Notes from Mexico, Summer 2011

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by Mike New

Treasure Mountain Mining photos; map by Eric Greene

Note: Have you ever dreamed of traveling to a foreign country and buying up and bringing home thousands and thousands of dollars of mineral specimens? I know I have, and in the process I've romanticized the trip into a series of exciting collecting adventures in fabulous localities in the most remote corners of the globe, where I buy the most fantastic and beautiful crystals for pennies. Alas, the reality doesn't come anywhere close to my fantasies (it never does, does it?), but I have been enjoying for several years the opportunity to be an armchair traveler when my friend Mike New heads to Mexico to buy minerals. Here is his latest report, which he has generously agreed to let us share with you. Enjoy! - Eric

We had not made a trip to Mexico since May of this year and people were starting to accumulate minerals for us. So, once again we decided to head south of the border.

Map of northern Mexico, showing stops in Ciudad Juarez, Naica,
Mina Navidad, Mina Ojuela, Gomez Palacio, Cahuila, and Charcas

We arrived in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, which is located at the north end of Mexico Federal Highway 45. Our trips nearly always start here since the highway connects us to the cities of Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Gomez Palacio, Durango and Zacatecas. Lots of our vendors live just a few hours drive time east or west of this highway.

We stopped at Kilometer 30 to renew my truck papers and found out that from last trip to this trip, suddenly the weight requirements had changed and trucks with over 7,999 gross vehicle weight were no longer able to travel in Mexico. My Dodge ¾ ton diesel has a GVW of 9,200 pounds So - no vehicle permit is available. We tried three times over a period of two days and the answer was the same.

So, I called our employee, Gilberto, at home in Zacatecas and asked him to drive the 1300 kilometers to pick us up and take us. Fortunately, we had purchased him a king cab pickup so there was enough room for all of us and the luggage. He and another employee, Guillermo, arrived the next day and we were finally able to start our trip.

Our first stop was to the home of a long time vendor who had asked us to look at the selenite specimens coming from Santa Eulalia and some of the quartz scepters he has been getting from the Sierra Madre northwest of Chihuahua City. The selenite was a bust. The quartz showed some promise in that the people were again digging this location. The material available was not worth buying but I have had lots in the past which were quite good - 2" scepters on a quartz crystal matrix with very clear, clean scepters, either colorless, slightly smoky or slightly amethystine. I did not purchase any but encouraged him to continue digging and offered financial support.

We arrived at Naica, Chihuahua the following day to visit the vendors there. I bought one large lot of anhydrite of about 800 pieces for a lot of money, along with some brown selenite clusters and a few clear selenite clusters. We were informed that the mining company blew up the anhydrite area to keep the miners from collecting, so that particular area is no longer producing. It was good while it lasted there was enough sky blue anhydrite to last us through the 2012 Tucson show.

Anhydrite, Naica, Mun. de Saucillo, in Chihuahua, Mexico

The next morning, we arrived at the home of a vendor who has been digging creedite and pink fluorite plates at Mina Navidad. He had some disturbing news. The mine is closed for rehabilitation of the mill and no mining is going on now. He had 300 kilos of pink fluorite and maybe 800 kilos of creedite.

Fluorite, Mina Navidad, Mun. de Rodeo, Durango, Mexico

Creedite, Mina Navidad, Mun. de Rodeo, Durango, Mexico

That afternoon, we drove to Mapimi and visited another long time vendor. I used to buy from his father, now we are buying from him and his sons. He had accumulated some decent rosasite, some good wulfenite/mimetite, some very good hemimorphite and some so-so adamite. The pricing reflected the fact that the mine at Mapimi is now closed. Here's the story: The mine is owned by the Penoles Mining Company, and leases it to wealthy doctor in Monterey. His brother was kidnapped and held for ransom. The kidnappers wanted 10 million pesos (about $865,000). The doctor paid this, but the kidnappers, part of the Zeta gang, told him that they wanted 5 million pesos a month as long as the mine was working. He cannot afford that. The mine does not pay that kind of profit. He has placed soldiers to guard the mine and installations, which means the guys who normally sneak underground to dig at night, will now not do so. That also means that the specimen production from Mapimi will come to a shrieking halt.

Rosasite, Mina la Ojuela, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico

Wulfenite on mimetite, Mina la Ojuela, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico

Hemimorphite, Mina la Ojuela, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico

Adamite, Mina la Ojuela, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico

So, we bought that lot and stopped in to see another vendor who has sold me great wulfenites in the past. She had some good wulfenite with mimetite, some good rosasite and some really nice hemimorphite on calcite. We made a deal and got everything from Mapimi packed ready to be shipped north with the creedite, pink fluorite and the Naica material. It was 63 banana boxes weighing 4,000 pounds or so.

Next, we visited a vendor in Gomez Palacio who sells the blue calcite that we acid dip and sell buy the flat. He had especially nice material and we bought 22,000 pounds, which is a two year supply. We also bought 4,000 pounds of chalcopyrite to make peacock copper. That is a two month supply.

Because of the problems in Ciudad Juarez with the truck papers, we did not have time to see the vendor in Nuevo Leon who provides us with the clear Iceland spar - the pink, green and clear optical calcite. Nor did we have time to visit our fenster quartz man in Mesilla de Leon, Coahuila, and our vendor in Charcas, San Luis Potosi for danburite. We also did not have time to visit a new turquoise deposit, but we do have samples en route.

All in all, it was not a good trip. 2 mine closing, one dynamited anhydrite pocket, no truck papers and not enough time. However, we are back home healthy and ready to go to work prepping the new material for our show in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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