Mining at the Orchard and GE Quarries
Oxford County, Maine

Coromoto Minerals
The 2000 Season  at the Orchard Mine

May 18-20 Pockets

Back in the hole again!

After China and the Symposium the hole looked inviting. We first blasted a mini-bench in the floor left over from April. We could do this only after pumping the pit for 2 days and another several days spent cleaning out the rubble and accumulated silt ejected into the pit from taking down the southern wall. This first blast exposed a smoky quartz crystal pocket in a ‘v’ shaped space formed by 2 large salmon microclines. The lower 2/3’s of this pocket was filled with what looked like a solid quartz mass. Perched on top of this mass were dozens of loose smoky quartz crystals sitting on top of a crystal plate. Around this space eroded beryls were in the ledge. Not great…but it wasn’t nothin’. We probed all along the bench without much success. Below this ‘v’ pocket were small albite pockets. These yielded some gem beryl fragments. Following the track of these albites led us back to the mass in the pocket. Foolishly I drove my chisel into the mass. I didn’t feel like quartz as my chisel easily penetrated it. This grey mass turned out to be solid albite layered with a green micacous material. In it were about a dozen gem green beryls most of which I managed to fracture. The afternoon was spent extracting pieces and taking pictures. I had vowed that this year I would try to capture more of the pockets on film before they were emptied.

The next day, May 17, we decided that to effectively work this zone we would have to go back up to the top and bench down into the mineralization. This would leave us about 6’ of workable zone 10’ high in the good stuff. We shot (2) 8’ benches on this day and did most of the clean up. It was obvious that at the bottom of the last 8’ bench very close to the hanging wall that something was going on. None of us had any energy left after drilling all day however to pursue it.

The next day May 18 was to be fateful. In the morning our usual procedure is to pump the pit for about an hour to remove the accumulated seepage from overnight. On this morning Dick Dione came down to visit our dig. Dick has mined at Mt. Apatite with Duddy Groves and others. Dick was interested in pocket beryls. We got busy cleaning out the back of the hole with the Komatsu. Perhaps the bucket swinging around in a tight space was making him uncomfortable…you did get a insect like feeling at times waiting to smashed against the walls…so he left after spending only a few minutes. We had pulled back enough of the rubble from the ledge to be able to examine the interesting area on the right we had noticed the day before.  Doug and I climbed up on the ledge face and began picking through the loose material with our now essential ‘pickers’, stainless steel tweezers. In seconds Doug plucked out a 2” lump. Holding it up to the light we could both see it was a terminated gem pocket beryl. Dick had been gone only about 5 minutes by this time. 


I walked up out of the pit to Tom Ryan sitting in his truck trying to bag his latest deal from ‘Uncle Henry’s’.

“Hold out your hand and close your eyes”, I said in childlike enthusiasm. I dropped the crystal into Tom’s outstretched hand. Holding it up to the light, a huge grin broke out from behind his beard. Without saying a word he hopped out of his truck and followed me down into the pit. Perched on a 5 gallon bucket Tom watched us unload beryls for the next 3 days. 

 Back assisting Doug in the recovery, I casually flipped a large lump out of the debris. It rolled down the ledge without my noticing it. Doug who supervises my every move around the pockets for fear I’ll let a good one get away, reached down and picked it up. It was to be perhaps the best piece we were to find. A squat gem blue beryl 7cmx4cm weighing over 100 gms. The crystal had a perfect basal termination with a slight development of pinacoid faces. Although slightly etched on the prism faces and pinacoids, the basal termination was perfect. This was the patterned to be followed by all of the material from this first pocket.

Over the next three days we were to find 6 beryl pockets.  Many had a go at the rare experience of picking out gem beryls. Barry Heath, a miner in Maine for many years, joined us for a brief period on the 3rd day. He said had never seen a beryl come out of a pocket and was there to savor the experience. He was not disappointed.

Although I had vowed that I would not let any pocket go without careful photographic documentation, my digital camera was to give out after the 1st day. It was a pity too, for the pockets found on the 3rd day were extraordinary. These pockets differed from those of the prior 2 days in that they occurred lower down in the pegmatite by 5 ‘ and rather than being eroded, the pocket walls were unaltered faces of large microclines. Typically in a wedge shaped configuration, they were filled with beryls and smoky quartz crystals. The pockets were free from mud or other debris of alteration. The beryls were unetched and clearly visible amongst the quartzes. In addition to being clean, their terminations were becoming more complex. The color ranged from green/blue to golden yellow. 

The typical beryl in matrix from the Orchard is green or yellow. Rarely a deep blue crystal will come out. 12 inches to the left of the last lower pocket, 2 large deep blue beryls were in matrix. Will we find the ‘Holy Grail’, the gem pocket with a multi-colored kaleiodscope crystals still firmly planted in the pocket walls? Maybe….


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