Mining at the Orchard and GE Quarries
Oxford County, Maine

Coromoto Minerals
The 2000 Season  at the Orchard Mine


October -November, 2000

October’s efforts proceeded much like they had in September. Taking down more of the headwall to the pit floor produced no gem material. As we moved farther along, the  schist zenolith in the center of the pegmatite appeared to diminish in size. It was apparent however that this feature altered the mineralization of the pegmatite as it appeared to extrude around either side. Below this feature the peg became quite pockety. These vugs, to basketball size, were filled with little beyond quartz crystals, microclines and the occasional grey or green apatite. In addition to the schist blockage, the pegmatite also pinched in at least 5’ from its average 18’ width. Only at the very bottom did the vein hint at widening out again. The issue to ponder is this merely a narrow section of the peg or is it starting play out. Arguing against the unpleasant conclusion that the peg is ending is the fact that the pegmatite can be traced at the surface for at least another 200’ eastward. 


One of the more pleasant aspects of our work in October was the visit of the well known pegmatite specialists Dr. Skip Simmons, Dr Karen Webber and  Al Falster. They were accompanied by a group of their colleagues from the University of New Orleans (Pegmatite Krew UNO) and by Bob Whitmore a noted New England collector and owner of the famous New Hampshire Palermo mine. Bob has as special interest in beryl and the Orchard pegmatite decided to hint to the group a little bit of what is was capable of producing. A shot early that morning had exposed a small pocket between microcline crystals. Within this space was a single very corroded beryl. Nevertheless the group enjoyed removing it from the pocket. Examining the pinch in the headwall, Skip and Al felt there was a possibility that beyond and below a more productive zone might be encountered. As the group examined the pegmatite, Al shared with us a story from one of his mining adventures. Working a pegmatite for rubellite tourmaline, he were faced with a lack of explosives. God works in mysterious ways for soon a boy showed up offering to exchange of little TNT for rice. It seems the boy had tunneled under the magazine of a nearby mining company and was able to make a small withdrawal. Where is this kid when I need him? 

Another interesting story was provided by Skip and his wife Karen. They described their visit to a Russian mine where topaz and beryl were being mined. The gem heliodor it seems was just a incidental by product of the mining. The goal of the mine was to produce topaz so that they could be sliced and used as windows in tanks. The extreme hardness of topaz made these windows impervious to destruction by the abrasive action of sand. They related that the pockets containing these gems were huge.

 A person standing within could not touch the walls with outstretched arms. Unfortunately, at the Orchard Mine, the big pockets (not nearly so large) are either quartz crystal filled or if they once contained beryl, they are completely etched out. May the next one… 


Ahead we have 30’ more of pegmatite exposed that can be mined to depth. We decided to put in (3) rows to expose 12’ of this remaining section. This work showed a mineralization very similar to that we originally encountered at the far western end of the pit. Especially on the left side (northern) we encountered massive gemmy quartz containing blue and green beryl. This quartz occurs 40’ above the pit floor and is the first such occurrence at this height since the earliest efforts in the mine. Prior to this development, the only such occurrence was at a depth of 30’ or more. The quartz pods have been deep since the vertical pocket seam was encountered late in ’98 about 50’ from the western end. One interesting feature this work revealed was the appearance of well developed bertrandites in small vugs. This is notable in that heretofore all of the bertrandites recovered have been from beryl casts. In addition to the bertrandites, these small vugs contained small phenakites similar to the needles found in late ’99. Perhaps this is the direction some of the dissolved beryllium as taken. We will keep a sharp lookout for a repeat of a phenakite pocket such as we found early in ’98. 

As we continued benching to the bottom we found numerous pockets containing quartz crystals. These late pockets were filled with crystals of all sizes. They were becoming decidely more gemmy as well. In this photo one of the last pockets to be opened is shown. The dangling icicles are alerting us that the end of the season is near. Just under the schist mass, small yellow/green beryls were starting to show up in a vuggy albite matrix. The last set of holes drilled into the floor in this zone punched into pockets that must lead up into the headwall as water gushed out from the drill holes for over 30 minutes before subsiding.  So now there is nothing left to do but wait impatiently for the Spring thaw and ruminate over what might lie ahead. Itches one can't scratch are the worst........


At the left a 20 cm quartz crystal group removed from the pocket visible in the headwall photo above.
At the right a 10 cm group from the icicle pocket above.

Return to Home Page