Mining at the Orchard and GE Quarries
Oxford County, Maine

Coromoto Minerals
The 2001 Season  at the Orchard Mine

Large Beryl in Matrix, Orchard Pit Headwall August 13,2001

We find a fluorapatite pocket and many large beryls

The  apatite pocket was definitely the high point of August. The pocket was found on the footwall just below and in front of a section of schist that claimed yet another 8' drill steel. While drilling holes to 10' to remove more of the schist zenolith above the lower course of pegmatite, we drilled into a mud seam. This material was like no other mud we have struggled with before. The first time we hit this stuff ,with much effort and invective, we were able to extract our steel and continue the hole after flushing with large quantities of water. Stepping over to drive another hole we again struck this stuff at about 7.5'. The mud was able to penetrate the hollow central core of the steel all the way into the air hammer the moment the air supply was cutoff.  With the aide of a home-grown collaring tool and a car jack we were able to jack out the drill steel the first time we were stuck. The 2nd time however the mud won. After the shot we were able to see this stuff. Hanging from the exposed face was jet black mud of the consistency of Jell-O. I pulled out a couple of handfuls squeezing it through my fingers. I could feel nothing in but I was amazed to see how it stained my hands coal black. Although I was aware of the association of manganese mud and apatites, I dismissed it. The Orchard has produced a few apatites in the past but never in any quantity.  In the photo the manganese mud area can be seen in the center.

The next day was devoted to R&R and a little Oxford County pegmatite history. Duddy Groves, the operator with his wife Mary, of Poland Mining Camps, called me and invited me to visit his mines. Duddy has been a feature of the Maine mining scene for a lot of years. Having mined for Plumbago Mining (Newry, Mt Mica and Sweden fame) and the operator of several historic localities, Duddy is an irreplaceable repository of Oxford County mining history and a delightful commentator on the Maine mining scene. Basically Duddy is a 'I calls 'em as I sees 'em fellow'. Our first stop, on what was to be a day long tour, was Duddy's mines,  the Pulsifer, Keith, Wade and the 'Hole in theGround'.  Each of these mines is a chapter in Maine mining history with the royal purple apatites from the Pulsifer being  perhaps the highlight. Standing in the Wade (or maybe the Keith), Duddy pointed to a corner of the ledge. Over there Frank Perham and I operated the 'Destitute Mining Company', the 80+ year old Duddy laughed. In seems Frank's dad,Stanley, felt the area looked promising and bankrolled the young Duddy and younger Frank to the tune of $100. Stanley's judgement proved correct as they hit a pocket of blue tourmalines. Although I was in awe to stand in the very places that many famous mineral specimens had been found,  Duddy's little aside was the high point for me of the trip to his mines. 

Next, Duddy and I visited the Orchard. Following that we visited the GE mines. Duddy had never seen the GE mines. He was most impressed by the least worked of the (3) 80 year old cuts, the central pit. While at the Orchard, I described our bout with the black mud. 'OH, you are going to find apatites there', he said. That sounded okay to me.


The next day  Richard and began to bench into the pegmatite exposed by our schist removal. Our first bench revealed many albite vugs in the footwall. Working these down, they led to an albite and quartz crsytal pocket. Somewhat dissapointedly emptying this pocket, our poking with a gad pry bar broke a hole in the pocket floor.
This hole  led into another chamber. After some enlargement, we were finally able to get a hand in. The pocket was filled with  albite overgrowths. The second piece to pulled out was studded with 3 quite large grey-green apatites. These were the largest since '98 when we found some 2" bluish apatites on very vuggy feldspar in the first pocket system we encountered. Each reach in to the pocket produced more of these apatites on albite and the occasional quartz crystal (and left a little more hide on the pocket walls). Each of these apatites possessed a manganoan like inner core with a glassy transparent overcoat. Many had a bluish cast which later seemed to intensive. Most were exceedingly well formed.  Perhaps 300 apatites of all sizes including loose crystals were found as the chamber was worked lower. These apatites seemed to be very similar to some apatites found at the Bennett Mine and described in the 'Mineralogy of Maine Vol. 1'. Whether or not the appearance of fluorapatites in quantity is a part of a possible shift in the chemistry of the Orchard remains to be seen. Phosporous along with boron and flourine are important fluxing components and serve along with water to depress the  temperature at which the melt solidifies. As these components are generally incompatible (can not easily combine) with the quartz and feldspar in the melt  they  serve to  depress the nucleation density of crystallation . This density will determine whether a melt evolves into a fine grained granite or to pegmatite. (See Note 1) It may not be related, but these apatites are occuring just in front the very large microcline crystals exposed in July. 

The other major feature of this latest round of activity was the frequency of encountering large beryls. The mining by this group from '98-2000 found few large beryls. However, large blue and green beryls were a hallmark of the Orchard during the early years of mining. The large beryls seem to be on the bottom of the coarser zone in the pegmatite. As we wrapped up work on the 18th, it seemed as if the quartz pods were becoming larger and somewhat more smoky. In addition to the beryl, these pods contained small well formed schorl crystals and walnut sized columbites in smoky quartz.

Minerals Displays:
For anyone interested in minerals displays, I recommend you visit the museum at the old Poland Springs bottling plant Poland Springs, Maine. This display, a joint effort Dennis Durgin and Ray Woodman, features the some of the best of the Mt. Marie gem material and some of the best pieces from Mr. Woodman's collection of Maine minerals. Other excellent displays in the area are  at Perham's of West Paris, Creaser Jewelers in Norway, Mt. Mann in Bethel and of course the Maine State Museum in Augusta. 

Fluorapatites on albites and quartz crystals 10cm

Note 1: For a proper description of this alternate pegmatite forming theory see 'The Application of Experimental Petrology to the Genesis and Crystallization of Granitic Pegmatites' by David London in 'The Canadian Mineralogist' Volume 30 1992.

Go To Sept-Oct ; More apatites and some golden beryl
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