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GeneralBuying from the mines?

29th Aug 2019 21:32 BSTOwen Tolley

I know these no simple answer but I was hoping to get a feeling from some people about how things work in the minerals buying world when it comes to buying minerals straight from the producer. I assume this works differently in different parts of the world and different sizes of operations. I know the best way probably get into the market is by already knowing the mine owner, I have one such connection. Otherwise, do many producers sell to any paying customer or only some wholesale distributors? I assume most people do not just saunter up to a mine and ask if they can get some specimens. How/where do you find out about where to buy, online? visit the area and ask around? other? I'd love to learn from your experiences, thanks!

29th Aug 2019 23:56 BSTGareth Evans

Dear Owen:I have held many hats in my time. About 20 years ago I was a Manager of Gold Assay Laboratories. The Mines I worked for had a very poor opinion of mineral dealers and mineral collectors. When a mineral vendor appeared they were given a strict warning – come back again and the police will be notified. However the Mine Managers had no reservations about supplying minerals to colleges, Museums or even school children who showed a genuine and sincere interest in minerals.You need to establish your credentials so that the Mine Manager knows you are genuinely interested in mining and minerals. You can do this by having a well-organized homepage (Mindat) that you can use to introduce yourself to the Mine Manager. When they see that you are a genuine enthusiast you can start to negotiate – I know this for a fact as I have done it many times.However collector quality minerals are rare – and here I am not talking about the so-called high-end material. A mine might move hundreds of thousands of tons of rock before anything of any quality is uncovered.I hope this helps.Best RegardsGareth

30th Aug 2019 04:36 BSTOwen Tolley

Helpful indeed. Thanks for your input!

2nd Sep 2019 20:07 BSTHolger Hartmaier

Hi Owen,

Before retiring, my work as a geotechnical engineering consultant included projects with various mining companies, primarily in northern and western Canada. As a mineral collector, the anticipation was always there to be able to collect something at the mine site, however, this was usually not the case. As a "high-priced" consultant, it was inappropriate for me to spend time collecting on their dime. Nevertheless, once I established a working relationship with my mine staff counterparts, I was usually able to obtain some souvenir specimens. Gareth's point is valid- there is a difference if you want to collect for commercial purposes, versus a collector wishing specimens for personal interest. There are numerous examples of mineral dealers who have successfully negotiated mineral specimen collecting or "recovery" contracts with mining companies and thereby brought high quality specimens to the collector market. The key cautionary point is to make sure you are dealing with the appropriate level of authority within the mine staff. For example, a mine manager may give you collecting privileges, but may be contravening policies governed by the head office managers.

Good luck,


3rd Sep 2019 09:11 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Rock Currier used to say that asking a mine manager to let collectors or dealers into his mine was somewhat like asking a french chef for permission to dump a box of cockroaches in his kitchen, and would get  the same response.

3rd Sep 2019 21:46 BSTGareth Evans

Dear Alfredo:You must ask nicely and engage the mine manager – make him (her) your friend. Over the years I have been given permission by Mine managers and Senior Geologists to visit many mines and collect. The first was the Burra Burra Mine way back in 1975. In the 1990’s I went underground at the Broken Hill Pasminco Mine four times over a period of three years. I also visited and went underground at a few Gold mines in NSW also during the 1990’s. I was given permission to collect at the Elizabeth Hill Silver Mine in Western Australia back in 2004. The Senior Geologist (Legend Mining) at the time gave me detailed information on where to find the best silver pieces.I am in the process of planning a few trips to some historic mines and collecting and photography will be a key feature of the visits. Regrettably many Mine Managers and some Senior Geologists look on most mineral dealers as pariahs – only interested in getting minerals cheap and then selling them at inflated prices.So I cannot stress the importance of establishing your credentials with the senior Mine Manager and/or Senior Geologist.Gareth

4th Sep 2019 16:41 BSTGeorg Graf

Hi Owen, keep in mind, a mineral collector on a mine site brings no advantage to the mining company, but can be reason for troubles: Sometimes collectors damage mining equipment ect. In case, the collector has an accident on the mine site, the management can be claimed to be responsible for this. Thus, in the most cases, the mining management dislike mineral collectors. - Nevertheless, good luck! Georg

7th Sep 2019 02:02 BSTOwen Tolley

All good replies, thank you. What about dealing with mines that exist solely to bring collectible minerals to market? ie an amethyst mine in Uruguay.

7th Sep 2019 05:32 BSTJim Allen

Fortunately, some of the mineral dealers and collectors who have been most successful in working with miners around the world have kindly written about their adventures.  The late Rock Currier (Peru, Congo, Mali), Rob Lavinsky (China), Peter Megaw (Mexico), Danny Trinchillo (Brazil) are good places to start, and there are lots of others.  Search the back issues of Mineralogical Record and Rocks & Minerals.  
For many of us, the closest we can get to the sources is the annual "Tucson Show." You can count on meeting miners from Morocco, China, Peru, India, Pakistan, and Brazil, among others, who are selling what they've dug.  Quality and prices cover the full spectrum.  At the high(er) end, you'll be able to buy iconic material like Colorado amazonite and rhodo, Australian Crocoite, or Rogerley Fluorite, from the mine owners. Start saving now! If you're genuinely interested in how the collector mineral market works, there is no better way to learn.

7th Sep 2019 22:13 BSTEd Clopton Expert

The late H. Allen Mitchell (MinRec biographical archive:, was an avid micromounter.  He was also a chemical engineer with Shell, and as his seniority advanced he was able sometimes to arrange business travel to mineralogically interesting places.  Sometimes when he wanted to visit a particular mine, he would research the locality and assemble a reference set (micros, of course) of important or interesting minerals characteristic of the deposit.  Then he would call on the senior geologist at the mine and offer the set as a gift.  There are never any guarantees, but that approach opened some doors for Allen.  He was also active a generation or more ago, and what worked for him then might or might not work today.

8th Sep 2019 18:17 BSTJude Ogbonna

Good evening everybody.
Please I am new here, my interest are in Tin-ore, Tantalite, Columbite and
Wolfamite Supplies. I am looking beyond my local market, your input will be greatly appreciated.
Sorry if I am doing this the wrong way, your correction is welcomed.


11th Sep 2019 14:30 BSTEd Clopton Expert


It sounds as though you are interested in purchasing ores in quantity for industrial processing.  The focus of Mindat is on locating and studying individual specimens of aesthetic or scientific interest for collectors and scientists.  If you have questions about the geology or mineralogy of specific mines or localities we may be able to assist, but mining and marketing of bulk ores is outside our usual scope.

11th Sep 2019 23:11 BSTGareth Evans

Jude:I am wondering if you mean dealing directly with the miners, geologists, mine managers and mill superintendents directly so you can move past any middle men (aka Mineral Vendors). Many minerals that come onto the open market for sale were often smuggled out of the mines by miners or low-level managers. Milpillas is a classic example – Penoles had a strict policy that forbid miners from collecting specimens, and the only reason Penoles have never chased up specimens is the cost of recovery would greatly outweigh the returns. During my tenure in the mining industry any miner caught collecting material for the purpose of selling it, would be dismissed and find themselves in the local police station. For me buying from reputable vendors has always been the first option as I am interested mainly in international minerals. It would be too costly and too inconvenient to do otherwise. The return air-fare alone to anyone of the mines of interest would cost several thousand dollars.Your best option is to start locally and introduce yourself to the Head Office Management, then the mine managers, geologists and mill superintendents. It is an interesting coincidence that some of the most expensive minerals come from the poorest countries – so mining is lucrative for only a few.Garath

12th Sep 2019 09:39 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

It is an interesting coincidence that some of the most expensive minerals come from the poorest countries
Indeed so, with phosphophyllite being an example I am very familiar with - one of the world‘s most expensive minerals, from the poorest country in South America. But times change. Back in the 1970s, northern hemisphere dealers would take advantage of miners‘ poverty and ignorance and take out world class specimens in trade for some pocket change and a bottle of beer. The best phosphophyllite known, now worth millions of dollars, was originally traded for a refrigerator with the miner who found it. But anyone planning on getting rich by buying world-class specimens for cheap directly from miners will soon find out that those days are over.

The internet changed everything. Nowadays poor miners in Bolivia pay 30 or 40 cents to spend the evening sitting in internet cafes cruising through the websites of all the famous dealers and checking on the prices asked for specimens from their countries. And when you visit the mines in Potosi nowadays and find a miner who was lucky enough to find a good phosphophyllite crystal, the price asked will often be an American retail price! Or else when you ask a miner what they want for a specimen, he may say "Your jeep!" ... and he wouldn‘t be joking.

13th Sep 2019 08:09 BSTGareth Evans

Dear Alfredo:Very interesting story, but someone is getting rich and it certainly is not the miners. There are many reasons why some countries live in poverty and squalor despite being blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Africa for example would have to be one of the most resource rich continents on earth, and it is for that very reason that the Chinese – an intelligent and industrious people – are moving into Africa as fast as lightning. I often reflect upon the past history of the Australian continent – another place blessed with an abundance of natural resources too. But this is not the place to deal with the link between demographics, biology and industry. Suffice it to say that most gold prospectors I came across on the Australian continent were always in a state of poverty despite finding gold. The only person making any real money was the owner of the pub. No sooner had a prospector sold gold than the money was spent on alcohol or tobacco.I do not say these things to offend – I have had considerable experience in life dealing with all sorts of people, from all sorts of backgrounds. Gareth

13th Sep 2019 08:26 BSTKeith Compton Manager

And of course the miner does not want to take into account the cost of your travel to the mine site area and to the miner, your costs of transport, your costs of prepping the specimen, your costs of advertising, shows and promotion etc to finally make a sale that actually makes a profit for the purchaser of the specimen from the miner.

13th Sep 2019 09:24 BSTAlfredo Petrov Manager

Precisely, Keith, and it is exactly for that reason that I buy much less from the miners than I used to. Nevertheless some buyers do pay close to the price asked, and that keeps the asking prices as high as they are (even if many of us think the prices have reached unsustainable levels). And I do notice that a few Bolivian specimen miners who used to push ancient rusty bicycles up the mountain every day are now going up on motorbikes or Toyota Landcruisers, so yes, they are making much more money than before. The internet has become somewhat of an economic equalizer by helping poor Third World producers connect with end-use customers and kick out the middleman who used to keep the biggest chunk of the  profits. I suppose this must be happening in other industries too, not just mineral specimens.

Funnily enough, I make my best purchases nowadays from a couple of miners who travelled to big mineral shows in the USA and Germany with dreams of becoming rich specimen dealers and who ended up losing money - Didn‘t sell enough to cover their airfare, booth fee, and hotel. It is now much easier to discuss reasonable prices with them than it is with their compatriots who have never been abroad. (Which concords with Keith‘s statement about how the average miner has no clue about the high costs involved in running a specimen business.) 

13th Sep 2019 20:51 BSTGareth Evans

Dear Alfredo:Please allow me to be the devil’s advocate. I cannot speak for every business, nor speak about the day-to-day activities of those involved in the buying and selling of goods for profit, but I do have some experience.My ex-wife ran a toy business, and Christmas was always the busiest period. She would buy name brand children’s bikes in bulk ($60/unit) and sell them for $300 per bike. Every Christmas she would sell every bike she bought. The 5X mark-up was typical in the toy business. I could also tell you about her other best sellers too, but not here!Does this apply to the mineral business? I cannot say, but I do find amusement in minerals sales when I see a piece marked down from $4000USD to $2000USD. I have a few friends in the USA who run mineral businesses and the things they have told me about the purchase and sale of specimens would make a saint swear.Gareth

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