Field Collecting Amethyst Mineral Specimens, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
by Michael Walter
Journal Entry 7/21/99
Michael Walter writes:
We began this trip at 8 AM Tuesday and drove all Day until 1 AM that evening. Parked at a rest area overlooking Great Lakes and sleep in the van until 7 AM. We drove again until we reached a fluorite dig on the roadside that was described in Ann Sabina's book. Very little sign and hardly any digging was evident. Massive barite seams and minor fluorite stains on some of the areas. Proceeded to turnoff for the Ontario Gem Company Site and were let in to dig at about 10 AM. (20 hour, 1,000 mile trip from my door step).
This site charges 2.00$ per pound for rocks collected. You dig in their tailings. They had just blasted but we were still only able to find a few fair pieces. We broke rock in the hot sun for two hours and then decided to move on to the next site. We traveled westward to the Blue Points Mine. I was familiar with material from this site because I had acquired some through trading by mail. This site is directly beside the Diamond Willow Mine. There are two good sized trenches that the owner drills and blasts for his commercial operation. He lets people pick over the tailings and pick up material from within the trenches, but not dig in the trenches. My best luck was in some mud thrown up on the shelf of one trench by a "pocket extractor". In the mud were a few small plates (1 to 2 inches across) and one larger one around three inches. The plates were coated on one side and recrystallized on the backside. The amethyst we found here was brownish purple in color due to the hematite inclusions that are distinctive to this regions quartz. Some is iridescent. Most is only slightly translucent. Smaller pieces such as these plates are nicely translucent to gemmy.
Next I found a small vertical seam on the edge of one of the trenches. It was about 8 inches wide so I worked my way down in it removing small plates of matrix with amethyst coating one side as I progressed. The seam produced about 3 flats of matrix plates with small crystals. We used only our hands and screwdrivers to collect from this seam. Most pieces were in the 2 to 4 inch range while 2 of the biggest ones were 6 to 8 inches in size. We quit about 3:30 PM and talked to the owner for about an hour about minerals, drills, other mines, etc. From here we left for Mirror Lake Campgrounds. Nice facilities.
Journal Entry 7/22/99
Michael Walter writes:
We went back to the Blue Points Mine and asked the owner about digging instead of just working the tailings. The mine was not and has not been busy so he showed us a spot where others had been digging in the past and having luck. This was near where we had dug yesterday. He also said we could us our small hammer drill.
We only needed to drill about 6 holes total. I worked a seam/ pocket most of the day. The material found was similar to the material recovered yesterday. Dad worked some larger boulders and recovered some okay pieces that had more matrix that mine. 45$ per 5 gallon bucket was charged for material removed. Owner will be blasting tomorrow so there may be better material to be found from the blast. We will probably be here early to check it out.
Journal Entry 7/23/99
Michael Walter writes:
Today we recovered from camping in a major rain storm. Made it back to the mine at about 11:30. The owners blast had produced some fantastic purple amethyst. This was the best he had ever seen at the site. It was typical of Brazilian material without the hematite inclusions and good color. Crystals were small.
He let us dig in the wall in a large open pocket in return for paying for his blasting cost. This was not excessive so we did and had great success. We immediately recovered several large chunks at the pockets entrance and began excavating the bottom and back of the large depression. The total size of the 2 or 3 interconnected pockets was about 10 feet long by 3 to 4 feet in height by 2 feet in depth. All pocket surfaces were mineralized.
Quite quickly I had recovered several nice domes of amethyst in the 6 to 10 inch range. All the material looks brown at this time but none has been fully cleaned. Owner and his daughter Becky only worked a short time and then left due to the extreme heat. We were in the shade of the ledge and also in hip deep water (in the pockets) so we kept working. Dad had removed about 2 and 1/2 gallons of specimens before his back gave out and he had to quit work. Some of his material looks nice. I removed 5 gallons of really nice stuff. Also, near 4:00 PM or so I removed a large crystal dome that was fully mineralized down all sides. Superior piece from what I can tell now. Currently it is boxed and covered in clay. It was almost as large as the opening through which I pulled it. Approx. 12", by 14" by 12". The pockets continue much further back. My hands got cut to ribbons on the glass shards of amethyst from the pockets.
This may be the best day of collecting I've ever had. Laying in a pocket bigger than me removing nice large clay covered plates of amethyst was exciting. We were so successful today, and Dad so beat, we decided to head back for home tomorrow. Great trip!
Post script added later that same summer:
After cleaning most of the amethyst was brown and of fair to good quality. Some quite nice pieces. Big one was fair. No form of cleaning seems to remove all of the staining. (I found a good method of cleaning these specimens in 2001)
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