Collecting Copper in Michigan’s Copper Country

Field Trip: Copper Country Collecting in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula

By Jeremy Zolan

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Supplies Needed:
Safety Goggles
Water
Sunscreen
Insect Repellant
Crack Hammer
Chisel
Shovel
Wrapping Paper for Specimens
Bucket
Sledgehammer (optional)
Prybar (optional)
Metal Detector (optional)

Description:

The Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan has been nationally famous for over 100 years for its history of highly productive copper mining. The local basalt is criss-crossed with many thick veins of native copper that made up the main ore of many of the mines. Solid natural masses of copper weighing hundreds of pounds were found with relative frequency at the mines. Though these pieces certainly were the most valuable ore, the best specimens from the area are clusters of well formed copper crystals. Other metallic minerals can be found with the native copper such as silver, domeykite, mohawkite, and chalcocite. Many other interesting minerals like datolite, analcime, prehnite, agate, and thomsonite are also abundant in the Keweenaw Peninsula. While all the mines of the region are closed to copper production, many are maintained as museums and fee dig sites. There are also many abandoned mines in the area that can provide good digging in the dumps but be sure to acquire permission from landowners before visiting any location on private land.

Localities:

Central Mine:
US 41
Central, MI 49950

central_mine_Michigan
Photo by Dave Maietta

Map:

The large tailings piles of the Central Mine are visible from US 41 in Central, Michigan. Many collectors have had good luck recently working this location. Occasionally, contractors remove large quantities of tailings for construction purposes and this exposes fresh material. In addition to the standard copper specimens, copper included calcite and prehnite can be found here. Silver has also been found with copper here but it is rare. A metal detector is very helpful for sorting trough dump piles like those found at the Central Mine.

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Caption: Calcite with copper inclusions. Central Mine, Central, MI 4.9 cm x 4.6 cm x 4 cm Ex. Rukin Jelks Rob Lavinsky Photo

Caption: Unusually large copper crystal. Central Mine, Central, MI. George Vaux collection at Bryn Mawr College. Scale bar is 1” long with rule at 1cm. Rock Currier Photo.central_mine_copper

Caledonia Mine:
Website: http://www.caledoniamine.com/
906-370-1131
202 Ontonagon St,
Ontonagon
Michigan 49953

The Caledonia Mine is a fee dig site that requires an advance reservation. When digging at this site, collectors are given a large pile of stockpiled copper ore and tools to go through it. Weekly collecting events on Thursdays and Saturdays are also held from the first Thursday in June to the last Saturday in August on the ore pile. Advance reservations are needed for these too. The workings of the Caledonia Mine are impressively preserved and tours are offered too. The mine tours aren’t necessarily just geared for casual guests. Many kinds of tours are offered, some with a very in depth historical or scientific focus. It is best to check the museum calendar to see if any events are happening during the time of your visit.

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Caption: Representative specimen of native copper from the Caledonia Mine’s recent workings. 5.6cm wide. Rob Lavinsky Photo

A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum
Website: http://www.museum.mtu.edu/
Michigan Technological University
1404 E. Sharon Avenue
Houghton, Michigan 49931-1295
E-mail: tjb@mtu.edu
Telephone: (906) 487-2572

Michigan Tech’s A.E. Seaman Mineral museum is among the finest mineralogical museums in the world. Its laboratories are also critical in performing much of the cutting edge mineral research currently being performed. During the period of most intense copper mining in Michigan, many specimens of local minerals were donated to the museum. Their collection of Michigan minerals is the finest in the world and there is a strong local emphasis on their displays.

Check out our custom search and view all the minerals from Michigan for sale on eBay. Not only will you see lots of neat stuff for sale, you’ll also get an idea of what localities are producing in the region.

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Field Trip: Fluorite and Secondary Lead-Zinc Minerals from Marion, Kentucky

Field Trip: Fluorite and Secondary Lead-Zinc Minerals from Marion, Kentucky

Site Description:

The Illinois-Kentucky Fluorspar district is world famous for the enormous quantity of huge, gorgeously crystalline purple and yellow fluorite that originated from the now defunct mines near Cave-In-Rock Illinois. Just take a look at the amazing samples on eBay to get an idea of the current prices and selections. Many collectors do not know that despite the closure of the by far most significant fluorite localities in the region, there are still places in the area to find gorgeous fluorite. While many of these localities are abandoned mines that require deep underground exploration to retrieve specimens, the mines in Marion, Kentucky have specimen rich dumps that are easily worked by hand from the surface. While aesthetic material is plentiful, many of the workings are quite muddy and messy to dig in. It is important to keep in mind that while many gorgeous specimens can be had with minimal digging, specimens of similar quality to those seen in the nearby Ben E. Clement Museum, which features local minerals, are hard to find.

Perhaps the best central location to access all the mines in the region from is the Ben E. Clement mineral museum (http://www.clementmineralmuseum.org/). In the museum, they have many of the finest American fluorite specimens on display. Many are from the collection of the museum’s namesake- a giant in the local fluorite mining industry. It is amazing to see the near infinite color variation that fluorite possesses, especially the great diversity within the region. The museum has scheduled digs for fluorite and other kinds of minerals beginning late April through October. In addition to daytime digs, night digs for fluorescent specimens are held too. The museum can also arrange custom digs. Regardless, pre-registration is required.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Supplies Needed:
Safety Goggles
Water
Sunscreen
Insect Repellant
Hand Lens
Crack Hammer
Chisel
Shovel
Wrapping Paper for Specimens
Bucket
Sledgehammer (optional)
UV Light (optional)

The Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum
205 N Walker St., Marion, KY 42064
(270)965-4263

Mineralogy:

The following is a list and brief description of common minerals found at the Marion area mines.

Calcite: A common gangue mineral. Rarely forms crystals good enough to keep. Often fluoresces red.

Cerussite: Very nice cerussite crystals come from the Marion mines and they are often overlooked. Forms colorless to smoky gray highly lustrous crystals associated with galena and hemimorphite. They either occur singly or are twinned and reach about 1cm in size. Crystals have diverse habits.

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Image: http://www.mindat.org/photo-207070.html Caption: Cerussite- Hickory Cane Mine, Marion, KY 17x13mm Steve Bonney Specimen and Photo

Fluorite: The most sought after mineral at the Marion mines. Found in sharp purple cubic crystals with a maximum diameter of about 3cm. Very easy to identify- the only purple colored mineral at any of the local mines. Found as micro to large cabinet sized specimens. The Marion area is world famous for fluorite.

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Image: http://www.mindat.org/photo-76574.html Caption: Fluorite- Eureka Mine, Marion, KY Crystals to 7.5mm Peter Cristofono Specimen and Photo

Galena: Small cubes of galena to around 1.5cm can be found. Often they are weathered.

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Image: http://www.mindat.org/photo-226066.html Caption: Columbia Mine, Marion KY 6x7cm Steve Bonney specimen and photo.

Greenockite: Rare naturally occurring cadmium sulfide that occurs as ochre colored powder with sulfide minerals, especially weathered sphalerite. Sometimes colors smithsonite yellow.

Hemimorphite: Hemimorphite forms druses of colorless to yellowish crystals in vugs and on weathering zinc minerals. Can cover areas to several cm with glittering crystals. Common, but often overlooked.

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Image: http://www.mindat.org/photo-172178.html Caption: Hickory Cane Mine, Marion, KY 1.7cm FOV Steve Bonney specimen and photo.

Hydrozincite: Powdery white secondary zinc mineral. Fluoresces blue under SW UV light.

Quartz: Typically occurs as small drusy or isolated crystals to 4mm. Some are smoky.

Smithsonite: Ususally forms thick, liberal coatings of colorless to tannish botryoidal material. Some specimens are crystalline and some are yellow colored due to the presence of greenockite inclusions. Cabinet specimens are known.

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Photo: http://www.mindat.org/photo-305765.html Caption: Marion, KY 7.5 x 6.5 x 5.8cm Rob Lavinsky photo

Sphalerite: Small aesthetic crystals of sphalerite to about 3mm are abundant. They are typically very lustrous and orange-brown in color.

By Jeremy Zolan

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