Mining at the Orchard and GE Quarries
Oxford County, Maine

Coromoto Minerals
The 2000 Season  at the Orchard Mine


June 2000 Pockets

June, 2000

I tried to stay focused on my day job, developing medical instrumentation, but the Jovian pull of the yet to be discovered beryl pockets tugged hard on me.  On June 3 we got back to work at the Orchard Mine. Doug had spent the two prior days pumping the pit and when I arrived that Saturday afternoon only 2 more hours of pumping were required. The pit had been left fairly empty of debris after the work in May so we were able to get right to the task at hand that afternoon. A minor amount of chipping on a smoky quartz plate opened up yet another pocket. As is the frequent pattern, a large parallel growth smoky quartz crystal plate was sentry into the vug. This one was of unusual size and gemminess for the Orchard Mine. Great care was expended in its extraction but these brittle forms resist removal intact.

Once the smoky was removed we could see that the entire top of the pocket was covered in a quartz crystal druse. A large green beryl had become so encrusted upon one side that it resembled a porcupine. This crystal came out whole complete with its bristling quartzes. The bottom of this pocket was covered with a albite/quartz cyrstal plate. Lifting this piece revealed a large bi-color beryl with a gemmy complex termination. After washing the pocket, we were able to photograph this piece in its original position. Unfortunately this chamber of the pocket yielded little else in the way of gem or specimen.

Work continued in this area of the pit. Another small slice was taken off the pocket zone. This opened a pocket about 3’ off of the floor. Our neighbors mining the Bennett mine were invited down into the pit to have a go at removing a pocket beryl. Missy and Dennis Holden both joined us. Dennis was reluctant to remove anything from the pocket but Missy boldly plunged her hand into the opening. Instantly she removed a complex terminated golden beryl on a microcline crystal accented with protruding quartzes. The microcline was of an unusual glassy luster without the normal etching. 

While we were all admiring her find, Doug stuck his 'pickers' in. Loosening an albite plate, he removed what is arguably the best specimen to come from the Orchard so far. Two bi-color beryls with gem terminations were perched proudly on an albite plate. The small crowd in the pit was for a brief moment dumb struck. Next came a torrent of admiring expletives.  Maybe this was not the 'kaleidosope', but we would take it.

 At this point we had sectioned off about as much as we could without going to the top of the 40’ headwall and benching down again. This was a 4 day process to drill, blast and clean up.
We were to experience yet another facet of excavator re-habilitation. The track snapped completely after running over a petruding schist wedge on the pit floor. It was to lie lame in the bottom of the pit for hours as we struggled to finesse the track together. We were not actually able to get the track back on in the pit. Only able to chain the wounded sections back together, we walked the machine out of the pit in steps lifting the machine up and running the damaged section back each time it was about to go over the drive sprockets. Once out of the pit, we were finally able to re-link the track.

Finally our efforts eventually yielded about another 4’ of workable zone at the bottom. Whereas before the pocket zone was tucked under an overhanging schist block, now the zone and it’s productive seam were emerging into the main body of the pegmatite. It was becoming decidedly more stingy as well. We did find a few pockets but their productivity both in crystals and gems was declining. As time ran out in this episode we were down to scratching at walnut sized vugs.

What next? I worry that with the disappearance of the schist features within the body of the pegmatite that the frequency of pockets will decline. We have 150’ of virgin territory ahead up strike. This part of the pegmatite needs only time, money and sweat to expose. I wonder though about the large pocket zone in the floor of the pit behind us. These pockets were etched yielding only beryl casts with a few crumbs and bertrandites. Yet I can’t help but wonder whether deeper down within their course or trapped under the hanging wall side there might indeed be some untapped treasure. The Orchard has shown its potential to the surprise of everyone. Before going ahead yet one more time we will attempt to go lower…..

 Go to the August Finds


Go to diagrams of the pocket zone

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