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
This year, in this part of the world, “Rochester” (the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium) and spring sure couldn’t come soon enough – truly a happy breath of fresh air and promise of a new mineral collecting season after a tough winter.
Although arrivals in Rochester were initially greeted by cold and lingering recent snow, a few signs of spring were beginning to show. And yet once the mineral fun starts, who cares what the weather is doing?
[Note to Mother Nature: that is not a dare for next year’s Symposium. I mean unless you want to rain fine mineral specimens.]
About the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium
Just a word about Rochester. If you’ve never been, plan to come next year! Dates: April 14-17, 2016.
Rochester is a symposium meant for people who love minerals. It is not purely academic or technical, but involves these elements. Presentations range in content, with new discoveries and research in specimen mineralogy, yet accessible to people at all levels of expertise. The overall content is a great mix of mineralogy, photography, historical content, research, collecting information and glimpses of amazing places and people around the world. For fun, sense of community, contribution and cameraderie – and for the excellence of the presentations and displays – this is by far one of the best mineral events of the year, anywhere. And speaking of contribution, please note that the speakers were all generous in sharing their photographs and related permissions for this post – thank you all! Organized by Steve and Helen Chamberlain, along with a team of dedicated volunteers, the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium is not to be missed.
The Symposium also includes good opportunities to acquire specimens – the fourth floor of the hotel is the dealers’ floor, and dealer rooms are open most hours of day or night that are not occupied by the speaking schedule.
The 2015 Rochester Mineralogical Symposium (April 23-26) was a super event, featuring excellent presentations by speakers from a few different countries.
In case you were not there – and of course even if you were – I hope you will enjoy reading about it and looking at a few of the photos. (For further reading, there is also a Links and References section at the end of this post.)
On opening night, we were treated to a return visit by Dr. Peter Lyckberg, speaking on the subject of “Gem Pegmatites of Afghanistan and Pakistan”. This subject immediately conjures up images of the well-known gem crystals, and although spectacular specimens were of course part of the evening, Peter’s presentation was about so much more than specimen photos, with lots of food for thought. Photos of the development of some of the major pegmatites over the years allowed us to appreciate the massive scope of some of these deposits (almost hard to believe) – and the massive efforts to mine them. Peter’s journeys into these mountain regions gave a glimpse into how hard this part of the world is, at incredible altitudes that would stop most people in their tracks. The local people and Peter’s approach with them created bonds of friendship and lasting relationships. Peter travelled into these areas as as stranger from far away, was befriended by local people who took him to their mines, and who showed kindness and support for his trip as he worked to document the pegmatites. He has bought from them and has supported their work to an extent that has had a meaningful positive impact on their lives.
Peter Lyckberg with his brother, Asim, who is a miner at the Dusso-Haramosh pegmatites in Pakistan.
These pegmatites have yielded aquamarine, topaz, fluorapatite, fluorite, schorl, herderite,
spessartine garnet and other fine mineral specimens. Peter Lyckberg photo, 2005.
Gem crystals (stunning!) from Pakistani pegmatites, August 2005 – Feb 2006, including aquamarine, topaz and elbaite tourmaline.
The large deep-golden topaz in the centre is 10cm tall – both the topaz and the aqua at the upper left are from Haramosh, Dusso (preceding photo).
On the left, the aqua group with muscovite in the middle from Chumar Bakhoor meausres 15 cm.
Peter Lyckberg collection and photo.
One observation of Peter’s rings so true with my own experience (as you may have read in other posts on the website) – fine mineral specimens are so rare, even from the most famous localities. Hundreds and even thousands of people can search a locality or region every day, all year, with very little found by anyone over the course of a whole year, let alone during a more targeted visit to a region or locality. Fine mineral specimens are truly to be appreciated and treasured, as mining them and producing them is long, hard work, almost always with very little or nothing to show for it.
On Friday morning, Dr. Carl Francis (former curator of the mineral collection at Harvard University) spoke about a remarkable project in Maine. Many of us know of the pegmatites of Maine, famous finds of tourmaline, beryl, purple fluorapatite and many other superb mineral specimens. Lots of these specimens grace collections all over the world. Which is great, in a way. But Larry Stifler and Mary McFadden, a dedicated, conservation-minded couple in Maine, determined that it was time to have a top collection of these finds in a museum in the heart of the pegmatite district in Maine. They assembled a team and they have supported the construction and development of The Maine Gem and Mineral Museum in Bethel, and the effort has included the building of a collection, to acquire and indeed repatriate many fine Maine specimens. This is an amazing endeavour, and the museum is a project that has grown by leaps and bounds since it was conceived (with a recent addition of lab equipment and a team of researchers led by none other than famous pegmatite expert Skip Simmons, with Karen Webber and Al Falster). It will surely make for a great visit – currently anticipated to open in summer 2016.
Elbaite Tourmaline, Dunton Quarry, Newry, Oxford Co., Maine.
From the famous 1972 find, from the Raymond G. Woodman collection.
Jeff Scovil photo.
Cut stones from the Mount Marie Quarries, Paris, Oxford Co., Maine.
Mined by Dennis Durgin in 2011.
Jeff Scovil photo.
Our next speaker, Herwig Pelckmans, took us overseas, to the minerals of Belgium. This was a great topic – most of us know so little about Belgian minerals, when in fact the type localities for no fewer than 18 minerals are in Belgium (willemite and hopeite might be the most often recognized of these, and the list also includes cool phosphates and arsenates, among others). Herwig’s presentation included many fine photographs contributed by several collectors/photographers and was rather mind-expanding – we all end up becoming used to the minerals we see most often at mineral shows, and so a glimpse into this was great! Here are a couple of examples of just one mineral, ardennite-(As):
Herwig’s presentation also featured Belgian mineralogists and their contributions to mineralogy – notably with respect to minerals first described from the deposits at Shinkolobwe, Lubumbashi and others in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Of the many, cornetite is perhaps the best known. (More on some others below – Herwig’s second presentation of the Symposium gave further insight!)
After Friday afternoon’s Technical Session (see below), Jeff Scovil presented on his return trip to Madagascar – of course, with many great photos. Including many cool non-mineral photos. Heaven forbid!
Would love to know what this lemur is saying…
We were incredibly fortunate to have a new presenter speaking on Friday night, Dr. Alex Schauss, one of the world’s pre-eminent collectors of thumbnail-sized specimens. He shared photographs of some of his brilliant specimens, and with eye-candy like those, who needed dessert?! Along with Alex’s great stories, they made for a memorable talk.
Alex’s love for minerals began with collecting minerals from Manhattan construction sites, and was fostered by none other than Dr. Frederick Pough, with whom he visited often at the American Museum of Natural History. (What a tutor to have, as a young collector!) Alex’s field-collecting career has involved some rather famous localities, including the Kelly Mine in New Mexico, Broken Hill, Australia and the Rowley Mine in Arizona, and for a taste of the specimens he shared, we’ll start with a specimen he collected in 1980 on a trip to Broken Hill. In Alex’s own words:
It was Albert Chapman who suggested I take the 490 km trip to Broken Hill and see what I could find on the dumps. This specimen was caked by a layer of clay, but because it showed some evidence of morphology, I put it in my pocket just as I was leaving the mine after finding little of interest and later dropped it into a glass filled with water at a “1/2 star hotel” in Broken Hill. The photo shows you what it looked like the next morning before heading back to Sydney, eager to show Albert the find. This specimen was included in both my winning McDole Trophy (1989)and Desautels Trophy (2010) exhibits of thumbnail specimens in 2010.
A couple other specimens from Alex’s collection:
On Saturday morning, Dr. Christopher Stefano presented The Life and Collection of Eberhardt W. Heinrich. Chris is the associate curator of the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum at Michigan Tech University, the official mineral museum of the state of Michigan and widely regarded as one of North America’s finest mineral museums. Eberhardt “Abe” Heinrich was a professor of geology at the University of Michigan from 1947 to 1983, who, among other achievements, produced 135 publications and eight books, while running a significant research program.
Heinrich assembled a large personal mineral collection (approximately 15,000 specimens) which he donated to the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum – specimens from his collection are on display there. Although he does have a mineral named in his honour, heinrichite is perhaps not the most visually compelling of minerals, and Chris and I thought you might prefer three specimens from his collection that are interesting and aesthetic (this collection includes some amazing specimens!).
This first one is an unusual tapered and stepped quartz crystal, which Heinrich likely acquired during his World War II exploration efforts with the U.S. Geological Survey, working in the Appalachian Mountains.
This next one from Franklin is superb, among the rarest and finest specimens in the Heinrich collection:
Graphite spheres, Franklin, Sussex Co., New Jersey – 9 cm.
A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum collection. Chris Stefano photo.
And from the superb to the outright astounding, this is one of the largest and finest crystals (possibly _the_ largest and finest crystal) of kainosite-(Y) known. This is from a Bancroft Area mine which was not known for fine mineral specimens.
Saturday’s afternoon presentations began with me, and “Into the Andes – Quiruvilca, Peru”. This talk was inspired by a joint trip and project with my good friend and collecting partner David Joyce (David K. Joyce Minerals).
The link to the original adventure (on this website) is under Links and References at the end of this post. For Rochester, the original presentation was expanded, thanks to the generous contributions of others, with stories and photographs of Quiruvilca specimens – my sincere thanks to Jaroslav Hyrsl for encyclopedic knowledge and photos of excellent specimens, John Betts for great photos, Rock Currier for fun stories and photos, and Tony Peterson, a Canadian collector who is taking some amazing mineral photographs these days. (Important note: All full-length presentations at Rochester dating back to 1987 have been recorded and are available on DVD – details are below under Links and References.)
Saturday’s last talk was by Kim Tait, the Teck Chair of Mineralogy at the Royal Ontario Museum (the ROM) in Toronto. Kim spoke about some of the most recent projects in minerals at the ROM, including renovation of the mineral collection areas underground, and the story of the recent acquisition of the 22,000-specimen Kirwin Collection. The Kirwin Collection was housed in Bangkok, Thailand. Some logisitcal challenge to be sure, but it might not sound like the toughest challenge for minerals, distance and volume of specimens aside… except… do you remember massive Bangkok floods in the news in recent years? Although not in anyone’s plans, this project involved a surprise mission when Kim got a phone call not long after the arrangements were settled: the floods were bad and this effort would include saving the collection from rising floodwaters.
The Kirwin Collection includes a significant number of ore assemblages from remote and unusual localities, and strong suites of minerals from southeast Asia.
Microcline with Quartz, Mogok, Myanmar – cm-bar for scale. Kirwin Collection, ROM specimen and photo.
And this one is simply mind-boggling:
Clinohumite, Vietnam – crystal 7 cm. Kirwin Collection, ROM specimen and photo.
OK, let’s face it. It’s not easy getting up on Rochester Sunday morning. By now we’ve been up late with mineral friends on the fourth floor, into the morning hours, for three nights running. But this year – as with last year – we had great Sunday morning attendance.
Our Sunday morning talks justified the effort required to emerge from that pending coma… as we had a reprise from each of Herwig Pelckmans and Peter Lyckberg.
Herwig led off with “SCHOEP: From Fred Flintstone to Bob the Builder”. One of Belgium’s most important mineralogists, Professor of Mineralogy at the University of Ghent, Belgium for many years, Alfred Shoep (1881-1966) described 19 minerals new to science, of which 15 are still valid today. Schoepite, Paraschoepite and Metaschoepite are named after him. When access to the uranium deposits of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Belgian Congo) became possible, Schoep became involved in describing new species, primarily radioactive species from Shinkolobwe, Kasolo and Kalongwe.
In 1921, a specimen of gummite was shown to Schoep by his friend and colleague Jules Cornet (after whom cornetite is named), and it was that gummite specimen that sparked Schoep’s interest in radioactive minerals. The inspiring gummite was similar to this one – I know you can’t see radioactivity, but this thing really looks the part:
One of the minerals Schoep described was parsonsite, and the naming is interesting. In his mineralogy career, Schoep had good connections with Canada. In 1923 Thomas Walker, of the University of Toronto, had described a new radioactive mineral from Kasolo (Katanga) and named it schoepite. Later that same year, Schoep described another new radioactive mineral from Kasolo and named it parsonsite, in honor of Arthur Leonard Parsons (1873-1957), Professor and Head of Mineralogy and Petrography at the University of Toronto (1936-1943).
Parsonsite, Kasolo Mine, Shinkolobwe, Katanga Copper Crescent, Katanga, DRC – field of view 2.4 cm.
Paul De Bondt collection and photo (2008).
As for Herwig’s mysterious reference to Bob the Builder, Schoep’s legacy extended well beyond the world of minerals.
[Wait – IS there anything beyond the world of minerals?]
After Schoep became a senior figure within the administration at the university, he led a huge program that saw the construction of many buildings that remain iconic for the town of Ghent.
For our grande finale, we were treated to one more series of Peter’s adventures, this time at the Malmberget Mine, Lappland, Sweden. (I describe it as a “series” because Peter’s collecting and documentation of the deposit and specimen mineralogy at Malmberget was a patient and sustained effort over an extended period of time.) The Malmberget iron mining complex is huge, with interesting and varied mineralogy – it is one of the world’s largest underground mines. The infrastructure includes underground highways, underground workshops, an underground restaurant, phone and internet.
The deposit is such that pockets are not uncommon, but of course, as always, fine mineral specimens are incredibly rare. Peter estimated that in his 20 years of study of, and visits to, the Malmberget Mine, thousands of pockets have been found. And yet, most do not contain fine crystals of anything, and some that did contain specimen material collapsed, or were otherwise damaged. Nonetheless, these efforts are all about those very rarest of occasions where incredible specimens can be found. In December 1988 and January 1989, Peter’s persistence and work paid off in what is now a well-known discovery of incredible golden calcite crystals. These calcite crystals reached up to 10-20 cm, and included single crystals and even a few butterfly twins.
Although this part of the Malmberget Mine has now collapsed and the mining has gone deeper where specimens and pockets are much rarer, it is fortunate that this incredible pocket was collected and that such excellent specimens were preserved. The stories in Sunday morning’s presentation were super. (Peter has written about the calcite pocket story on mindat – the link is below, under Links and References).
Every year, Friday afternoon of the symposium is reserved for the technical session. This session is a packed afternoon, with talks strictly limited to 15 minutes. Abstracts from these talks are included in the symposium program, and they are also published during the year in Rocks and Minerals magazine, so keep an eye out for them!
Annual “What’s New”
Saturday morning always features Jeff Scovil presenting What’s New in Minerals and Localities. Jeff’s superb photography takes us around the world for an hour, as he covers finds from the past year. Some of these are photographs that we see in the mineral periodicals during the year, and other photographs may make their debut at Rochester – Jeff never fails to draw gasps, oohs and ahs, as he shows beautiful photographs of exquisite specimens. Here are just a couple:
Paracoquimbite, Xitieshan, Qinghai, China – 5.9 cm
Steve Smale collection, Jeff Scovil photo.
Jeff is the master! If you would like him to photograph your minerals, or you are looking for mineral photos for a publication, his website under Links and References. More and more of his catalogue is becoming searchable online. Now we can ooh and aah any time…
Following Jeff, What’s New in Minerals and Localities II is the chance for short contributions from other symposium registrants. This is an hour that just comes together as it does, in the moment – sometimes full and other times only a couple of contributions. We never know!
This was a quieter year, with only two presenters.
Ruth Debicki, from Sudbury, Ontario, introduced the new online resource “GeoTours Northern Ontario”. Geoscientists from Natural Resources Canada’s Geological Survey of Canada, Ontario Geological Survey, Dynamic Earth science centre and Laurentian University have created a site full of the stories of Northern Ontario’s geology, to inspire visitors. Tours are posted online with facts and photos, so you can do some virtual touring until you can no longer withstand the urge to see it all in person! See Links and References.
I also presented briefly on some of the year’s mineral finds – if you’ve been following the website, they will seem less new to you, as there are lots of photos on the website. I highlighted some of what struck me as the most striking new finds I’ve come across over the past year, including the German anhydrite and probertite crystals, the Mali yellow stilbite balls, the Volodarsk goethites, the, the N’Chwaning inesites, and the Mundo Nuevo tetrahedrites .
Each year the Symposium features displays of some superb minerals, some by individual collectors and some by institutions. This year, a few individuals had some particularly remarkable specimens on display – here are just a few.
Canadian collector George Thompson always puts on a great display – this year’s was no exception, with Yukon phosphates including a killer bobdownsite (top, centre) – and that’s a vivianite from Big Fish River in the centre (approx 5cm).
Well-known Montreal-area collector, Jonathan Levinger, brought a case entirely featuring serandite from Mont St. Hilaire from various finds over the years.
A deep orange serandite with manganoneptunite and analcime – approx 4cm. Jonathan Levinger collection.
Jeff Morrison’s display of minerals from mining at the Havey Mine near Poland Maine was super.
Minerals from the Havey Mine, near Poland, Maine, featuring beautiful elbaite tourmaline crystals.
Jeff Morrison collection.
John Betts puts in great displays and this year’s, from New England and New York included excellent specimens classics localities like Rossie, NY, to more recent unusual localities like this one:
Sharp, lustrous amethyst crystals from a Massachusetts housing development excavation area about 15 years ago – 8 cm.
John Betts collection.
Terry Huizing’s case always includes stunning specimens…
And I thought this was a remarkable specimen of the sharp, lustrous magnetite from Bolivia:
The Fourth Floor
Much of the Rochester experience simply can’t be written, nor does it easily lend itself to photographs. Not because it’s bad (ok fourth floor late night Topaz Bowling could be viewed by some as bad), but because it’s about hanging out and sharing stories and laughs in rooms and hallways, not to mention sharing nice wines and cheeses. (I guess I could have photographed those…) You’ll just have to come for this part!
See you all – on the fourth floor and otherwise too – next year!
By the way, if you would like to see more about the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium, last years’s post is here (there’s a bit more about the fourth floor…)
Links and References
In no particular order…
- Official site for the registration letter (shows the speaker lineup) and registration form each year (usually posted around he beginning of the year) is here
- Quiruvilca: the original adventure/photographs are all under Adventurers.
- A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum
- Peter Lyckberg’s story of the Golden Calcites from the Malmberget Mine
- Royal Ontario Museum
- Maine Mineral and Gem Museum
- A great reference resource for Belgian minerals and the minerals named after Belgians is Minerals with Belgian Roots – from hopeite (1824) to tazieffite (2009)
- Geotours Northern Ontario – online geological tours
- Scovil Photography
- For Rochester Mineralogical Symposium DVDs, contact Dan Imel – email: email@example.com
Excellent specimens from travels in Peru, including a trip to the Quiruvilca Mine. This Peru Update features barite, hubnerite/quartz, epidote, a great pearceite, pyrite and more. I hope you’ll find them interesting. If you are curious about Quiruvilca and what it is like to be searching for crystal specimens at the mine, have a look at Into the Andes: Quiruvilca, Peru.
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.
The main highway services not only Quiruvilca, but other towns and mining developments, including Barrick’s Lagunas Norte (Alto Chicama) project.
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.
And this main highway gets messy during the rainy season…
Traffic is all over the road. Coming around one corner, this is the view out the front window. (Yes, the front.)
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.
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.
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).
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.
Our house had a nice fireplace (helpful, as it was chilly during our stay, between 4 and 10 degrees C).
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.
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.
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.
Town of Quiruvilca
The town of Quiruvilca packs a lot in – there isn’t much unused space.
Rocks are sometimes used to add extra weight to the roofing material.
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.
Sunny breaks brought people outdoors again and the sun highlighted some of the colour in the streets.
Many of the structures and houses date back to earlier times in the life of the mining town.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Up the ladders…
And at the top, we arrived at an actively working stope.
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.
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.
Dave with senior geologist, Jose.
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.
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.)
All along the stope, the sulfide-sulfosalt mineralization is evident.
Seeing lots of chalcopyrite-tetrahedrite veining, but sadly I’m not seeing any pockets or vugs here! (D.K. Joyce photo.)
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.
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.
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).
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:
We tried to buy in Quiruvilca, but specimens were incredibly scarce. We knocked on doors at miners’ homes…
…mostly to no avail, but we came up with a few things…
…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 – 10 cm
Enargite with pyrite – a great specimen from earlier mining days in the Enargite Zone – 8 cm
Bournonite crystals on quartz – 6 cm
Orpiment – 5.5 cm
Realgar crystals up to 1 cm on orpiment.
Wavellite balls (to 5 mm) on quartz, from recent mining.
Wavellite balls to 5 mm
Hutchinsonite crystals to 6 mm with tiny orpiment crystals.
Field of view approximately 3.8 cm.
Hutchinsonite with barite, orpiment and baumhauerite-2a, field of view 3 cm. (D.K. Joyce specimen and photo.)
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.
Andes Mountains, from near Quiruvilca
Upper Rio Moche Valley (some limited farming along the valley)
Rio Moche Valley
Farms further down the valley
Picturesque small farm
Veranda in Otuzco (Might not hold party on this one)
Back to paved highway (thankfully!). Note traffic racing down middle of road.
Andes Mountains, with the clouds just beginning to move in
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!
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