Collecting Rare Earth Element containing Minerals near Mountain Pass, between Las Vegas and Los Angeles

Typical-Cut-Rock-From-Mountain-Pass-District-With-Radioactives
Mountain Pass is a famous mineral deposit that is found between Baker California and Las Vegas, immediately off the sides of highway 15, making access to the huge deposits of rare earth elements absurdly easy.

However, easy as the deposits are to get to, please don’t think of giant sparkling crystals…or even dull, earthy, single crystals. The diverse mixture of minerals found in the Mountain Pass district occur as frozen crystals in a barite-carbonate deposit. That means, these are just…rocks. Or, rather, solid chunks of minerals, requiring some lapidary work to enjoy the wonderful mineralogy found in this interesting deposit.

The history of the Mountain Pass district is quite interesting, from the original prospecting for silver, gold and sulphides, to the uranium boom in the 1950’s, when it was discovered that much of the belt of rolling hills north and south of the Sulphide Queen mine, which is right on the side of what is now highway 15, contained large amounts of radioactive rocks. While there was no uranium, the rocks are rich in heavy elements of cesium, lanthium, europium and neodymium. Mineralogically, we find a host rock of barium, dolomite and calcite that can have various mixtures of mica, apatite, bastensite, zircon and more. Take a peak at these microscopic drawings of thin slices of rock from Mountain Pass, as found in the USGS report HERE http://pubs.usgs.gov/pp/0261/report.pdf
Camera-Lucida-Drawings-Rare-Earth-Elements-Mountain-Pass

If you want to read more about the deposit, we suggest these links for more information as to the current production of ore at the only operating REE mine in the USA.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Pass_rare_earth_mine
https://www.hcn.org/issues/47.11/why-rare-earth-mining-in-the-west-is-a-bust
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/rare-earth-elements-not-so-rare-after-all/

This is not TellMeAboutMineralDepositHistory.com, this is WhereToFindRocks.com! So, let me tell you how to add a specimen or two of this interesting mineral deposit to your collection!

We can start with MRDS, one of our favorite websites and a prospecting field collector’s best friend. This site lists a vast majority of all claims made for mineral deposits and lays them out in a way that makes prospecting readily accessible to everyone.

We start out by getting close to the area we want to review, in this case, the Mountain Pass district.

MRDS-Locating-A-Claim-Mountain-Pass

Once we have this area outlined, we can request the data, using the button below the map. Personally, I enjoy using it with Google Earth and I will show you how that is done.

MRDS-Downloading-Google-Earth-Data

By selecting the google earth data output, we are given a page that shows a downloadable link to the data. Clicking the blue link and saving that file will give you a .kml file. If you have Google Earth installed, you simply need to double click this file and google earth will open up, showcasing the X’s and crossed hammers of mine sites as shown on the MRDS map.

MRDS-on-Google-Earth-Baker-to-Vegas

From here we can move into the map and start looking at the landscape surrounding the deposit. We can see the Mountain Pass Molybdocorp mining area to the north of highway 15, in addition to that, there are an abundance of X’s South of highway 15.

Google-Earth-Close-up-of-Mountain-Pass-REE

Clicking on the X’s we can see the prospects, both inactive and active, for REE-Barium, scattered all over the hillside. You can clearly see the outline of the deposit from the borders of the prospects and note that many of these prospects are on the brown/tan outcrops along the mountainside. One simply needs to exit on Baily road and turn South. Several outcrops are readily available immediately off the road with minimal hiking.
Huge-Deposit-of-REE-Carbonate-Rocks
There are so many deposits along these well graded dirt roads, one could investigate them all day…or, simply stop here and stretch your legs on a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and pick up a piece of this interesting material.

Close up view of a slabbed specimen of carbonate-barite REE mineralization from the Mountain Pass District.

Close up view of a slabbed specimen of carbonate-barite REE mineralization from the Mountain Pass District.

UV-SW-Carbonate-Barite-Bastnaesite-Sample

This photo was taken with a 18 watt Short-Wave UV light, showcasing the carbonate content reaction.

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Good Rock and Mineral Collecting Field Guides are Hard to Find – So let’s make one (or two, or a dozen)!

Justin and Brandy Zzyzx are two serious rockhounds.
Seriously fun and Seriously devoted to minerals.

Brandy Zzyzx Showing off Her Freshly Dug Diopside.

Brandy Zzyzx Showing off Her Freshly Dug Diopside.


Together, they have toured around the United States and Canada, collecting at well over 500 locations, 250 in 2007 alone!
They produced The-Vug.com Quarterly Magazine, which featured articles on 16 different topics. You can read those magazines for FREE today on the website Http://MineralMagazine.com. Justin can be found giving fun and educational talks at rock clubs and symposiums all over the united states and he loves to lead field trips for the general public to show how much fun it is to collect rocks in the wild.
Justin inspecting the diggings at the Dugway Geode location

Justin inspecting the diggings at the Dugway Geode location


With that in mind, they seem like the kind of people that would put together a good field guide to collecting rocks!

Kickstarter is a crowd sourcing website that allows people to present a project for funding. You pledge some money and you get a reward from the person running the kickstarter project you are backing.
Justin and Brandy Zzyzx have a field guide they would like to publish, a guide to collecting agates and jaspers in the Western United States. Brandy would make the maps, Justin would design the layout, together, they will produce one beautiful field guide. If they can meet their goal for funding of this first field guide, a whole series of them would follow, covering several areas all over the United States and Canada.
Go visit Kickstarter and see the rewards they are offering for your backing. You can get a copy of the field guide when it is printed, you can be listed in the front of the magazine, or get a copy of The-Vug.com Magazine Book. Some of the rewards feature agate slabs and even whole boxes of rocks and minerals. You can even get the whole crew together and come spend a day rockhounding with Justin Zzyzx near Barstow California.

They can not do it without the support of the rockhound community. Some say rockhounding is gaining in popularity, some say it is a dying hobby. Let’s show everyone just how supportive this community can be and make sure that this field guide gets made! Go to Kickstarter and give some funding to this field guide project. Tell your friends. Tell your club mates. Tell anyone who can help, because this field guide can not be made without your support!
Click here to visit the Kickstarter and support your rock and mineral community https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/745924417/rock-hound-field-guide-collect-agates-in-western-u

Justin and Brandy want to show you LOTS of locations to find rocks!

Justin and Brandy want to show you LOTS of locations to find rocks!


Take a look at the Mindat Show Special that Brandy and Justin created, all about Agates!
http://www.mindat.org/article.php/2101/Mindat.org+Show+Special+-+FREE+DOWNLOAD

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Some kids grow up to become mineral dealers, some grow up to become geologists – Two views

Two articles online brought an interesting slice of life to kids with rocks and minerals in their pockets and in their minds. Lots of children become interested in rocks and minerals, like any other popular natural science, kids all over have the thoughts of becoming a geologist. Fewer kids have the thoughts of becoming professional dealers of minerals, rocks and fossils. These two articles give a look into two different types of kids, one who became a very successful mineral dealer and another who became a professional geologist.

Rosie Cima did a wonderful write up about mineral dealer Robert Lavinsky, or, Dr. Lavinsky, as we find out in the article found on the Priceonomics website, The Very Model of a Modern Mineral Dealer. In this article we get a picture of Robert Lavinsky, owner of The Arkenstone, from boyhood facination with rocks and minerals, into college, selling minerals became a main focus of his life, trumping his doctorate degree in Molecular Genetics.

This is the type of kid who is mixed with a passion for sales and an equal passion for collecting. Like this bit from the article shows

At some point during the interview, when asked why the market has grown as rapidly as it has, he attributes a lot of it to people realizing that they could own minerals in the first place. Because who wouldn’t want to?

“I can have these amazing, beautiful objects that are tens of millions of years old in my house!” he shouts. He certainly does.

Stibnite specimen, photo from irocks.com

Stibnite specimen, photo from irocks.com

On the other hand, we have children who don’t have the same drive for sales. With those kids with rocks in their pockets we have this great guest blog on the AGU blogosphere, this writer, Evelyn Mervine, on her Georneys site, had her mother submit a guest article on what it was like to grow up nurturing a future geologist.
Barbara Mervine has a great viewpoint on raising a young geologist, as you can see in this quote.

Geologists are often born, not made. Shortly after birth, the parents of a born geologist notice something different about their child. Some parents try to interest their young child in other subjects, such as birds or stamp collecting. However, it is best to just give up and accept that your child is different.

Barbara has several words of wisdom, what to expect when raising a future geologist, like this one…

The parent of the geologist dreads the day that the child becomes a teenager and begins learning to drive. That is because now the child’s habit of looking for rocks while in the car becomes looking for rocks while driving a car. Rock cuts on highways are a danger that all parents of geologists should be aware of. For example, Evelyn was once traveling with a group of geologists from MIT when they stopped the van along the side of a major highway. All the geologists piled out to go look at a rock cut. The police man who gave them tickets for illegal stopping on a highway was not impressed with their excuse that millions of years of history was revealed right there before his eyes. He pointed out that hundreds of cars were right there going by at high speeds. Obviously, the police man did not have a brother or sister who was a born geologist.

Both articles are well worth checking out
Rosie Cima’s Priceonomics article The Very Model of a Modern Mineral Dealer —> http://priceonomics.com/the-very-model-of-a-modern-mineral-dealer
Barbara Mervine’s Guest Post on Georneys Blog for AGU The Care and Feeding of a Geologist —> http://blogs.agu.org/georneys/2011/10/12/the-care-and-feeding-of-a-geologist-a-guest-post-by-barbara-mervine/

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Collecting Zeolites around Marysvale, Utah

The noon sun hung in the sky with a dull yet irritating heat. It was early Spring, and I was traveling to a place nobody had any reason to be, an empty valley in Central Utah. I grabbed the canteen swaying from my hip, took a hearty swig, and wiped the small beads of sweat slowly forming on my brow. The dry earth crunched with each trod of my heel, one after another like a rhythmic drum, each thud forming a slow monotonous beat.

marysvalezeolites-june-16-02

I took in my surroundings. At surface level there was not much to see, canyon walls and plateaus, little wildlife, and less trees. What little vegetation was found here often amounted to sagebrush. It peppered the dirt in various shades of chartreuse, flowing lightly with the siblant hissing of the wind. I was two miles south of Marysvale, Utah, a small town with less than five hundred residents. On this particular expedition, I was alone.

marysvale-june-16-01

The area I was headed to was the now abandoned Elbow Ranch. On my shoulders slung a backpack stuffed lightly with supplies: a fold up shovel, a pair of gloves, a chisel, a spray bottle of water, a rag, the morning newspaper, a loupe, and a geologists hammer. I also made sure to leave some empty space for any of the various specimens I hoped to collect.

marysvalezeolites-june-16-03

I’d spent the earlier half of the day in the Durkee Creek area. Durkee Creek was much easier to reach than the hike to Dry Canyon had to offer. Most Rockhounds with already impressive collections probably wouldn’t have bothered spending the time there. The red-brown earth of Durkee Creek offered an abundance of zeolite, but they were often small specimens that didn’t equivocate to the effort involved.

It wasn’t until one o’clock that I found an area that had seemingly been untouched. I unfolded the shovel, wedged it between the cracked earth, and began digging. With each downward stroke I hope for the sound of metal scraping rock. It was four feet down where I found it: mordenite, an orangeish pink rock like rusted iron. With my chisel and rock hammer I chipped at the rock, a tedious process requiring delicate precision. When I’ve made enough of the outline I wedge the pick in and remove the specimen like a loose brick.

marysvalezeolites-june-16-05

A quick spray from the bottle and a wipe of the rag gave the rock a quick polish. The mordenite was about half a centimeter thick, forming a crust for the interior of crystalized white quartz. I held it over head where the light could reach, twisting it in hand, watching it blink and shimmer in the afternoon sun. I recall thinking a familiar thought, an image of this same area long ago. A memory strung together from vague recollections of scientific studies and my own personal imagination. It was a hostile world, fiery and volcanic, but one small pocket of that world had been preserved. A fracture of time lying dormat, imprisoned and pressurized for thousands of years, found by me after a series of seemingly coincidental happenstances.

marysvalezeolites-june-16-01

I tore a page from the classified section of the day’s paper and wrapped the mordenite with care, then I climbed my way out of the hole. The sun stood due west, glaring. My wrist watch read 4:00 pm. In Marysvale Utah many of the residents are returning from work, preparing for dinner and the days end. I grab the canteen, and wipe my brow. Then I gather my gear and continue on. I’ve yet to try my luck at the Blackbird Mine.


Gem Trails of Utah Book Cover
Gem Trails
by Various Authors

The Must Have, if nothing else than to have an IDEA about the collecting spots in your state, the gem trails books are a wealth of information at a low price. The perfect beginner guides that are refrenced by serious field collectors! Click on the book covers to view them on Amazon, or search the eBay link below.

Gem Trails on eBay

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How to prepare your 4×4 for rock collecting – Rockhounding Preparedness Series

How to prepare your 4×4 for rock collecting.

Rock collecting may be a popular, family oriented activity, but how often do you think of the safety of your family first when you go off the beaten track to hunt for that one, perfect example of a billion-year-old rock? How often have you heard of people being stranded without food and water for days, just because the driver did not check his vehicle before leaving home? Don’t let this happen to you and yours! Simply follow the few easy-to-follow tips listed here to reduce the possibility of vehicle breakdowns when you could be hundreds of miles away from the nearest repair shop.

Check radiator hoses.
This might appear to be self evident, but according to the AAA, engine overheating is the leading cause of vehicle breakdowns in America. Radiator hoses must be firm to the touch, and free of oil, and even oil residue. Oil degrades the rubber of radiator hoses, which makes it imperative that oil contaminated hoses be replaced before your next trip.

Check all V-, and other drive belts.
You may think your belts are OK, but the most damage occurs when the pieces of a broken drive belt work themselves in under the other drive belts. This can cause all your belts to jump their pulleys, and because of their high rotational speed, the flying pieces can destroy the radiator, the battery, the radiator fan, and critically important wiring. When in doubt, don’t procrastinate, replace all the belts, and observe the proper tensions on all.

Check the charge rate.
The proper rate of charge on 12 V vehicles is 14.2 – 14.6 Volt. Anything above or below this value is indicative of a faulty alternator, or maybe worse, damage to wiring in places where you cannot repair it in the wilderness, so fix it now, while you can.

Check battery condition.
Don’t just look at the outside, and maybe clean off acid accumulations. A battery needs to be able to deliver specific currents at certain times, such as during starting. Have an authorized battery dealer perform a draw test, to determine the ability of the battery to deliver sufficient starting current. Also, compare the specific gravity of the electrolyte in each cell against the specs for your battery. Differences of one or two percent are normal, but differences or deviations that approach 5% are not, and you should replace the battery.

Getting Jump Started in the Desert

You don’t even want to THINK about how much it costs to get a jump start in the desert, 80 miles from nowhere.

Check the suspension.
Check the suspension and steering systems for excessive free play between related components such as ball joints, tie rod ends, steering dampers, draglinks and control arms. You may think that since the tie rod ends have been a little loose for the last two years, they are OK because they have not pulled from their sockets yet, but off-road driving places extreme loads on a vehicle, and the last thing you want to happen is to lose your steering while going down a steep, rocky hillside. Think of your family, and replace all worn components before you leave home.

Check the brake system.
Check the entire system for signs of leaks, and do NOT forget to check the slave cylinders inside the brake drums. These cylinders can lose up to 60% of their effectiveness before they even start to show signs of leaking, which means you could be driving around with less than 50% of your braking capacity. Moreover, if you had been topping the brake fluid reservoir regularly, but cannot see a leak, remove the master cylinder from the brake booster to check if the brake fluid is not leaking into the booster. If this is the case, replace the entire master cylinder because you can never be sure the rubber seal kits available today will not fail you when you need them most; such as when you are going down a steep, very narrow mountain pass, with a 1000-foot drop off, and no safety barrier.

Basic Preparedness is Essential for Rockhounding!

Better safe than sorry.
Performing basic vehicle maintenance procedures before heading into the wilderness is not a hassle: it is a vital precaution against being marooned hundreds of miles from the nearest repair facilities. It is also great way to prevent potentially fatal accidents caused by parts that failed because they should have been replaced months ago, but was not. Think of the safety of your family, if not your own, get your vehicle into great shape, and enjoy the rock hunting, which is what you go into the wilderness for, right? Only make sure that by taking care of your vehicle, you can safely make it out again!

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