First stop was the Rogerley Mine - the UK's only commercially run mineral specimen mine which is operated by Cal Graeber and Jesse Fisher ofhttp://www.ukminingventures.com. [Link Broken? Jun 2012] They have been mining it since 1999 yet it has taken me ten years to drive the 5 hour journey up to the north of England to actually visit the mine operation.
Let me make it clear right away. Rogerley is a working specimen mine. As such they don't normally have time to take visitors around, and it is certainly NOT open for private collecting.
Of course, the mineral they are primarily mining is Fluorite - and some of the best specimen Fluorite in the world. Here's a photo of Jesse holding the best find of the summer:
What a specimen! Want to see a better photo of it? Of course you do...
Of course this specimen (unless it has sold already) is currently availabe from UK mining ventures. Jesse says it's probably one of the top five ever to have come out of the mine.
So finally it was time to enter the mine. Fully kitted out with wellies, waterproofs and hard-hats we descended into the mine. Here's a picture at the entrance. On the left is Brian Jackson (National Museums of Scotland), on the right looking rather ridulous is me.
And so we went undergroud... First photo here shows Jesse Fisher and Maria Alferova examining the "Rat Tail" pocket which had been opened up recently at the mine. It was named because it was found at the tail-end of another pocket known as the "Rat Hole".
In another area of the mine, we visited the Black Sheep pocket. This was one of the earlest worked areas of the mine during UK Mining Ventures' operations, and produced many of the early fine specimens. Now it's worked only sporadically, but as you can see from the photo the walls, and ceilings are covered with green fluorite cubes - those you can see in this picture probably average around 1-2cm each. But they're almost impossible to extract, they need to use the diamond-tipped chainsaw to get pieces out of here now, and they only do that for the very best pieces.
Here's a closer view of the ceiling...
Some pockets were coated with thick aragonite, such as this one near the entrance to the Rat Hole pocket.
Outside, Maria picked up one of the large specimens recently recovered from the Rat Tail pocket. I think she would have carried this one all the way home to Russia, given the chance!
Here's a close-up of that particular specimen, with a hammer to scale. The specimens I saw from the Rat Tail Pocket were interesting in that they were predominantly non-twinned, unlike those from other nearby pockets where twinning is relatively common.
And we said our goodbyes, thanked Cal, Jesse, Joan and Kerith for their wonderful hospitality, and started driving north. Our next destination was a day of rest in Edinburgh, followed by a trip north west to the Isle of Eigg, one of the Inner Hebrides, for the next three days...