We visited Searles Mineral Company in Trona, CA, where awesome pictures of salt flats and reflective lakes are taken:
Also they just mine all the world's hanksite and tons of borax and halite. Or something.
They are also very close to the planet Mars:
In all seriousness, Trona was an awesome place and had some really cool methods of reusing water, heat and electricity that seemed to be related to one man, Jim Fairchild. He was our charismatic tour guide, and very funny too. My favorite one liner (while talking about himself and his wife): 'We both have a speech impediment: we can't say no.' Great guy :)
Like the lithium mine, Searles Mineral Co mined by pumping brine from a lakebed to the surface, where they processed it to get their products. The Mars landscape nearby is from algae formations on the edge of the same lake, which filled the valley 10,000 years ago. Its a popular site for movies.
Our next stop on Tuesday was Rio Tinto's giant borax mine. Patience has a much more detailed post so I won't try to repeat her, but here are some pictures of really cool rocks:
Well we got lots of pretty samples and later that night I realized that I may have collected too many rocks (aghhhhh customs don't hate me):
And so our wearied travelers went onward, looking for new terrain. Really we just slept a night and then loaded up in the vans. But today was special, because for the first time, we saw GREEN.
Here's Linda blocking some green:
Just off Route 66 (weeooooooo) we stopped at Blue Cut fault line for Sam to show us another cool thing about geology. The fault line had exposed rocks that contained garnets in them, sticking out from the weathered rocks. The interesting part about this fault was it was actually that much easier to see for the weathering, versus when it had freshly formed. After a long time though, weathering erodes it away. So Goldilocks had it right, not too much and not too little, but rain on me justttt right.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, except for the godly fish tacos we ate once we got to Temecula. Mmm Wahoo. If you're in Temecula, definitely go to Wahoo's and get fish tacos. Because who grills the most freshly caught wahoo? Wahoo, that's hoo!
Then we had our first late rise and shine (8 AM :O) and got ready for some gem mining at Oceanview Mine. We were first instructed on how to mine the most efficiently (the idea being to move a lot of dirt while leaving no stone unturned) through the use of buckets, two screens, water and a careful eye.
Gems mined here vary from common quartz to the rare kunzite, which is only found here and valued at priceless. Their two big finds (one of which is the Candelabra in the Smithsonian) are together valued at 32 million for insurance purposes. The mine found their minerals mainly in pegmatites, but they were varied and beautiful. I took home some nice aquamarines, tourmalines of various colors, a giant garnet and several lepidolites, a purple crystal containing up to 3% lithium (which gave it its color), the highest concentration you will find in a rock.
(For a full list of their minerals, click here: http://www.gemandmineral.com/oceanviewmine.html)
The area was so pretty, it was just as spectacular to look up and see the mountains as look down and find a pretty pink crystal in your hand.
We were also taken on tours of the mine underground, where we saw the pockets they had emptied of their gems.
The pink clay was basically dissolved granite, which no one seemed to have a definite answer for its existence. It was everywhere though, alternating with lepidolite for attention.
We left the mine pretty early to get a headstart on our near 300 mile drive back towards Las Vegas. We stopped along the way to get a picture of the Molycorp mine at Mountain Pass, which we sadly could not go inside and visit. Funny how differently companies would respond to us.
I have a haiku from Kathryn again, that mirrors the motions of sifting through rock we went through today:
Sifting, panning, wait!
Tourmaline, or just mica?
Hopes rise, fall, again.