During October, 2012, Michal Adamowicz, Andrew Johns and I visited the Silver Crater Mine near Bancroft, Ontario. My two collecting companions have been into the site at least a couple of times over the past two years while I last visited the Silver Crater 44 YEARS AGO! Is that possible? It hasn't changed all that much other than the trees are bigger, more of them in places and it is HARDER to find good crystals, although we did find some.
Like in the past, the Silver Crater is accessed at an old farm house on the Monck Road not too far from Bancroft. The road into the mine has deteriorated and now you really need a four-wheel drive to make it in there. You might be able to do it with a very short wheel-based compact but there are some fairly rough and wet spots. Many people walk in, now. You need to leave $2.00 at the Farm house and you are welcome to try the road by foot or by vehicle.
The Silver Crater deposit is considered by many to be a true carbonatite. All I know is that it is a great place to try to collect betafite, apatite and zircon crystals. We did find some decent apatite and zircon specimens but the betafites that I found were mostly parts of crystals. They are very brittle and difficult to remove from the calcite. As well, it is difficult to find weathered calcite where, like in the "old days" complete betafite crystals may be found loose in the soil.
Here are some images from our trip, of some specimens that I collected and some nice older pieces. I hope that you find it interesting.
The old mine road between Monck Road and the Silver Crater Mine has deteriorated over the years. It is difficult to negotiate it in anything but a four-wheel drive vehicle with good clearance. I think the road is just too rough or wet/muddy in places for an ordinary vehicle. You can walk in, as well, if you'd like! This image shows a stretch that is not too bad.
If you can drive in all the way, there is a very nice, spacious parking area right on the carbonatite. In the image above, Andrew's vehicle is parked on solid calcite. The "betafite pit" is just beyond and below the truck and the "mica pit" is just behind me.
The adit is still accessible. Although you need fairly high boots, due to the water in the first 30m or so, parts of the inner workings are nice and dry.
Here is Andrew Johns who has been doing some very interesting collecting projects lately. Although there isn't much to collect in the underground workings of the Silver Crater Mine, we wanted to have a look around.
Although there was very little to collect in the underground workings, there is some very interesting mineralogy and geology to look at in-situ. There are LOTS of mineral crystals in the adit but they are in very solid rock with no chance of getting them out intact unless very serious mining work is undertaken. Great to see, though.
A good view of the calcite with many crystals embedded in it, such as this very large green apatite crystal, along with lots of big mica crystals.
We had some company, underground, during our visit! Here and there, little bats hung on the rock(somehow), quietly sleeping, seemingly undisturbed by us! This little guy was only 2.5", or so, long.
Here is a nice view of the carbonatite with lots of betafite crystals embedded in it, along with elongated green apatite crystals.
Here are Michal and Andrew underground at the first crosscut in the adit. We SHOULD have been wearing hard hats, I know, but we were only in there for a short while and didn't do any real work. Just a look around.
Heading out of the adit. Gotta be careful to not get a soaker!
Here is yours truly, in the betafite pit, chiseling away a nice block of calcite that I pried away from bedrock. I did manage to get a couple of small betafite crystals, a couple of apatite specimens and two zircons out of it, all pictured below. It was a nice cool day for working in the bush.
Here are a few specimens that I found showing betafite crystals, loose and in calcite matrix.
This was a nice little 26mm green apatite crystal that was in that calcite boulder that I broke apart.
A couple of reddish-green apatite crystals in calcite, the largest being 42mm long.
An elegant, elongated, 52mm long, green, doubly terminated apatite crystal, exposed in calcite that came out of that big calcite chunk that I broke up.
I found this 35mm cluster of betafite crystals 44 years ago, when my brother and I camped at the Silver Crater Mine. Somehow, it seemed easier to find crystals in those days!
Here is a sharp, 10mm betafite crystal attached to a long, slender apatite crystal. This one is from an old collection and collected in the 1960's.
This reddish, 12mm, zircon crystal is attached to the side of a big betafite crystal that came out in pieces. At least there was a nice zircon crystal attached!
This is one of the best, if not the best, zircon specimen that I've seen from the Silver Crater Mine. It is a doubly terminated, 40mm perfect zircon crystal nicely exposed in/on calcite matrix. From an old collection, probably collected in the late 50's. Ray McDougall photo.