What Has Caused the Dramatic Increase in Peruvian Pyrite Prices?

Write By: tmmadmin Published In: Classic Mineral Localities Created Date: 2015-01-09 Hits: 13421 Comment: 0

19 pound 11" Brassy GOLDEN PYRITE Pyritohedral Crystals -Peru

This year in Tucson the wholesale price for good Peruvian pyrite specimens was triple what it was two years ago in 2011. I asked several dealers about this, and was given several reasons:

1. The mines are cracking down on miners bringing out specimens.
2. Total pyrite production is down
3. The mines known for producing good specimens have shut down or aren't producing good specimens.

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I wanted to find out more, so first I looked for answers on the internet. One other factor that was mentioned was that in Peru, pyrite wholesales for $1 to $30 a kilo, depending on quality and the size of the crystals. The cost of air freight has gone up substantially due to price increases in aviation fuel. Pyrite is heavy stuff, so the impact is multiplied. And, when you add the markup for the middleman's profit and the trip to Peru and, prices can easily be six times the cost in Peru.

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Next, I opened a new topic on the mindat.com forum, and got some interesting responses:

Bill Besse wrote that a big factor is availability. If supplies are tight, prices go up. If tthere's a glut, prices go down. Also, mines may close down, or there may be a strike, or mining costs may go up, all of which affect availability.

Steve Hardinger commented that "... just plain old greed, fueled by overpriced specimens on the internet" is probably a big factor.

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Several people wrote that many of the miens have been taken over by big multinational mining companies, who are teportedly firing miners caught taking out specimens. One writer reported that on several occasions, mine officials have called in the police, and miners ended up in jail (or beaten up). In short, the risks have gone up for the miners, so they pass on the cost.

Rock Currier added this very knowledgeable and in depth analysis:

"For years Huanzala in Peru was producing many tons of specimens a year and it seemed like there would be no end, very much like the galenas and calcites from the Tristate district. I remember one year arriving in Lima to find that every one had big clusters of cathedral pyrites with faces measuring up to 20 cm. I thought ten dollar a kg was about all I could pay for the better ones. Then the mine officials cracked down on the miners for bringing it out. It not that the pyrite had any value to the company, but that the miners would spend all their time digging specimens rather than ore for the mine. Then the mine closed. Some miners would still sneak into the mine and collect, but it was hard to sneak it back into camp since the housing belonged to the company and it was hard to get it out of the mine. Mine officials and local authorities were always looking for boxes of rocks that they could confiscate from the miners and the runners who would try and take it from the mine. There was and in most cases there is only one road into most of the mines in Peru. So since Huanzala is closed they dealers are forced to scrounge what ever pyrite they can from other mines. Sometimes one mine will hit a good area and that will produce a few hundred or thousand pounds of pyrite and then it will stop. Everyone is/was used to getting pyrite cheaply, and unless Huanzala comes back on line and the miners can dig the pyrite, I think the price of pyrite will remain high. We currently have to pay at least twice or three times what we used to get pyrites of all grades. Yes the internet will influence the prices some, but the bottom line is that for most of the specimen, the miners can't eat them so regardless of what prices they see on the internet, the stuff gets sold at a price where everyone can make some money. This is the kind of thing that always happens. How long did Elba produce pyrite? Many people could never imagine that a mine in Peru would come along and knock it out of first place, let alone dwarf its production. One collector here in the US had a buyer living in Lima to buy specimens for him and got many, many barrels of good specimens for him. He finally told his buyer, I don't care how good they are, don't send me any more pyrite. He may wish he had not said this, but he must have a ton or two of fine pyrites from the old days (1970s). To comment about the production of pyrite you almost have to take it on a mine by mine basis and compare their production to other mines in that and other countries and what the current market conditions are or might soon be.

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Even today someone could probably work a deal with the mine at Huanzala to collect only the pyrite, but the problem is who will run the crew of miners to do the work. They would have to know what good specimens are and their care and feeding, and would have to go into the mine every day with the miners to oversee the work and to make sure that the good stuff didn't disappear and was protected from damage when it was mined and wrapped properly and shipped to market. The problem is that Huanzala is not a garden spot: it is about 14,000 feet high, in rough mountains with no vegetation, poor food, and no entertainment. I sure would not want to live there and don't know any digger who would. And people think the price of pyrite is too high? Have them visit the mine and work in it for just a day and the current prices of pyrite will seem cheap. I guarantee it."

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Here's a link to the mindat bulletin board if you want to add your comments on this topic:

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