Tourmaline and the Rich Legacy of Mining at Mount Mica

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Maine's numerous pegmatite quarries have long been important sources of industrial minerals, gemstones, and specimens for manufacturers, museums, and collectors. Perhaps the most famous is Mount Mica, North America's first gem pegmatite mine. Mount Mica is located about a mile east of Paris in Oxford County. Gem-quality tourmaline was discovered there in 1821 and was intermittently produced through the late 1970s.

A new phase of tourmaline mining began when Gary and Mary Freeman, owners and operators of Coromoto Minerals, LLC, acquired the Mount Mica property in 2003. Coromoto's plan to systematically mine the entire pegmatite by following it underground has proven to be highly successful and has dispelled predictions that the production potential of Mount Mica was exhausted.

In the first eight years of mining, over two hundred pockets (essential for the formation of exceptional mineral specimens and gem-quality rough) have been discovered, yielding spectacular specimens of gemmy green, blue-green, pink, and multicolored tourmaline and other pegmatite minerals that rival the best material that Mount Mica has produced in its 190-year history.

Fourteen of the finest specimens from the Freemans' private collection are now on long-term display at the entrance to Back to Nature in a new exhibit titled Tourmaline and the Rich Legacy of Mining at Mount Mica. Among these are several that are among the best crystals ever produced from Maine, including an 18-centimeter-tall, tricolored tourmaline crystal sitting on a base of white albite feldspar; the 22-centimeter-tall top portion of a 54-centimeter pink tourmaline crystal with a thin black cap; and a 9.5-centimeter-tall, perfectly clear, blue-green tourmaline crystal sitting on a base of skeletal smoky quartz.

The Freemans' collection will be on view in Back to Nature through December 2015. For an ongoing, online narrative of mining activities during the last several years at Mount Mica, visit the Coromoto Minerals website.

A detail of the new exhibit case featuring specimens mined at Mount Mica is shown above. Pictured at the center is Loren Merrill in a 6 x 3.5 x 2-meter pocket found in 1904. Mary Freeman is shown at the bottom right in a January 2005 photo. She is pictured just after recovering a stunning tourmaline crystal group from the Mount Mica mine. That specimen and thirteen others are included in the museum's exhibit.