Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Morefield Mine, Virginia

In a previous post I said that because it would take time (and money, I'm still not sure how I will get to Hawaii! But I will!) to get to every state, that I would, on occasion, write about interesting events or people I meet along the way.

I was recently in North Carolina and South Carolina photographing memorials there. I was traveling with a life long friend (and 'Nam vet), Steve. Steve is a rock hound and on the way home we stopped at a couple of gem mines. The first one was completely closed and the entrance was barred, but at the next one the gate was open. We decided to drive on in and see if anyone was around. We drove maybe 3/4's of mile along a dirt and gravel road until we came to the operation. There was no one around so after looking around a bit we decided to move on, vowing to return when the place was open. Just as we headed to the car we heard someone call out to us. It turns out that the owner and his assistant were on site to prepare to dynamite a new section of the mine. He said we were welcome to hang around and watch! We jumped at the chance and were surprised by how loud and powerful 26 sticks of TNT are! It was awesome!

The owner was more than happy to let Steve get a whole bunch of "rough". This is rock from the site and Steve tells me he found pieces with at least 40 of the 86 different minerals found in the mine. Steve cuts and works the stuff in to a variety of jewelry pieces. The site is famous for Amazonite, a stone that reminds me a bit of Turquoise. As you get familiar with the area, you start to see the minerals everywhere. The owner leaned over and just picked up Amazonite, Garnet, and others as we walked.

The mine, called, Morefield is about 30 minutes Southwest of Richmond, Va. in a town called Amelia. It has been in operation for more than 70 years and the current owners have had it since 1996. They were really great people who came to Virginia from Alaska to work the mine. He is a mining engineer and has spent much of his life working sites.

It was very interesting to me to learn that they dig down and then at a right angle to the shaft. When that tunnel has played out, they dig down deeper and make a new tunnel. The blast from this explosion actually broke through to a previous tunnel! They are currently at about 65 feet deep.

We were extremely fortunate to drive up when we did as they only blast 2 or three times a year! The occasion is rare enough that the owner had called a couple of friends to witness the event, so we had a really great time meeting and visiting with folks who truly felt like friends by the time we left, several hours after chancing to stop by.

The pictures I have posted did not turn out well, but the first is trying to look down the 65 foot shaft, the second is of the smoke coming out of the shaft after the blast (probably a full two minutes later) and the last is one I tried to take just as the TNT went off. I timed it perfectly. That blur is from how much the earth shook from the blast!

I know it is completely off my topic but it was so much fun and we learned so much from these friendly, knowledgeable people that I cannot recommend it highly enough! If you get a chance, stop by! Steve belongs to a rock and mineral society in our state and hopes to have the group plan a trip to Morefield.

You can visit their website at;\morefield.HTML

They have lots of info and pics! (Good ones)

I will post about the great memorials we found in North and South Carolina, soon.

1 comment:

  1. Serendipity!

    How fascinating. I love when something like this happens. Thanks for sharing your good luck.

    Mike, I really enjoy checking in to see where you've been.