1.9" specimen of leaf silver from the Silverfields Mine, Coleman Township, Cobalt Area, Ontario, Canada
The naturally lustrous surface has not been polished making
it easier to differentiate the silver from the cobaltite
The silver ore slices are really outstanding examples of what a rich silver ore vein looks like, right out of the mine. The ore has been sliced into 1/4" to 3/8" slabs, which makes it possible to see shiny patches of dendritic silver growing into cobaltite and other silver arsenide minerals (including safflorite, skutterudite, etc.). Dendritic growth is the term used to describe a branching figure or marking, resembling moss or a shrub or tree in form, found on or in certain stones or minerals. The slabs from the Langis Mine in Casey Township, Cobalt Area, Ontario, Canada are large, very shiny and quite lovely slices of the high-grade silver ore that was mined there from 1903 to 1930. These represent some of the highest grade of silver ore found in Cobalt. One of the mines from which we have silver is the famed Langis Mine, which was one of the biggest silver producers in the entire Cobalt-Gowganda area. Most silver ore from the Cobalt region grew at the core of large arsenide "rosettes". Those from the Langis Mine were taken from the Penna Shaft, which was driven in 1988-90 to intersect the original, mile-deep Langis shaft.
Fascinating dendritic formations where the silver (light gray)
penetrates into the cobaltite (dark gray)
The Cobalt Silver Rush started in 1903 when huge veins of silver were discovered by workers while building a railroad line in northern Ontario. According to legend, a railroad blacksmith named LaRose threw a pick at a fox, and found a vein of silver when he retrieved it. Fact or fiction, there was a LaRose mine which shipped its first 2 carloads of ore in 1905 (worth some $50,000 in 1905 dollars!). Within a couple of years Cobalt was one of the largest silver producing regions in the world. Unfortunately, the good ore ran out fairly rapidly, and most of the mines were closed by the 1930s, after the price of silver fell to near-record lows, while the cost of mining silver grew higher and higher as the mines penetrated deeper and deeper into the earth. There have been several attempts to reopen the mines over the years, including one during WWII, and others in the 1950s and late 1980s, but none were successful. Today there is no active mining in the area.
This slab of silver ore weighs over 9 ounces. If you do the math, 9 oz @ 70% =
6.3 oz of silver, which at today's price of over $40 an ounce (September 2011)
makes it worth over $250 for its bullion content alone - not to mention its historical
interest as well as its value as a mineral specimen, both of which are included for free!
Rich pieces of silver ore like these have become increasingly scarce. That's in part because the dump piles were reprocessed when the price of silver went up in 2004-2008 to $14-18 per ounce. After reprocessing was complete, the mines were reclaimed and covered with 6 to 7 feet of dirt. Today, collectors who have special permission to access the dumps find old, rich pieces of ore by digging through the overburden in likely spots such as the old ore houses and the front and back ends of conveyor belts. After digging through the overburden, they use metal detectors to locate pieces rich in silver. Ore slabs of many grades of purity are available from the miners who work he dumps, but we only buy the ones that are richest in silver.