Tag Archives: St. Lawrence Co.

Black Tourmaline of Pierrepont, NY

Another wonderful book on a classic New York State mineral location is available.   Many of us have ventured to the Bower Powers Farm in Pierrepont to collect black tourmaline.  We have driven Post Road to the washed out bridge over Leonard Brook, hiked along the brook to the tourmaline laden pits, and collected what we could carry.  But did you ever want to know more about the rich history of the location, the multiple collecting sites, the varied geology, or the complete mineralogy of this classic site?

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Seavey Road Quarry

Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club’s September Adirondack field trip was another great success.  Seven spots in 4 days with the Saturday AM visit to Benson Mines in Star Lake attracting the most collectors.   33 folks convened and enjoyed a morning collecting in the dumps of the open-pit iron mine just outside town.  Five of the other sites visited were repeats for the club (Rose Road, Benson Mines, Talcville, Valentine Mine, Fine roadcut, and Moose River).  However, we had never been to the Seavey Road marble quarry north of Gouverneur.  Thanks to Ken St. John, who had visited earlier with a small group of fluorescent mineral collectors, and to quarry owner Kevin Dibble, we were able to spend three hours in the large, and very white, quarry.  As a new site for us, the Seavey Road location deserves a review.

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Four days in St. Lawrence County

Prepared and published in the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club News, October 2015.      WCGMC newsletter Oct 2015

Our 14th collecting trip of the year (but who is counting) was, surprisingly, the first official WCGMC venture to St. Lawrence
County in 2016.  But what we suffered in tardiness, we made up for in quantity.  The trip was four days long and included seven separate collecting sites (one, Rose Road, was visited by members on three separate occasions over the 4 days).  Several of us stayed in a rented home on Star Lake, owned by Anita Persson, wife of George Persson, who helped us with the Benson Mines visit during the trip.

The trip was not scheduled to start until Thursday morning September 17th, but Bill Chapman and I had arrived in Star Lake early evening on Wednesday and we decided to take Bill’s black light to Rose Road in Pitcairn for an early start.  As always the lower area, known to many as the purple diopside mound (or PDM), lit up bright yellow under long wave with the mineral scapolite and the albite at the “wollastonite skarn” (or green diopside mound) lit up red under short wave.

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Balmat Hexagonite

In the July issue of WCGMC News, one of the club’s long time members offers his memories of a favorite site and a favorite mineral.  Ken Rowe, and his wife Rocky, have been club members for over 30 years. 

This is a brief reminiscence about my collecting at the Gouverneur Talc Mine and the Zinc Corporation of America Mine in Balmat, New York in the late 1980’s.  We began about 1980, when my wife and I were fairly new members of the WCGM Club.  We were guided by Jim and Marion Wheaton, the founding members of WCGMC.  At that time the Balmat site was an underground mine for zinc.

Just before our visit to the Gouverneur Talc Mine a cave-in had led to a partial collapse to highway 812 and repairs to the road required just about all the available tailings to fill in the damage to the road.  Upon arrival at the mine we were very disappointed because we were expecting some good specimens of hexagonite.  All we found were a few forgotten boulders around the perimeter of the site, so we (about 10-12 persons) made the best of it. Can you imagine all the hexagonite buried now beneath the road! Continue reading

Rose Road Fluorescent Minerals

Another very interesting guest article for the April 2015 WCGMC newsletter.   Ken St. John has graciously permitted me to place his note onto my website.  Clearly, the information contained here complements that I had previously posted about this most interesting location.

By Ken. St. John (WCGMC Club member)

To be honest, I can’t remember when I made my first trip to the Rose Rd. site in Pitcairn.  It was a few years ago and Bill Chapman was involved in the introduction to the site.  My first visit was a daytime affair with the Wayne County club in search of titanite.  I do recall that titanite was something new to me at the time and that I was excited to be there with the club and my kids.

The site is a wooded outcrop beside a phone tower road.  No problem at all in getting to the place.  There are essentially two parts to the site up and downhill and during the first visit we pretty much worked the downhill location.  My nicest pieces contained wollastonite, titanite, apatite, albite and diopside.  The titanite is a dark brownish color while the diopside is a rather coarse light purple massive mineral.  Mixed with green apatite and white wollastonite specimens were both interesting and attractive.

It was much later when doing a routine sweep of my collection with a short wave UV light that I discovered that the Rose Rd. rocks were more interesting under the UV light than they were in daylight.  It’s not unusual to see a three color response with wollastonite fluorescing a light tan, albite a cherry red, and an invisible coating glowing a bright green.  As a member of the Fluorescent Mineral Society and a Franklin collector, I was impressed.  So were the other FMS members to whom I showed the pieces at the annual meeting.  From then on, I collect at Rose Rd. with an eye toward the fluorescent.

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St. Lawrence County (2014 Trip #3)

Article I wrote in Nov. 2014 WCGMC News 

Benson Mines, Rose Road (de ja vu all over again)

The leaves were changing (and even falling), but that did not deter a group of WCGMC folks from making a fourth trip to St. Lawrence County in late September.  This time we were joined by 16 undergraduate geology majors from SUNY-Plattsburgh and their professor Dr. Mary Roden-Tice. It was truly wonderful to see so many young and eager folks enjoying geology and a day of collecting.  The brilliant sun and the absence of mosquitoes did not hurt either.

Half of the SUNY-Plattsburg students have gathered near the top of the original Rose Road skarn site.  Sky blue apatite has been spotted.

Half of the SUNY-Plattsburg students have gathered near the top of the original Rose Road skarn site. Sky blue apatite has been spotted.

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Balmat-Edwards Zinc District – Geology

Mineral collectors know about the fine magnetite, sphalerite, hexagonite, chrome tremolite, lazulite, etc. that have come from the various mines in the Balmat-Edwards Zinc District of upstate New York. Mineralogists have studied the district for decades discovering new minerals like turneaureite and donpeacorite.  But seldom are we offered such a wonderful opportunity to learn the geology of the district as afforded those attending the New York State Geological Symposium  in Alexander Bay in October.

The opening address was delivered by William deLorraine, Chief Geologist for St Lawrence Zinc Co. in Gouverneur, NY.   Bill is also the President of the St. Lawrence County Gem and Mineral Club.  Continue reading

St. Lawrence County (2014 Trip #2)

Article I wrote for the June-July, 2014 WCGMC News

SELLECK ROAD, POWERS FARM

On June 21-22, the WCGMC returned to St. Lawrence County for more mineral fun.   Green growth now obscured the rocks a bit and mosquitoes and black flies greeted the 19 club members who arrived at Selleck Road in Pierrepont on Saturday morning.   The two day trip would also include the Powers Farm and two sites where Pierrepont ZCA zinc ore has been stockpiled for road use (or perhaps for collectors?).

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St. Lawrence County (2014 Trip #1)

Article I wrote for Jun-July WCGMC News

BENSON MINES,   ROSE ROAD

Twenty-three WCGMC members converged on Star Lake, NY on the morning of Saturday May 31st for a visit to Benson Mines.  We found lots of sillimanite, some fresh, some altered a pretty light green, lots and lots of magnetite including small crystalline surfaces along with massive ore, and huge muscovite books.  Jerry Curcio explored ahead a bit at the north end of the property and found an orange calcite boulder that contained large green crystals that appeared to be sillimanite.    We later confirmed that identification with Marian Lupulescu.  For more on Benson Mines see his paper in the Rocks and Minerals February, 2014 issue or go back to our Feb. 2014 newsletter where it was highlighted as the Site of the Month.

benson sillimaniteGreen sillimanite offset in orange feldspar, a very pretty combination. 

In mid-afternoon it was on to Fine, NY for a quick stop at the skarn outcrop just off the parking area at the intersection of highways 3 and Highway 58.  Steve Chamberlain has proclaimed the coarse grained pyroxene (diopside?) and feldspars from this location to be “aesthetically challenged”, but that did not prevent us from scavenging a few for our gardens or collections.  Etched and dull, these large dark green pyroxenes and their long and varied cleavage surfaces may not end up in too many mineral display cases, but they can look nice in a garden or on a patio wall.

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Selleck Road, West Pierrepont, NY

Occupying an east-west ridge just south and parallel to Selleck Road in West Pierrepont this location has been collected for decades.   The main part of the ridge is on state land and accessible without much walking, thereby adding to the popularity of the site.  Tremolite is everywhere, tourmaline (v. uvite) is much more localized along the ridge.  Both the light green tremolite and the uvite is typically etched and non-gemmy, however isolated pockets of very gemmy material has been found.

Selleck road

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Benson Mines, Star Lake, NY

Have you driven Route 3 in southern St. Lawrence County?   Did you know that as you pass just east of the small hamlet of Star Lake you are just hundreds of feet south of what was once the largest open pit iron mine in the world?  That’s right, in 1958, during the height of its life, the Benson Mines open pit iron mine held that lofty title.  The pit was 4 kilometers long, 250 meters across and 400-600’ deep.  Today the pit is host to a whole lot of brilliant blue water and the surrounding Appalachian Park region is forest covered and virtually pristine wilderness.

The high concentration of iron in the rocks of the region was first recognized in 1810 when engineers surveying for a military road found their compasses wandering.  But until the timber industry built a railroad to the region the iron ore could not be exploited.  Even with rail, the area was still remote and from 1890 to 1940 mining was sporadic and limited.  In 1941, Jones and Laughlin Steel Company leased the properties and constructed plant facilities. Continue reading

Rose Road, Pitcairn, NY

An article I wrote for the WCGMC News in December, 2013

One of the more popular mineral locations for upstate New York rockhounds this year was Rose Road off Route 3 in Pitcairn, a daily fee site owned by Mr. Richard LaPlatney who lives at the property.   Although the silicate skarn mineralization flanking the Grenville age white marble hill has been visited by mineral collectors dating back to 1880’s the location seems to have been rejuvenated after Walter highlighted the mineralogy and collecting history in his 2007 book “Field Collecting Minerals in the Empire State”.

The major “digging” there this year was focused on the first site encountered after passing LaPlatney’s home just off of Rose Road.  At first glance the exposed rock seems to be dominated by lavender diopside, calcite, albite and red brown phlogopite..  A Scanning Electron Microscopy/Energy Dispersive Analysis (SEM/EDA) of the lavender diopside indicated elevated Ti, likely substituting into the Mg spot in the lattice to generate the lavender color (S. Chamberlain, pers. comm.).  There is also less Fe in the purple diopside than in the green version found just a few hundred feet farther up the road.

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A New Tremolite Location in Canton, NY

A friendly local mineral collector shared a new site with Dick and Jeanne Phillips and Fred Haynes during the St. Lawrence County show in Madrid, NY in August.  Apparently, Wildwood Road east of Colton, NY was not draining well and the county decided to level the ground on both sides of the road to improve runoff.  In doing so they exposed bright white marble outcrops that were cut by zones of orange calcite, light green serpentinite and green tremolite.  And right on the road !

This pretty garden rock consisting of dark green shiny tremolite and orange calcite set into a finer grained lighter green serpentine was just sitting on the side of the road waiting for us.  Dick just backed his "truck" right up to the 50 pound puppy.

This pretty garden rock consisting of dark green shiny tremolite and orange calcite set into a finer grained lighter green serpentine was just sitting on the side of the road waiting for us. Dick just backed his “truck” right up to the 50 pound puppy.

Two St. Lawrence County Sites

On Tuesday August 20th, nine RAS members met outside St. Lawrence Zinc’s famous #4 mine in Balmat, NY.  The party included Gary Mosbruger (who was helpful in setting up the visit), his sons Alan and Bryan, John Klahn with his sons Anthony and Ryan, Jerry Curcio, Paul Dudley and me.  Once at the mine location, we were met by Bill deLorraine, Senior Geologist for the mine and also the President of the St. Lawrence County Rock and Mineral Club.

Bill led us upstairs for a safety briefing and to view some of the large fine mineral and ore specimens that have been recovered from the lower levels of the mine.  Then he turned us loose on the ore piles and drill core pieces that were conveniently stacked adjacent to the main shaft.  We were able to collect what we could carry.  Much of the ore was massive to near massive red-brown sphalerite, often speckled with small disseminated pyrite cubes.  Elsewhere the sphalerite swirls through the host marble as jelly in a jelly roll.   Unfortunately the nature of the occurrence does not lend itself to crystalline ZnS, but cleavage faces sure reflect sunlight making for pretty rock specimens.  Sphalerite is soft (hardness of 3.5), so cabochons and other polished surfaces do not make good durable jewelry pieces, but they can be most decorative.

Does anyone want to guess how many pieces of core Paul managed to get into his blue backpack ?

Does anyone want to guess how many pieces of core Paul managed to get into his blue backpack ?

I have not done much with the drill core I packed out, but I did make sure to recover a little of all available rock types.  In addition to the red-brown sphalerite swirling through the white marble, pure white marble, light-green serpentinite (often spotted in marble), and orange calcite were all represented in the core..  In addition some of the metasediments (now schists and gneisses) are pretty in their own right when captured in a 1 3/8th inch diameter core.

My selection of drill core

My selection of drill core

We left Balmat a little after noon and headed over to Rose Road off Route 3 in Pitcairn.  Everyone was intent on finding that elusive big sky blue apatite together with the pretty lavender diopside at the northern most digging on the property.  We did find some, but recovery was not easy and most were small.

Paul and I puzzled over this bluish mineral  intergrown with the diopside, red-brown phlogopite, and calcite.

Paul and I puzzled over this bluish mineral intergrown with the diopside, red-brown phlogopite, and calcite.

Paul speculated that this mineral might be scapolite at the outcrop, but we were less certain once back in Rochester as scapolite was not in the previously published mineral list for the property.  I sent a picture to Steve Chamberlain given the locality was included in his recent book.  Steve responded promptly telling us that significant scapolite had been recovered at the site this season and that our samples were definitely scapolite (~ 50% each end member Na-rich marialite and Ca-rich meionite by SEM/EDA).  He sent this picture of one of his specimens.

Scapolite (var. meionite) from Rose Road.  Specimen and photo by Steve Chamberlain.

Scapolite (var. meionite) from Rose Road. Specimen and photo by Steve Chamberlain.

An  SEM/EDA analysis of the lavender diopside indicated elevated Ti, likely substituting into the Mg spot in the lattice and likely affecting the lavender color (S. Chamberlain, pers. comm.).  There is also less Fe in the purple diopside than in the green version just a few hundred feet up the road.

We continued to that second site and collected green diopside with albite and occasional chocolate brown titanite..  I particularly like the samples with bright white crystalline albite intergrown with the diopside.  And naturally, everyone took their fill of blue calcite from the boulders that line the road to the radio tower.

Chocolate brown titanite crystal, two green diopside crystals, floating in diopside psuedomorph after wollastonite, a very interesting mineralogic piece.

Chocolate brown titanite crystal, two green diopside crystals, floating in diopside psuedomorph after wollastonite, a very interesting mineralogic piece.

Before leaving, Paul and I explored a bit behind the radio tower atop the marble hill and believe we discovered a previously unknown mineralized outcrop.  Everything was covered by moss and lichen, but I took a couple pieces home and applied bleach.  The result showed orange calcite, green diopside and white albite.  Strongly etched on this surface sample, but perhaps a new site to dig come spring ?

Diopside, orange calcite and and white albite from a new location behind the radio tower.

Diopside, orange calcite and and white albite from a new location behind the radio tower.

Before leaving, Paul and I explored a bit behind the radio tower atop the marble hill and believe we discovered a previously unknown mineralized outcrop.  Everything was covered by moss and lichen, but I took a couple pieces home and applied bleach.  The result showed orange calcite, green diopside and white albite.  Strongly etched on this surface sample, but perhaps a new site to dig come spring ?

 

 

Owen Prospect, Pierrepont, NY

Unlike many St. Lawrence County locations, the Owen Prospect off Irish Settlement Road in Pierrepont is a newly discovered site.   But like many others, the mineralization here is scattered and geologically diverse.   Exposed outcrops of marble are cut by silicate bearing assemblages.  As the silicates are a bit “softer” it appears that the best collecting process may involve finding some loose weathered out mineralization in the dirt and digging down to bedrock.   The few locations that have yielded nice specimens to date do not appear to have been found from outcrop.

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