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Found my first metallic iron nuggets....


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Last week I was up in the mountains in southern Idaho, looking for some buried stagecoach robbery loot. I found an old prospect hole that had been exposed by the Forest Service removing "nuisance" pine trees. I decided to hike up the hill and check it out. It probably dates to the late 19th century. Scanning the tailing pile I immediately got a strong hit, and dug up really heavy, rough nugget. Tested it on the pick magnet, and it stuck like crazy. Found 9 more before giving it up. When I got home several days later, and cleaned one, I decided to grind a "window" on one end, and found a nice silver-colored metal. The question I have is "how rare is this?". All the years I've been prospecting and I've never seen one.

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It's probably a piece of iron trash. Sorry. Tailing piles are notorious for having all kinds of junk in them.

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Nope...not trash, for sure. I've found plenty of iron trash, and this ain't it. These are all ragged, and the surface texture matches the country rock they formed in. Also, they're all varied in size and shape. The prospect hole is only 8' deep, and about 16' in diameter. It looks like it was dug by hand. More pics

Jim

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Edited by Idaho Jim
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That is the hard flakes of steel knocked off the drill from single jacking drill holes. 

Ferrous metal does not exist in nature (for all practical purposes). That is free ferrous metal and it either came from a drill steel (or other tool) or it came from the sky. The overwhelming odds are that it is flakes off the back of a drill.

Those exact pieces are found in every mine and test hole where miners used  sledge hammer and steel to drive holes. I have found buckets full that look exactly like that. The striking end of the drill hardens and mushrooms and the flakes chunk off as the steel is struck.

Only magnetite and some forms of hematite are magnetic and they are not metallic but sub-metallic. That is free metallic iron. An artifact for sure.

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Native metallic iron (not meteoric) is extremely rare if it even exists. So if it's not trash, it could be meteoric iron.  I still think it's trash as ive seen it come in all sizes and shapes.

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One of these is 1 1/4" long, and 1/2" thick. These ain't flakes off a drill steel. Take a good look at the pics. It is possible this is not a prospect hole, but a meteorite strike, but I would think a meteorite-caused hole, that produced pieces this big, would be larger. Don't know. The entire tailing pile is red/orange. Almost like clay when wet. really stained my hands. First thing I thought of was iron trash, but these are really irregular, and not a smooth surface on any of them.

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42 minutes ago, Idaho Jim said:

Nope...not trash, for sure. I've found plenty of iron trash, and this ain't it. These are all ragged, and the surface texture matches the country rock they formed in. Also, they're all varied in size and shape. The prospect hole is only 8' deep, and about 16' in diameter. It looks like it was dug by hand. More pics

Jim

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Hi Jim, couple of years ago while detecting in the hills i found an iron object that had unusual shape. I didn't think to much about it although i thought it could have the shape of a meteorite. After finding around 10 more pieces spread out over an area the size of a football field i began to think i might of found a strewn field. I knew i should test one, at least put a window in one and etch it to verify Widmanstatten pattern, but i figured i was having too much fun finding irons each day i went out hunting. Long story, but the thing is once i finally sent my irons in for testing they came back negative for meteoritec material, and i thought for sure they weren't trash. :idunno:   Here is a sample of the stuff i found.

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Yes...some of those look very much like what I found. I'm going back up next week. The hole is partly filled with erosion debris, and the tree-cutters felled a couple of trees into it, so it's going to be a nasty project for a 70 year old ex-concrete guy to clean out...LOL. We'll see. I'd like to find some more of these if I can. Thanks for the pics!

jim

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38 minutes ago, Idaho Jim said:

One of these is 1 1/4" long, and 1/2" thick. These ain't flakes off a drill steel. Take a good look at the pics. It is possible this is not a prospect hole, but a meteorite strike, but I would think a meteorite-caused hole, that produced pieces this big, would be larger. Don't know. The entire tailing pile is red/orange. Almost like clay when wet. really stained my hands. First thing I thought of was iron trash, but these are really irregular, and not a smooth surface on any of them.

There is not a meteoritic surface on any of them either. Nor fusion crust. If they were irons they would look like irons. They don't. They look just like hardened, split metal. Exactly like the torn bits of steel you will find in every tailing pile and test hole in the west. 

When you see meteoritic iron you see the result of entry into our atmosphere. You see stretching, smoothing, rounding and regmaglypts. You see concavity and ridges. You see black fusion crust with bright metal showing through. IMHO there is none of that.

The ground is red orange and stained your hands because the test hole is over hematite gossan. The perfect place for a test hole to be... over oxidized, iron rich geology.

Honestly, you are finding tramp metal that came off tools used to dig in rock.

Good luck Jim. 

Edited by Bedrock Bob
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Well, I won't say you're wrong, Bob. I never claimed they were meteorites. But, I've driven a lot of steel stakes in my life, and a bit of drill steel, and I've never seen pieces that looked like these.

 Every piece of iron junk I've found around here had at least one surface that was smooth, or I could easily see that it was smooth at one time. I can't find a single surface on any of these that looks that way. I just don't know. I'm going to take one over to a junkyard and have the guy check it with an XRF gun. Can't hurt.

Jim

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23 minutes ago, Idaho Jim said:

Well, I won't say you're wrong, Bob. I never claimed they were meteorites. But, I've driven a lot of steel stakes in my life, and a bit of drill steel, and I've never seen pieces that looked like these.

 Every piece of iron junk I've found around here had at least one surface that was smooth, or I could easily see that it was smooth at one time. I can't find a single surface on any of these that looks that way. I just don't know. I'm going to take one over to a junkyard and have the guy check it with an XRF gun. Can't hurt.

Jim

What exactly is the XRF going to tell you? Nickel content?

Keep in mind that most tool steel is alloyed with nickel, so an XRF is not going to give you much info when dealing with irons. I'm sorry but that is just the facts. You are going to have to differentiate terrestrial free metal from meteoritic free metal and an XRF is not going to do that for you. 

I hope you have something, I really do. And I sympathize with your position because I have been in it. My advice for what it is worth is don't invest too much time and effort in chasing little bits of metal that have no meteoritic characteristics whatsoever. Especially if you find them in a hole where men have been swinging a hammer at a percussion tool. 

Good luck Jim.

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Thanks, Bob. I'll keep all that in mind. I prospect because I truly enjoy the outdoors. Prospecting is just a reason to be out there. Used to be hunting. I'll do more poking around there. In any case, none of this has any real importance. It just a curiosity, though an interesting one.

Jim

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