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Homestake Mine Mineral Specimens

Posted by Bart Cannon  
Bart Cannon December 03, 2011 02:26PM
I've become addicted to the HBO series "Deadwood". Home of the Homestake. And I now have hefty collection of books about the Deadwood district..

I've also worked for several years for the Homestake Mine at Deadwood analyzing their ores before they closed down some years back..

The mine produced for 120 years. Probably the most important gold mine in the U.S.

* Has anyone ever seen an appealing mineral specimen from the Homestake area ?.

I understand that there were a few placer nuggets if minor mert, but every sample I ever analyzed was non-descript arsenopyrite and other sulfides. Never with viisble gold.

It is of interest that George Hearst killed plenty of people in his quest to monopolize claims in the Comstock, Part City, Butte and Deadwood.

His son was William Randolph Hearst of publishing fame. I think his daughter was Patty Hearst kidnaped by the Symbionese Liberatrion Army.

History. So interesting. News blurbs, then hardcopy accounts.
Robert Farrar December 03, 2011 03:28PM

A good many specimens were saved from the mill over the years. These were found in what miners called 'watercourse' deposits - areas where a quartz vein opened up into crystal lined cavities. Miners were prohibited from collecting, so the specimens saved must have been brought up by safety engineers, etc. Most common were small, nearly water clear quartz groups, sometimes associated with 2-5mm pyrites, slightly large calcites, and tiny dolomites. Occasionally there were 3-10mm sphalerites, a few occurrences had amethyst instead of the clear quartz. The real prize, of which only a handful were recovered, were sea green strontianite balls up to 10cm.

There are a few good private collections, but the best public collection is appropriately at the SD School of Mines Museum of Geology.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/03/2011 05:17PM by Robert Farrar.
Paul Brandes December 03, 2011 04:21PM
By chance, were you at the Homestake in 1997 or 2002? Reason why I ask is that I was there doing some work at those times; once as a student and again as a geologist. The real treat was in 1997 when our group got down to the bottom levels.

I asked one of the engineers that took us down about specimens and he pretty much echoed what Bob mentioned that the best specimens today are in Rapid City at the SD School of Mines. I have seen very few specimens at shows and such, and I have one small piece of quartz on dolomite, but nothing spectacular.
Paul Siegel December 03, 2011 05:12PM

Patty Hearst is the daughter of William Randolph Hearst Jr. and the grandaughter of William Randolph Hearst.

Stephen Rose December 03, 2011 05:41PM

In the early 60's in Indiana I knew a collector and former Homestake geologist, then working for US Gypsum, who described collecting at the mine pretty much as Robert has. He did have a few small pyrite-quartz and strontionite specimens for trade, and I still have one or two. He was aware of the larger strontionites but had not been involved in their recovery. As noted, when high grade was found, the geo-engineering staff was gathered to bag it and see that it went to the mill. That system was suspect, however, as some staff would tell tales of senior people with metallic retirement accounts in their basements. Just rumors, of course!

I worked for Homestake for many years, although not at the Homestake mine, and knew many of the staff. During visits geologists could not point out areas in the mine where crystallized specimens might be found, but during one visit the geologist did show us a high grade area where we were allowed to collect a small sample with visible gold. As I recall, the best specimen went to a senior VP who was accompanying us.


Bart Cannon December 03, 2011 06:36PM
I have never been to the Homestake Mine, but I did nag my father into driving his huge Buick Electra 225 into driving to the Etta Mine where we collected huge spodumene cleavages back in 1963. The bigger, the more worthless. Then after a thunderstorm we drove up to another mine where I found lovely schorls in a sparkly bronze colored schist.

My work at the Homestake was in the late 1980s. My contact was Bill Stanley, the exploration geologist. We talked about a persistent problem in the mining biz. That of the amateur prospector who thought they had a rich precious metal deposit based upon assays from the phony labs in Utah, Nevada and Arizona.

Bill said "there is not one producing gold or platinum mine on Earth that does not fire assay properly".

In 1984 I placed one ad in the California Mining Journal. To this day I am still getting business from that ad. Business that I don't want. I repeat Bill Stanley's opinion to each of them. I tell them to contact Acme Labs or Chemex ALS, and if the assays come in at more than 50 ppb precious metals, then, and only then, will I deign to analyze their ores.

Returning to the topic of the HBO "Deadwood". All the characters are based upon real people, including the two brothers who discovered the main Homestake mineralization. The Manuel brothers, one of whom killed his brother at breakfast in a saloon, and who soon afterward sold the richest gold mine in the country to George Hearst for $200,000.

I can not recommend the series highly enough, but I warn you that watching it with your mother might be a mistake.

You will love the working replicas of the stamp mills and the arrastras.
Dana Slaughter December 03, 2011 07:14PM
I've seen some decent arsenopyrite, calcite and quartz specimens from there and a few years ago pulled off a trade with a former Homestake miner for some gold specimens showing small blebs and stringers of gold in matrix--nothing spectacular but one didn't a loupe to appreciate the gold. I haven't seen much else---maybe a few dolomite specimens with tiny sphalerites.

I loved the Deadwood series as well and was bummed that HBO discontinued the series. The profanity was rampant but I can't imagine too many folks of that ilk dropping "Golly" and "Dang" when riled! I miss the series.
Zach Berghorst December 03, 2011 07:38PM
My uncle worked in the homestake mine for many years, but recently passed away. The year before, he gave me many pieces of pyrite with hematite dusting (giving them a blood red color), very interesting large calcite specimens, and a few pieces turned out to have gold wires in them. Most of which he got from shaft 6, ledge 19, at 6950 feet. I now have four pieces from the homestake mine with visable gold, the first picture showing the best one.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/03/2011 07:58PM by Zach Berghorst.
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Tom Tucker December 03, 2011 09:10PM
Geology field camp, summer 1969, we visited the Homestake Mine and had a tour to the 6800 foot level. We were led to an area of "highgrade" ore and collected abundant arsenopyrite frozen in schist, with one small piece of visible gold. We saw "watercourses", but the ones we saw were barren of specimens. Our tour of the mine and mill were a real education, and a great treat.
Albert Mura December 03, 2011 09:14PM
I have a number of good (but small xls.) pyrites from the Homestake that were collected by the mine geologist (DJ) in 1959-64. Also some calcites and quartz xls. A few of the pyrites are bright blue caused by a thin coating of molybdenite.
Keith Wood December 03, 2011 11:08PM
I have a tiny gold in schist specimen given to me by a miner that had worked there before it closed. We were both working at a different mine by then. I also have a "water course" specimen of dolomite crystals on matrix - neither is anything special aside from the fact that so few specimens of either type made it out of there alive.
matthew neuzil December 04, 2011 12:19AM
just seen a pyrite sell on ebay the other day was a pretty neat piece for pyrite i just couldn't throw a 50$ down on it. I would have if i didnt have a wedding to save for!

its bad enough i bid a few pieces up to 10$ i know it adds up n all but i try n keep my purchases very small
Bart Cannon December 04, 2011 12:28AM
I would buy or trade heavily for a Homestake specimen with gold visible at 10 X.
Kurt Triscori June 17, 2012 05:26AM
I just found this discussion on Homestake minerals and thought I would comment. I worked at Homestake from 1987 until its shutdown in 2001. During my time there I was fortunate to build what I believe is one of the most comprehensive collections of specimens from the mine as well as the Double Rainbow mine that Homestake mined in the late 1960's. As Bob Farrar indicated, I was one of the fortunate collectors to acquire what I believe is the largest complete ball of green strontianite collected in 1963 from the 5450 level. It pushes 15 cm. I also have in my collection amythest, doubly terminated, water clear quartz crystals to 15 cm, native arsenic, molybdenum coated pyrites, anhydride, sphalerite, galena, tetrahedrahedrite, bournanite, yellow barite, apatite, and micro occurrences of rutile, anatase, fluorite, and others.

From the Double Rainbow mine I acquired museum quality specimens of terminated milky quartz crystals associated with arsenopyrite intervene trade twins and sphalerite. I also have museum quality specimens of argentiferous galena, siderite, galena, and arsenopyrite pseudo morphs after pyrrohtite. Please contact me if you are interested in seeing photographs.

Kurt Triscori
Bart Cannon June 17, 2012 09:27AM

My jobs for Homestake were all the same. Making polished sections of concentrates, and looking for trace inclusions of gold in arsenopyrite.

I never had the pleasure of looking at hand samples.

The two samples I obtained through this thread were very interesting.

They were quartz rich cummingtonite schist with scattered native gold.

I don't believe that there is another gold deposit on the planet with that association.

One piece had nice crystallized gold.

I would trade for some of the materials you mentioned.

Jene February 14, 2013 01:49PM
After reading the above discussion about Homestake Mining Co. and the various rock collections that many of you have acquired though Homestake, I feel compelled to share an idea, though this thread is quite a bit old and I may not be able to reach anybody. I would like to say first that I love Geology and collecting rocks has been my hobby for years. Ever since I was a kid, I had an interest in prospecting and became thoroughly fascinated by the mining stories I read about in books, magazines, and places like this forum. Well, just recently, my uncle, understanding my passion for rocks, gave me a huge collection of rocks and minerals that had come from Homestake. He simply said that the collection had originally belonged to a geologist that had worked at Homestake, and has no further information. I have estimated the collection to be almost 2000 pounds worth of specimens of every sort with single samples sometimes weighing up to 10+ pounds. I do love rocks, but this is quite a bit more than what I'm ready for. If any of you gentlemen (and ladies), are interested in buying or trading rocks with me, please let me know. Contact me by email if interested, and I'll send pictures of what I have seen and identified thus far and hopefully be able to answer questions, and yes, I do have a few samples that contain gold, if that answers at least one possible question already. Also, I am able to verify that at least some of these ore and mineral specimens did come from Homestake, though not all of them. Paperwork I found with some samples contain Homestake letterhead, and specific information for that sample. Some samples seem to have come from other mines scattered all over the world. Most of the bags that contain samples are marked with dates, the city/state, the mine, and the name of the rock. For example - 1978, Telluride, Colorado, Idarado Mine, Calaverite

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