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November-December 2010

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Update on the Mineralogy of the San Rafael Mine Nye County, Nevada

Unless otherwise noted, all mineral photos by Tom Loomis of specimens from his collection

The San Rafael mine, in north central Nevada, is a relatively little known, yet prolific, collecting locality that has produced the state's best crystallized examples of several minerals, including adamite, arsenopyrite, carminite, mimetite, mixite, plumbogummite, rosasite, and segnitite. The senior author formerly compiled a preliminary discussion on the mineralogy of the deposit (Jensen 1988), but it is the goal of the current article to update the previous effort by adding more modern, accurate, and comprehensive descriptions of the species from this interesting occurrence.

The San Rafael mine, at the old camp of Quartz Mountain in the Lodi district, is situated in the extreme northwestern portion of Nye County, approximately two and one-half hours' drive east of Reno. The property is reached by traveling east from Reno to Fallon, then taking U.S. Highway 50 east to the small and “nostalgic” establishment of Middlegate, a distance of 47 miles, where one turns south on Nevada Route 361. At a distance of 16.8 miles from Middlegate, a good all-weather gravel road leads east through low sagebrush-covered hills and desert arroyos. About 2 miles from the highway is the old camp of Broken Hills, where a rich, vertically dipping silver vein was worked in the 1920s. Continuing beyond Broken Hills for about another 3 miles, one reaches the former mining camp of Quartz Mountain, at a series of small hills (about 5,100 feet elevation) that are somewhat isolated out on the pediment. The impressive wooden headframe and ore bin of the abandoned San Rafael mine stand out from the surrounding terrain and can easily be seen from many miles away; a good road leads directly to the collar of the shaft.

Martin Jensen has a master's degree in geology/geochemistry from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and works for a consulting engineering firm. Primarily a field collector, he has published more than forty papers on mineralogy and has discovered eleven new mineral species.

Tony Nikischer is the president of Excalibur Mineral Corporation, chairman of the Hudson Institute of Mineralogy, and publisher of Mineral News. The mineral nikischerite was named in his honor in 2001.

Tom Loomis, a geological engineer, is a graduate of the South Dakota School of Mines and Tehnology, with over twenty years of gold and silver mining experience. He operates Dakota Matrix Minerals.

Jason Herrmann is a longtime field collector, ex-geologist, and owner/operator of Lithosphere Minerals.

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