Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wyoming - the TOP GEMSTONE state in US

Author, gem hunter, geologist & consultant,
Dan Hausel prepares to go underground at 
the Inspiration mine, Superior, Arizona
Wyoming is the Equality State, the Jade State, the Windy State, the Cowboy State, the Coal state & now the Gemstone State! So how did this happen?

Prior to 1975, only jade and a few agates were known in Wyoming and the Cowboy state appeared to be one of the poorest states in the union when it came to gemstones and gold. But from 1975 to 2007, this all changed and Wyoming became the gemstone capital of North America with the most diverse collection of documented gems of any state in the US. It even has some Armalcolite, a mineral first discovered on the moon and later in Australia and Wyoming (Hausel, 2006)!

It took hard work, dedication and a willingness of a couple of geologists who loved to spend time in the field looking for colored gemstones, diamonds, gold, and unique minerals and rocks as well as mapping large regions of the state in search for mineral deposits.

While other geologists wore loafers to work at the Wyoming Geological Survey (WGS), these two wore out many pairs of field boots walking the country side in search of new mineral deposits. And it is important to recognize that before Ray Harris passed away from stress induced in the work place, and Dan Hausel retired to get out of a horrible situation, the two had been working to find other rare mineral deposits and decorative stones. After Wyoming loss both, no new WGS discoveries have been reported in the state even though there likely are many more mineral deposits to be found and many follow-up studies that need to be conducted. Prior to the loss of these two, they were finding a couple to more than a dozen new mineral and decorative stone deposits each year. A discovery rate that few well-financed mining companies could compare to, yet these two had little exploration money.

As an example, the diamond rush in Canada that followed the discovery of the Ekati diamondiferous kimberlites cost $millions for each new kimberlite discovery - and each discovery required teams of geologists with supportive geochemical, geophysical and airborne surveys. And, capitalization for the Ekati mine cost more than $1 billion! Yes, much of the exploration for diamonds was in the Canadian tundra, but Wyoming often has comparable weather producing short field seasons.

A sample processing unit created at the WGS by Jay Roberts because of
limited funding. This was created to float micro-diamonds from crushed 
samples of kimberlite. In addition to this diamond flotation unit, our lab
technician later found an old Wilfley table, crushers, etc in the dumpster
outside the old NRRI (Natural Resource Research Institute) building on
campus. Our dumpster diver recovered some of these and later we were 
able to obtain other second hand equipment and rock crushers no longer 
needed by NRRI as that institute closed its doors.  The Wilfley Table was 
used for heavy mineral extraction and later modified to include 
grease table to extract diamonds. The tables worked, but should have been
placed in a museum with the micro-diamond flotation unit.
Yet, over three decades, the two Wyoming geologists received a total combined state funds of less than $100,000. One might argue that these two did not find much of value - but, Harris attracted a whole new industry to Wyoming with his work on decorative rocks and stones and Hausel found many gold anomalies including at least one (and possibly several) large gold deposit, palladium anomalies, nickel anomalies, diamonds, rubies, sapphires, the largest iolite deposit in the world, and was working on verifying another gemstone deposit that potentially contained more than $2.4 trillion carats of iolite! It can easily be argued that Hausel's work led to the hundreds of gold prospectors and hobbyists that search for gold in Wyoming each summer.

Hausel also mapped (geologically) more than 1,000 km2 in Wyoming's mineralized regions and many of its old abandoned gold mines, and provided the Cowboy state with insight into Wyoming's ancient Archean craton and greenstone belts, its diamond districts (he mapped the two largest kimberlite districts in the US [Iron Mountain and State Line] and the largest lamproite field in North America [Leucite Hills]) and other features overlooked by other geologists. Harris introduced many companies to industrial minerals and decorative stones and both presented hundreds of lectures and talks to the general pubic and industry and published hundreds of papers, books and maps bringing Wyoming from its brink of geological dark ages. The largest state budget either had to work with was typically $2,000/year; and in many years this was less. When Hausel made significant gold discoveries in the Seminoe Mountains and Rattlesnake Hills in 1981, he had only $100/year for assays in his budget - enough to pay for about 5 sample analyses. As a result, lab technicians at the WGS had to be very creative in sample processing. Just with raw determination, an insatiable curiosity, field vehicles (that were confiscated from both in 2005-2006 by the Director and assigned to his personal secretary) and gas card, each was able to find and identify previously unknown or unrecognized mineral resources. Few other State geological surveys (let alone countries) could match their accomplishments.

Emerald jade with quartz inclusions, Granite Mountains area,
Even with all of the obstacles placed path, Wyoming is now known to have many mineral deposits and gemstones (and probably some minerals we haven't thought of yet). So renaming the Jade State to be the ‘GEMSTONE STATE’ is only natural (do not confuse this with Idaho's 'Gem State' designation).

Chalcopyrite in breccia, Kurtz-Chatterton mine, Encampment
Prior to 1975, a few people knew Wyoming had agates and some of the highest quality jade in the world. Jade was named the state gemstone. But most figured no other gemstones would be found.

Over the next few years, more than 40 diamond pipes and dikes were discovered – half in Wyoming and half in Colorado by a couple of geologists from Colorado - Dr. M.E. McCallum and Dr. D.H. Eggler. Several properties were later mined for diamonds including George Creek, Sloan, and Kelsey Lake and more than a hundred thousand diamonds were recovered including gemstones larger than 28 carats. This included a 6.5 carat diamond in Wyoming and the 28 carat diamond in  Colorado and the companies barely touched the surface of the known diamond deposits (Hausel, 2004). Many times as many diamonds were left in the ground and potentially thousands of carats in the nearby streams.

Specularite with chalcopyrite from Puzzler Hill, Wyoming
Hausel began searching for diamonds and kimberlites and found a couple of previously unreported kimberlites. These discoveries continued to pile up with Hausel finding a group of diamond pipes and a few hundred anomalous features termed cryptovolcanic structures that look like diamond pipes from the air and remain to be tested. Out of 300 such anomalies, only one of these were ever tested due to budget constraints! Some of the cryptovolcanic structures may be diamond pipes, but they need to be drilled. These were found in many locations in Colorado and Wyoming including Lost Lakes, Happy Jack, Indian Guide, Medicine Bows, Plumbago Canyon, Twin Mountain Lakes, Red Feather Lakes and nearby regions! And while mapping the Iron Mountain kimberlite district, Sheep Rock district and the State Line district, other kimberlites and diamond backs were found. Mapping the Leucite Hills lamproite field in a search for diamonds, Hausel found gem-quality peridot instead of diamonds, but he feels the area might still produce diamonds and had asked for an extended budget from the State to conduct an airborne EM (magnetic & conductivity) survey over the volcanic field as he proposed that olivine lamproites could easily hide under thin layers of soil similar to the Ellendale field in Australia. Then there was a discovery of diamonds in lamprophyre breccia pipes at Cedar Mountain Wyoming and an enormous diamond-indicator mineral anomaly that still remains unexplained (McCandless, Nash and Hausel, 1995). 

Rosasite with quartz, Jelm Mountain, Wyoming
In 1981, Wyoming was pretty much unknown for gold even though all of the surrounding states had produced considerable gold in the past. Gold was discovered at South Pass in Wyoming in 1842, but nothing much was ever done due to hostilities between Whites and Indians. Then significant anomalies of gold were identified in the Seminoe Mountains in 1981 within a district that had some short-lived mining in the 19th century (Hausel, 1994). The Rawlins Times reported a gold rush to the area filled all of the motels in Rawlins, Saratoga, Sinclair and even Laramie with people wanting a piece of the pie. It was Timberline Minerals from Dubois who tied up the property. The company president, John Wells indicated they had drilled the discovery site at Bradley Peak and picked up samples of quartz and iron formation with visible gold verifying the discovery by Hausel.

Kimberlitic indicator minerals (pyrope garnet, almandine garnet, chromian
diopside and chromian enstatite recovered from anthills.
In the same year, Hausel made another gold discovery that may someday lead to a gold mine in central Wyoming: the gold was discovered in the Rattlesnake Hills northwest of Casper (Hausel, 1996). This discovery was significant as it has led to considerable claim staking, exploration by several mining companies, and $millions in drilling. The Casper Journal reported minable gold was confirmed in the new district west of Casper.

In this greenstone belt, gold anomalies were identified with breccias, stockworks and veins. Later, Newmont Gold, Canyon Resources and Evolving Gold found a giant gold deposit sitting under a breccia adjacent to an alkalic intrusive named Sandy Mountain. In recent years, Evolving Gold explored the property and the discovery is thought to be similar to the Cripple Creek gold deposits in Colorado. In collaboration with state legislator and consulting geologist David Miller; Hausel and Wayne Sutherland of the WGS suggested that a large gold deposit likely had been discovered in this area by Newmont Gold following up on the discovery by Hausel. And Biz West from Boulder, Colorado along with Miller and others (2000) reported other significant mineral deposits were sitting undeveloped including the large gold-copper deposit at the Copper King just outside of Cheyenne.

Six other geologists and Hausel went on to discover another major gold deposit in Alaska while on leave from the WGS in 1988 – a deposit that has more than 41 million ounces - more than twice the amount of gold mined in the entire mining history of the Klondike and more than 200 times the amount of gold mined in Wyoming throughout its history. The Donlin Creek gold deposit in Alaska is one of the largest ever found in North America and was discovered by seven geologists that included three from Wyoming: Dr. Paul Graff, Mark Bronston, and Dan Hausel. The group was awarded the prestigious 2009 Canadian 'Thayer Lindsley Award for a Major International Discovery', and Hausel was awarded the 2004 Wyoming Geological Association's 'Distinguished Service Award', the only geologist in the history of the Wyoming Geological Survey to receive such top honors and possibly the only government geologist in the USA to receive this distinction. Hausel made the cover of ICMJ’s Prospecting and Mining Journal in 2005 after finding and mapping more gemstone deposits that included some of the largest gems in the world. Hausel received awards outside the WGS agency for these discoveries.

Kyanite eclogite nodule from the Aultman 2 kimberlite, Wyoming State Line district. Specimen contains gem kyanite,
chromian diopside and garnet.
Harris and Hausel found a variety of agates and Hausel found some source beds of the Sweetwater agate – a beautiful dendritic agate. Many of these were described in a book by Hausel and Sutherland (2000). The group documented jasper deposits and found a variety of banded agates in one of the largest opal fields in North America and started an opal rush! So many people headed to the hills to make their fortunes in opal, they tripped over one another to get to the best spot.

Rough diamonds 
Harris and Hausel found and described some onyx and Mexican onyx deposits. While mapping South Pass – a known gold district from the 1800s, Hausel expanded the knowledge of the mineral deposits and identified significant gold anomalies at the Carissa, Wolf, Duncan, Tabor Grand and other historical mines and identified more than 200 gold anomalies. The gold anomaly at the Carissa was enormous, but the property was purchased with Wyoming tax money and quickly withdrawn by the State Legislature in a veil of secrecy so that it could never be mined. Then there were significant gold veins found at Mineral Hill and Purgatory Gulch. He identified a large gold anomaly at the Kurtz-Chatterton copper deposit along Copper Creek in the Sierra Madre.

Hausel found some diamond deposits, discovered at least six ruby and sapphire deposits including two of the largest rubies in the world. Billions of carats of gem-quality kyanite were identified - this gem was everywhere in Wyoming's mountain ranges but no one had even recognized its gemstone character even though other geologists were walking over these minerals in the field every year.

Faceted iolite and ruby from Palmer Canyon, Wyoming
Hausel and also George Snyder of the USGS also independently found or recognized at least four iolite deposits including the two largest in the world (one with possibly more than two trillion carats). Two of the largest iolites in the world were recovered by Hausel – one weighed more than 24,000 carats. The iolite gems  look just like sapphire and similar to tanzanite but sell for much lower prices. Even so, estimates suggest the combined worth of just the iolite gems could potentially pay for a year's worth of the Obama's national debt.

Highwall of the Kelsey Lake diamond mine on the Colorado-Wyoming
border. The kimberlite was recognized by Dr. David Eggler and its
potential as a diamond mine was later recognized by Howard Coopersmith
Before he passed away, Ray Harris (1991, 2003) had identified many decorative stone deposits resulting in a previously undeveloped industry in Wyoming, and before Dan Hausel had enough of the Gothic politics in Wyoming, Hausel had found, discovered, or recognized gem-quality apatite, specularite, peridot, pyrope, spessartine, chrome diopside, chrome enstatite, ruby, sapphire, amethyst, Mexican opal, precious opal, common opal, the largest opals in the world (some more than 75,000 carats), aquamarine, helidor, zoisite, epidote, Mexican onyx, onyx, hematite, diamonds, spectrolite, platinum, palladium, hundreds of gold deposits and anomalies, nickel, rare jade pseudomorphs after quartz, gem-quality wulfenite, and identified the first reported mineral specimens of rosasite, ilsemannite and berthierite in Wyoming. And these discoveries sparked discoveries by others that included jade, placer diamonds, tourmaline, labradorite, minyulite and varisite.

Wyoming should now be referred to as the Gemstone State for all of the occurrences of agatejasper, chalcedony, common opalfire opalprecious opalmexican onyxgold nuggets, pyrope garnet, spessartine garnet, almandine garnet, rare chlorite pseudomorphs after almandinechrome diopside, chrome enstatite, kyanitesillimanitecordieritestauroliteioliteruby, sapphire, peridotfluorite, industrial diamond, gem diamondspeculariteapatiteminyuliteamethystquartzmilky quartzrose quartzberylaquamarine, jade, silicified banded iron formation, cuprite, gem-quality schorlite (black tourmaline), jasperoid, labradorite, grunerite, moonstone, amber, chrysocollaheliodorvarisite, rare jade pseudomorphs after quartzmalachiteargentite, wulfenite & other minerals. This does not even include many of the unusual and rare rock types found in Wyoming including kimberlite, lamproite, lamprophyre, kyanite eclogite, eclogite, diamondiferous eclogite, garnet peridotite, diamondiferous garnet peridotite, pyroxenite, anorthosite and others. In reality, Wyoming is a rock hound's paradise. And if someone examines the Sunlight Basin, Copper Mountain, central Laramie Mountains, Bighorn Basin, Powder River Basin in a search for new minerals and gemstones with the same enthusiasm as Harris and Hausel, this list will continue to grow.

Geologist reflected in Wyoming Jade (nephrite).
So how many people walked over opal and agate in the Cedar Rim area over the past century? Apparently hundreds and even possibly thousands. yet, one of the largest opal and agate deposits in the world was exposed in the Cedar Rim oil field south of Riverton. Boulders of the opal sat in road cuts of service roads to the field, and the deposit was scattered over 16 square miles and even had some opal exposed in the US Highway south of Riverton. You would think someone would have looked to see what these boulders were made of - some of the opal boulders weighed more than 100,000 carats. And the Bureau of Land Management was so upset by this discovery, they wanted to withdraw the property before they even knew where in Wyoming it was located! Now that is a group of environmentalists who are completely out of control. It should be noted that a few occurrences of opal were mentioned only in passing by US Geological Survey scientists who didn't even bother to examine the occurrences. This is typical of many deposits and discoveries. Now, Hausel believes he may have located another large opal and agate deposit just from aerial photos and described the extensive occurrence in his recent book on Gemstones. In the past, he would have just driven to the site from the WGS in Laramie to prove or disprove the presence of a new opal field - but so far, the deposit just remains unexplored.

Fluorite in limonite from Bear Lodge Mountains (low-value
His peridot discovery was also interesting. Peridot is gem-quality olivine. For more than 100 years, olivine was known in the Leucite Hills of Wyoming. Some famous geologists looked at the peridot, briefly mentioned it in passing, but not one realized that it was gem-quality. Then in 1997, the professor was in the Leucite Hills looking for diamonds when he spotted two anthills that were green in color. He collected these anthills: no diamonds, but 13,000 carats of cuttable peridot were collected by these ants adjacent to an access road! By the way, Hausel found minerals in nearby rocks that indicated some of the Leucite Hills may be similar to the diamond deposits at Ellendale and Argyle in Australia. Yet, no one has looked for diamonds in this area.

So, after all of these discoveries and putting Wyoming in the lime light - Ray Harris and Dan Hausel ran into a political agenda that did not favor Wyoming or them. Harris died, Hausel retired, and the director was appointed head of another agency at the University of Wyoming. Who knows how many other mineral and gemstone deposits would have been found if these two would have been supported by the WGS. At the end of their WGS careers, Harris was still working on finding new decorative stones and Hausel found evidence of another iolite deposit, more ruby deposits, placer diamond deposits, hundreds of possible kimberlites and had developed an exploration model for aluminum and aluminum-silicate gemstones that possibly would have led to discoveries of additional gemstone deposits in central Wyoming. It is rare in history that people like Harris and Hausel come along who see things differently than others. May Ray Harris rest in peace!

Final note - Publication (pdf) downloads from the WGS continue to be modified, so when they again change their links to produce broken links, please contact them at 307-766-2286.

Faceted Wyoming peridot surrounded by peridot rough, Leucite Hills
Want to know how to recognize gemstones in the hills, where to look and where to find
many more occurrences? The GemHunter's new guide (published in 2014) tells you
exactly how to find gemstones, what they look like and provides dozens upon
dozens of examples including probable new agate, opal, aquamarine, diamond, gold
and other deposits - many have not yet been investigated. This means you maybe able
to find your own treasure using this book.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Gem Hunter and learn more about gemstones and gold.

Ruby encased in zoisite reaction rim, Granite Mountains, Wyoming

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now, I would like to visit Wyoming! Makes me more excited to find something like that. My sister resides in Cheyenne and I think it will be fun if I visit her this year with my diamond buyer friend.