Collecting Minerals In Peru
Our guest speaker for the November meeting was able to go collecting in a place where the rest of us can only dream about. Ray McDougall, long time member of Walker Mineralogical Club, has been a avid collector since childhood. For the past 18 years, he was a corporate securities, specializing in matters pertaining to the Canadian Mining industry. Several years ago he was approached by the CEO of Southern Peaks Mining with a request to help with the acquisition of the Quirvilca Mine in Peru. After 18 months of work, SPM was able to close the deal. As a reward for his legal efforts Ray was invited to visit the mine at any time.
The talk was mostly about Ray and his collecting partners (David Joyce) trip to the Quirvica mine, but the presentation included a general discussion of the minerals of Peru.
The Quiruvilca property is a polymetallic mine. Metals extracted are copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold. Among the collecting community, the mine is known for its fine specimens of orpiment, enargite, hutchinsonite and pyrite.
The Quiruvilca Mine is high up in the Andes Mountains and very remote. Getting there is a an adventure. The only access is a poorly maintained unpaved mountainous road complete with huge potholes. The mine dominates the town of Quiruvilca and appears to be the only source of employmemt. Ray and Dave were able to stay in very comfortable quarters; a house owned by the mine manager and reserved for company guests and visitors. Their quarters were in sharp contrast to the dwellings of the local population,
If you examine the literature written by collectors and mineralogists. you might think that Quiruvilca is a virtual treasure trove of mineral specimens. Such is not the case. The classics came from a zone that is no longer being worked. Also it is illegal for the miners to take minerals for resale. Nonetheless Ray an David were able to collect a few interesting specimens, during their trips underground.
The old adage “you have to be in the right place at the right time” certainly rings true in this particular situation. The mine employs as many as 60 teams of miners. Their job is to follow the veins ofcopper, zinc, silver and gold for immediate extraction. It is possible that miners may at times smuggle a few choice specimens to the surface, but local runners would quickly inform local dealers.
Ray and Dave with able to go underground on three days. Getting there was a bit ardous. First there a 1 km walk to a cage that took down to right elevation. Then there was another 1 km walk to the collecting area. Given that the mine is situated at an altitude of approximately 12,500 feet; the ordeal was a bit strenuous.
The remainder of the presentatiom revolved around the mineral specimens from Quiruvica mine that were either collected or purchased from local dealers. Also included were mineral acquired from other localities and mines in Peru.
Among the specimens mentioned were:
World class botryoidal crystals of arsenic
White wavellites on quartz and pyrite
Epitaxyl crystals of arsenopyrite on pyrite
orange sphericals of orpiment on pyrite
And microcrystals of the rare minerals of seligmannite and hutchinsonite.
This presentation was quite interesting and especially enjoyable to those who are passionate about collecting minerals. I can’t help but be impressed by amount expertise that amateur mineralogists acquire in the pursuit of their hobby. Thanks for the great talk Ray.