Mining at the Orchard and GE Quarries
Oxford County, Maine

Coromoto Minerals
The 2000 Season  at the Orchard Mine

Ray Woodman poses with his find (left). Dr. Michael Wise, of the Smithsonian, also displays
the fruits of his effort.

August ,2000


Visitors!

In June I received an email from Woody Thompson  of the Maine Geological Survey asking  to photograph the pieces found in May and June for official use. This session was scheduled for August 9. So on the 9th Woody arrived at our 'mine shack' with the Maine State Geologist, Bob Marvinney, and Gary Hoyle of the Maine State Museum. An added bonus to their trip was the display of the material found on the 9th. Photographs were taken of the principal pieces but to my surprise Woody chose not to photograph the large beryl found the previous day. That's okay -I like it. Later the group went to the Orchard Mine to see the pegmatite.

I had been called several times by Mary Groves, of Poland Mining Camps, to allow groups into the mine. Each time I had demurred.  This  time she called asking if Dr. Michael Wise, pegmatite specialist from the Smithsonian, could bring a group of students into the mine. The visit was arranged for the 10th.
The group arrived just after a blast had been put into the bench at the bottom of the pit. Only a small slice was taken and this revealed large microcline blocks and a well kaolinized block of spar at the base of the bench. So as the group looked on, Doug and I removed a loose microcline to reveal a water filled pocket. Reaching in, I began removing pieces of feldspar coated with bertrandite. Although this is a sought after mineral specimen, it is usually a sign that any beryl in the pocket has been transformed to other beryllium silicate minerals and transported elsewhere. Within  a few minutes though I removed a very etched beryl fragment. There was hope! I invited Michael Wise to reach into the pocket. Within moments he pulled out a 3" long beryl etched into a cone like shape. Other fragments followed. One of the Wise group had a chance next. Reaching in with her hand adorned with 1" acrylic nails-I silently smirked  that the only thing she would find in the pocket would be pieces of her own broken nails-she pulled out her hand and in her palm lay 3 complete etched beryls. What a marvelous new gem mining tool this wonder of modern cosmetology was! Another one of my biases crushed. Maybe if I double up on my dose of Knox Gelatin I too have such a fantastic instrument.

Just before Michael Wise's Peg Campers showed up, Ray Woodman, a noted Maine mineral author, collector and dealer arrived at the mine. Initially disappointed for he thought the showing was the 10th, he was pleased to be able to visit the mine. Ray had a turn in the pocket as well and removed the largest complete etched beryl found in this pocket. 


Large masses of kaolinized feldspar at the Orchard in the past as been adjacent to rather large pockets. On the 11th while drilling to take of another slice of the bottom bench, our drill dropped into a pocket. Stepping over hoping to find a more patent area to drill, we again dropped in. Moving to another location we again hit the pocket. By now we had perforated an area of 6x6 feet each time intercepting the pocket. How big was this thing anyway? Each time our short 2' drill had reached the pocket. So to determine its depth, I loaded a 4' drill steel. This drill sank immediately to the clasp of the pneumatic hammer. Trying a 6' steel, 3 short bursts from the drill and it was again bottomed out. Whow! Would we need a U-Haul to take out the beryl? So far the large pockets at the Orchard were filled with nothing but quartz crystals.  We waited impatiently for Tom Ryan to show up to fluff blast the couple of holes we could place around the pocket.
I had explained to Tom on the phone that the pocket was at least 6' deep. Tom was not impressed thinking the pocket was located at a depth of 6 feet. So when he finally arrived and the situation was clarified he too got caught up in the anticipation. Finally a 2' square opening was made in the ledge revealing the pocket. Peering into the pocket we could see masses of parallel growth smoky quartz crystals on the back wall. Reaching in below the water we began removing one quartz crystal after another. On this day and the next we removed thousands of crystals-all quartz. Some of the crystals were euhedral and weighed over 40 pounds. Not exactly like finding coal in your stocking but certainly not the mother lode of beryl. Observing Ray Woodman's angst  as each crystal was heaved  unceremoniously out onto the pile ( if it was special it got better treatment) was one of the few diversions.  By the end of the 12th we had exhausted ourselves removing quartz crystals with our excavator bucket and shovels and Ray wrapping hundreds  in soggy newspaper.  Yes, the bucket of our Komatsu comfortably fit into the pocket. The pocket consisted of 4 chambers all large enough to crawl into. Each was brimming with quartz. Maybe we will find something in them yet but the beryl casts in the pocket walls clogged with quartz crystals probably means we were a little late on the scene. 


A portion of the 2000 gem beryl material

Go to September 2000

Diagrams of the Pocket Zone
 


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