Sometimes you just have to get away from it all, the fear porn on the news, crowded cities, viral pandemics. One of the nice things about America is there are plenty of places to social distance to the extreme. Being cooped up with no work all last week drove me a bit insane so on Sunday I took a trip out to my favorite mine deep in the Mojave desert, the Blue Bell mine.
The Blue Bell mine is actually a group of several mines, shafts & prospects on one mountain that have been mined since 1885! The ore is comprised of copper, lead, silver and gold. The mine is known for producing 5 new minerals discovered there, with a total of 102 different minerals.
Source - MSSC(Mineral club I belong to linked below)
The geology of the mountain is fascinating not only because of the minerals it produces, but also because there is a granite dyke(a rock barrier) that splits the mountain almost in half. You can see the dyke in the picture below.
From memory there are 6 adits/shafts on the left side of the dyke and at least 10 on the right side. Each side produces different minerals at different concentrations. The left side produces more chrysocolla along with wulfenite, hemimorphite, smithsonite while the right side produces linarite, caledonite, dioptase and other rare minerals.
I started the day hiking up the right side of the mountain to check out some lower adits I hadn't been to and to get to the "Glory Hole" at the top of the mountain. Without wasting too much time at the lower adits I quickly checked the tailings for some rarer minerals. Chrysocolla was easily found along with malachite, but the better stuff seemed to be missing at the lower adits.
Each adit had a strange eeriness to it. It could have been due to my state of mind seeing the world falling apart, but when I got close to going inside of one my instinct told me, turn around, do not go in. I heeded that "feeling" and only shined my light in to see into the blackness before moving on to the next one. I've been in plenty of mines now, but this day I stayed out of each one.
When I reached adit A1, the main adit on the right side of the mountain, I stopped to take a break and take in the view.
On a previous trip I had found an awesome piece of malachite in quartz as well as some linarite and caledonite in the tailings pile here.
Malachite, pronounced Mal-ah-kite, while beautiful, is a common ore of copper. It often produces botryoidal, round bubble, like formations.
After a red bull and some sharp cheddar cheese I started my final leg up to the Glory Hole. Upper, center of the photo below. Lower, right side is adit A1, the main haulage adit, but it's filled in from tailings above.
On the climb up I stopped to check some tailings. I immediately found what I was looking for, linarite(blue) & caledonite(teal). I knew at this point that the Glory Hole up above is where I needed to get to.
On arrival I was surprised to find a huge adit, about 12' across by 9' high, that opened up into a large stope(area cleared of mined rock).
I also saw the blue rocks all over the place. Some previous collectors had left material there for the next collector. It was linarite, caledonite, dioptase, malachite & chrysocolla.
I gathered up what I liked, there was enough to be picky, and left quite a bit for the next collector.
After that I began to inspect the adit. This one was an easy decision to stay out of. There were large pieces of rock that had fallen from the ceiling all over the floor. Further in there was old timbering, some of which was buried under rock. It was a very clear message, stay out and so I did.
The story that I had heard was that the linarite & caledonite vein was exposed right at the entrance, but left by the old miners. They had no interest in it because it was not profitable to mine. When collectors discovered it in the 1950's they began to open up this adit which is why it is so wide compared to the usual 4-5' opening.
I did trace the vein outside about 10' to the right of the opening and dug some pieces out. It's always incredibly rewarding to mine/collect your own specimens. You not only learn about geology, but you are the first human to ever touch or see the material, after the thousands to millions of years it has been sitting there.
After a bit I decided to call it a day at this location, but I still had to go to the left side of the dyke to collect chrysocolla, wulfenite, fluorite and other minerals from that side. While I did hike up over there and collect, I didn't take as many pictures as I should have. I'd been there a few times before so I didn't need more pictures, plus I was exhausted by the time I got to the collecting adits. I did take some pictures of what I go though so enjoy those as a conclusion to this post.
Linarite, caledonite, malachite, chrysocolla, dioptase.
Chrysocolla, malachite, smithsonite, fluorite, hemimorphite & more.
For further reading on the Blue Bell here is a great post by one of my mineral club's, Mineralogical Society of Southern California: http://mineralsocal.org/fieldtrip-information-reports/blue-bell-mine-may-19-2018/
And here is the mindat page showing the mineralization of the mountain: https://www.mindat.org/loc-144880.html
Thanks for reading and stay safe!