Summer Season, 2005


Anyone who knows anything about mining will tell you that the way to make a small fortune is to start with a large one. Last year we learned how true that really is. Without engaging in too much whining, let's just say that the combination of a declining US Dollar vs British Pound exchange rate, coupled with the results of having purchased a very expensive but untimately worthless liability insurance policy has consumed much of the money we would have otherwise had for the operation this summer. As a result, we were forced to carry on in a more frugal fashion this year.

Byron, from all appearances, has staged a more-or-less complete recovery from last summer's accident, and was anxious to get back to digging, so we sent him over on August 1 to meet up with Cal and Kerith, who were already there on holiday. Joan and I followed mid-month to exchange places with Cal and Keith, and stayed until closing of the mine on September 1. To cut costs this year, we decided to forego driving tunnel, thereby saving the cost of a compressor and explosives. This limited us to hand work, assisted by Dave, and the trusty chain saw. As several potentially productive areas were still exposed from the previous summer, we figured that we would have plenty of productive ground for the month, which certainly turned out to be the case.

Byron exploring in the North East Cross Cut #2, which was opened late in the summer of 2004. This area was highly mineralized with veins of galena and pockets containing yellow, quartz-coated fluorite crystals.

During the first week, while digging along the southern margin of the West Cross Cut, Cal managed to open up what was to become the most productive collecting spot of our brief summer. We had originally thought that the mineralization was disappearing in this direction, but apparently not so. After a few days digging, he had exposed a zone with multiple layers of crystallized fluorite, and created a crawl space sloping at just the correct angle as to allow water to freely flow from the collecting face down one's sleeve, leg, and into the boots. Upon his departure, Byron and I took over collecting here, and managed to produce a goodly amount of material for our short stay. Fluorite from this zone tends to be somewhat larger than elsewhere in the mine, untwinned, and slightly cloudy. This is similar to what we've prevoiusly found in the Dipper zone, but here the clusters were largely intact, unlike the Dipper, which is rather brecciated. As a result, a lot of large specimens came out and the chain saw got a workout.

A large, two-sided fluorite specimen with much galena, from the south side of the West Cross Cut.

One of the problems that has always plagued us in the West Cross Cut is the condition of the roof above the pocket zone. Just above the fluorite is a layer of massive limestone almost a meter thick. This layer is fractured into large blocks, which if left unsupported tend to answer gravity's siren call without warning. The really frustrating thing about this is that, in the area we were working, all the best specimens seemed to be coating the bottom of this layer, making them difficult and dangerous to collect. In keeping with the situation, I've named the zone the "Dodgy Bugger Pocket". If you're not familiar with the vernacular, please consult the "English to American Dictonary" at As a result, Dave had to timber the area within an inch of it's life in order for us to safely collect in this area.

Dave and Byron in the Dodgy Bugger Pocket. More timber than rock showing!

This summer we also have relocated the specimen processing operation to the quarry outside the mine. Cal managed to acquire an inexpensive shipping container that had been converted to storage and office use. We had it delivered to the quarry and in short order Byron had the inside lights wired to our generator, doubling our on-site work space. The flow of specimens from the mine was fairly continuous, so all hands not inside mucking about were put to work washing and wrapping fluorite for shipment back to California. By the end of the month we had over 900 kg of specimens washed, wrapped, and packed. These were picked up by our shipper on August 30 and will hopefully arrive here by mid-October.

Joan and Kerith scrubbing fluorite specimens in our ultra-modern, state of the art cleaning facility.

One thing we have always been able to count on in Weardale is that the hills turn purple with blooming heather just about the time we pack up and leave. This year was no exception, and a couple weeks of nice weather during late August made the Dale a wonderful place to be. One last round of Whitby Cod at the Mill Race Hotel, and we're all back to our other jobs here in California. Hopefully, we'll get the finances sorted and be back for a longer run next summer.


The hills around Weardale covered with purple heather in late August.

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