New Mexico Mineral Symposium
November 13-15, 2015
Amazomite and Smoky Quartz Mining on the Smoky Hawk Claim, Teller County, Colorado
Colorado Springs, CO
Summer of 2012, the Dorris family uncovered a pegmatite on their Smoky Hawk claim in the Crystal Peak mining district, Teller County, Colorado which produced several large miarolitic cavities, the largest of which produced Colorado’s largest high-quality amazonite and smoky quartz combination specimen now known as the Smoky Hawk King. The discovery was made at the end of June and excavation and collecting continued on and off through the end of July due to the unique opportunity of capturing the discovery and extraction on video by High Noon Productions of Denver Colorado for the TV series Prospectors.
The Smoky Hawk claim is one of approximately 200 unpatented mining claims within the 1,100 square mile Pikes Peak Batholith historically famous for producing the world’s finest amazonite and smoky quartz combination specimens since its discovery in the late 1870s. The Smoky Hawk claim was filed in December of 1998, culminating years of prospecting by Joe Dorris and his family. Eventually a trend of pegmatites, now referred to as the Smoky Hawk trend was mapped. Production from numerous pockets commenced in 2003 after the completion of permitting. Exploration has continued within an area of 185 acres now covered by 20 unpatented mining claims. The majority of finds have been located along a narrow trend approximately .9 miles in length.
Historically, other claims including the Dry Hole, Jack Rabbit (Bartsch and Currier) and Two Point (Buckner) claims have produced significant pockets (Tree Root Pocket 1997, Bryan Lees) along the Smoky Hawk trend. Glacier Peak Mining LLC (Dorris) has produced from this trend through both leased and owned claims since the early 1990s. The most extensive and noteworthy production has centered on the Smoky Hawk claim since 2003 in a seven acre area with notable discoveries each year. The miarolitic pockets are abnormally abundant within this small area. To date, over 1,000 pockets have been excavated of which 14 have proved to be major pockets with exceptional specimens. These pockets include the Legacy, Majestic, Smithsonian, Lucky Monday, Chuck’s, and Icon pockets.
The Smoky Hawk pegmatites are classified as rare-earth-element (REE) pegmatites of the niobium-yttrium- fluorine (NYF) family. They are noted for their abundance of miarolitic cavities which produce predominately amazonite, smoky quartz, and cleavelandite. This sharply contrasts with other Pikes Peak Batholith pegmatites which contain predominately common microcline in combination with smoky quartz. Other significant macro minerals include biotite (formerly zinnwaldite), fluorite, goethite, and hematite. The most common lesser minerals and micro crystals include bastnaesite, bertrandite, cassiterite, milarite, monazite, phenakite, rutile, xenotime, and zircon.
The most aesthetic and collectable specimens continue to be the amazonite with smoky quartz. Whereas the majority of the batholith generally produces light to medium bluish green amazonite, the Smoky Hawk trend generally produces deeply colored blue-green amazonite, some with white microcline caps. Although mining records for the district are sketchy, it is likely that the Smoky Hawk trend has now produced more vivid blue green amazonite than the rest of the batholith in total.
One reason for the marked production is the mining methodologies used at the Smoky Hawk. During the previous approximately one hundred years, pick and shovel were predominately used. Within the last forty years, collectors have turned to mechanized equipment, enabling them to go below the former, shallow digs. Glacier Peak Mining generally operates two excavators each season and conducts limited blasting in order to open deeper lying pegmatites. Mining operations have now extended to depths of 60 feet but average 30 or less. Pockets are always collected by hand using water and screwdrivers.
Significant production has also increased due to improved laboratory techniques and the abilities of some individuals to piece together ruptured pockets. Although the cleaning and preparation for any given pocket may take a year or longer, better quality specimens are now becoming available.
In 2012 an unusually large, kite-shaped cavity six feet wide by eight and a half feet in length was discovered. This cavity produced approximately one ton of amazonite and smoky quartz crystals from which the largest plate, nearly three feet by two feet was assembled. Now dubbed the Smoky Hawk King, this plate is now at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and is being prepared for exhibit.
Although mining regulations and restrictions continue to increase, the present future for mining more amazonite and smoky quartz combination specimens appears likely.
Amazonite, Smoky Quartz mining, Smoky Hawk claim, Dorris, Crystal Peak, Smoky Hawk King, TV, Prospectors, Dry Hole, Jack Rabbit, Two point, Glacier Mountain Mining, pegmatites, cleavelandite, DEnver Museum of Nature and Science
36th Annual New Mexico Mineral Symposium
November 13-15, 2015, Socorro, NM