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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This photo was taken with a 18 watt Short-Wave UV light, showcasing the carbonate content reaction.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
by Various Authors
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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.
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.
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!
The newest finds and choicest mineral specimens are always the hottest items at the world’s biggest mineral shows. The most popular mineral shows are those that allow both businesses and the public the best and most exclusive specimens at the most competitive prices. Displays and activities also make shows notable. Many museums take the privilege to display extraordinary specimens rarely seen by others aside from the curators if they fit with the theme of the show, which many but not all shows have. Here is a selection of ten shows that currently attract the most notable attention, of course, as with all things in this world, in a few years, some of these shows might have ceased to be and new events will rise up.
#1 Tucson Mineral and Gem Shows- Tucson, Arizona, USA
One of the largest shows in the world, The Tucson Mineral and Gem Shows are held for about a month, starting in late January and running until mid-February. The environment is exciting and busy, perhaps overwhelming for some. At the main show at the end of the events, Vendors are typically larger, more established dealers selling mostly mineral specimens, but a few sell fossils or lapidary material as well. The displays at the show are very well known for highlighting extremely fine specimens with exciting themes. 2014’s main show theme was Diamonds and Gold. One of the greatest mineral show displays in history was featured at the 2008 Tucson Mineral and Gem show- the American Mineral Treasures exhibit. This show united many of the US’ finest native specimens in the same display cases.
Here is an ad for ONE of the shows, the Tucson Gem and Rock Crystal Show!
#2 Denver Gem and Mineral Show- Denver, Colorado, USA
The majority of the largest and most popular mineral shows in the US are held in the Southwest. The Denver Gem and Mineral Show certainly fits that category. This show is very similar to the TGMS show and is also themed. The 2014 show’s theme was be agate. It generally attracts a very similar crowd of dealers as well. The displays are especially famous- many of the world’s famous mineral museums and greatest private collectors put in mouth watering specimens.
Outdoor mineral shows are always a great time, especially if they are held in an ancient mining town like the Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines Show! The gorgeous scenery and rich history of the French countryside setting make this perhaps the world’s most scenic major mineral show. It is one of the premier mineral events in Europe as well and has thousands of visitors. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the show. Check out this show from Thursday through the last weekend in June if you’d like to attend a superb European event!
This show takes place right around Halloween, late October, first days of November, typically. The show is located in three huge halls, which are formerly airplane hangers! The whole Trade Fair Center is the old Munich airport, converted into a giant convention center. The show has over 1,000 dealers from all over the world, separated into areas for mineral dealers, lapidary, fossils, crystal healing, and all sorts of other fun niches. Each year the show has a theme and the exhibits are never short of amazing. The show is run by the Keilmann family and you can see them breezing by on their scooters from hall to hall, ensuring that the show runs like clockwork.
First held in 1988, the Tokyo International Mineral Fair is the largest and oldest mineral show in Asia. This show is focused on compact and high end booths geared towards a retail rather than wholesale audience. Rare and systematic mineral dealers are fairly numerous at the show due to the higher than average national interest in systematic mineral collecting. This is a good show to go to for those who are looking for unusual or specialized material. Japan also has many mineral localities that have produced wonderful specimens that are rarely if ever seen in the west. This is a great event to look at or purchase unique local Japanese material. The next show is being held on December 6th through 9th in 2014.
Every summer during the first weekend in August, Canada’s largest show is held in the nation’s heartland of mineral collecting. Bancroft is widely referred to as “Canada’s Mineral Capital” for having an abundance of abandoned mines and other mineral collecting localities open to the general public. This mineral show usually has an excellent selection of local material and esoteric specimens. It often attracts smaller dealers as well as major Canadian dealers. Swapping specimens is also encouraged at this show. Visitors looking for a fun outing in nature should consider mineral collecting in the region. Ask local museums or dealers what their recommendations are based on your experience. Many different kinds of minerals can be found like apatite, sodalite, rose quartz, and fluorescents.
#7 Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Shows- Quartzsite, Arizona, USA
This event has been an agate licker’s paradise for nearly 50 years. This unique series of mineral shows is held outside and dealers often sell specimens out of their RVs. Quartzsite offers a total of nine show locations with events being held from mid January to late February. These events are great for bartering or swapping of all kinds so bring plenty of trading material if you plan on going! While you are in Arizona for this event, you also may want to check out the many world famous mineral and gem shows in Tucson which happen at the same time.
#8 NY/NJ Mineral Fossil, Gem, and Jewelry Show- Edison, New Jersey, USA
The NY/NJ is the newest out of all the shows in this list but is a true up-and-comer. It is held yearly in Edison, NJ during mid-April and over 300 dealers attend making it the largest current mineral show held in the NYC metro area. There is something for everyone at this show and dealers selling material ranging from very inexpensive to the finest quality are present. Many dealers also have a small selection of locally dugs specimens too. Though the focus is mostly on minerals and fossils, jewelry and lapidary materials are sold in abundance too. The displays at this new show have big hits. They have featured wonderful classic East Coast specimens that have both been dug recently or are of historic importance.
The Houston Fine Mineral Show is one of the few major mineral shows that is free to the public to attend. Texas is home to many of the US’ finest recently assembled collections and their collectors, which means the displays at this event are typically some of the best that can be imagined. Dealers at this show typically specialize in fine minerals, meaning their specimens are of very high quality but are often quite expensive. Many of the world’s most advanced collectors visit this show and it serves as an important place for them to meet as well as purchase specimens.
#10 Changsha Mineral and Gem Show – Changsha, Hunan Province, China
China has been cranking out plenty of new specimens over the past two decades so it should not be surprising that mineral collecting is getting extremely popular in this country. This is a new phenomenon; mineral specimen collecting culture is fairly new to China in comparison to other nations. Hunan province, where Changsha is located is home to many mineral specimen producing mines that are currently being worked. This mineral show is very large and growing quickly. It attracts international dealers and may soon become the largest mineral show in Asia. The 2014 show is being held May 15th through 20th.