Mining at the Orchard and GE Quarries
Oxford County, Maine

Coromoto Minerals
The 2002 Season  at the Orchard Mine
----  November -----

35 cm Quartz Crystal Group on Feldspar

By the end of October we had driven the pit floor to depth and flush up against the headwall. There was no more easy pickings as the headwall was now an imposing shear vertical 70'. Although the headwall was pegmatite from top to bottom, only the 20-25' below the schist bulge seemed to be hot. True, the upper 50' contained blue beryl and fine rose quartz there was no pocketing to speak of until the schist feature was reached. Taking down the headwall to reach more of  the lower course of the pegmatite was becoming increasingly difficult and hazardous. Time was against us as well. October and November were proving to be colder than average and much colder than the last 3 years. Once the icicles started to last through the day and build over night our season would be over. It would be just to much of a risk to work under these massive pendants. At this point we decided to try our hand at starting an adit. To do this we would need a jack leg and special hammer. A jack leg is simply and air operated cylinder that lifts the hammer to drive a hole into a horizontal working face. In addition it applies pressure against the hammer. When properly positioned and adjusted the jack leg and hammer will nearly work on their own. When not properly adjusted, no amount of brute force can control it and it seems to consider fingers as hors d'oeuvres.  As a training exercise to master this device, we decided to drill a hole in the side wall of the pit.  After a little while wrestling with it we felt like we were ready.  Working from the back of the dump truck backed against the headwall, we proceeded to start an adit just under the schist bulge visible at the top of the photo.(The hole visible at the bottom is a pocket)  After consulting the 'Blasters Handbook' , we marked out our pattern and got down the the hard work of drilling. After a days time we had driven (14) 6' holes. Naively we loaded all 14. We are always sensitive to making noise with our shots so it was with trepidation we prepared to fire this round.  Our concerns were well placed. Out 1st effort at driving the adit resulted into what turned out to be a 14 barrel cannon salvo  that echoed thunderously from the low overcast sky. A generous assessment was that  we had driven our adit 3 inches deep.  Even though, as per the handbook, we had properly spaced our holes and correctly chosen our detonator delays, the center did  not pull. Without this relief, the rest of the holes were just noise makers. After this fiasco, we scaled back our loading to just the center (4) holes. These (4) holes are positioned around (2) relief holes that are not loaded and are intended to provide a space into which the breaking rock from the 4 loaded holes can  expand. Our second try, although again noisy, was much better. We were left with something resembling to a 6' deep by 2' diameter large colon and a 4'' diameter.....shall we say.....anullus at the  front. More learning.... It seems to avoid this  we have to load the holes right to the top with a minimum of stemming.  So after several more rounds we had a passable adit started that was 6' deep 12' wide with a decent looking overhead arch. There was sufficient overhead room to stand up in the cavity.  Now we were setup to do some ' underhand stoping'. This is miner speak for benching from below. This is what we had been doing all along except that now there was 50' of rock above our heads. 

While opening the adit, each round exposed more green beryl. Due to the close spacing of the holes , the rock and everything in it had been reduced to dust or at most small chips. The good news though was we could easily muck out the hole with our 2" pump's powerful stream of water. As we had driven the initial part of the hole into less interesting mineralization, we were not too concerned by the pulverization. We were however fast running out of time. It was Tuesday and on Friday I was leaving for a trade show in Dusseldorf. We drilled a series of (4) 4' holes 3' back across the front face of the floor of our newly opened adit. We decided to load only the (2) center holes and very lightly at that. The shot exposed a large mass of quartz at the bottom and threw out a number of large blue beryl chunks. A beryl more than 5" across was embedded in the lower part of the exposed quartz. This is the largest we have seen to date and seems to confirm a trend towards increasingly larger crystallization.  At the bottom of the exposure, a black cavity in feldspar was slowing draining water. The hole was perhaps 5" by 3" or just large enough to stick your hand into. With a little chipping, we were able to enlarge it. Reaching  in we could not find the back even with the aide  of our hoe handle. This meant the cavity was at least 4' deep. It appeared that we had broken into the top of this pocket. There was little to see as the pocket was substantially beneath the surface of the water that still filled it. Darrell, Richard and I took turns reaching into the icy November water trying to find something of interest. Each attempt brought out  another mass of quartz crystals. The more than 1' long group at the top of the page was one of the first to come out. The (2) groups at the bottom were some of the better ones. We managed to fill (3) dynamite boxes before we could no longer stand the cold ....and the bleeding. Although we found nothing but quartz, the pocket is not nearly empty. We had just run out of time. Interesting to me was, that unlike the pockets in front of this one, the crystals were not coated with manganese or iron stains. Perhaps we may be getting near some pockets that may still have some beryls. Judging by the very large size of the beryls in the quartz just inches away from this pocket, if they are in there, they will be noticeable. Now we just have to wait for Spring.

Two  25 cm quartz crystal groups on feldspar.
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June 2000 Beryl Group