Miners’ Lunchbox: A word on security

A note about safety and security:

© 2009, 2010 Old Tombstone Studio, Timeless Mining from “A Gem Miner’s Guide”
Even in the early days of my career as a specimen miner, I came across diggers who protected their secret spots with threats. Even those of us who would never share dig sites, would compare notes about the various cars and trucks we would find parked too near a hidden trail, or worse still, parked behind our own vehicles when we returned from our digs.
The first serious incident I can recall that hinted at how serious it could get was the murder of Ron Gallup of Laconia, N.H. Ron wrote a well done mineral locality guide book, and was found with a gad-bar through his heart somewhere near a very large pocket system on North Moat Mtn. about 1977 or 1978. His stolen car was found in Maine, and his suspected killer was found years later in a Cuban prison, there for drug smuggling. It was an early warning of the growing danger in the American gem fields.
A large pocket discovered by separate parties was conceded by agreement [by Pete Samuelson to the author] and I submitted an application for a permit in 1980 [delayed by the Forest Service]. In January, 1981, with several feet of snow on the ground, [and no one out collecting] four high-graders got a fraudulent permit from the Forest Service for my discovery
site! It said ”$10 or less in value of mineral materials for educational purposes only.” Two weeks later, I bought a double terminated football size & shaped smoky quartz –from my own
strike- at the Tucson Show, and promptly had samples analyzed to prove what I could tell by comparing to my own specimens. That year I wrote a 26 page report for Sen. Gordon Humphrey [R-NH] and the Senate Committee on Natural Resources on the situation, the new assessment of how large the gem bearing pocket fields and some of the “galleries” were, the problems with Forest Service intransigency and obstruction of responsible prospector-applicants’ efforts to legally mine, and the subsequent growing problems with unauthorized removals and associated crime as values went up and the reputation of the gem fields grew with numbers of significant finds being made in spite of Forest Service stonewalling of issuance of approved permits. I submitted that Senate Report as evidence in a 1984 Forest Service Court case & won, but the problems are worse today!
I want to remind novice, new hobby-level and professional prospectors {& those who may want to diversify from gold and treasure hunting} that we are in an age where even Al
Queda supporters indulge in mineral and gem theft, smuggling and marketing, not just the traditional thieves. Also a serious safety factor in some of our National Forests is the presence
of clandestine meth labs, non-medical marijuana grow-ops, and in areas along the Mexican border, drug and people smugglers, heavily-armed cartel ‘army’ units, and yes, terrorists.
An Al Queda associated group, Jamaat Ul Fuqra, was found in Buena Vista, Colorado operating a madrassa and in possession of a major cache of assault weapons, RPG’s, and explosives, and an associated similar storage was found in Colorado Springs in
conjunction with those arrests. It was years before 911, however, so afterward, and on the occasion of Wall Street Journal Reporter Richard Pearl’s death at the hands of Afghanistani Jamaat Ul Fuqra, a Colorado Springs TV station replayed their news report about the “local” connection. A spokeswoman for the FBI was on the news answering a relevant question;
“No, we don’t know how many people were members of the Buena Vista Cell, and we don’t know if we got all of them, and we don’t know how many might be still active.”

At the Crystal Creek [Colorado]Rocket Mine Camp, we heard too much gunfire in one area, and got this response from FBI Agent Neil Hoener: “Gentlemen, you are not unreasonable to presume that automatic weapons fire all night long was NOT sportsmen.”
The days of prospecting alone are over. Gem miners in particular, MUST work in teams. Though it is fairly obvious that one must be cognizant of security in one’s own home or business, we must take the advice of some gem dealers who suggest it is just as reasonable to take precautions from the mine to the market. I want to add that sometimes, depending on the gem and/or the deposit, just knowing what is where can get you into trouble before you even get into the field. If word gets
out, {and sometimes it seems the trees have ears.} someone will endeavor to be standing just out of sight should you walk away from your hole, or is liable to operate your mine while you
are away. Nothing is safe. Bob Whitmore [Palermo Mine, N. Groton, N.H.] told me of parking a bulldozer on a pocket they had to leave between weekends, and returning to find it
dangerously undermined by high-graders.

High-grader tales are, unfortunately, legion. One can hardly spend but a season or two afield without hearing of felony thefts that, were they of any other commodity, would make the evening news. For some reason, these thefts and the ‘Great Northeastern Gem Rush’ only bubbled transitorily on the C.N.N. media awareness level during my 1984 court case. Rarely making local or regional newspaper front pages, both remain a somewhat well kept secret. This may be in part due to a Forest Service reluctance to administer the resource to the benefit of the local community, even though that is the clear and unambiguous intent of the [1911] Weeks Law. The gem trade has been lax also in addressing the problem and the black market.
The natural dangers of the forests and mountains and deserts, along with the hazards presented by, and inherent to, prospecting expeditions – are just the tip of the iceberg of
challenges. High-graders and ‘claim-jumpers’, thieves and vandals, are also only part of the not-so-nice aspects and realities of this otherwise rewarding activity. The “Red Tape” of
permits, bonds, plans of operations, environmental assessments and impact studies, the ‘stuff’ that goes with surface disturbances on Public Lands, the nightmare of rules, regulations, and bureaucratic confusion is also just the beginning. {Put on your paralegal hat.}

There is, of course, the prejudice and jumping-to-conclusions that will inevitably come from some environmental groups, who will take advantage of the fact that you have to operate under the same regulations as the big companies mining not-so-environmentally benign minerals by any method. They may even spend more money than you make in a few years getting an injunction preventing you from camping and panning gold as well as mining your sapphire strike, if it involves water! So watch out for that “Dragon” guarding the minerals, for it can
take many forms. Do NOT go blindly, dreaming of striking it rich; realize the beauty of the search as well as the goal. The hunting is always good, it’s the finding sometimes that’s not.

Good luck, & happy hunting!

Palermo mine aqua

A record 14.9 carat flawless, a 6.22 ct, and rough.

1 thought on “Miners’ Lunchbox: A word on security

  1. © 2009 Old Tombstone Studio
    Funny – But – True Department:
    Why gemstone prospecting?
    A: Beyond the obvious, high-adventure, high-value nature of the quest and the prize,
    as a hobby or an avocation, Mineralogy is an ancient science- but the field of explorationand discovery has been reinvented, invigorated, and inspired by great technical advances of late, making the narrow specialty of gemstone prospecting a relatively new field where individuals may have to operate under the same regulations as corporations, but we also have the same technological tools available to us, as well as the distinct advantage of being smaller & much more flexible in a very volatile market.
    B: For the first time in history, a ‘lone’ prospector is on a level with, if not ahead of,
    the largest mining corporations when it comes to opportunities in the field, i.e., discoveries there to be made AND within reach!
    Who’s Who in the American Gem Mining Industry? How do newcomers and
    students become apprentices, field collectors and miners? Why is it some don’t ‘make the cut’? Why do some become degree-ed geologists, certified gemologists, award-winning gem cutters, carvers, and jewelry artists?
    For the most part, PUBLISHED diggers, prospectors, miners, mineralogists, avid
    collectors, serious mineral dealers, geologists, gemologists, and other experts are your best and most accessible sources, through their writings and sometimes by personal
    communication. By “devouring” lots of the literature, you will find certain names repeatedly within your subject of interest. COMMERCIAL entities also dealing in or catering to the interests of collectors and prospectors of tourmaline, or smoky quartz, for example, whose materials or mines are the subject of those researches among the publications you have found, should also be on your list. EXPERIENCED MINERS are a bit harder to locate or research, but again, mineral magazines like Rock and Gem are a great portal into that population. The secret “back door” into the trade is through science and research, and the series of clues that leads to that, and other opportunities to acquire an education and some experience, is usually found in active mineral clubs, trade shows & conventions, organizations [ranging from local community college archaeology and geology classes’ field camps to National Geographic type expeditions], and lots of such avenues [mine tours, ‘tourist’ mines,
    pay-to-dig sites, public s lands’ rock-hound recreation areas, etc.] to get contacts and access to resources. Attending Gem and Mineral Shows, & “Rockhound Round-ups”, will get you elbow to elbow with many of the Who’s Who of the trade. The most accessible and available of the chain of mine-to-market people are the jewelry, carving, and gem sculpting artists who produce finished products from rough gem-stock. They usually have a well researched list of contacts relevant to gem mines and their owner/operators. ONE ISSUE of Lapidary Journal, or a perusal of the internet, starting at rockhounds.com , for instance, or The-Vug.com, or a simple Google search will launch your prospecting career with an avalanche of research trails to follow.
    Of course, you may, like some successful gem prospectors, without following any trail but your own original field study, make a discovery that helps you meet the others in gem mining. Just as likely, someone you meet at a museum, club, or university, or a show venue lecture, will introduce you to your first real World-Class professional gem miner.

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