|Closed off portal at the Blanchard Mine|
Blanchard Mine is fairly remote. The mine began operations during WW I and continued on for a few decades. The mine has “World-Class Significance” https://www.mindat.org/loc-3993.html Predominant minerals mined were lead and fluorospar though over 50 minerals are cited as coming from the Blanchard, Mineralization of the Hansonburg Mining District, Bingham, New Mexico John Rakovan and Frederick Partey, 2009, pp. 387-398. There is a rock shop near the entrance road to the mining area called the “Blanchard Rock Shop” The shop owner is not connected with the Blanchard Mine, and the shop might more aptly be called the Bingham Rock Shop. No notoriety there though. http://www.peaktopeak.com/blanchard/shop.htm. The owner of the rock shop has ownership/access to a mine or two for a fee. The folks at the rock shop were friendly enough but the lack in quality of their mineral specimens surprised me. I had visited this area 10 years earlier and nothing has changed. The shop still had as much trinitite from White Sands Missile Testing Range (Trinity Site) as they did 10 years ago. Trinity Site was where the first atomic weapons were tested. The glass (trinitite) was the result of heat from the ordnance explosion melting the silica in the desert floor into glass. I would have been interested in buying some atomic slag at $10 an ounce as a curiosity piece, but not at their price of $30 a gram. Not sure how to authenticate it either. Maybe with a Geiger counter?
The road to the mine was in good shape though the last half mile was a bit rocky and required some clearance and a 4-wheel vehicle. We arrived just before sundown so our priority was to put the tent
|Looking south toward the Blanchard Mine|
Next morning we spent some time scoping out the mine, but within about 20 minutes I found an area where others had been digging that looked promising. I dug in the rocky soil and about 2 feet down was soon finding specimens for my collection. I called Austin over from his exploration and soon he too found some fluorite specimens worth taking home. There is about 2 feet of overburden above the rockier fluorite producing rock/limestone where we dug. Once the overburden is removed
you can dig
into a limestone layer that hosts seams of fluorite and barite as well as some
galena clusters. All one has to do is follow the seams and carefully pry
out the clusters. A sturdy shovel and pick axe will get you down to the
fluorite bearing host rock and then careful probing with a long handled screw
driver or scraper was all that's needed to remove specimens. I understand
the purple/blue fluorite changes color under UV. We covered our specimens
with newspaper as we unearthed them and then carefully wrapped them to protect
and preserve them from the sun's rays. After about 4 hours of digging I
decided to go for a walk and take a few pictures.
Austin thought I was
digging out better specimens than he, and decided my hole was fair game when I
left for a walk. I guess the minerals are always better in someone else’s
dig. This was fine with me as I had already dug out about 25 Kgs of specimens
and wasn’t sure what I would do with more anyway. Austin did find a few
nice specimens I missed. When I came back from my walk I asked him to muck
out my hole and resumed digging myself.
|Austin digging out some fluorite at the Blanchard Mine|
|Fresh out of the ground some uncleaned specimens|
We had been warned about rattlesnakes and other poisonous creatures but we saw none. I saw a few deer when we arrived but besides that all I saw was a hawk and a few swallows. The mining area goes on for quite some distance. During my afternoon walkabout I picked up a few specimens of Brochantite and Linarite just lying along the road. I had seen a little of this where we were digging, and Austin reminded me it was somewhat desirable in combination with other minerals.
|Brochantite scattered on ore|
The next day we picked up our campsite and drove to Socorro to visit the mining museum at New Mexico Tech https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/museum/ The college had moved and expanded their museum since I had last been there. The museum showed off a great concentration of New Mexico minerals. We ogled the specimens for an hour or so. It was the last week of class prior to exams and the
|NM Halite "Blue Ice"|
All 3 rock shops in Magdalena were closed and we were thinking of abandoning this part of our trip. We stopped at an antiques shop and the shop-keeper there knew Grace, the owner of the Nit Mine. Grace met us at her shop, gave us permission to camp on the claim, and charged us only $5 per person to sift through the Nit Mine tailings. We had wanted to go to the Kelly Mine (famous for it's Smithsonite), but the Nit was next door to the Kelly and since the antiques dealer talked up the Nit, we decided to give it a try. Grace warned us to stay out of tunnels and be aware of cougars. She mentioned others had been digging towards the top near large tailings piles and suggested we might have some luck up there.
We drove to the Nit Mine and then further to large tailing piles. https://geoinfo.nmt.edu/museum/ .
|Headframe of the old Nit Mine|
|Seems miners were short in the 1920s|
|Some old mining equipment soon to be sold off|
There was no graffiti at this mine and it seemed fairly well preserved. The Nit mine was protected by two locked access gates but ATVs were still getting in. We spent another night sleeping in my truck at the mine. I’m almost getting too old for this. I awoke during the night with the northern skyline flashing with lightning. I decided it was time for my middle of the night walkabout, but stayed close to the truck. I felt uncomfortable with the howling wind and warnings of cougars about. I guess it was my turn to be spooked. Morning came and we decided to go into town and then visit Grace’s rock shop. I purchased one Smithsonite mineral from Grace, and Austin bought a few items as well. Next, on to Taos, NM.
We arrived in Taos and found 4 different rock shops. Three of the rock shops primarily catered to tourists but at least one was a “real” rock shop. Taosrockers https://www.taosrockers.com/ The shop had 3 large rooms full of minerals from primarily New Mexico but other places as well. Folks inside were very friendly and knowledgeable. Austin told me all 4 rock shops in town were owned by the same person. Though I didn’t buy anything I got a free cup of coffee, a brochure on NM geology and a spot in the sun to sit while Austin did his negotiating. I’m not sure how many treasures Austin walked away with, but he seemed very happy with one calcite piece from a locale that he had been looking for, for quite some time. I highly recommend a stop at this rock shop. All that was left now was a long drive home. One place we stopped that I would definitely not recommend was the KFC in Taos. They charged Austin extra for everything including a plastic fork. If they had done that to me I might have accidentally spilled my coleslaw on their counter top and then accidentally spread it around. Management needs a change there. After reviewing some Yelp comments of the place our experience there was nothing new. Stay away. One forgettable experience doesn’t cancel out the fun we had over several days. Though we planned to visit three specific sites, we only hit one. I felt the Nit Mine was a compromise to the Kelly Mine and there is probably some good stuff to find in the tailings piles there. Digging through tailings is just not my cup of tea. Overall a very successful road trip for minerals made even better due to the fact it was snowing in Colorado on our return! Haha!
|A variety of partially cleaned green/blue/purple Fluorite with Barite. Galena and quartz are also present.|