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Looks like bismuth to me. 

That is some type of non ferrous metal ore on/in quartz. I'm going to say the geometric crystal formations are bismuth, the shiny graphite looking ore is galena (lead and zinc). Possibly rich in silver too. The mine you found it at was probably a lead/silver/zinc mine.

I see galena, bismuth, quartz and sulphides for sure. Pretty common lead/silver/zinc type of ore. It has not been exposed for long and the faces are freshly broken with no weathering. It looks like the ore that these specimens were taken from formed at depth.

Those old miners cussed that bismuth. A lot of rich silver mines were abandoned because of it back in the day. Things are different nowdays and bismuth can be a paying element. Exxon Mining has had guys going over old holes re-assessing that stuff. Processes are being modified to handle ores rich in bismuth. There is a market for that type of ore in the United States if you are close to a process that can handle it. 

 

Edited by Bedrock Bob
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54 minutes ago, Bedrock Bob said:

Those old miners cussed that bismuth. A lot of rich silver mines were abandoned because of it back in the day. Things are different nowdays and bismuth can be a paying element. Exxon Mining has had guys going over old holes re-assessing that stuff. Processes are being modified to handle ores rich in bismuth. There is a market for that type of ore in the United States if you are close to a process that can handle it. 

 

I'm truly curious about where someone would be able to find a place to process ore.  I thought EPA regulations and cheap overseas ores had shut all these small miner processing plants down.  Chris had written an article for the ICMJ about two years ago about the sad state of mineral mining in the US, and bismuth is one of the ones in trouble.

I think the only thing that can EASILY be worth it for the small miner is gold.  When I say easily, you'd have to find a good deposit.  I don't think any other mineral would be economical for us.

Silver ore would take me ounces per ton for me to work.  I have about a dozen old timer holes on my claim, and I can not for the life of seeing what they were after.  The most worked hole, about waist deep, had a black ore I thought might be a silver ore.  Took a sample, but never sent it off to be checked.  Once I looked at the price of silver, what it would take for me to extract it, and the size of the vein, to make it pay, I'd need ounces or pounds per ton to quit my day job.  Once that pocket was gone, I'd be done.

I was told to be on the lookout for many other ores when I go out: manganese, tin, copper, molybdenum, are just a few.  Bismuth would fit in that category.  70 or 80 years ago, around WWII, this stuff may have been able to be mined by the normal Joe, but since strip mining, the adjusted for inflation prices of these metals has dropped dramatically.  I was looking at prospecting an area West of the White tanks, but what kept me out is most of the mines there were manganese.  Not saying the ores out there can't be mined, but they can't be mined by me with my pick axe and shovel, unless I want to go broke.  I even found what I think is a uranium ore a couple of times.  I found it was priced at $40 a pound, but that is processed.

I guess there's a couple of exceptions to this.  First, some people can make a living mining gems and crystals.  Read a story about a guy back East, which he titled something like, "How to open your own crystal mine, or how to become a broke crystal miner."  The only other exception would be as a hobby.  I find lots of green copper ore, which I'm saving in a jar that I plan on crushing, spreading over homemade charcoal, and cooking with a homemade belloes under dirt for several hours.  This should be smelting copper the way it was done thousands of years ago.  After months of collecting copper ore, days collecting wood, an overnighter making the charcoal, a few hours smelting, I should have less than a handful of copper.

I have a lot of free time this Sunday Morning.  Maybe I ought to be out detecting.

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There are thousands of tons of this type of ore that have been cut and filled in shafts all over the west. If there is enough of it and it is close enough to a smelter it can worth processing by anyone who can haul it out and get it to smelter at a profit. That is usually more than the "small miner" can handle but it is not impossible if you are close to smelter and have some basic equipment.

I wasn't indicating that it is profitable for the small miner. Exxon Mining is not a "small miner". 

This type of ore can be processed with similar ores and PD Morenci will buy it. So will Freeport Mc Mo Ran in Hurley. So will the smelter in Butte. So will a half dozen operations in Arizona who have a reduction process that can handle the ore and a market for bismuth rich concentrates.  

So if you (or Exxon) has enough of it, it certainly can be marketable. If you can offer a smelter a feedstock of ore that is compatable with their process they are certainly going to buy it. It has to be chemically compatable with their process and in enough quantity to justify handling it. The reduction process must be close enough to make it profitable... Shipping rock is expensive. Those are the hurdles to selling ore to a smelter. 

I did not mean to indicate that bismuth ore could be marketable for the small miner. That was not my point at all. My point was that bismuth is no longer such an issue with smelters and much ore that was not profitable before can be processed at a profit today. And several companies are capitalizing on that right now.

Edited by Bedrock Bob
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I'd be interested to find these still operational smelters.

I will have to look into where these smelters are in AZ that can take ores.  Only places I found to process ores in AZ were a friend of a friend who would cyanide leach old gold ore tailings.  They supposedly produced a few ounces, but shut down.  All I can picture from that op is a old trailer in a remote area somewhere with a six year old cyanide leach pit sitting by it.

I spent a lot of time researching stuff like manganese, copper ores, and other things found locally on a tip they could be turned into cash.  Just didn't want someone to get hopes like that.  I've seen people go through prospecting stores and get dry washers because a friend told them they could get a quarter ounce of gold by running a few buckets of dirt through I.  I doubt that guy went out more than a couple of times.  Kind of want people to stick with this.  The environmental lobby is flooded with cash, and if we were able to support the dredging effort in the same way, not only would the AMRA still be dredging in Idaho, but permits to dredge would have been issued for years.  I really think we need people to stick to hobbies like this so they can make a living out of it.

 

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59 minutes ago, chrisski said:

I'm truly curious about where someone would be able to find a place to process ore.  I thought EPA regulations and cheap overseas ores had shut all these small miner processing plants down.

EPA can only regulate pollution. They have no ability to control a non polluting processing plant. The United States has multiple rich ore deposits that are still cheaper to mine and process locally than to buy from overseas.

For the small miner in central Arizona there is a public small batch processing plant in Phoenix and another private one in Congress. If your deposit fits the profile I can get you an introduction to the owners at the Congress plant.

There are at least 12 large pit mines in Arizona mining and locally processing a variety of metal ores.

Asarco operates three large pit mines with processing plants in Arizona. The smelter at Hayden, AZ processes about 27,000 tons a day.

Freeport McMoran operates 5 large open pit mines with processing plants in Arizona. They also operate two large moly pits with processing facilities in Colorado and a large pit mine and processor at Tyrone in Southern New Mexico.

Capstone operates the Pinto mine and processing plant near Globe-Miami AZ and processes about 54,000 tons a day.

I think the biggest problem with finding a facility to get ore processed is two fold. First - is that the large mining company processors no longer take ore from outside their own mining operations and Second - advertising that you will process ores makes your company a target for greenies. I know of several processors who do no advertising.

If you can find a valuable deposit of size and quality to make a profit you can mine it. That size and quality thing has less to do with processing ability and a whole lot to do with market forces.

Bismuth is a low value metal with weak demand. Bismuth is a byproduct of lead/zinc mining. Lead/zinc mines are at best minimally profitable. Even if you could locate a rich Bismuth deposit you would still have a hard time making a profit because of the added expense of dealing with the associated metal byproducts.

Mining is all about the money. If there is a good profit to be made and the deposit is large enough it will be mined. Minimal or borderline profits are not attractive in mining. Market forces alone can wipe out even comfortable profit margins in a matter of days. When tariff wars are cheered by the populace the mining companies cringe and cut their CAPEX to a minimum. No CAPEX = no new processing facilities. It's all interconnected.

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"I'd be interested to find these still operational smelters."...

 

PD Morenci and Freeport Mc Mo Ran in Hurley are two that I mentioned. PD in Butte Montana accepts ores like this too. Every copper mine in Arizona (and there are many) either process their own ores or have it done. Many can handle this ore. Again, if you have a volume of feedstock and the ore is compatible with their chemistry they will buy it from you.

Most have minimum volume requirements that put it out of reach for the small prospector and hand miner. But that does not mean that this type of ore cannot be processed by bigger operations. And that is the whole point of bringing it up. Exxon is doing it right now.

I am not sure how I could be any clearer. I am not saying this type of ore is a marketable product for you. Or that ore like this could be of value to a prospector.  I am saying this type of ore is a marketable product for Exxon if it close enough to a process. It is also a marketable product for other mining operations across the west. 

Contact Don Farquhar at Phelps Dodge in Morenci. As of ten years ago he was the man. They would buy silicate based ores in quantities of 100 tons or more from anyone that could provide it. It had to fit certain metal profiles and be rich enough to justify the time. They will buy straight silica from just about anywhere for flux too. 

Edited by Bedrock Bob
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For both Clay and Bob, I appreciate the response.  I will test some of the samples I have and if it comes back, I'll message you for the contacts.  I do think there is a lot of silver locally, but it's overlooked.  It was mined for a profit a long time ago.

The type of operation I am thinking of would only move about a half ton to a  ton of ore at a time, at least to start.

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1 hour ago, chrisski said:
13 minutes ago, clay said:

Bismuth is a low value metal with weak demand. Bismuth is a byproduct of lead/zinc mining. Lead/zinc mines are at best minimally profitable. Even if you could locate a rich Bismuth deposit you would still have a hard time making a profit because of the added expense of dealing with the associated metal byproducts.

 

My point was not that bismuth was a mineable element. It was that deposits rendered worthless by bismuth can often be processed today at a profit. Especially when there are hundreds of tons of this ore blocked out in cut and fill area of the old shafts. All you really need to do in many cases is load it and haul it. So bismuth is much less of a problem in ore metallurgy than it used to be.

As far as I know bismuth is still a "penalty metal" that they charge you for in your metals profile. 

No one is suggesting that bismuth mining is a profitable business. I am saying that bismuth is less of an obstacle to a profitable business with todays modern processes.

 

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19 minutes ago, chrisski said:

For both Clay and Bob, I appreciate the response.  I will test some of the samples I have and if it comes back, I'll message you for the contacts.  I do think there is a lot of silver locally, but it's overlooked.  It was mined for a profit a long time ago.

The type of operation I am thinking of would only move about a half ton to a  ton of ore at a time, at least to start.

I have no idea who might be able to handle ores in small quantities like that. This is the crux of the problem. No matter what you find and no matter how rich it is, it is worthless unless you can market it. And the only buyers that I know of are not willing to consider any ore in less than about 100 ton shipments. Even then they will probably want a contract where you can guarantee a steady flow of feedstock over a period of time. 

The only solution would be to reduce it into a refineable product and sell it to a refiner instead of a smelter. This is how a lot of smaller operations deal with the problem. Refiners are much less picky about quantities but have a whole different set of criteria. So if your ore lends itself to a simple reduction process you may be able to market concentrates to a refiner rather than shipping tons of ore to a smelter or other reduction process).

Just my two cents. It is an almost impossible thing for an individual without big resources. Not impossible but mighty difficult.

Edited by Bedrock Bob
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Yeah... a half ton of ore in the mining industry isn't really going to get anyone's interest Chris. The set up costs for a mine plant to do a clean run would far exceed the value of your ore, or even the richest ore for that matter. It's very unlikely you could even find a mine run refinery that could give you good recovery rates for that small amount of material.

I had a friend mining the pit in Jerome on a lease and he would have to fill 6 railroad cars with higrade before the Douglas smelter would consider doing a run. That's 142 tons per car X 6 = 852 tons of higrade minimum. That was in the early 1970's so I'm sure that figure would be a lot higher today, if Douglas were still processing.

The link I gave you earlier was for a finishing facility in Phoenix that can handle your high grade free or refractory ores. You can do the required milling, screening and enriching on site and avoid any EPA oversight, then send the sacked enriched ore to them for the leaching. You will need to pay them for the process but if the deposit is truly rich and recoverable at a profit a small deposit can benefit the small miner.

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Clay is giving you the scoop Chris. His info is way more current than mine.

Back in the 90's Phelps Dodge had a refinery in El Paso. They would buy any metal scrap no matter how small. And would refine concentrates based on what you had.

ASARCO smelter was still running and if they could not handle a small batch of ore in their process they just put it on a train car and shipped it to Canada. They would buy a few tons of anything as long as it assayed well. Buying ore was their business. You had to provide 30 tons or more.

PD at Playas was a custom smelter taking ore from Peru that ran 300-600 opt. They wanted flux. They would pay metal values plus a few bucks a ton just for the silica. They needed 100 tons to consider your offer. If you had ore that was 90% silica you could deal with them. Otherwise they referred you to Morenci.

The smelter at Hurley was operated by several outfits. They only did ore form the Chino pit but they would buy tons of ore from a few operating flux mines in the area. A few guys got together and combined their ore with one of these small mines. Kind of a co-operative. Until about '95 there were a few miners that would band together to create feedstock that would interest the mine. My assumption was they were shipping it somewhere else to be processed. Maybe they were just needing the flux really bad. Flux mining is about the only thing that thrives around those big smelter operations.

Morenci would just about take anything. Even small quantities. They would crush and split a sample and make an offer. They worked with the smelter in Butte as well as Canada and most of the ore they bought went north.  I sold 30 tons of silver/lead.copper ore to them and only wound up owing them $200 for it when it was all over.

And there was a couple of fly-by-night operations in El Paso that handled ore. Spooky outfits. But they would buy ore by the pickup load if they thought they could squeeze the gold or silver out of it. They recovered gold no doubt but it was very difficult to get your money out of these guys. They were the source of many campfire stories for sure.

All of them except Morenci are long gone. And the last I heard the guys around here were having to ship 55 gallon barrels of concentrate to Canada by semi truck. I know one fellow operating a silver prospect in the Black Range and he smelts his ore right there at the mine in a acetylene fired oven after a reducing process. I don't think he has a profitable operation but he does mine and pour bars every year. At least he was as of a few years ago. When he is gone that will probably be the last silver mined in the Sierra Diablo. Chances are he is probably ready gone.

Edited by Bedrock Bob
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Clay and Bob-I appreciate the education.  Next step up is a bit different than running sand through the dry washer.  Lot to think about.

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I am not sure there is a next step up from running a drywasher. Unless it is finding hardrock pockets in oxidized ore or finding a patch of nice float with the metal detector. For the individual that is just about as good as it is going to get. A nice nugget now and then or a hot section of bedrock that fills the vial. 

There are still some interesting treasure hunts out there to be had. Very few involve finding a mine. There are a lot of valuable natural commodities we walk right by every day. I look for plants a lot now and I see a lot more potential there than metals.

As far as minerals go you can mine decorative and landscape stone and sell it for a neat profit.  I don't know anyone making a go at gold mining despite several nice deposits being available. I do however know two guys that mine zeolite and building stone and do very well. So while metals mining may not offer much future there are other things that glitter besides gold. Just screening construction sand will net $5 per yard. You would be hard pressed to run sand with gold that would return that profit. May as well sell it for concrete!

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I'll get some ore analyzed and see what comes of it.  I do enjoy going out with a map, GPS, and all studying done.  If it never plays out into ore I bring in to the smelter or refinery, then it is still a challenge.

For the decorative stones, funny you mention those.  I was standing on top of the hill looking down at the diggings on my claim and saw dozens of boulders and started thinking what it would take to get those out of there.  Something erodes away the sides of the hills and that pre-Cambrian metavolcanics rock just sits there until a chunk breaks off and slides a few feet down the hills to stop.  Not that many boulders around here central AZ, at least not in the creek beds.  Where I come from in the east, there were many of the rounded boulders brought in by the glaciers and as the streams dig them up, they get tossed down the rivers.

Actually didn't think you could get stones off BLM land.  I did see somewhere around Skull Valley a few months ago, someone was opening up I think it was a 160 acre gravel claim.

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Every town in New Mexico has a borrow pit, a stone quarry and a screening plant on BLM. Most hot mix plants are too. These are a lot more common operations on public land than any type of metals mine.

Gathering field stone and quarrying flagstone is a huge business. Most of it is done on BLM by permit. The Forest Service issues permits to gather field stone too. I am not sure about commercial quarrying operations. A pickup bed covered in stone 8" deep in sandstone fetches $300 in Santa Fe. Hundreds of men are doing it. You can easily load and sell one truckload per day.

Take a look at LR200. That tells the tale on what mineable commodities are being taken from BLM land. You will see that mining in the west on BLM land is a lot more about aggregates and building stone than metals by a huge margin. That is because there is money in aggregate and building stone. Not so much in metals.

The richest guy I know made his fortune digging fill dirt to build I-25 on public land. He claimed gravel in strategic places and set up gravel plants along a 350 mile stretch. He has one of the biggest construction companies in the state. He mined placer gold until he started skipping the washing process and just selling truckloads of dirt. Before the project was complete he was a multi millionaire and had a huge construction company with many millions in equipment. All of this was from rock and dirt taken from public land claims along the length of the highway.

 

Edited by Bedrock Bob
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I have no idea what effect NAFTA and other international agreements would have on shipping ore over the southern border these days, but once upon a time there was at least one smelter in Sonora that would process Gringo ore in relatively small batches.  Because of Mexico's oddball laws, there was some sort of certification process needed to prove the ore came from elsewhere.  It's possible the situation is similar to the El Paso fast operators Wodu Bob mentions -- I seem to recall an uncle complaining of problems with payment on at least one occasion.

Difficulty finding processors and high shipping costs are why the old timers high graded.

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1 hour ago, Saul R W said:

I have no idea what effect NAFTA and other international agreements would have on shipping ore over the southern border these days, but once upon a time there was at least one smelter in Sonora that would process Gringo ore in relatively small batches.  Because of Mexico's oddball laws, there was some sort of certification process needed to prove the ore came from elsewhere.  It's possible the situation is similar to the El Paso fast operators Wodu Bob mentions -- I seem to recall an uncle complaining of problems with payment on at least one occasion.

Difficulty finding processors and high shipping costs are why the old timers high graded.

That's a bingo! :)

And the ore they rejected is often still stuffed in the stopes or laying in a pile around the mine! 

 

Most of the ore processed in El Paso was smuggled up from Mexico. By the time everyone gets their cut down there, there is nothing left. Most of that ore from small Mexican miners heads this way believe it or not. At least it did until recently.

The Sinaloa Cartel is big on mining these days. They are trying to diversify their portfolio. They are deep into the coltan business. I bet they have processes set up to handle other ores as well as thugs to control the Mexican mineros. I can imagine they are playing the same game with minerals as they do with poppies, dope, fish and corn.

I know for a fact they have the corner on the coltan market from Columbia. Why would they not take over other guerrilla mining as well?

So if you are lookin for a place to sell your ore in Mexico I bet the Barrio Azteca can hook you right up. Expect to haggle a bit.

Edited by Bedrock Bob
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1 hour ago, Bedrock Bob said:

That's a bingo! :)

And the ore they rejected is often still stuffed in the stopes or laying in a pile around the mine! 

 

Most of the ore processed in El Paso was smuggled up from Mexico. By the time everyone gets their cut down there, there is nothing left. Most of that ore from small Mexican miners heads this way believe it or not. At least it did until recently.

The Sinaloa Cartel is big on mining these days. They are trying to diversify their portfolio. They are deep into the coltan business. I bet they have processes set up to handle other ores as well as thugs to control the Mexican mineros. I can imagine they are playing the same game with minerals as they do with poppies, dope, fish and corn.

I know for a fact they have the corner on the coltan market from Columbia. Why would they not take over other guerrilla mining as well?

So if you are lookin for a place to sell your ore in Mexico I bet the Barrio Azteca can hook you right up. Expect to haggle a bit.

Good luck collecting if for some reason those sweet fellows decide to withhold payment.  They'd as soon toss you in the smelter as listen to reason.  I'd rather do business with a skinny Russky mobster.  Or a fat one.

Edited by Saul R W
In case of dispute with the cartel, what's the going rate these days for 165 pounds of 18.5% carbon, 1.5% calcium, 0.4% potassium Gringo flux?
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