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Norcross, GA 30093-3059

SFMS Field Trip

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fluorite pyrite

SFMS Field Trip
North Carolina
Saturday, May 4, 2013

This site is a pyrophyllite quarry that also has a lot of pyrite mixed in. According to the company’s website, the pyrophyllite is aluminum silicate (Al2Si4O10(OH)2) and it is sold for use primarily in ceramics formulations as well as a carrier for agricultural chemicals and as a filler in industrial coatings, sealants and caulks.

The pyrophyllite in the quarry ranges from fairly solid, massive, banded material to soft, crumbly, loose material. In addition to pyrite, other minerals may be found there including various colors of fluorite.

In 2009 the mine manager, Jim Faile, and SFMS Field Trip Chair (also a member of GMS) Jim Flora, worked together to reopen the quarry to collecting after it had been closed for a few years. SFMS clubs have been visiting annually since then.

The main attraction is the pyrite cubes which can be as large as 6 inches, and we were told that a quarry person once found a piece the size of a cinder block that he took home and used as a doorstop! The cubes are embedded in pyrophyllite matrix so collectors use metal detectors to locate them, then use hammers, chisels, picks, and pry bars to liberate them. My understanding is that the formation is part of a fault so the material is under stress which often results in fractured cubes, so to extract one mostly intact is a quite a feat, but well worth the effort.

This year, after discovering a local bakery with handmade doughnuts that also deserve an annual visit, Charles and I positioned ourselves at the gate to the mine with Jim and Cheryl to sign in all of the eager rockhounds. To show our gratitude for allowing SFMS members to collect there, everyone donated $2 per person which will be used to pay for lunch when boy scouts visit the quarry.

Our duly appointed field trip meteorologist, Mickey McClain, assured us that even though the clouds appeared to be threatening a mucky washout for the day, we would not be rained upon. The morning air was heavy with moisture and we were cloaked in cool mist, but just as Mickey predicted, the mist lifted and there was no rain. In fact, the weather was just right for collecting.

Cody and Johnny, our hosts for the day, gave a brief safety talk before releasing us into the pyrophyllite. Cheryl and I were amused by the various sounds of the metal detectors from the whimpering, whining baby sounds to the annoyed goose honking sounds as we signed in the last few people.

The tailing piles were immediately set upon and readily yielded nice specimens. In the main pit it was the driest we have seen in years. Even the areas that would normally suck the boots off your feet (socks included) were barely squishy.

Since the main pit was relatively dry, it was a good time to collect the tiny, perfect cubes that are almost impossible to collect when the quarry is wet. With a bit of coaxing, the tiny cubes were practically pouring out of the pyrophyllite matrix.

Several large cubes were extracted from the pit and the piles. The fluorite area was equally productive, producing some spectacular specimens as well. Charles even found a pyrite cube with fluorite on it! Everyone seemed to be having a great time and came away with plenty of specimens.

The entire group was well-behaved and we were out of the quarry on time and incident free, so we have been invited back for another world class collecting trip next year! Many thanks to Jim Flora for setting up this trip for SFMS members again!

Lori Carter, on behalf of
Charles Carter, GMS Field Trip Chair
Photos by Lori Carter

Full house at the quarry
Photos by Lori Carter

Charles Carter found this pyrite cube with fluorite on it
Photo by Lori Carter

The quarry was dry for the first time in a few years, so it was prime time for digging
Photo by Lori Carter

Though small by Glendon standards, many perfect twin crystals were found
Photo by Lori Carter

Sandy Johnson proudly displays one of her favorite finds while Mickey McClain scans the quarry floor
Photo by Lori Carter

This gentleman extracted two large pyrite cubes in matrix right before it was time to leave!
Photo by Lori Carter

Large pyrite cubes in pyrophyllite matrix

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