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Ligier Marble Quarries, Dragoon, Arizona

Last Updated: 11th Dec 2017

By Rolf Luetcke

Ligier Marble Quarries, Dragoon, Arizona
By Rolf Luetcke

Back in the 1980's I was exploring the Cochise County Arizona mines and came across some quarries near the small town of Dragoon called the Ligier Marble Quarries. When one drove the paved Dragoon Road there was no fence along the south side of the road in most places and one could access the mountains from a few dirt roads that went off of the main road. A small dirt road went right into the canyons with the quarries and depending on which small canyon you went into the marble varied in color.
The farthest quarry canyon on the east of the grouping was the one I went to more than the others because the marble had a very pleasing color. The dirt road went in directly from the Dragoon road. This dirt road led into the hills with the quarries and in places was deeply cut by washes and was not an easy road to drive. Having a VW bus made for high ground clearance and ideal for these roads. The one deep dip would have been hard for pickup trucks with a long overhang since you could hang up on the back bumper and you were stuck.
Since that time a fence has been built all along the Dragoon road and the way to the quarries is now quite different. Since I have not needed material from there I have not been back since the 1990's and don't know the access today. I do hear people still go up to the quarries so access seems to still be open.
On one collecting trip to pick up marble I found the pieces I wanted fairly quickly and decided to do a bit of exploring. The marble at the easternmost quarry is a pink to light orange-red color and made for some pretty polished pieces and was quite decorative. I found it was also an ideal material for carving. At the time I needed the material for our store but when we closed the store we no longer needed to collect more. One of the other quarries had pure white marble and we never wanted the white so only went to the one with the nice colors.
In recent times friends have stopped to visit and said they were going after a nice area of chalcedony that was at one of the quarries. The chalcedony was in various shades, from whitish to nearly blue-gray and often banded. Some had nice drusy quartz in places. It made for nice specimens and looked like a nice cutting material as well.
After collecting what I needed in marble I hiked around the area near the quarry. I was as much looking for wildflowers since it had been a wet Spring and rains had been good and the area abounded in wildflowers. My wife Mary and I hiked along the small hills and looked for wildflowers to photograph when I came across small brown cubes in the dirt. I recognized them as pseudomorphs of limonite after pyrite. As I changed my looking from flowers to minerals I saw that there were a lot of these little crystals all over the area. The crystals had gathered in small channels the water followed going down from the hill.
The crystals ranged from a quarter inch or less cubes to crystals about an inch across. Most were single crystals but there were clusters and groupings also. Many were interpenetrating crystals. Some even in plates of masses of crystals. Many were completely free of the host rock but as many had the schist like rock stuck to the crystals. Since the crystals had to have come from up the hill I worked my way up until I actually found the seams of schist like material with the crystals still in the rock. The rock layers were exposed on small ridges that had been washed free of soil along some of the hills here. Since the rock was not easy to remove from the ridges and often broke the crystals, I decided to continue to pick up the loose crystals that had washed out over time and were nice and clean. Luckily the little pseudomorphs were harder than the schist they came in and the loose crystals were nice and sharp. Working my way down hill, any small depressions where water ran were good areas to hunt for the crystals. Some places were full of the little crystals and others barren. One just had to walk around and look.
I ended up picking up a number of pounds of the loose crystals and found they were lying over a fairly large area. Since the crystals had not migrated far from their origin ridge, the crystals were not badly worn. I didn't hike a lot more since I had found the crystals I liked in the area not too far from the quarry.
When I returned home I sorted the pieces into the nicest that went into the private collection and the rest I was selling at the time. When I had been collecting I did find a number of broken crystals but none seemed to have any pyrite left inside. In breaking a few of the lesser quality of crystals I did find two that had a core of pyrite still. I assume that in the original schist seams if one dug down it would be possible to find places where the crystals were still pyrite. I never did this exploration since the area was hard to work. It is possible that there are nice pyrite crystals underground at this area.
While working with the crystals I decided to see if the little crystals were at all magnetic. I knew that limonite was not magnetic but thought I try anyway. To my surprise a small percentage were actually quite magnetic. It may have been only one percent of the crystals I had found but their magnetism was something that puzzled me.
I researched the magnetism and read that in a laboratory, when limonite is heated to a high temperature it orients the atoms in the structure of the crystals in a way that makes them magnetic. Now I know that nobody took a few of the crystals home, heated them to a high temperature and then returned them to the hills. So, what had made the small number of crystals magnetic.
The topography of the area seemed to have a good answer. Since the original seams of rock with the crystals inside was on ridges along the lower hills I had thought that lightning had hit some of the ridges over time and the places the lightning had hit had heated the immediate area of the rock to a high enough temperature that it did in nature what can be done with heat in a lab. I also thought the metallic nature of the material, containing iron, may have also helped in attracting lightning to the ridges. It was the only explanation that made much sense.
Now it is only a theory but at this time it is the one that seems to fit. I have told other collectors about the small pseudomorphs found over by the marble quarries but have never heard if anyone has gone over and collected any of the crystals. It has been quite a few years since I have been over there but I can't imagine that people would have been able to pick up all the crystals and I am sure when the rains come, more are washed out.
I have talked to friends who said they go to the quarries still on field trips with the local mineral club but none of the people I have talked to have ever found any of the pseudomorphs. It is possible they have not gone to the quarry where I found the pink marble.
I do not know the access to the quarries now or if permission is needed to visit them. From what people have said to me the access is still open and no permission was needed.
I don't know if the phenomenon of magnetism in the limonite pseudomorphs has ever been noted in other areas of the world but I would assume if it happened here it could certainly happen elsewhere.
When going to the quarries I have always told people that the area is good habitat for snakes, scorpions and other poisonous creatures to be found in the area. Lots of rock lying around makes for decent habitat for animals so if you go to the area, watch out for the critters that can harm you.
The marble was at one time used industrially but in later years the quarries closed. They are still under claim and I had heard that a company wanted to open up the quarries again but the community of Dragoon was against it and the quarries were not opened up again. In 2016 there were big fires on that whole side of the Dragoon Mountains and I have no idea if the area where the marble quarries are burned or not but the area was in flames for several days.

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