Where to collect
The best place to find minerals is at mines. Mines are locations where industrially important rocks, minerals, and ores, as well as precious metals and gemstones are extracted from the earth. Mines can produce large amounts of specimens
of certain minerals, and continue to provide specimens as long as the mine is actively worked. Even after mines are exhausted or abandoned, specimens are often found in the mine dumps. Some abandoned mines are on public lands or in areas which trespassing is permitted, and these localities can afford some of the best collecting experiences. Many famous mines and deposits are entirely gone, having been built over or completely sealed and inaccessible.
In the past, it was often easy to obtain permission to take minerals
from a commercial mine. Collectors would enter the mining areas and extract the minerals
without interfering with the workers or collect on weekends. This is rarely possible today, due to insurance liabilities and corporate agglomeration restrictions and bureaucracy.
Many famous localities that have been abandoned are also difficult to collect upon due to trespass barring by the property owners.
Therefore, it may be very difficult or impossible to collect at well-known mineral localities. In these cases, the
only way to collect is to either have connections to a mine operator or get permission from a property owner. Another possibility is to collect with a mineral group or club, which works on getting the permits and permission to enter active quarries where an individual
would not be permitted.
There are a number of specimen-producing mines that
have closed for commercial mining and have been transformed into tourist attractions and museums. Minerals can be extracted from some of these mines without membership or
requirement of a permit. A collector usually pays a fee to search a quarry or dump.
Some minerals are also found in road cuts on the side of roads,
highways, and railroads. Construction sites have also yielded many interesting specimens, and in a mineral-producing region one should always keep an eye out for construction sites as these can yield the biggest surprises.
Mineral collecting requires certain tools which can be
purchase in hardware and hobby stores. A hammer and chisel is the most important, and is used to break apart the host rock as well as remove specimens from their surroundings. A backpack or pail is necessary to store the rocks, and newspapers should be used to wrap specimens after they are found to protect them. Some collecting localities require hard hats and goggles for safety, and this is good practice.
Behavior at a Collecting Site
It is always beneficial to find out all about a
locality before going collecting. Care must be exercised when chipping at a cliff not to
leave any unstable portion. In addition, make sure not to chisel rocks when a person is in
close proximity, lest a mineral fragment fly out and injure the person. When visiting an
operating mine, make sure not to disturb the workers. Further, don't leave any garbage - take out what you bring in. Any such offenses can
permanently close a locality to collectors!
Types of Collecting Areas
There are various mines and mineral deposits where minerals occur. These are:
Open pit mine - A large, open, terraced
hole in the ground. Open pit mines will eventually fill with water if abandoned since water is not pumped
Underground or tunnel mine - A series of shafts where
rock is blasted out underground or in a cliffside; the ore is brought out then processed.
Underground mines can be a network of tunnels, often on different levels. Some are well over a
Quarry - Cliff which has been created by
continuous digging into a mountain or hill for ore extraction.
Dump - Area where left over material is
placed after being brought out of the mine. If no new material is brought to a dump, the
material can eventually become exhausted by collectors.
Alluvial deposit - Area in a stream
or a river bed where collectible material is found. In such an area, boots and sieving
apparatuses are required for collecting, unless collecting is done on the banks.