Cal Graeber walks the long tunnel leading to the working face
It turns out I wasn't alone in hailing the end of an era. In mid-January 2016, Mindat reported the mine was closing, too, and that the 2015 season was the last. When the good news was posted on the message board in mid-February that this announcement was premature, there was some grousing that this was a "marketing ploy" to jack up prices and stimulate sales. This rumor has been proven false, after it was clarified that all the Rogerley material mined in each of the last 5 years sold out during the Tucson show. And no, the prices were not jacked up this year, either.
Jesse Fisher (L) and Cal Graeber (R) inspect the muck pile following a blast
I'll let the people who know the facts tell it themselves. Here's the scoop, direct from two of the shareholders in the mine:
…While the fluorites indeed sold out quickly, they have done so every year of at least the last five years. So no marketing ploys at hand. We've had lines waiting to get into the room each year and most go within a day or two when we have high quality wholesale material, which we sell at a very reasonable price. So this year was little different from past years when the material was good quality. We've worked very hard over the 16-17 years of mining to get known and to try to develop a reputation for good quality colorful specimens, most of which is priced to sell quickly as wholesale material.
- Feb. 19, 2016
It is dark inside! Cal Graeber enters the mine
Things are in flux, as they say. After 15 years our head miner has retired. He has invaluable skills that will be very difficult to replace, but this sort of work is physically demanding and we are all becoming old farts. He told me essentially that if he were still working in the commercial mines he would be supervising a crew of young lads, not doing all the heavy work himself. I can't argue - the work can be brutal. In addition, due to the fallout from new regulations governing the storage and use of explosives in the UK we have lost access to our long time licensed store. One can not drive tunnel without breaking rock, so we are exploring alternatives. On the up side, we obviously have a market for the product, as we have largely sold out at the Tucson show for a number of years, now. If we can find a way through these issues that will still allow us to make at least a meager profit from our efforts, we will continue. If not, well, it's been fun (mostly). But we haven't heard the fat lady singing just yet, and rumors are just that.
-Feb. 19, 2016
The head miner uses the skip to load the waste cart
I'm sure you will join me in breathing a big sigh of relief that there is still hope for the Rogerley Mine reopening in 2016. But keep in mind that two very big hurdles must be overcome. First, a new head miner must be found to run the day-to-day operations. This may not be easy, as it is a seasonal job (the mine is only open from mid-May to mid-August). And, underground mining is not a job for everyone, and those who can do it probably prefer to work full time. Second, the issues referred to above about the new storage regulations is as yet unresolved and also not an easy fix. In past years, UK Mining stored their explosives at a nearby quarry, which was kind enough to share their powder magazine with the Rogerley. This year that option is apparently not going to be available, so they will have to find another option in 2016. The dilemma about where to store the dynamite is further complicated by the fact that whatever they come up with will require the approval of the local constabulary, who are reportedly not that thrilled about having the stuff in their jurisdiction at all.
Jesse Fisher washes down the blast wall
So, for now, while we may not be attending a memorial service yet, we will have to keep our fingers crossed that these challenges will be resolved quickly and easily. I know I wish the entire Rogerley crew the best in this endeavor.
The author works a pocket (Cal Graeber photo)