Here is a quick run-down of Arizona mineral collecting locations.
My intention is to talk about "the way things were" as well as
the way things are. I want to make comments about current
access, both legal and logistical. So here we go!
(This is written in 2008, has not yet been carefully edited, so
certainly has spelling errors and such, but I just wanted to quickly
get some ideas on paper.).
Helvetia District This was a wonderful array of
abandoned mines back in the 1970s, but has now been almost
totally bulldozed. The Omega mine will involve you in several
miles of 4x4 road and about a 1/2 mile steep hike. You might
get underground if you were careful with a rope. The dumps have
yielded micro material. There are numerous other prospects and
dumps, but the Omega mine is the place folks go these days.
There are some amazing rare minerals here (Te minerals). This is an area that
has fairly easy access (most of the mines are south of town -- or under the town!),
to dumps that is, and might reward a patient and persistent collector.
There is definitely no legitimate underground access, and those who have been
underground say that it is very dangerous.
Great micro zeolite (heulandite and erionite) by breaking up altered basalt
in railroad cuts. I have never had trouble with access and material is abundant.
Easy access with almost any kind of vehicle.
In no particular order.
- The Glove Mine Home of the worlds ugliest wulfenite.
What it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in size. Also nice micro
stuff, but hardly anyone bothers (more for me!). The main shaft
was bulldozed long ago, but an adit provides access, but you will
need a key. These are claims on public (Forest Service) land.
The claims seem to change hands regularly, and the lock gets chopped
now and then, allowing access for short periods.
In an area of heavy smuggling and drug trafficing,
things get hot after dark.
Everyone knows it, the border patrol does nothing, they must be on the payroll.
The dumps are wide open (it is about a 10 mile drive on a fair
to bad dirt road), but don't seem very hopeful to me.
- Tiger Alongside of Bisbee, this is perhaps the most
famous (and rightly so) of Arizona locations. The old Mammoth
St. Anthony Mine sits on top of the San Manuel Copper Mine
(recently closed). All the Tiger material you see came out many
years ago. Recent reclamation bulldozed the entire area, as well
as spreading a several foot deep layer of dirt and gravel in the
Mammoth cut (as if just to spite collectors, but I think this is
part of "reclamation" to cover any potentially toxic materials).
Some Creaseyite has come from here recently, as well as Gold from
the "flux pit", which can be visited on special occasions (such as
the TGMS club trip). A fence surrounds the entire area, but I
am not sure that a guard still patrols.
- Bisbee It is very hard to get underground, and without
doubt it is strictly forbidden and would be harshly frowned upon.
Even collecting on the dumps will get you busted and fined.
I am told that while Phelps Dodge was just mildly cranky, the new
owners (Freeport?) are outright nazis. I forget the amount of
the "usual fine", but it frightened me when I heard it.
- the Rowley Mine Out beyond Gila Bend. This mine is
under claim and being worked for specimens by the same fellow
who holds the claims to the Glove mine. Actually it may be
private property and under lease, I am not exactly sure.
The underground workings are locked up, and this should be
respected. Permission ought to be obtained to collect on
the dumps, which have yielded some rare and exciting micro
minerals. This mine is not just a wulfenite and mimetite
location (though it surely is that), but has quite a suite of
rare minerals. It is a mile or two down a dirt road that is not
all that bad.
- The Tonopah Belmont Mine This mine has a wonderful list
of minerals and is just the place for the micromounter. The underground
workings are fenced, gated and very dangerous. I have been told that
more people died in this mine after it closed than while it was
working. A mine fire made a mess of it (you can see the evidence
around the adit gate). The dumps have been heavily collected, and
I was frustrated here myself, but many people love this place and
continue to go back. The best material I have has come from trading
with other folks. I think the best access is the road from the
north, but it is definitely a 4x4 road.
- The 79 mine I have fond memories of the days
(back in the early 1970's) when we went here whenever we wanted
and collected. It is now under claim, being worked for specimens
and has a sturdy steel door and lock. One of the best mines to
collect in that there ever was (or is!).
- Grandview Mine This mine is in the Grand Canyon National Park,
and is strictly off limits for collecting. This doesn't mean that people
don't go there, but they take a great risk in doing so. This is the mine
for amazing cyanotrichite, chalcoalumite, and a whole suite of other minerals.
- Gleason Area
The stories I hear about this area involve getting chased away by people with
a shotgun. In the gold old days, we drove right up to the mine entrance and
freely went underground and collected. The Defiance and Silver Bill are still
up on the hill tempting folks. The Mystery tunnel, which used to afford access
through the mountain from the south has been bulldozed and blocked.
- C and B Vanadium Mine
Still yields material (great descloizite and vanadinite), but involves some 4x4
travel and hiking.
- Apache Mine
I used to collect wonderful vanadinite here underground. Current status is unknown,
but needs to be checked.
- Flux Mine
South of Patagonia, this has been bulldozed by the forest service, but there is
still underground access via a few holes they missed. Air circulation is now very
bad thanks to their efforts. This is the mine that has yielded nice jackstraw cerussite,
and I don't think I have seen anything else, but there just must be chlorargyrite here.
This would require a decent truck or 4x4, and best access is probably from the east.
The lower adit (into the sulfide zone) is now bulldozed.
- Silver Hill Mine
West of Tucson in the Silver Bell Mountains. This has yielded a lot of great
material. Underground access is possible if it has not been closed yet again.
This is in a high traffic area for smuggling and such activity, so not a great
place to be after dark. Also there is some dispute about whether this mine is
on the Ironwood National Monument or not. It is pretty much right on the
boundary and you may get hassled by Park Service people, the Border Patrol,
or even the Tribal Police.
- Old Yuma Mine
A classic location for wulfenite and vanadinite, and just outside of Tucson.
It can be accessed via a 1.5 mile hike (or so). It is now right on the boundary
of Saguaro National Park, and people definitely have been hassled (and even arrested)
for collecting here, which is too bad since the place is a mess anyway and none
the worse for collecting activity. But it is off limits.
- Table Mountain Mine
In a remote spot in the Galiuro Mountains.
A visit there would need to be a backpacking and mineral collecting combo.
- Christmas Mine
Has yielded lots of dioptase and kinoite. Strictly speaking, off limits as an old
open pit mine, with locked gates on the roads, but people do hike up and collect on
the dumps (big sledge hammers are very handy, as well as sun protection).
- Horseshoe Dam
Zeolites in the road cut debris.
- J C Holmes Prospect
This place I have sworn never to go to. I have been given all of the vanadinite
from this place that I can imagine ever wanting to have, but access seems wide open.
Near Patagonia, south of Tucson.
Drop me a line!
Tom's Mineralogy Info / email@example.com