Saturday, November 14, 2009

Late Night Ramblings: From Becke Lines to Mining Scams

Poetic. It's not that I'm feeling poetic, but that word came to mind, so I wrote it down.

I've had the jimmy legs while trying to sleep, so I've opened the window a crack and am drinking a cold dPf while writing in my journal. I'm using a headlamp with a red LED - this has the odd effect of giving the shadow of my moving pen a deep turquoise line on the left side (toward the light) and a deep red line on the right side (away from the light and more or less behind my hand). These colors, and their arrangement around the edges of my pen and hand, remind me first of Becke lines, which surround mineral grains immersed in oils or epoxy media. Then - especially when I turn the pages of this spiral journal - they remind me of 3-D glasses, as if I've somehow entered some supra-dimensional movie. I haven't, though, I'm just writing and wondering where the one-day-late snow is, and whether I have the window cracked too far open for comfort.

(The deep turquoise and deep red lines - which may entirely be optical effects inside my eyes, as I can only see them when the pen shadow or journal moves - has the effect of making this red-lit white paper appear pink to orange to occasionally yellow. It's as though my eyes are trying to convince my brain that I'm using ordinary incandescent lighting.)

And that reminds me - didn't some country just recently outlaw incandescent bulbs? (Actually, several have.) If only the other bulbs worked consistently. I try to buy the most expensive ones in hopes that they will turn out to be the best ones. Hopefully there is enough "byproduct"mercury from the gold mines of the world so we won't have to go back to mining mercury at mercury mines - such as the ones in Spain and Slovenia (Almadén, Idrija) and the ones in the Coast Ranges of California (New Almadén, New Idria). Seeing liquid mercury drip from old trench and pit exposures is something I'd rather not see every day. And, likewise, running across old-looking but still-in-use jars of mercury used for gold extraction by oldtimers - whether in some out-of-the-way prospect north of Napa Valley or down some dusty dirt road in the Mojave Desert - is not something I like to come upon unawares or unexpectedly.

The oldtimers in question (some of them are still around, perhaps?) are always quite casual about showing you their gold-rich mercury, and they are equally casual about showing you their dusty, disorganized assay labs out in the middle of nowhere. Jars, bottles, and tools of all sorts are scattered on old wooden work benches built against walls - these are their lab tables. From one etched, north-facing window, you have a nice view of the creosote desert and rocky granitic mountains. Want to have lunch in here? (I think not.) And is that an ice chest I see over near the doorway to the main cabin? Yes, the garage-shed assay-lab is attached to the living area of this old field shack. Too many rusted and broken parts, too much dust, and too many old and unknown lab chemicals are lying around loose.

Where did you say you're getting the gold from? Those pinkish brown, fractured granites over there, the ones with the narrow seams of goethitic iron-oxides in either brown carbonate or microcrystalline silica? Veins, you call them? I think I'd be being generous if I called them veinlets. Okay, we'll high-grade just those tiny veinlets, and then we'll see. We'll get back to you after our commercial lab does its thing. (No, you can't do the assays for us. We're already thinking that you got the gold the same place you bought the mercury - maybe in some old Mother Lode mining town?) Maybe we'll be back, and maybe we won't - but no, we won't be looking at your lab anymore, no matter how proud you are of it.

Not to be disparaging about your claims, but though the ankeritic-goethitic veinlets are interesting, they look too narrow and mostly too far apart to be likely to carry the barren granite they're cutting. (Although it's true, they could indicate something at depth, or something underneath that shallow alluvium just over there, right off your claims. But don't worry, we'll still want to lease your claims - if there is anything we want to come back to after we see some real assay numbers.)

(Besides which, old Joe up the road apiece - quite apiece at that - warned us that you were running some kind of scam down here. But maybe he just wants us to lease his claims, not yours. So, we'll see.)

And who was I with, down there in the east-central Mojave? Seems it was in the same area where a small gold mine was operating - the mine that routinely over-loaded their blast holes such that the metal roof of their mine office had dents and holes from large rocks that fell out of the sky every day, rocks blasted out of their small open pit. We ate lunch near the buses, that field trip day, then drove an entire mile away to avoid the coming bombardment.

I don't know what year it was. The location suggests to me that I was there with either PB or NJ - although the sampling part could have been a joint effort with BS and an assistant of his - except I don't think we worked that area with double partners. So the answer may be forever lost in the dirt and dust of that messy lab or in the steep and rocky slopes two canyons over.

Could I find that mine shack again? Maybe. I have a geographic location tucked firmly away in my head - it's a little SSW of that small gold mine, down some wide southerly-heading dirt road, generally SE of that broad, alluvial-choked peak, and in some vague area between or amongst two north-south-trending ranges. Besides which, unless it was on a tiny piece of private land, it's probably gone.

From 12Nov09, 9:33pm


Halogenica said...

Actually, mercury mines are being reopened in China to meet Western CFL demand. See this article or my site for more detailes.

Silver Fox said...

Halogenica, thanks for the link. I can't access your site through your name - it goes to a disabled Blogger profile.

Halogenica said...

Thanks for alerting me, I've changed my settings now.

It's the Greener Lights one:

Silver Fox said...

Thanks for getting back to me with your website - you've got a lot of great information about CFL's and related issues. I usually presume that if someone doesn't have their profile enabled, that it's basically the same as being totally anonymous (by anon, here, I mean nothing to associate a person with, like a blog).

I'd prefer, right now, to use a combination of CFL's and incandescent lights, depending on the need, area I'm lighting, or time of year. Some of the CFL's I buy don't last any longer than incandescents, some areas need less harsh lighting than CFL's provide (even with in their warmer versions), some light fixtures don't take CFL's - and as a renter, there's often not much I can do about that.

I wonder why we don't use U.S. stockpiles of Hg to make these things? Maybe because the actual bulbs are made in China? The Chinese aren't known for using good and safe mining practices, overall. They are probably just grubbing in the Hg-rich rocks without proper PPE.

I'd like to go LED, provided we can get the color right. I don't like daylight-balanced lights for all purposes, I like warmer colors in some places. Warmer fluorescents and CFL's still seem like office lighting to me, if I'm under them all day long.

Halogenica said...

Yes, all CFLs are made in China. Unlike incandescent bulbs which used to be made locally before the lighting industry lobby got governments all over the world to impose a premature ban plan.

I agree that warm-white CLFs tend to look like office lights and that white LEDs need some further improvement. I like coloured LEDs and think they're perfect as Holiday lights and night lights. When left on for many hours per day it's good to know they only use a watt or two.

I don't like daylight lamps either. This time of the year here in Sweden I already get enough cold gloomy light through my window.