on this website labelled “tetrahedrite”, as they were sold to me under that label – they were then removed from the site until the analysis work on the find had been completed.

Tennantite, Mundo Nuevo Mine,  Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru

 Tennantite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru
Field of view 4.0 cm

Tennantite, Mundo Nuevo Mine,  Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru

Tennantite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru – 8.1 cm

Tennantite, Mundo Nuevo Mine,  Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru

Tennantite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru – 8.0 cm

Tennantite, Pyrite, Mundo Nuevo Mine,  Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru

Tennantite, Pyrite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province,
La Libertad Dept., Peru – 7.6 cm
The pyrite specimens from Huanzala are particularly high quality ones I’ve acquired individually in recent years, including a couple acquired in Peru.
Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru
 Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru – 6.5 cm
102142(1)(7.1)
 Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru – 7.1 cm
Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru
 Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru
Field of view 6.0 cm
 Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., PeruPyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru – 11.5 cm
Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru
Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru – 7.5 cm
Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru
Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru – 6.3 cm
Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru
 Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru – 5.0 cm
Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., PeruPyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru – 5.3 cm
Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., PeruPyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca District, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Dept., Peru – 5.6 cm
Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 02.22.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

 

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.

Santa Rita The foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains, just south of Tucson.

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:

SnowbankBancroft, winter 2016-17. Snowbanks about 8-9ft tall.
(For scale, Emery is a 90 lb Lab. He never misses a chance to be out in the snow.)

Tucson’s surroundings are obviously a real contrast to home, both as to weather and scenery.

SaguaroSanta Rita Mountains and a saguaro.

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!

YuccaA walk in the foothills

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:

Washroom sign

Really???
(People do this?)

I quite liked this lawn sign:

No Lawn Signs

And at that same show, within about 40 ft of the one above:

Lawn Signs

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, Divino das Laranjeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil Wodginite, Linopolis district, near Divino das Larajeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 2.5 cm

Wodginite, Linopolis District, Divino das Laranjeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Wodginite, Linopolis district, near Divino das Larajeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 2.6 cm

Wodginite, Linopolis District, Divino das Laranjeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil

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

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.

Parisite La
Parisite-(La), Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – approx. 7 cm

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, Mantena, Minas Gerais, Brazil

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

 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

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, Cape Province, South Africa

Red Phantom Quartz, Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa – 5.0 cm

Red Phantom Quartz, Orange River, Cape Province, South Africa

Red Phantom Quartz, Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa – 4.0 cm

Red Phantom Quartz, Orange River, Cape Province, South Africa

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

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

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

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

 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.

 Clinoatacamite, Lily Mine, Pisco Umay, Ica Dept., Peru
Clinoatacamite, Lily Mine, Pisco Umay, Ica Dept., Peru
Superb crystal group, 5 mm

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, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru

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, Silver District, Trigo Mts., La Paz Co., Arizona

 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!

Palm

 

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!

Bancroft, Ontario, Canada

Yes, the snow piles are high.

Snow Window

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, Bancroft, Ontario, Canada

Blue Jay, near Bancroft, Ontario

And there’s this one guy who loves winter more than any being I’ve known:

Snow Angel

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!

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 01.14.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

I’ve posted some beautiful new specimens in this Morocco Update (click here).  The pieces include azurite from Kerrochen and Bou Beker, vanadinite from Taouz, pyrite-coated fluorite from El Hammam, purple fluorite from Tounfit, twinned cerussite from Mibladen and quartz on siderite from Gourrama.

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Crystal 2.5 cm

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Crystal 3.1 cm

Azurite, Bou Beker, Touissit-Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco

Azurite, Bou Beker, Touissit – Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco – 9.7 cm

Azurite with Malachite, Bou Beker, Touissit - Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco

Azurite with Malachite, Bou Beker, Touissit – Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco – 6.3 cm

Vanadinite, Taouz, Er Rachidia Province, Morocco

Vanadinite, Taouz, Er Rachidia Province, Morocco – 5.2 cm

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 6.0 cm

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 4.2 cm

Cerussite with Barite, Les Dalles Mine, Mibladen Mining District, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Cerussite with Barite, Les Dalles Mine, Mibladen Mining District, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 2.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 4.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 3.5 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 2.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 3.0 cm

Quartz, Siderite, Gourrama, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Quartz, Siderite, Gourrama, Er Rachidia, Morocco
Crystal 3.2 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 09.02.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added some great new French specimens in this France Update (click here).

Several were recently collected by French collector Grégoire de Bodinat at the Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France. The Mésage Mine was originally explored in the early-nineteenth century for iron, and the underground workings have been abandoned since the late-nineteenth century. Grégoire had a nice selection of high quality specimens from this classic region – siderite with quartz, ankerite crystals, and sharp bournonite crystals with white barite.

This update also includes a fine bournonite from Saint-Laurent-le-Minier, and a water-clear (literally!) calcite crystal perched on smaller calcite crystals from Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine.

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

 Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 6.6 cm

Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

 Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 4.9 cm

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite, Pyrite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite, Pyrite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 6.4 cm

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 4.7 cm

Calcite, Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France

Calcite, Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 09.02.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

 

In a valley in the Vosges region of France, the quiet town of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines transforms into a bustling mineral and gem extravaganza every June. This is the most beautiful setting for any of the world’s major annual mineral shows, and attending is a great experience.

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2016 mineral show

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, 2016

Although there was much stormy and unsettled weather across France and Germany this year, the towns of this area escaped the more significant flooding damage that affected so many communities elsewhere. The Rhine was certainly swollen with much more water than usual – and thunderstorms left debris on the roads – but for the most part, the rains just meant lots of green across the countryside.

Orschwiller, France

Vineyards, near Orschwiller. Chateau Haut Koenigsbourg is perched above, in the Vosges mountains.

I love the region’s idyllic small towns – quiet, with the calls of blackbirds overhead.

Saint Hippolyte, France

Saint Hippolyte, Haut-Rhin, France

Saint Hippolyte, France

Beautiful Alsace architecture bathed in a warm evening light

In the town of Ste. Marie itself, one of my favourite things about its setting is that the valley is quite steep, and so the forests and pastures form a backdrop for many of the views from down in the middle of the town.

Saint-Marie-aux-Mines, France

Saint-Marie-aux-Mines, Val D’Argent, France

The river and waterways of the town are channeled behind the houses and other buildings – and normally at this time of year there isn’t much water. This year, there was lots!

Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, France

Bubbling water channel running through Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines

One thing that really stood out this year was the temperature – it was HOT! Humid too. Lots of sun and haze… and you also had to watch for the late-afternoon thunderstorms.

Storm3

Signs of impending rain at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2016

So I did see this one coming…

Storm1

Thunderstorm coming from up the Val D’Argent

…and I thought I had time to make it back to the car, but… ended up sheltering part way there, when the skies opened up!

Storm2

Rainwater streaming from waterspouts directly into the water channel that runs behind the houses – efficient!

The storms were short and did not make life uncomfortable for long – they were actually refreshing. In fact, there was something that made things far more uncomfortable at the show…

Halogen

300W halogen lights on stands. It is hard to find a hotter mainstream light source (!) – these were all over the indoor dealer displays.
I love the colour quality of halogen lights, but these things are stoves on sticks.

Sainte-Marie-aux_Mines, France

One of the tent-lined streets at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines

For me the most exciting new find at Ste. Marie was actually not on public display. Tomasz Praszkier brought out the top new Moroccan aragonite specimens and they are truly superb! Aragonite is not a rare mineral, of course, and some aragonite localities are rather abundant producers, so, for example, we typically see lots of aragonite available from Tazouta, Morocco, and also from Minglanilla, Spain. (Even in those instances, truly fine specimens are not the rule, as the vast majority are damaged). These specimens exhibit twinning, with pseudo-hexagonal cyclic twins of aragonite. However, these new specimens from Mamsa are classic, elongated, tapered orthorhombic crystals in groups of radiating spikes and make for dramatic specimens.  Even though aragonite itself is uncommon, it is very hard to acquire high-quality specimens of this most classic habit.

In this case, Tomasz went through hundreds of flats (yes flats (!)) of material in Morocco, and the specimens I acquired from him are all in the top 20 to date (top 20 pieces, not flats!). Almost everything he saw was badly damaged. This bulk of lower quality material will undoubtedly begin to show up at future mineral shows, but – interesting – it was almost entirely absent among the Moroccan dealers in Ste. Marie.

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco – 7.5 cm

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco
Field of view 6 cm

It is notable that the aragonite at this locality does also occur in other habits, including as elongated pseudo-hexagonal twins, so we may see those in future. The locality itself is well-exposed in a barren area north of Sidi Ayed. The difficulty is that the material closer to the surface has been extracted, and this was the matrix that was easier to collect – as they’ve gone deeper, the matrix has been tougher, and the material from these deeper excavations has been damaged. Most collecting there has been by local collectors who are more often digging agates, and of course collecting these delicate aragonite sprays required different techniques and care – hence the high level of damage with most of this material.

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

 Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco – 6.9 cm

As usual, there were many Moroccan dealers with the usual – most had very typical material, in moderate condition. One interesting new find was some purple fluorite, from very narrow seams at a locality Elyachi, near Tatouine.

TatouineFluorite

 

Fluorite, Elyachi, nr. Tatouine, Meknes-Tafilalet, Morocco – 8.2 cm

One last note from Morocco is that the production of the beautiful blue barites from Sidi Lahcen (these ones) is reportedly finished. Although we always have to be skeptical when we are told that a locality is exhausted, the marketplace confirmed it in Ste. Marie this year, with almost no truly high-quality specimens available.

Speaking of high-quality specimens one cannot track down… I had hoped to bring back a few more of the bright yellow stilbite ball specimens from Mali (if you aren’t familiar with them, some are here). Although there were some at the show, they were all too damaged for our collections – I’m not sure that any were new. I suspect that most were the low-quality pieces from the original collecting of this material. I continue to keep an eye out for them, as they are some of the nicest yellow stilbite specimens I’ve ever seen, and they look so great in the cabinet. We’ll see what the future brings. In the meantime, I was able to pick up some excellent prehnite/epidote specimens from Mali, along with a sharp, lustrous vesuvianite.

Prehnite Mali

 Prehnite, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 4.3 cm

New from France, French collector Grégoire de Bodinat recently collected some beautiful specimens at the Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France. The Mésage Mine was originally explored in the early-nineteenth century for iron, and the underground workings have been abandoned since the late-nineteenth century. Grégoire had a nice selection of high quality specimens from this classic region – siderite with quartz, ankerite crystals, and sharp bournonite crystals with white barite.

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 6.6 cm

Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 4.9 cm

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

The Mésage Mine specimens are on the website here.

Finally, another great new find is from the Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland. This is of gypsum, var. selenite, with inclusions of herbertsmithite (a rare copper chloride mineral), making the specimens a vibrant green colour. These are gorgeous cabinet specimens! There were not many of these, and only a handful were top quality – I acquired all of the top quality ones.

Gypsum, var. Selenite, Herbertsmithite, Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland

Gypsum, var. Selenite, with inclusions of Herbertsmithite, Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland
Crystals up to approximately 3 cm

Displays

The Saint-Marie-aux-Mines show has hosted super displays in recent years.

This year, the main theme was Minerals and Wines (“Origines Pierres et Vins”), with some cases dedicated to matching mineral colours and wine colours, and others featuring the wines and minerals of a particular region.

DisplayRioja
Rioja, Spain – home of great wines and the incomparable pyrites of Navajun
Display by Pedro Conde

DisplayChessy4
The minerals and wines of the Chessy-les-Mines, Rhône

The Chessy case had some amazing specimens – here is a closer look at a few:

DisplayChessy1

Cuprite crystals, Chessy-les-Mines

DisplayChessy2

Azurite, Chessy-les-Mines – a gorgeous specimen,approximately 9 cm

From the Origines Pierres et Vins cases, I loved this Chanarcillo Prousite from the Collection of the Museum National d’Histoire Natural in Paris.

DisplayProustite

Proustite, Chanarcillo, Atacama, Chile – approximately 4 cm

The exposition also included a few cases dedicated to colours in minerals, explaining what causes the colours in certain minerals. These cases included many stunning specimens and here are a few.

DisplayAdamite

This adamite was an amazing hue – approximately 5 cm

This next one looks at a glance like it’s a classic from Amatitlan, Guererro, Mexico, but look at the label… (!)

DisplayAmethyst

Amethyst, Traversella, Piedmont, Italy, approximately 20 cm

This photo doesn’t do this crystal justice – an astounding, lustrous, old-time Red Cloud wulfenite, pristine…

DisplayWulfenite
Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine, La Paz Co., Arizona – crystal approximatey 4 cm
Collection of the Musée Mineralogie de Mines, Paris Tech

And finally, while we’re on the subject of the causes of colour in minerals, and leaving the displays… I wandered into one dealer with new crystals of “Amegreen” (!). These are Uruguayan amethysts that have been subjected to radiation in a lab, to turn them green. Blech!! (At least the dealer was openly disclosing the origins of the colour.)

Amegreen

Quartz, originally var. amethyst, tortured and turned green in a lab using radiation – marketed as “Amegreen”
Artigas, Uruguay

 Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines is such a great show. I already can’t wait for next year, and hope to see you there!

St. Hippolyte, France

 Beautiful summer evening in Alsace

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 01.13.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

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.

Rhodonite, San Martin Mine, Chirucu, Huallanca, Bolognesi, Ancash Dept., Peru
Rhodonite, San Martin Mine, Chirucu, Huallanca, Bolognesi, Ancash Dept., Peru – 6.0 cm

Stolzite on Scheelite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., PeruStolzite on Scheelite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru – 5.7 cm

Alabandite, Uchucchacua Mine, Oyon Province, Lima Dept., PeruAlabandite, Uchucchacua Mine, Oyon Province, Lima Dept., Peru
Field of View 3.3 cm

Bournonite, Julcani District, Angaraes Prov., Huancavelica Dept., PeruBournonite, Julcani District, Angaraes Prov., Huancavelica Dept., Peru
Field of View 3.5 cm

Fluorapatite on Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca Dist., Dos De Mayo Prov., Huanuco Dept., PeruFluorapatite on Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca Dist., Dos De Mayo Prov., Huanuco Dept., Peru – 7.9 cm

Fluorapatite on Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca Dist., Dos De Mayo Prov., Huanuco Dept., PeruSame specimen as above, under fluorescent lighting

Gypsum var. Selenite on Halite, Salinas de Otuma, Paracas, Pisco, Pisco Province, Ica Dept., Peru Gypsum var. Selenite on Halite, Salinas de Otuma, Paracas, Pisco, Pisco Province, Ica Dept., Peru – 6.7 cm

Enargite, Quiruvilca Mine, Santiago de Chuco Province, La Libertad Department, Peru

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 Chalcopyrite on Sphalerite, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru – 3.5 cm

I often prescribed this drug to the older children suffering from somabest.com cerebral palsy with an increased muscle tone in the limbs and the adults with the locomotor disorders (for example, spinal osteochondrosis accompanied by strong pain and tonic muscle tension.

Chalcopyrite on Sphalerite, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru

Chalcopyrite on Sphalerite, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru – 4.8 cm

Galena and Seligmannite, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru

Galena and Seligmannite on Quartz, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province,
Huancavelica Department, Peru – 4.6 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 09.23.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

This Egypt Update (click here) features excellent new goethite pseudomorphs after marcasite crystals from the White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, Egypt.

This locality has been known for a number of years and pseudomorph specimens have come out once in a while. The pseudomorphs occur within the Cretaceous Khoman Chalk, from which the White Desert derives its name. Most crystals have typically been fairly indistinct, and to date sharp specimens have been uncommon. These new specimens are remarkable for their relatively sharp marcasite crystal forms in aesthetic crystal clusters.

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  EgyptGoethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
5.7 cm

Over the years, these pseudomorphs have been variously labeled hematite, goethite and limonite (the latter no longer a valid mineral species name, but is a term still used in reference to unidentified iron hydroxides, so its use has not been incorrect). Recent work by Hannah Allen at Hamilton College has confirmed that the White Desert pseudomorphs are predominantly goethite. The small white grains lodged in among the crystal blades are barite, calcite and gypsum. (Allen, Hannah M., Pseudomorphed Mineral Aggregates of the Khoman Chalk, Western Desert, Egypt, Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 46, No. 2, p.66 (2014)).

 Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  EgyptGoethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
4.7 cm

Although pseudomorphs after cubic and cuboctahedral pyrite crystals have also been found in the Khoman Chalk, the pseudomorphs after marcasite are more dramatic. These pseudomorphs are excellent specimens featuring beautiful marcasite crystal morphology, showing habits and forms exhibited by the crystallized marcasite specimens from the famous occurrences at Cap-Blanc-Nez, Pas-de-Calais, France.

 Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  EgyptGoethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
3.3 cm

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  Egypt Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
6.5 cm

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  EgyptGoethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
4.4 cm

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  EgyptGoethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
4.2 cm

 Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  EgyptGoethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
4.9 cm

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  EgyptGoethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
4.4 cm

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  Egypt

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
3.6 cm

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  EgyptGoethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
3.6 cm

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  EgyptGoethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
3.0 cm

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  EgyptGoethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
5.4 cm

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate,  EgyptGoethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt
5.0 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 02.13.2014 | Filed under: Adventurers, Latest | Comments (0)


Into the Andes

The Road to Quiruvilca

You might think that a career working with mining companies and executives around the globe was surely a ticket into countless famous mineral localities everywhere. Oh, if only. (In fact, of the thousands of active mining and exploration projects worldwide, most are not famous mineral localities, nor do they produce anything approaching fine mineral specimens.)

So when my friend Adolfo Vera called me at home late one cold December night to talk – in his capacity as President of Southern Peaks Mining Company – about a new deal, I could hardly contain my enthusiasm. (Ok let’s be honest, I didn’t actually try to contain it.)

Adolfo: “Ray, can we talk about negotiating the purchase of a mine in Peru? You may never have heard of it – it’s called the Quiruvilca Mine.”

Ray: “Umm… I’ve more than heard of it…” (After all, it is one of the most important mines in Peru’s history, famous among mineralogists and collectors for fine specimens of many minerals.)

Adolfo laughed and responded that if we were successful, I was welcome to catch the next plane and he would love to host… and when we did finally close the deal, I took Adolfo up on his kind offer and set off on an adventure to Quiruvilca with my collecting partner David Joyce (www.davidkjoyceminerals.com).

A trip to Quiruvilca is a bit involved. Like many of Peru’s most famous polymetallic mines, Quiruvilca is high in the Andes. After a flight to Trujillo, the drive from sea level takes a few hours, beginning among sugar cane plantations.

Sugar Cane

The main highway services not only Quiruvilca, but other towns and mining developments, including Barrick’s Lagunas Norte (Alto Chicama) project.

Books

Although construction and improvements continue on the road, it was still a treacherous affair at the time of our visit. (A week later, a bus with 60 people crashed off of this same road into the river gorge, killing all on board.) The highway is full of large vehicles with interesting cargo.

Highway 2

And this main highway gets messy during the rainy season…

Highway 1

Traffic is all over the road. Coming around one corner, this is the view out the front window. (Yes, the front.)

Highway 3

In part, vehicles are all over the road because of the potholes. You can see a few small ones in the photo above, but here is a view of larger ones – each one enough to swallow even a tanker truck.

Highway 4

The highway climbs up and up, into the Andes. Many afternoons in the rainy season all you get are glimpses across the mountains through small holes in the clouds.

Mountains in the Clouds

Once you get to Quiruvilca, you have climbed to an altitude of 3800 metres (12,500 ft). By the way, the name “Quiruvilca” means “sacred tooth” in the Quechua language, and refers to this formation (photo below) which rises off the top of the mountains into the sky (and which is actually a few kilometres away from the town and mine).

Tooth

Company Area

Upon arrival at the Quiruvilca Mine, we were invited to stay at the nicest residence within the gated executive housing area, near the company offices and labs. A wonderful place to stay, this complex dates to the time when Asarco owned the mine. (As the town of Quiruvilca developed as a typical mining company town, I am not sure if there would even have been any public accommodations, had we been independent visitors and not guests of the mine). As it was, we were spoiled.

Housing 1

Our house had a nice fireplace (helpful, as it was chilly during our stay, between 4 and 10 degrees C).

Housing 3

In the vicinity of the housing area and the company offices, there were trees, and yet you could still catch glimpses of the valley and mountains beyond.

Housing 2

Looking back at it all from the hills across the valley, the view includes the mill at the top, the company offices in the middle section of trees and our housing area was in the group of trees below and to the right of the middle of the photo.

Mill and Complex

Looking at the above photo for context, the Quiruvilca Mine and the town of Quiruvilca are still further up the valley (to the left in the above photo – and the highway from Trujillo comes in from the right in the above photo). A mountain scene with the mill and company complex was visible from higher up the valley by the water tower, above and just beyond past the town and mine.

Watertower

Town of Quiruvilca

The town of Quiruvilca packs a lot in – there isn’t much unused space.

Q 7

Rocks are sometimes used to add extra weight to the roofing material.

Q 1

We had a look around the central area – this little guy took a good look at us, but wasn’t inviting us for a drink.

Q 5

Sunny breaks brought people outdoors again and the sun highlighted some of the colour in the streets.

Town1

Q 2

Many of the structures and houses date back to earlier times in the life of the mining town.

Q 3

The Quiruvilca Mine

The Quiruvilca Mine is an amazingly large complex of mining operations. Although mineralization was first discovered at Quiruvilca in 1789, commercial mining did not commence until the beginning of the 20th century. The mine has produced copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc – the latter three are key in the current operations. The workings consist of several different access adits leading underground to labyrinthine networks of tunnels, raises and stopes on many levels. These workings are so extensive, having been developed and worked continuously since 1907, that no-one was able to say for sure how many kilometres of workings there are underground. A guess from having been shown the maps and plans (including the areas that are now flooded) is that there could be between 100-200km of tunnels, and possibly even more.

Although working in these kinds of mines is dangerous, the company has rigid and extensive safety rules and regulations in place. When we arrived at Quiruvilca on our first night, we were immediately given a full session of safety training and testing – about two hours’ worth. We also had a visit that night with the company doctors for testing – which came in handy later for me when the altitude got me! These high altitude mines – particularly those with legacy workings like Quiruvilca – can be tricky places, and running one safely is a complicated business.

Part of the mine is serviced by the headframe over the Elvira shaft – the Pique Elvira. I thought I’d convey the feeling of being there in a black and white photo.

Elvira

Today, mining at the Quiruvilca Mine involves small teams working stopes all over the workings – at any given time, approximately 60 separate stopes are producing and contributing to the ore going to the mill. When you think about it, this is an amazing amount of active development of headings at any given time! A total of nearly 1000 people work at the Quiruvilca mining/milling/office complex.

As for the mine itself, many of the tunnels are timbered, and some of them are constructed to accommodate rail cars to haul the ore.

Tunnel1

The timbers are replaced every two years (water weakens them over time) and the rails are replaced approximately every 6 years.

Outside the adits, the ore cars are emptied – the photo below shows ore cars outside the Morrococha adit, with the Pique Elivira in the background on the hill.

Tunnel2

Going Underground

We received detailed explanations of the workings from senior geologist, Edgar. Note all the timbers stacked on the right. We had the chance to visit a few zones in our time at Quiruvilca.

UG1

Underground, the tunnels and galleries are supported with timbers at various places – the walls are also bolted and caged in places. Some of the areas worked in the past are still visible from active areas. (Small note: you will notice bright spots in the underground photos – this is dust reflecting the flash on my camera – there is a lot of dust in the air underground when nearing active areas of the mine.)

UG2

After walking for perhaps 1.5km underground, we arrived at the raise – a series of ladders to be climbed to get to the working stope.

UG3

Up the ladders…

UG4

And at the top, we arrived at an actively working stope.

Stope1

Significant amounts of woodwork have been put in place where the walls have little structural integrity – but even in these places it was possible to see minerals. The next photo below is a pocket that contained chalcopyrite and tetrahedrite – interesting, and some micro crystals but nothing that would be considered a fine mineral specimen.

Stope2

We were taken to several working faces and given a chance to look for specimens. Senior geologists and supervisors joined in helping with our visit, and we could not have been given a better introduction to Quiruvilca.

UG5

Dave with senior geologist, Jose.

UG6

Between Dave and me is Mauro, senior supervisor in the Moroccocha workings, who led us up ladders into working stopes for collecting.

As mineral specimens go, being at Quiruvilca is similar to most mineral localities – you have to be in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, if you are to find fine specimens. If you stop and think about it, if the mine has 60 working faces operating for 365 days a year, the few specimens that you do see come from Quiruvilca each year come from all of that ongoing work. You would have to be in 60 places at the right time, every day, all year long, so that you were in the right place for the few fine specimens that are actually encountered. Doesn’t bode well for one’s chances on a short visit! (even though the company geologists did their best to take us to the places they felt would have the best chance on the days of the visit). We had a great time and found a few interesting small reference specimens, but that was all that was possible on this visit. We were able to examine the walls, collect what we found, and it was a super experience.

UG7

View of the sulfide veining at a working face.

As you can see, there aren’t exactly pockets gaping with crystals. In fact, the rock in the mineralized zones includes a lot of very soft material with poor competence – it just crumbles. As soon as the stope face has advanced, new timbers are put in place to support the walls. (Walking up the stope you simply climb over or under these.)

UG8

All along the stope, the sulfide-sulfosalt mineralization is evident.

UG9

Seeing lots of chalcopyrite-tetrahedrite veining, but sadly I’m not seeing any pockets or vugs here! (D.K. Joyce photo.)

Tunnel3

Underground, we waited for the lift to return us up the shaft for the hike back out.

About that Altitude…

An elevation of 3800 metres may not sound that high. With no snow and no jagged peaks, it certainly didn’t look as if we were in thin air. But if you drive that whole ascent in a short few hours, and then dive into hiking with backpacks up and down mine ramps, and maybe add in a nice big dinner… I didn’t react that well. Two of my best friends at the mine were Miguel, the company doctor, and Mr. Oxygen Tank. Miguel grounded me from any collecting at all on Day 2 (bummer!) after I woke up in the middle of the overnight with crazy racing breathing (it was easier to breathe standing up than lying in bed (!)). They take the altitude issue very seriously – for example, once I mentioned to our house hostess Marina that I had had a small issue breathing overnight, an ambulance was at the house in under 2 minutes. And to go to the medical office for some oxygen that first morning, I felt I could easily walk, but that was refused – ambulance only. No chances are taken! With oxygen and some adjustment time, I was able to be more active after that, and was obviously more cautious, but for those of us who do not live at altitude, that rapid ascent is not for the faint of heart. Fortunately, Quiruvilca is a dry camp – had I had wine with that first dinner, I’m sure my issue would have been compounded.

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Quiruvilca Geology

Excellent references include a discussion of the geology at Quiruvilca (see the list at the end of this post). As a basic overview, the geology is Miocene age – very recent in geological terms (the Miocene period is from approximately 23 to 5.3 million years ago). The host rocks are a mix of andesites, basalts and dacites, and the mineralization is concentrated in mesothermal and epithermal veins. The key to understanding the occurrence of the minerals at Quiruvilca is the classification of the four mineral zones, along with the occurrence of the vein structures.

The map below (provided by the company) gives an overview of the four zones – and note the veins (“vetas”) indicated as red lines.

Map1

The inner (orange) zone is referred to as the Enargite Zone. At one time, mining was concentrated entirely in this zone, and the workings here are extensive, though many are now flooded. This zone produced enargite, pyrite, chalcopyrite, galena, sphalerite, wurtzite, tennantite, the famous orpiment specimens, realgar, and the world’s best hutchinsonites. Sadly for mineral collectors, little mining is done here now, but some ramp work and development work have led to occasional interesting finds.

The next (deep yellow) zone, the Transition Zone, includes predominant sphalerite, with pyrite, tetrahedite-tennantite, chalcopyrite, galena, marcasite, arsenopyrite, covellite, seligmannite, jamesonite, quartz, calcite and rhodochrosite. Company records also indicate alabandite has been found in this zone.

The third (light yellow),the Lead-Zinc Zone, has been an area of high mining activity in recent times, in part due to the silver content. Mineralization includes galena, sphalerite, pyrite, chalcopyrite, tetrahedrite-tennantite, marcasite, jamesonite and arsenopyrite. Crowley, Currier and Szenics (1997) report gratonite and wurtzite from the Lead-Zinc Zone. Other minerals from this zone include quartz, calcite, dolomite and rhodochrosite. The company reports clinozoizite and manganaxinite from this zone.

Finally the outer (beige) zone is the Stibnite Zone, which is mostly beyond the area of the Quiruvilca Mine workings. Minerals of the Stibnite Zone include stibnite, arsenopyrite, arsenic, pyrite, chalcopyrite, sphalerite and galena.

Vein mineralization and paragenesis are discussed well in Crowley, Currier and Szenics (1997).

Quiruvilca Minerals

We did our best to procure minerals from Quiruvilca! Underground work did not result in anything spectacular, although on the day I was grounded with altitude sickness Dave found some pretty great seligmannites. These are microscopic crystals only, but they have great form and iridescent colour:

Selig3Seligmannite. Field of view 1mm. (D.K. Joyce specimen and photo.)

Selig2Seligmannite. Field of view 1mm. (D.K. Joyce specimen and photo.)

Selig1Seligmannite on sphalerite. Field of view 1mm. (D.K. Joyce specimen and photo.)

We tried to buy in Quiruvilca, but specimens were incredibly scarce. We knocked on doors at miners’ homes…

Town3

Town2

…mostly to no avail, but we came up with a few things…

Pyrite1

…including a beautiful pyrite with octahedral crystal forms, totally overgrown by a second generation of pyritohedral crystals. 8cm across.

Most specimens make their way out of town within a short time of extraction from the mine – usually with runners who transport them ultimately to the mineral dealers in Lima. From there, many specimens go on to international mineral shows. One’s chances of intercepting fine mineral specimens at Quiruvilca itself are very low!

In any event, here are a few additional mineral specimens from Quiruvilca:

Arsenic

Arsenic – 10 cm

QuiruvilcaEnargite

Enargite with pyrite – a great specimen from earlier mining days in the Enargite Zone – 8 cm

Bournonite, Quiruvilca, La Libertad, Peru

Bournonite crystals on quartz – 6 cm

QuirvilcaOrpiment(5.5)

Orpiment – 5.5 cm

QuiruvilcaRealgar

Realgar crystals up to 1 cm on orpiment.

Wavellite

Wavellite balls (to 5 mm) on quartz, from recent mining.

Wavellite2

Wavellite balls to 5 mm

Hutch3Hutchinsonite 8 mm tall with orpiment. (D.K Joyce specimen and photo.)

QuirvilcaHutchisonite

Hutchinsonite crystals to 6 mm with tiny orpiment crystals.
Field of view approximately 3.8 cm.

Hutch1

Hutchinsonite with barite, orpiment and baumhauerite-2a, field of view 3 cm. (D.K. Joyce specimen and photo.)

Iridescent

Iridescent Sphalerite with micro Seligmannite and Quartz – Field of view 1 cm

Please note – the specimens photographed for this post are not available for sale on this website, but great Peruvian minerals are available here.

From Quiruvilca Along the Rio Moche Valley

We had a lucky break in the weather for our trip through the mountains and along the valley, so I thought I would end this post with some scenes from along the way.

Mountain1

Andes Mountains, from near Quiruvilca

Mtn2Rural dwellings, near Quiruvilca

Mtn3

Upper Rio Moche Valley (some limited farming along the valley)

Mtn4

Rio Moche Valley

Mtn5

Farms further down the valley

Farm1

Picturesque small farm

Otuzco

Veranda in Otuzco (Might not hold party on this one)

Mtn6

Back to paved highway (thankfully!). Note traffic racing down middle of road.

Mtn8

Andes Mountains

Mtn7

Andes Mountains, with the clouds just beginning to move in

Thanks

First, of course, this could never have happened without an amazing effort organized by Adolfo and his team at Southern Peaks Mining. Thank you Adolfo! Thanks also to Pio, Edgar, Jose and Mauro for great geological, mineralogical, historical and technical insights. Thanks to Wilder, not only for all the driving around us Quiruvilca, but for dodging all those potholes on the road to and from Trujillo – and thanks to Marina for all the great meals. Special major thanks to Miguel and Mr. Oxygen Tank!

References

Excellent references for Quiruvilca and other Peruvian localities:

Crowley J.A., Currier, R.H. and Szenics T. (1997) Mines and Minerals of Peru. The Mineralogical Record. July-August, 1997, vol 28, no. 4.

Hyrsl, J, Crowley J.A., Currier, R.H. and Szenics T. (2010) Peru – Paradise of Minerals. Soregaroli, A. and Del Castillo, G., eds.

Hyrsl, J and Rosales, Z. (2003) “Peruvian Minerals: An Update” The Mineralogical Record. May-June 2003, vol 34, no.3.

Southern Peaks Mining website: www.southernpeaksmining.com