Mining at the Orchard and GE Quarries
Oxford County, Maine

Coromoto Minerals
The 2003 Season  at the Orchard Mine
----  June July  -----

5" smoky quartz  scepter from the GE Central Pit
Richard Edwards specimen.

 June and July were busy months for the crew at Coromoto Minerals. The main item on our agenda was to receive the required 40 hours of training MSHA (Mine safety and Health Administration) requires for miners to work underground. While in Tucson this past February for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, I arranged with Jim Clanin of the Cryo-Genie fame (and many other well known mines) to train Richard and me in the fine art. To that end, Jim trained and mined with us for 2 weeks at the Orchard. Now Richard and I are ‘trained’ and anxious not to be the stars in the latest MSHA ‘FatalGram’.  What is said about ‘old dogs’ is only partially true.

Our first day in class Jim explained how in San Diego, at the Cryo-Genie mine, he is able to drill (14) 3’ holes in 15 minutes. Richard and I were both anxious for Jim to work his magic on the Orchard pegmatite. Surely, if he could accomplish this feat on the Orchard rock, we had been most probably attempting to drill with the wrong end of the drill steel or perhaps had the jack-leg and hammer in reverse. We both made way for Jim as he applied the hammer to the working face. 3 hours later Jim, with our assistance, had drilled the burn cut. It seems not all rock is made equal. We were soon to find that even the rock at nearby  Mt. Mica was not cut from the same cloth as the Orchard either. My rock drilling experience has been confined to the Orchard, so what did I know? The burn cut went well this time…a grade of B+ was received. Encouraged by this success on the burn, we decided to take a bigger bite with the subsequent holes. Here Jim poses with his handiwork….and ours too. (The floor as been buried with more than 8 feet of muck to make access to the top of the adit easier.)  The next round was a mild disaster producing a number of size13 E bootlegs ( the part of the drilled hole that is not broken in the blast, usually less than 3”). So our dreams of  advancing the heading within  than 2 days to the point where we could stand up in it went  up in smoke...and lost of blasting agent.

Once completed, the new 6 foot advance showed us that the Orchard pegmatite had continued to plunge lower (tautology) but at same time had produced a quartz pod rich in blue beryl. Our last shot when Jim was here was a burn cut into the floor of the adit. This shot showered rose quartz and blue beryl all over the passage way. We had attempted to place the floor burn to the left of the area that was showing some quartz. However, as we were drilling the holes, we could readily see that we were mainly drilling quartz. Although shooting the quartz would likely damage some material, quartz has the advantage that it is easily broken by the blast, facility the burn. Fortunately, as we were later to learn, the shot only gave the quartz pod and its contents a flesh wound.

Tantalized by the blue beryl, we were forced to back up about 20’ to drop the floor down some more to properly get at the beryl. As we started drilling the floor near the entrance of the adit we immediately dropped into a sizable pocket. Setting over a foot, we again dropped into a pocket. Drilling on the opposite side of the original hole again produced the same result. After drilling a pin cushion series of holes, we still had not found solid rock. To our surprise all of these pockets were interconnected or the same one. In the picture Richard is blowing air into one hole and producing water fountain out of one of the others. 

As we dropped the floor lower by 4 feet, we discovered that we had been walking back and forth over a large quartz pod there too. It took many attempts just to lower the floor  to the top of the pocket  as few of our holes pulled properly when shot. Being as jaded as we are, we did not expect to see much in our new pockets. Finally, after a lot of effort, we were able to probe into the chamber. Probe is all we were able to do as the entrance to the chamber was lower than the opening we were finally able to create.  We could reach under a  submerged opening and feel large crystal faces. Using a pry bar nad reaching end to arms length we were unable to touch the back. Over the next several days as we worked  this area, when were arrived to pump out the water accumulated during the night instead of finding the normal greenish pool we found the water black. Manganese mud was washing out of the pocket .. As we struggled to break into this pocket, it occurred to me that up the road from the adit we may have left the best material in the floor. The original beryl pockets of 1999/2000 all graded into very large quartz pockets with walls of beryl molds. This pocket too was rich in these molds. The knowledge that the quartz above this untouched floor area had produced the largest beryls we had mined at the Orchard was further grist for speculation. 

Richard attempts to open the pocket with our small
air hammer.

The portal of the pocket consisted of quartz crystal
and albite

Another view of the pocket portal. The pocket opens behind this face and under the water.

In between bouts of trying to get into the huge pocket in the floor, we worked the new beryl pod. This pod consisted of smoky quartz and graded to rose quartz as the pod worked it's way into the floor. The pod above the rose quartz was rich in green and blue beryls. As we carefully removed the quartz, we could see there were a couple of exceptional blue ones enclosed. 2 years ago I had purchased a diamond saw blade. Now we would finally press it into service extracting some of the betters beryls locked in quartz. 

Quartz pod with blue beryl.

One of the blue beryls locked in quartz

Mary found this nice matrix  piece in the pod.

By the 3rd week in July Richard and I were somewhat tired of being wet all day long. Drilling underground required us to use water for dust control. The constant regurgitation of the water from the holes as we drilled insured that we stayed wet even when the adit was pumped dry. By the 3rd week in July the long process to purchase Mt. Mica was coming to a close. Leaving our pocket unopened, Richard and I decided we would try out hand at Mt. Mica. 

GE Quarries:
These quarries are rarely discussed on this site as we have done practically no work there. In 1998 we had done a couple of exploratory blasts in the Southeast pit and in the Central pit. The few shots in the Central pit had exposed montmorillonite and a few vugs with smoky quartz crystals. In July, more than 5 years after the work in the Central pit, Richard picked up this beautiful 5" quartz scepter from a pile of leaves in the pit. It had gone unnoticed by us and many others since first exposed.


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June 2000 Beryl Group