Majuba Hill Mine Chalcophyllite Story
Here is a story I wrote about a collecting trip to Majuba, back in July, 1999. For general info- The Majuba Hill mine is located in the Antelope Springs District, Pershing County, Nevada, at an elevation of about 6000'. The Middle Adit, which is the main entrance to the collecting sites deep within the mine, is located on the side of a steep, craggy mountain, Majuba Hill, which composed of altered rhyolites and volcanic breccias. 4x4 vehicles are required to get to this remote locality, which is some 25 miles from the nearest paved road.
July 13th, 1999-
have safely returned from yet another collecting expedition to the Majuba Hill
mine. A lot of things have changed there since my last visit about a year ago.
The lagging that my friends and I built several years ago, to hold back rocks
from falling into the entrance of the Copper Stope, and thus blocking it, now
has rocks all the way to the top of it and small rocks are beginning to fall
in. Fortunately, a very large, 10'x6'x3' rock had wedged itself up-slope from
the entrance, thus creating a temporary wing-dam, fluming all of the larger
rock sliding down the stope, away from it. The bottom of the Copper stope is
now over a meter higher than it was, due to new cascades of rock fall, piling
up at the bottom. If things keep going the way they are, in the years to come,
the Copper stope will be sealed shut and access will forever be lost to this
incredible place. Very little else had changed and fine specimens were still
to be had, for those of us daring enough to go in. My 15' ladder was still there,
but needed some attention. After repairing it, I worked to make a flat spot
in the angled floor muck and hefted the 80lb beast up against a part of the
stope rib, high above the floor. This was where I have had great success in
the past finding the elusive, emerald-green chalcophyllite. I then spent the
next two hours carefully inspecting the rib and the surrounding rock, to make
sure that it all would be stable enough to stand me removing rock from it, without
catastrophe. After carefully barring away unstable hanging rock slabs I felt
it safe enough to continue my work, all of which was over-head.
an hour into my collecting, I began finding a few fine arthurites and some light-blue/gray
scorodite crystal balls, in tiny, centimeter-sized vugs. I continued collecting.
Right about the time my feet were beginning to really hurt, from standing on
ladder rungs for a few hours, my friend Jesse Wellman who was with me (You didn't
think I was in there alone, did you?!) yelled out to me that he heard someone
coming up the stope. To our surprise, it was my friends Tim Rose and Rick Kennedy.
They were the only two out of their group of five who wanted to go into this
stope. The rest of them went into the Tin Stope, to collect the fine micro crystals
of clinoclase, which can be found there. Tim and Rick were interested in finding
some goudeyite, for which Majuba Hill is the Type Locality. After showing them
a decent spot to find this species, I went back to collecting at my spot, 10-feet
up the ladder. Right off the bat, I found two nice thumbnails of chalcophyllite!
No more was to be
found the rest of the evening. We all headed out of the mine at about 8pm and drove down to the camping spot, where the only tree for 30 miles drank off a cool spring. That night, we all spun yarns of collecting trips, ate pasta and drank 12-year-old scotch, graciously donated by Rick, until about midnight. During the conversation, a curious pattern emerged. It turned out that three of the five vehicles, including mine, got flat tires on the long dirt road leading to the mine. It became obvious that there was a tire hazard, somewhere on the road.
at 6am, the incessant 90-degree Nevada heat drove us all out of bed. We ate
some breakfast (A chocolate muffin, banana and juice), shook the cobwebs off
from the night before and began our caravan back up to the Middle Adit of the
mine. Again, most of the people went back to the Tin Stope, while a hearty few
of us returned to the Copper Stope. I went right back to my collecting spot
on the ladder and, with renewed vigor, began pulling more rocks off the hanging
rib. Where I was collecting, I knew the pockets would be in the highly-altered
fracture areas, in sulfide pods, in-between extremely-hard, mostly-unbreakable
blocks of solid, silicified rhyolite. These were the areas where I had met with
success in the past. Off to my left, Growing on a face of a large, hanging block
of this rock, was the hanging wall of my big chalcophyllite pocket that I found
back in 1997. There, sitting exposed for these last two years, were white adularia
rhombs, translucent quartz crystals and a few nice areas with smaller, yet still-emerald-green
chalcophyllites. This rock was in my way and I would have to drop it. That meant,
right on the crystals... I decided to ask Rick to help me. Rick, eager to help
out, built a rock dam to keep the boulder from rolling down slope. He then placed
a piece of egg-crate foam right were we felt the rock would land. Now the plan
was for Rick to stand off to the side and as soon as I dropped the rock, he
would rush up to it and keep it from rolling. My job was to pry the 150-pound
boulder off the rib and push it, yes in mid-air, attempting to rotate the boulder
so that it would not land on the crystals, thus destroying them. After a few
good pries on the block it fell, I rotated... and it landed right where we thought
it would! Rick checked the boulder and all of the crystals were still intact!
Being Rick worked so hard to help me, and he didn't have a fine chalcophyllite
in his collection, I decided to give him the beast. He was really happy... until
he realized he had to lug the thing about a quarter-mile, through the mine,
out to his truck! In classic Rick style, he trimmed the beast down to about
50 pounds and man-handled it successfully out of the mine. With this obstacle
out of my way, new, potentially specimen-bearing rock was now accessible. Right
away, BOOM, I hit my best pocket- A 7cm deep, 1cm high, 5cm wide oblong cavity
lined with breccia fragments and plates of emerald-green chalcophyllite! Most
all of the piece came out as 1-3cm specimens, some showing superb, gemmy, lustrous
crystals to 0.5cm! SCORE! It wasn't a big pocket, but is sure was a beautiful
one. At the point of discovering this treasure, I called out to the others who
were in the stope with me and they came over to see my find. After lots of congratulations,
I pulled out my camera and took over a dozen pictures of the pocket and the
collecting area, ladder included. I then anxiously, yet carefully began collecting
the delicate crystals, wrapping them in moistened TP and packing them in a sandwich
of egg-crate foam. About a dozen good pieces were produced, with about half
of them being quite superb in color and crystal size.
Soon enough, it came time to leave my friends and head home with Jesse. We carefully scoured the road for what damaged all of those tires and we finally found it- a piece of nasty, barbed wire, laying across the road. I removed it and we got home just in time for yet another patented, Nevada sunset.
Scott Kleine- Great Basin Minerals
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