Majuba Hill Olivenite Story

Majuba Hill Chalcophyllite Story     Two Other Nevada Collecting Articles    Fresnoite Collecting Story

PREFACE:

     For those of you who do not know where the Majuba Hill mine is, or do not know of the minerals that can be found there: Majuba Hill is in the Antelope District, Pershing County, Nevada. It is the source of 84 mineral species, about 30 of which are collectable and desirable. It is particularly renouned for its clinoclase and olivenite, along with goudeyite and parnauite, which were first described from there. For mineralogic, historic and locality references, see: Jensen (1985) "The Majuba Hill Mine, Pershing County"; Mineralogical Record, Vol. 16, #1, and, Jensen (1993) "Update on the Mineralogy of the Majuba Hill Mine, Pershing County"; Mineralogical Record, Vol. 24, #3. Once in a great while, a mineral collector makes an outstanding mineralogical find at Majuba Hill. This happened to me, and I would like to share it with you-

THE STORY:

     On Saturday, March 16th, 1996, my good friend Jesse Wellman and I drove
over to Majuba Hill, about a three hour drive from Reno, for a day of mineral collecting. When we arrived at the entrance to the mine, we inspected the recent vandalism to the timbering at the entrance for a while, and pondered why someone would do something so sinister to this world-class mineral locality and historic mine site. After judging the mine safe to enter and unloading my equipment from the bed of his truck, Jesse took off and drove over the hill next to Majuba, to take care of some other, pending work, that he had to do before he could go collecting.    

     As soon as I was ready, I proceeded directly into the mine and to the Copper
Stope, about 1000 feet inside. Once inside the stope, I went over to an area that I had previously heard about some olivenite occurring at before. This olivenite occurrence was about 12 feet off of the floor, on the South Rib of the stope and consisted of a small area of removed rock, along with some minor olivenite, on small, exposed fracture surfaces in the fallen material, in the nearby floor muck. I used the long ladder that was conveniently propped up against this part of the rib of the stope to gain access to this area. Once I climbed up to this area, my attention was drawn to a colorful, ~1cm wide, horizontally-persistent fracture zone that consisted of a series of small, anastomosing veinlets and tiny vugs of intergrown, contacted, medium-green olivenite crystals to 2mm. This convinced me to keep prospecting this area, since I felt that I had a chance of finding some larger vugs with good, uncontacted crystals in them. I really wanted a very nice, self-collected olivenite specimen for my own, personal collection, from Majuba!
     Over the next couple of hours, I exposed more of this olivenite zone and found a few decent ~1cm vugs that contained some small, 2-3mm, light-to-medium olive-green, semi-stocky, TERMINATED crystals. Finding these crystals began to build my excitement a little, since I felt that they were somewhat better than usual. So I continued to further expose this zone, as to increase my chances of finding something even better. As I removed material off to the right of the where I originally started collecting at, I noticed that the rock itself was becoming more altered and the olivenite vugs were increasing in size and occurrence. The crystals themselves were greatly increasing in quality and size, towards this direction, as well, with some local spots containing scattered, dark-green, stocky, lustrous, semi free-standing crystals to 4mm in vugs to 2cm, even better than the smaller, medium-green, semi-fibrous crystals of olivenite that I had been finding earlier. Over the next hour, or so, I continued to work in this direction and kept finding better and better crystals and larger vugs, and even found a couple of nice, richly-coated handspecimens! I was really having fun! About this time, Jesse had just returned and joined me in the stope, to do some of his own collecting. He was interested in finding some of the more unusual species that occur in the floor muck, in the stope. After visiting with him and showing him some of the specimens that I had collected, Jesse went over to the other side of the stope, as I continued to work off to this right-hand side of the mineralized, olivenite zone. As I worked, I came across a large, ~1.5m x ~1m x ~0.75m, slab of mud-covered rock, on the rib, with a small fracture running behind it, directly in the path of the olivenite-rich zone that I was following. After some prolonged effort, I was able to pull this slab of rock off of the rib with my longbar. When this slab, that must have weight 500-600 pounds, fell off of the rib, it exposed a *MOTHERLOAD* of incredible, 4-10cm vugs of stocky, deep-green, lustrous, 0.25-1.0cm olivenite crystals, half of which were on the wall, the other half were in the fallen slab! After yelling a long-forgotten, primal call, I climbed down off of the ladder and looked at the boulder...It was completely run through with spectacular olivenite!!! I called Jesse over to see this supreme discovery, and to reassure him that my cry was not one of pain nor injury. Once he arrived, we both sat there looking at the olivenite boulder, spellbound, for several minutes, taking in the moment. On the boulder's upward, surficial exposure, several magnificent olivenite vugs could be easily seen through the dust that had settled on them, after their fall to the floor of the stope. The best one of these vugs was about 7cm long, 2-3cm wide, and about 1-2cm deep, FULL of the most brilliant, deepest-green, aesthetic crystals that I had ever seen! Numerous other, smaller vugs graced the boulder's surface as well, hinting at what was still to be found deeper within it. After regaining some thought control, I took the disposable camera, that I had coincidentally brought with me, out of my pack and began taking several pictures of the exposed surfaces on the olivenite boulder and the subsequently-exposed rib face, also studed with incredible olivenite vugs. Then, I began the exciting job of trimming down this large boulder and collecting all of it's contents, while Jesse chose to go back to his spot on the other side of the stope (which he began collecting at with a renewed vigor!). This olivenite boulder was composed of literally hundreds of incredible specimens all stuck together, separated by mineralized fractures containing zones of rich, beautiful, sparkling vugs and surfaces of vibrant olivenite crystals. Some these vugs were almost 10cm across and were richly lined with hundreds of small, 1-4mm, free-standing, very brilliant, transparent crystals, while others had monsterous, 0.5-1.0cm, stocky, blackish, individual crystals sprinkled sparingly in vugs lined with punky, brick-red goethite. A few of these vugs even contained some doubly-terminated crystals! Other specimens in the boulder had light, lime-green coatings of agardite-Y under the olivenite crystals, making for spectacular contrasts between the two species. Along some of the largest fractures running thought it, the boulder was so altered that it felt and sounded like a cinder block, and was mainly composed of the vuggy, reddish goethite with large, 0.5cm, lustrous, blackish-green olivenite crystals tucked way in some of these highly-oxidized vugs. The largest single crystal, on matrix, that I found there was a flat-lying, slightly modified, well-terminated, very lustrous, transparent, deep-green monster, measuring 0.7cm long, 0.8cm wide and 0.4cm thick! This was truly a dream-come-true find for me! Once I was finished breaking down the olivenite boulder, which took me almost 8 hours to complete, I tried to collect as much as I could off of the rest of the existing zone on the rib, but the rock was extremely hard and solid behind where the boulder came from and thus it became increasingly difficult to get more of the rock off of it. I was also exhausted and didn't have enough energy left to stand of that ladder and pound on the olivenite vugs above my head anymore, though there were plenty of superb specimens still needing to be collected. Now that I had finished collecting, I turned my attentions to the job of wrapping the hundreds of specimens in the dozen open-face flats that lay strewn around me, out of harm's way. While I was wrapping specimens, Jesse came over and showed me some very interesting and unusul clinoclase, on prismatic quartz, specimens that he had just found. Then, he gave the still-exposed olivenite vugs on the rib a try. It took him almost 2 hours to finish collecting the remaining vugs in this face, but what he did find was extremely good, with one handspecimen containing a 6 x 4cm vug of 0.5cm, very lustrous, blackish-green crystals, with some being very aesthetically stacked on top one-another, with many doubly-terminated crystals topping of these stacks!
     After packing the contents of what I had trimmed down from the olivenite boulder and rib, I had a total of 8 flats of this incredible olivenite! I had only brought 6 whole cardboard beer flats with me, with tops and bottoms, as well as 8 rolls of toilet paper, so I had to use some of the beer flat top lids to packs specimens in, until, alas, I ran out of TP, as well. I had to leave the rest of the olivenite boulder pieces in ~20cm, untrimmed chunks and put them all in the 5-gallon bucket that I had brought with me. This way, the inner olivenite crystal zones in these pieces would be safe from any damage, while in the bucket, and I could bring them home and trim them later, at my convenience.  I finished wrapping the specimens just about the time that Jesse grew tired of pounding on the rib. Though extremely tired, we had collected *EVERYTHING* we possibly could from the olivenite zone and boulder. We arrived back in Reno at 4:00am, 20 HOURS after we left for Majuba, completely and utterly exhausted.  Two weeks later, I finally finished the cleaning process of all of my specimens that I had collected that day...and YES! Both Jesse and I now have several *INCREDIBLE*, self-collected olivenite specimens gracing our mineral collections, to remind us of that most spectacular of collecting experiences at Majuba Hill.

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