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The enlightened and the not so enlightened.

Posted by Bob Harman  
Bob Harman July 17, 2017 03:28PM
The other day in the USA section of our local Bloomington newspaper there was an article about the State of California entering into an agreement with the contractors building a new subway station underground in the La Brea section of Los Angeles. Mammoth and other large ice age mammal bones had been discovered during the excavation. The state felt it important enough to monitor the excavation to try and preserve as much as possible so there is an on site person available with a collecting team to remove the bones rather than have them crushed and destroyed as the underground excavating proceeded. There is a lot to be found out about that story by googling several of it's key words.

Currently a section of Indiana route 37 from Bloomington North 20 miles to Martinsville is being upgraded to be included into Interstate 69 (which will eventually be integrated into all of I 69 from Kentucky thru all of Indiana into Michigan). Anyway, as I previously noted, a small and rather short, in both length and height, road cut is being leveled by excavation.
This same road cut produced a very few museum quality ARAGONITE specimens including the one found in 1965 and pictured here. No more than 10 hi quality examples came from this hard to work locality.
About 6 - 8 weeks ago, heavy equipment began to break up the rock, leveling the cut and contouring into the sides of the new interstate. I and several other collectors got out to the cut during non-work hours to see what could be found. Several nice
non- aragonite specimens were found, but no museum quality examples. My friend and fellow collector was firmly asked to leave by the police (I never had any similar encounters). As I had donated 5 examples, including the one pictured here, to the Indiana State Museum, I wrote a letter to the curator, whom I have known for more than 10 years, asking for a "letter of introduction" to allow me to collect during non-working hours. Just maybe, I could find some hi quality examples to be eventually donated to the museum. A reply followed that their lawyers were, in so many words, not interested. THE INDIANA STATE MUSEUM WAS NOT INTERESTED IN TRYING TO GET A SHORT TERM AGREEMENT WITH THE ROAD CONTRACTORS TO COLLECT AND PRESERVE SOME OF INDIANA'S NATURAL HISTORY ??!!
The road construction at that site has progressed. Now, about 8 weeks later, the road cut has been leveled with the rock crushed up and contoured to the surrounding areas. An extinct site......

California seems to take its natural treasures seriously while Indiana is rather unenlightened and unconcerned about its natural mineral treasures. Oh well, what can you expect when Indiana's former state governor is now our VP and did not believe either in climate change or evolution.

David Von Bargen July 17, 2017 04:02PM
Well it's more likely that the California team was hired by the state to be on location (they have vertebrate fossils which are more protected by the antiquities act than mineral specimens are).
Because fossils are protected by law, Metro has an agreement with paleontologist services. Experts monitoring the excavation site were able to spot what they thought was bone material within the sediments

The people collecting were on a contract with the state and were covered by their insurance. You got an answer from Indiana's lawyers. They were probably concerned about the liability that they would incur if someone got hurt on the construction site or if the contractors equipment got damaged because of what someone left behind.
Bob Harman July 17, 2017 05:25PM
I fully agree with all that you say, and yes there would be liability issues, but it is the general philosophy. Who is better suited to preserve and protect the natural heritage of any state than its "state museum". The Feds, State of Indiana and the Indiana State Museum probably have some type of standing agreements about protecting most endangered animals and plants. Maybe it should be extended to include minerals.
And, in this case, I had known the curator for 10 years and had recently freely donated several thousand dollars of mineral specimens to the museum and had even partially underwritten their pages in the recent Midwest collections supplement to the Min Rec.

Any agreement would have been a short term one with appropriate clauses addressing liability and other issues such as hours to collect etc. Now it is simply too late for this locality. CHEERS.......BOB

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/17/2017 05:33PM by Bob Harman.
Reiner Mielke July 17, 2017 06:10PM
I agree that the indifference is troubling but I think the liability issue is just an excuse to do nothing as it is not impossible to get insurance coverage.
However this is just one example of the convenient indifference to preserving mineral heritage. Every day there are thousands of significant specimens crushed throughout the world and the authorities do not care. In Canada we also have this problem but it is accompanied by hypocricy. If you have a mineral specimen worth more than 10 thousand dollars you need an export permit so presumably if the government deems it nationally significant they can save it from leaving the country. However if it were crushed it could be exported without a permit. I have not been able to figure out the logic of that yet because if it is exported they can't have it and if it is crushed they can't have it. Either it is significant or it isn't. If it is significant then shouldn't the specimen also be protected from crushing not just exporting?
Robert Rothenberg July 18, 2017 12:03AM
Clearly business lobbyists have more influence than mineral collecting lobbyists (do they even exist?).
Roger Ericksen July 18, 2017 12:34AM
Hi Reiner, I hope you don't mind if I use a regionally altered version of your post in my next confrontation with authorities at a local quarry.
Harold Moritz July 18, 2017 02:35PM
I sympathize with you, and the seeming hypocrisies can be maddening. But having been a manager of large projects I suggest that the main stumbling block is really a matter of timing. Projects like the one you encountered take years or months to plan and once they get going, are usually on a very tight schedule with many entities tasked to do specific things at the right time and place so it gets done on time and within budget. No one involved wants or needs an unanticipated variable introduced during the work, bonuses and careers may be affected by it. Thus, I suggest that your worthy goal is best achieved by getting it introduced during the planning process, not during the construction phase. And it would be more likely to get a hearing if there is a champion who is willing to promote it and perhaps have a prepared team ready to take on the task that you were attempting.

The champion could be a consortium of museum/government preservation folks with collectors such as yourself, but they need to get themselves heard and incorporated into the plans early. Best to get someone high up in the contracting process to say to the project planners that this is something wanted and it should be inserted into the project plan, and that there will be money available for that task and/or constraints placed on it. Project managers are neutral and don't necessarily care what the tasks are, they get paid to make it happen, whatever it is, so long as it is sanctioned by the client. But they must know about it and take it into account early in the process.

Then, the people in the field need to have the permission, training and insurance to be allowed on the work site when and where necessary, practical, or priority. This is how everyone else on a project plays ball, so to get any respect you have to come prepared to play on the same professional field. You have to speak their language, understand their concerns and do your homework. If you do that, then you would be amazed at the cooperation you would receive. And most of all find money to support the task or propose volunteer work during off work hours and make sure they know that all the finds would go to the state museum, not personal collections. It may sound like a lot, but if you get up to speed on one, the rest will be easy.

Find out what DOT projects are being planned, talk to your curator friend, together lobby your representatives on the state legislative transportation committee or find out from them who could be a political champion for your goals. There may be a politician who is a collector, or can be made a convert once they understand what is at stake. Put a field team together that have experience in construction site work who know what training and background is needed and get it (there will be a lot of OSHA requirements, many may already have them). Only one person needs to know minerals, the rest need to know how to extract them once identified and former construction folks are very good at it once they know the goal is preservation, not destruction. They can be folks who are working on other tasks that can help with your task after normal project hours, and they can even keep an eye out for minerals during the construction work day and set rocks aside or point out good places at the site. But that will only happen if you are involved from the beginning and everyone on the project is aware of and on board with your goal. You want allies, not enemies. Maybe it won't go anywhere, but you can't win if you don't play.

Regarding police, they really do not care about folks collecting rocks, they care about theft and damage of construction equipment and supplies, which is all too common. This is a major reason why work sites are fenced in and kept secure. If you have permission to be there not only will the police leave you alone, but your sanctioned presence during off work hours acts as a deterrent to those who would steal or wreck stuff, so it is a plus for all.
Kelly Nash July 18, 2017 05:23PM
The agencies involved with construction projects might be more inclined to preserve mineral specimens if there was a legal basis to do so, such as is required by law for archeological artifacts or, in some places, vertebrate fossils. But as we've seen with some proposals that's really a double-edged sword, because then only a few, licensed, collectors would be allowed to gather specimens, perhaps anywhere, and they would go straight to museums. I sometimes think amateur collectors are better off with most people thinking that, except for gemstones, minerals are generally fairly worthless trinkets.
Harold Moritz July 18, 2017 07:56PM
True, Kelly, but a politically connected champion could make it happen, if it were for the state's benefit on state projects. There are plenty of private specimen mining groups that have worked out deals with private mines, quarries and projects (just read the American Mineral Treasures book) for commercial sale or for themselves. But the operative word in those cases is good ole cash or other compensation to the owner. Many quarry or mine workers recognize the value of specimens and save them to sell with or without official sanction. Hell that's how most of the great stuff from Franklin NJ got saved and how we get goodies from mines in Tsumeb, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, etc. But if your goal is preservation for all rather than just yourself, then any real success is dependent on the pieces going to museums and no money can legally change hands with gubmint projects. On those someone in authority has to care.
Guy Davis (2) July 21, 2017 05:27AM
I don't think we should get political here, but I will say that the state of California has the most progressive laws and seemingly most forward-thinking politicians in the U.S.

Maybe slowing or halting progress altogether to save and document prehistoric bones of extinct creatures from a very well known site is more intrinsically valuable to mankind as a whole than slowing or stopping road construction to save a few hi-quality aragonite geodes from a little-known site in Indiana.

I kind of have to say what I'm thinking here, so here's my two pennies. Just ask anybody you know (mineralogists and paleontologists excluded for neutrality's sake) whether they'd want to see a dinosaur skeleton or aragonite. Then ask any 2 to 15 year old boy or girl. Or any adult you meet. I think you'll find the answer there.

And then ask yourself, would the state politicians in Indiana want growth over slowing or halting their perceived growth for the preservation of a few aragonite geodes that are perceived as hi-quality by two Indiana collectors?

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2017 05:38AM by Guy Davis (2).
Rudy Bolona July 21, 2017 06:28AM
Well put Guy Davis 2. Trying to get non- mineral people to care about minerals is a waste of time. The science of mineralogy is way above the average non-mineral person's head. They can't identify with it, but any adult or kid can identify with a dinosaur. I remember taking my parents to the Denver show and hearing them say, " This is all very pretty stuff, but I don't really know anything about it, especially when you (Rudy) start spouting off all that science stuff about these rocks." We mineral collectors are in our own little world and we can't expect non-mineral people to champion our cause.
Susan Robinson July 21, 2017 11:27AM
If the construction hit an archeological site with human remains and objects of civilization, then probably all construction wold have been halted.

Susan Robinson
Reiner Mielke July 21, 2017 12:40PM
Lets put aragonite,quartz,calcite and other common species aside. At the very least one of a kind occurrences need some protection.
Matt Courville July 21, 2017 01:15PM
I agree with everyone that there should be the possibility of preservation of certain mineral occurrences. This would only work effectively if a pre-existing law was in place though. That way the burden of paperwork, insurance, roles, etc. doesn't have to be continually re-invented. I would say that due to the universality of minerals everywhere and subjectivity of who finds what relevant and important, this can be very complex.

It would seem that having a set law permitting a 'formal request' by a reputable museum, research facility, university, etc.. could be a good way to go about it. That way not everywhere has to be saved, but some can be if the proper forms are filled. The law could easily give specifications on timelines, equipment, safety gear, and exactly who can keep what.

I wonder how the dinosaur fossil laws in various places deal with tiny trilobites that may likely seem irrelevant to the public vs. say a T-Rex head? This might be a good starting point for minerals.

In the end someone with a legitimate reputation will have to start from the bottom-up a state/province at a time I would think. Once a few are in place, one could always cite the others as good examples that work. Asking a campaigning (or soon to be) relevant politian to guest speak at mineral club might be a good start. Politics, in my opinion the only way to fix this.

Happy friday mindat crew,

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2017 01:17PM by Matt Courville.
Larry Maltby July 21, 2017 01:23PM
Food for thought. The word “protection” usually means “closed to the average collector”
Robert Farrar July 21, 2017 02:04PM
Mineral collectors should be cautious in what they ask of the government. My business is one of the larger paleontological enterprises in the US. Fossils here have been protected to the point that, as a business or owner of a business, we cannot collect at all from federal lands nor from most state lands. Our collecting is restricted to private land. Amateur collectors can collect limited quantities of certain common invertebrate fossils from certain federal lands, but these fossils cannot enter commerce. Vertebrate fossils on federal land may be collected only by academics working under a permit. Salvage or mitigation collecting from state and federal lands is conducted under state/federal permit by academic directed teams.

The preservation of extraordinary mineral and fossil occurrences is something that everyone should support, but there seems to be little governmental or industrial backing toward that goal. In the US fossils are 'preserved' by restricting collecting. Mineral collectors still have relatively open access to many sites, but commercial collectors find greater and greater restrictions. I'm sure that the mineral laws are more complex than they appear, and probably a higher percentage of specimens collected than we would hope, were collected in violation of some code, but for fossils those infractions would be felonies, rather than misdemeanors.

Andrew Debnam July 21, 2017 02:17PM
I agree Bob, hence the expressions "be careful what you ask for" and "the law of unexpected consequences" Asking the right questions with good intentions when it comes to politics often leads to the opposite outcome. I rather cynical view of politics I know.....Striking a balance between preservation,private commerce and public collecting is not an easy endeavour but surely a worthwhile one.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2017 02:20PM by Andrew Debnam.
Bob Harman July 21, 2017 02:47PM
Thank you all for your responses! Lots of food for thought.

I fully realize that vertebrate fossils and unearthed archeological sites are certainly more important than most mineral specimen discoveries, but I was, as stated, more concerned with the overall philosophy of spending a little time to try and preserve any important finds at that specific site. Sounds a bit Orwellian from "1984". "Some natural objects (or minerals) are more equal than others".
Some folks going to work, when given a non-routine project such as trying to get a "limited permit to collect", get really uncomfortable with the added work and just try to blow it off......is this the case here?

Being the initial poster of this thread, I will remind everyone of some important points.
My request was specifically to the Indiana State Museum. I have known their natural objects curator for 10+ years and recently donated several thousand dollars worth of Indiana minerals to them and partially underwrote their Min Rec supplement pages. One of the donations was specifically from the site in question which is now no longer in existence. The permit would have been for non-working hours and would not have interfered with the road work at all. As far as I am concerned, being philanthropic should work both ways.

Finally, for the responder who talked a bit disparagingly specifically about geodes, I find it more than a bit interesting that a recognized museum quality Indiana example (displayed at Tucson some years ago, now displayed at the Indiana State Museum and in the recent Min Rec supplement etc) was, on the very same day, posting a self-collected ordinary 3cm smoky quartz crystal. Hmmm....
Let me know when that one is in an upcoming museum display. CHEERS.....BOB
Everett Harrington July 21, 2017 03:23PM
Fellow Mineral Friends,
I was the one that Bob is talking about that was chased from the site, I've collected there several times in the past without issue, I've also collected at other cuts along the 37 corridor without any issues. It seems that things are changing towards mineral collectors in general. Quarries no longer allowing access, now road construction sites are off limits. When will it end? Will it end? I think what Bob is trying to say is, if nobody is allowed to collect these locations, where does the science go for these sites, lost to the forward motion of man.

If there was some incentive like what has been talked about, maybe there is a better chance for future projects to allow collecting. Why not a law or ordnance just like that type of paleontology or anthropology laws used to protect and conserve other sites?

With that being said, the officer that responded was mad at first, once I showed him the above photo that Bob posted, and he understood what we were doing he became much more polite. He even asked "You really find stuff like that here?" So, he told us we still had to leave, and that the construction site was off limits to any and all collecting, but we could keep our two buckets of geodes. I've yet to open those geodes, between a wedding and buying a new house, but I can only hope, I have the last of the Aragonites coming from this now extinct site. Time will tell!

I'd also say, I'd put some of these geodes up against any self-collected mineral specimen! Quartz pfffft ;)


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2017 03:24PM by Everett Harrington.
Alfred L. Ostrander July 21, 2017 06:07PM
I have yet to see any of the progressive federal and state laws in the United States do anything to protect the rights or privileges of the amateur collector.
Holger Hartmaier July 21, 2017 06:23PM
Some examples of enlightened and not so enlightened experiences that I am aware of (from a mineral collector's perspective):

- During mining operations, the Caland Ore Company in Atikokan periodically dumped mine-run ore near the mine entrance that was accessible to the public for collecting.
- Nanisivik Mine on Baffin Island used to host the Midnight Sun Marathon and collecting was allowed on site during this event and during operations by various staff. It helped that many of the collector specimens were pyrite/marcasite, so not of ore value, but as a result the collector world benefitted through a steady supply of world-class specimens.
- When the Bluebell Mine in Riondel, BC closed in 1972, the mining company allowed a joint specimen salvage collection operation by University of British Columbia and I believe the Canada Museum of Nature to collect the world-class pyrrhotite crystals and associated galena, calcite, quartz and sphalerite crystals before the underground workings were allowed to flood.

- Converting the Francon Quarry in Montreal into a landfill. This was a rare mineral locality, one of the few localities in the world for weloganite.
- Not sure what collecting access there is these days into the Mount St. Hilaire quarries. In any event, this is a world-class mineral locality due to the diversity of minerals and it should be possible to manage access to collector groups, rather than having the resource completely crushed into road gravel and asphalt.

To be fair, the collector community also has shared responsibilities to behave in an enlightened manner. There are many examples of sites being closed down to all as a result of the unenlightened behavior by a few collectors.
Guy Davis (2) July 22, 2017 03:32AM
To each their own, I guess. Collecting preferences vary, and we as a community shouldn't judge one specimen as better than another if that particular mineral doesn't suit our fancy.

On another note, asking others to do our work for us and lamenting on the Internet when it doesn't work out instead of doing a little legwork and networking, like asking the job foreman during work hours for permission to collect during non-work hours, with proper PPE, would go farther. I've learned over the years that if you approach somebody, shake their hand, and look them in the eye with a request, in this case to look for minerals, the worst they can say is NO. It sounds like in the original poster's case nobody did so and secret collecting was happening to the tune that it became problematic and the law had to become involved. That's a shame.

Since I feel like I was called to respond I have a rather pertinent example to the thread, and I can hopefully contribute some ideas to remedy or prevent altogether the woes expressed in the first post. I'm sporadically working a site here in Maryland, USA with express permission from the landowner, and our mutual goal is to collect and preserve mineral specimens from this very unique locale that has a rather extensive list of minerals for any state, let alone this one. I don't post the museum quality specimens because they are being prepped and trimmed during the very little spare time I have between work, supporting my family, taking care of my house and four acres, occasionally having the chance to go collecting, and scouring the Internet to resurrect old threads and post pictures of my specimens. When I'm not doing any of those things I take a little selfless time to trim and prep the best specimens I find at this site to make them hi-quality enough to be donated to museums and actually be viewed. But I digress.

I've also learned over the years not to draw attention to small and little known geologically interesting and productive sites for years to come by posting the best specimens collected there on the Internet. That only garners attention and alerts people to the existence of the locale, and ultimately, if too much information is divulged and the whereabouts of a location can be deciphered, it's usually the unscrupulous collectors and poachers with no heed to private property or rules and regulations that find the site and tend to get it closed. Or secret collecting happens by collectors so much after hours that law enforcement becomes involved, and again the site is closed. The site I'm working that produces "ordinary" smoky Quartz crystals for some states and countries but spectacular for the state of Maryland has been accessible to myself and a very, very select few individuals who are honest and maintain relationships with the landowner to sustainably collect and preserve the best specimens to be displayed in museums for all to enjoy. This relationship has been maintained for over a decade, and the site is just now starting to produce bigger and better specimens since we've taken our time to understand the geology.

So I guess ultimately, what we are doing, is EXACTLY what this thread is seeking answers and guidance for, except our site is private instead of public land.

And when I deem that the specimens I've collected and prepared myself are hi-quality enough to donate I'll do so as an anonymous donor. There's no need for me to toot my own horn by telling the world how great or valuable the specimens I donate are. I'll feel value just by sharing what I am fortunate enough to be able to collect and give to a good home, and that's good enough for me.

Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 07/22/2017 05:51AM by Guy Davis (2).
Doug Daniels July 22, 2017 06:07AM
Sounds like what you are doing, collecting something odd at an undisclosed location, for donation to a museum, is a laudable endeavor. However, are you documenting the geology of the deposit? Photographically, in writing, and such. Are you trained in geological investigations? Documenting the geology can take more time than just collecting specimens (and, based on your post, you are stretched for time). And, at some point, the definite location would be needed (i.e., GPS coordinates). A few points to ponder.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/22/2017 06:11AM by Doug Daniels.
Jolyon & Katya Ralph July 22, 2017 08:42AM
> However, are you documenting the geology of the deposit?

It sounds like this is a well-known and documented historical deposit. That may not be so necessary.
Guy Davis (2) July 22, 2017 12:11PM
Yes, I have a geologist from the state of Delaware that is working with us to photo-document the site and the specimens collected there and is mapping the geologic features comprising the site. The site itself is very small in size and is often inaccessible due to being underwater approximately 90% of the time. It's relatively unknown and has never been described historically due to its inaccessibility and the fact that myself and the very few select individuals who have permission to collect there don't ever disclose the location's whereabouts to preserve the integrity of the site and respect the landowner's wish for privacy. We know that we have a very unique site and a unique opportunity that few collectors could ever hope to have and we keep our mouths shut to keep it that way.
Doug Daniels July 23, 2017 12:57AM
Guy - that answers my questions. It's great that it is being documented.
Guy Davis (2) July 23, 2017 05:26AM

To answer your other question, I'm no P.G. or even an educated Geologist, I'm just a wannabe amateur mineral collector. I've been self collecting for about 20 years around the U.S. and I may have picked up a thing or two along the way. Or I haven't, I don't know. That's for the Internet to judge.

I'm no Geologist, I'm just a hydrogeologic investigation specialist/environmental remediation consultant that likes to play in the dirt and find rocks for fun. It just so happens that my occupation is very entwined with my hobby (or is it vice versa?).

Ultimately I'd like to learn more, and learn so much about Maryland smoky QUARTZ locales and historic smoky QUARTZ specimens that I'll feel like I'm the expert on Maryland smoky QUARTZ

Then, and only then, will I feel able to post pictures of my finds and tell the Internet all about Maryland smoky QUARTZ.


Doug Daniels July 23, 2017 07:29AM
O.K. I was a P.G. Had to let mine go because of finances at the time (the wife's PG was more important). Still know the stuff, just can't sign off on anything I might do professionally now. Sounds like you got more smarts than you think you do...that happens when you get an interest in these lowly things most just call "rocks". Should a publication come out on your work, I hope you are listed as an author, or at least a contributor....
Scott Braley July 27, 2017 03:49PM
I would also add that the state has zero incentive to lift a finger to help you add to your collection, even if you might donate some of the specimens.

edit: sounds harsher than I mean it. I could imagine the state museum appointing you as a proxy if they get dibs, but otherwise they really have no reason to exert themselves. Preserving the state's mineral heritage in a private collection? Not so much.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/27/2017 03:51PM by Scott Braley.
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