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Archive for the ‘Rocks & Gems’ Category

Silver Crater Mine – Bancroft, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I paid my $2 at the house of the landowner whose property I had to cross and then headed off into the woods. I’d heard that the path to the mine was about 4 miles long (it was not), but possibly longer, and the route was signposted (it was not- or should I say, it was in places).

The attraction at the Silver Crater Mine is a pit and adit that are rich in Betafite crystals. I found a lump of calcite with the top of one such crystal sticking out. It looks like the dull grey top of an octahedron. The adit burrows through a granular calcite which in my opinion does not make for a well-supported roof. So my advice about the adit is to stay out. I went in about 10 feet before coming to this decision.

Aside from radioactive betafite, there is also apatite (turned red by radiation), large books of biotite and horneblende.

See video of the directions here – Directions to the Silver Crater Mine

See video of the mine entrance to the Silver Crater Mine – here (silver Crater Mine) entrance)

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IMGP1080, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I picked up some beautiful red Rubellite tourmaline at the 2011 Bancroft Gemboree yesterday. This fellow had 2 grades, the lesser grade he was selling at $40/carat and by weight the specimen that I picked out amounted to $64. Admittedly the color was not quite on a par with the higher grade, but there was less in the way of inclusion and the cut was of good symetry and deep so no light was spilling out a window.

I initially decided to go hardball and said that if he wanted to go $40 for the specimen it was sold, but he did not so I went away for a few hours, thought about it and came back and gave him his price. I suppose the value was what I was willing to pay for it and I really love red tourmaline.

You can see the gem that I bought on the tray to the left of the picture.

All in all, some of my favorite vendors were missing from this year’s venue – in particular Alpine gems and a couple of the cut stone dealers that I have so enjoyed in the past, also the better gem vendors seemed more evenly distributed between the upper and lower venues with what seemed a bigger focus on fossils than in the past. I was pleased to see the CGA presence and I had a discussion with my former tutor who advised me that the likelyhood of finding a natural alexanderite of the size that I mention was very slim indeed (with reference to a specimen that I had recently viewed but was unable to clearly see inside because I was in a rush and was yet to clean it).

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P1010585, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

One of the more exciting events of my rock-related year is the Bancroft Gemboree where i can schmoose with other rock-focused people. You absolutely know that this weekend the accommodation in Bancroft and for miles around will be booked solid so either I will be staying with my sister or possibly in Peterborough.

At the Bancroft Gemboree there is every natural crystal from the beautiful to bizarre – a booth of Columbian emeralds, Pakistani Peridot dealers and Russian fellow who sells black power pyramids of some unnamed substance. You stand there long enough he’ll have you convinced to put one in your living room – an investment that will turn your life around. Well if you believe that crystals will heal your warts, you’re well advised to see him as you’re likely thinking along similar lines. I’ll get a picture if he’s there this year and see what he has to say.

If you are into crafting, beading, crystals or geology, or just looking for gems, rough or cut, the Bancroft Gemboree is an event that goes beyond the material presentation of those goods, it’s a cultural event that bonds a motley crowd of locals to a throng of rockhound and crafting visitors. There are two huge venues, though I have always found that the better gem-stuff is in the venue lower down the hill. The best deals at the gemboree are typically outside at the top of the hill though last year I was disappointed.

Maybe next year I’ll get a booth and flog my upcoming Ontario cave book there.

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IMG_8705, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

JC, GW and I returned to this karstic area to make an attempt on this pit. This is but one sinkhole of many in this area – over 50 mapped nearby, all overlying a buried karst that likely hides caves that we would very much like to find.

We have taken a short break from Wasteland Waterway as it can get quite intense if you do it every weekend. Instead we thought to involve ourselves in something a little less serious – the C… sink was exactly what we needed. It was a sinkhole that had been dye traced by a local university, but inexplicably, with such a perfect pit, they never had the curiosity to descend it.

We carried our ladder for around a half hour through tangled, bush, nettles and along the edge of a corn field until we reached our destination.

At the end of a narrow, steep sided gulley we followed a barely flowing stream as it dribbled over a ledge for a free fall into the underground.

Down below the water pattered down upon us like a cloud-burst, we were soaked in seconds, but we stayed to clear debris from the mouth of a small triangular shaped tunnel. As GW points out, with a little persuasion we will be able to remove the boulder that blocks our way and then we’ve got a going cave dig.

We now have the luxury of one promising cave dig and 2 caves with virgin passage known only to myself, JC and soon to be Greg and Marcus.  For Ontario that really is quite remarkable and it becomes increasingly apparent that the karst is there and if you know what to look for, the tunnels soon make themselves apparent.

A short break next week as I’m off to the Bancroft Gemboree – I never miss it. I hear the CGA is there so I’ll stop by to touch base with old collegues. Gems are another of my interests.

Still working hard at getting the next cave book out – it’s looking good. If you are cave-interested, especially in Ontario caves, geology or geography I’m sure you’ll appreciate what I’ll have to offer – again discretion with locations, but like opening a treasure box if you’re a cave searcher you will be totally energised by what you hear and see.

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IMGP0851, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

As possibly mentioned before I went to Mexico (Tulum) and having experienced some of their truly incredible caves I had said that JC and I were intending to dig out the blue barrel sink and enter Wasteland Water way partway along – in particular after the wet crawl through the elliptical wormhole. Admittedly we liked the idea of a bale-out spot in case we were trapped by flood. Further upstream the water reaches the roof when it rains and that was always on our mind while caving. This new entry way gives some peace of mind – we still have airspace at this point pictured above.

Worst case scenario, we are gonna survive a flash flood – that is important to the continuance of my caving enjoyment.

On the point of Mexico caves on the Yucatan, they are incredibly well decorated, but by my observations, the decorations seem to be composed of rough, puffy calcite and in cross section, multi colored as could be seen in broken stalactites. More exciting stuff on that and my disappointing trip to Rio Secreto (soon).

 

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Tunnel Dive in Ontario

Tunnel Dive in Ontario - Ontario Caving

Tunnel Dive in Ontario – Ontario Caving – a bubbling resurgence

I took today off from my normal routine as of late (which is posting on the Edgehill Press site in support of my new book, “Tamarindo; Crooked Times in Costa Rica“, it is a work of fiction about 3 unlikely heroes in Costa Rica who by various underhanded ways achieve some measure of success in the surfer town of Tamarindo). Instead I went out looking for caves so as to prepare for my usual summer of assorted caving explorations.

Our initial leads fell short today. We spent some time near Short Hills Provincial park investigating a rumor, as we were unsuccessful JC and I visited this spot out in the forest hoping to find other sinkholes. There are several other similar pools beside a river that runs along the edge of farmland. This spot was located by an associate who was using aerial photographs.

The pools bubble in the spring – and after a rainstorm they boil like a kettle. Though the nearby stream entirely sinks about 500 meters upstream and then resurges 50 meters away there is apparently no connection to the water that is bubbling out here.

Some years ago, in an effort to trace the source, two friends of mine dug out a fair bit of rock (the pool is about waist deep) and then one of them wiggled up a pheratic tube for about 200 feet. There was some obstruction at that point and he had to turn back. You will notice that the water is milky with the clayish soil from nearby fields. In exploring the underwater tunnel it was done entirely by feel, and I would imagine – pushing the tank along in front.

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Beneath Robillard Mountain

Craigmont is about as distant from the reach of the modern world as you are likely to get in the “near north”. Indeed it appears on the map as a substantial settlement but as you cruise up Boulter road you become aware of how far you really are, both geographically and culturally from the bustle of Southern Ontario.

Coasting over hills that stretch off greenish-blue into the summer haze it seems as though you are crossing into a time warp. Meadows are saturated with intense colour and high pastoral fields line the road, strewn with orange and yellow flowers. Beyond this lies the valley of the “Little Mississippi River”. Spike-topped conifers wander unbroken to the horizon and in hillside fields lazy cows watch disinterestedly at the crumbling demise of old log barns.

As a collecting locale, Craigmont is remarkable. Not only is the beauty unsurpassed but its minerals are spectacular. Corundum here is found in large euhedral (perfectly formed) specimens; lapidaries have been known to cut them into cabochons. In their book, “Rocks and Minerals of Ontario” the Ontario Department of Mines say that there are unusual curved mica crystals. Garnets, molybdenite, allanite, uranite, euxenite, magnetite, pyrite and hornblende also appear from time to time.

Blink and you just might glide past Craigmont. The inhabited part is now a private town. It exists as a cluster of houses, barns and sheds and around it the vegetables flourish in earthy rows.

Robillard Mountain is situated within sight of the present habitation; an impressive upheaval of rugged red rock. Some twenty separate excavations scar its slopes.

As a general rule most corundum is found in pegmatites and structures associated with nepheline syenites. In this area north of Bancroft the most abundant deposits (corundum) are said to be sandwiched between scapolite, nepheline andesine and a band of alkaline syenite.

I took a hike beneath the mountain to see the syenite from below.

More on corundum in Craigmont here …

Check out this abandoned mine in Cobalt ... Here

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James examines the diamond bearing Breccia – Cobalt

Ontario’s first really big diamond was discovered in 1906. Father Paradis, a missionary in the Nipissing district, reported that he had found a 101 carat yellow diamond in glacial overburden; the stone was said to have a rough exterior and be about the size of a hen’s egg. Most surmise that the gem had been picked up somewhere near the father’s mission along the shores of Lake Timiskaming; it was auctioned at Tiffanies and has since disappeared below the radar.

Few should be surprised at the discovery of gems in Canada. For over thirty years now geologists have known that diamonds are associated with continental cratons. The Canadian Shield is but one of several cratons in the north; it is the largest such structure in the world.

The discovery and subsequent mining of diamonds just outside Yellowknife precipitated a wholesale mineralogical scramble. In recent years the search has moved in a southerly direction and it will continue right across the Shield until its rock dips down under the soil about an hour’s drive just north-east of Toronto.

Just recently there have been some astounding discoveries outside New Liskeard. Several kimberlite pipes were found and at least half of them are diamondiferous. Though diamonds are typically found in kimberlite these New Liskeard diamonds are embedded in the breccia along the side of highway 11 (above photo).

Ralph Schroetter, a local gemologist hunts for New Liskeard’s illusive crystals at night, in a nearby stream bed; he uses ultra violet light. As he explained, “Some diamonds fluoresce when exposed to that kind of stimulation. It makes them easier to spot”.

Check out the big chunk of raw silver that I found on the mine dumps in Cobalt – here (raw silver)

Check out the dirty world of blood diamonds here ….

And on the other hand as Shirley Bassey sees it – out of the mud and on to the finger …  Diamonds are Forever

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Abandoned Ontario Mine – Croft Mine

My purpose for visiting the Croft Mine had been was to photograph the fabled head frame – Ralph Schroetter, my guide at Coe Hill had said that it was one of the last such relics in the area. I soon came to realize that finding the abandoned structure would be no easy task. The forest was so thick that I could barely see twenty feet ahead.

I attempted to piece together the most likely location for a mining structure from the location of the dumps, adit, and the many overgrown tracks. Along one old bramble covered path I found a shelf system that had held the drill cores, along another track I found a collection of rusty old barrels. I spent some brief amount of time on the dumps looking for traces of the garnet bearing pegmatite. Mysterious, moss-covered beams were strewn everywhere. Might one of these heaps be the head frame that Ralph had spoken of?

Climbing the hill above the adit, I hoped to sight my goal, but I soon realized that I was out of luck. A yellow carpet stretched off bewilderingly in every direction. Breaking through the canopy was impossible. It was like I was drowning in an endless rain of sticky wet leaves. If it were not for the contour of the hillside, a factor that helped maintain my orientation, I doubt that I would have found my way back to the access track.

The water in the adit was knee-deep and crystal clear. I could see corrugations in the sand from big knobby tires. It seemed that somebody had driven an ATV into tunnel. Touching the wall I got an immediate whiff of the earth – it was that mouldering fungus smell you get when you dig in rotting leaves. Unlike the Richardson adit, there is no air movement here; it is absolutely still – like a mausoleum. Knowing the dangers of such an exploration I only stood in the entrance and though I had to fight my curiosity, I turned back for the fresher air of the forest outside.

Check out this rare earth mine near Bancroft – the shaft drops down to a depth of over 400 feet …. Here We found it in the bush by following the surface clues – a mine dump and old beams and tin.

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Finding the Croft Uranium Mine – Ontario

Between 1953 and 1955 Croft Uranium Mines worked the area for radioactive minerals. They found betafite, uranite, uranothorite, allanite and pyrochlore. Their appearance is flagged in the pegmatite by a dark red color and quartz that has darkened to a grayish-black. There are also said to be small pink garnets in the gneiss and larger specimens in the pegmatite – some reaching up to 3 centimeters in diameter.

A couple of hundred meters along the mine road I got Maggie to pull over in a little clearing and I continued on foot, leaving her there with the understanding that I would be back as soon as I had found the mine and explored the dumps. She had Shaka with her for company and I had my whistle that I tooted on intermittently so as not to walk unexpectedly into a hunter’s ambush. The whistle also served the dual purpose of letting bears know of my presence as the bush was thick and close to the path and I had no wish to meet the “mother of all bears” in a circumstance of mutual surprise.

The road dropped steeply down into a valley and I soon realized that leaving the car above was a wise move. There was nowhere to turn around, the ruts got deeper, and the track was soon entirely underwater. Beavers had built a stick and mud palisade that held back a stinking organic tidal wave that would one day inundate the swamp below. As for the road, forget it. I climbed across on logs and waded knee-deep in mud, thinking what it might be like during bug season (What looks like a stream in front of the beaver dam is actually the mine road).

On the other side of the beaver dam the track began a slow and steady climb upward. I noticed the appearance of crushed granite where I walked and of course the telltale patches of eastern hemlock. These trees tend to grow in clusters wherever the natural forest has been disturbed. They tell you where to look for hidden human habitation.

I soon discovered the mine dumps on my left and in a marshy gully I unexpectedly found the adit.

 

See another abandoned uranium mine in Ontario …  here or my trip to the Sarnac Zircon Mines  … here (where we were again terrorized by the possibility of being eaten by bears

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