August 21, 2011 in Esmeralda Mine

Welcome, everyone!

If you’ve been following us via our bimonthly newsletter, Pala Mineralis, you know that Pala International is now the proud owner of the Esmeralda Mine and Mountain Lily Mine in the Mesa Grande District and Aguanga Mountain District (Smith Mountain District), respectively, of San Diego County. As we bring the mines back into production, we’ll be posting updates from time to time here at blog.palaminerals.com.

Morganite with Tourmaline

Morganite with tourmaline, from the Esmeralda Mine, 9.5 x 6 cm. Formerly in the T. W. Warner Jr. Collection. (Specimen: Bill Larson Collection; Photo: Mia Dixon)

Mountain Lily Mine: The Slow Movement

October 2, 2014 in Mountain Lily Mine, Uncategorized

It’s been 16 months since we reported on the Mountain Lily (Ware) Mine at the northern edge of San Diego County. Development is slow when mountain-moving is involved.

For instance, in July, it took days for John McLean, Ben Castillo, and Casey Jones to drive the Deere (pictured below) to the bottom of the hill. Then, up the hill with lead- and trail-cars. Then the Deere literally made its own road.

Deere photo image

Deere after days' drive up the mountain to the Mountain Lily Mine. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Road Making photo image

The Deere had to make its own road. Late July 2014. (Photo: Casey Jones)

The Deere’s next task was to do a little pegmatite exposing…

Deere Begins Pegmatite Exposure photo image

The Deere clears out brush in preparation for the pegmatite exposure. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Deere Exposing Pematites photo image

The Deere does some preliminary exposing of the pegmatites in early August. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Pegmatite Being Exposed photo image

View of the Deere's work. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Let’s not forget where we are. We have a great view of a grand valley and Lake Henshaw…

Valley photo image

View of the valley from the Mountain Lily Mine. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Panorama View From Mountain Lily Mine photo image

A panorama view from the Mountain Lily Mine. Early August 2014. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Back to work. The Deere eventually uncovered the old workings and adit.

Deere At Old Workings and Adit photo image

The Deere approaches the old workings and adit. Early August 2014. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Getting Closer to Old Workings and Adit photo image

Getting there… (Photo: Casey Jones)

Adit Exposed photo image

At last the adit is exposed. Early August 2014. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Nearly two months later, in late September, more pegmatite exposure. The site is prepared and made safe for future mining.

Deere and Wall photo image

The Deere scrapes the pegmatite wall. Late September 2014. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Pegmatite Exposure photo image

Close view of the pegmatite exposure… (Photo: Casey Jones)

Pegmatite Exposure photo image

…pulling back… (Photo: Casey Jones)

Preparing Site photo image

…and back. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Above the clouds…

Morning Clouds photo image

Morning clouds, mid-September 2014. (Photo: Casey Jones)

Esmeralda Mine: All Systems Go!

January 11, 2013 in Esmeralda Mine, Uncategorized

Photos by Jason Stephenson

John and I went up to the Esmeralda Mine on December 21 to check equipment and to have a look around. It was a sunny and cool, wintery day as we wound our way up to our latest hole in the ground. To our surprise the road into the mine had dried up nicely and we were able to drive all the way into the mine without too much trouble.

Panorama photo image

The panorama is captured at the Esmeralda Mine.

Arriving at the mine for the first time since my initial visit with Bill, Will and John back in August 2011, I began to notice all the new developments. The roads on the property had been improved and cleared to access the new point of entry. There are three main surface levels now established.

Watertank and Upper Glory Hole photo image

The watertank and upper glory hole at the Esmeralda Mine.

As you drive in the top of the glory hole is on the right with the water tank, as you pass through the main cut in the top of the pegmatite, then down to the lower access to the glory hole and the platform for the magazines and the solar panels, then curving down the hill to the new platform where all the equipment is stored and the new tunnel has been established.

Magazines photo image

Magazines at the Esmeralda Mine.

Lower Glory Hole photo image

The lower glory hole at the Esmeralda Mine.

A huge ventilation system is set up along with all the proper signage as the supportive structure opens the way for the freshly cut adit to take shape. The tunnel instantly hit a branch of the pegmatite and follows the vein in about 40 feet. About halfway in, an old smaller tunnel was intercepted, so we know someone was fishing around down there. The pegmatite is mainly big grains of schorl, biotite, quartz and feldspar. This section of the dyke is about 10 feet thick and sits at a steep 68-degree dip to the north and striking east to west.

Mine Portal photo image

The portal of the Esmeralda Mine.

Adit photo image

Adit of the Esmeralda Mine.

Mine Exit photo image

Looking out the entrance to the Esmeralda Mine.

Back on the top level the dyke is closer to 20 feet think and another branch was discovered (upon road clearing) on the lower level. So we have extrapolated a split in the pegmatite that occurs about where the original glory hole lies. Maybe a position where the melt slowed up concentrated some of those rare earth elements that are crucial in tourmaline building. So now we follow the branch of the dyke at depth back toward the glory hole and start exploring what was below the original tunnels.

Pegmatite with Tourmaline photo image

The pegmatite displays streaks of tourmaline at the Esmeralda Mine.

On the way down we spotted two bobcats. One was kind enough to stop for a quick photo shoot. It was a pleasant surprise, topping off a great day up to the Esmeralda Mine. So now we have all the elements in line for a successful push into the heart of the proven claim.

√ Rich pegmatite
√ Magazines
√ Water
√ Proper equipment


All systems go!

Bobcat photo image

Can you find the bobcat in this photo?

Of Bluffs and Bees: The Mountain Lily Mine

May 4, 2012 in Mountain Lily Mine, Uncategorized

Up to the Mountain Lily (Ware) Mine with John McLean and Ben Castillo to meet up with Casey Jones to do some reconnaissance on the terrain and positioning of the pegmatite on a new plot of land at the northern edge of San Diego County.

The drive up takes us east of Fallbrook, out Highway 76 past many casinos, and around Lake Henshaw, which currently is at a very low level. For those who know the lake, Monkey Island is not even an island anymore—it’s just a hill on the side of the lake.

Winding up and around the back side of Palomar mountain on Highway 79, the road up to the mine is semi-paved, narrow and steep. John and Casey look out for critical points in the road that will be difficult for the excavator to make it up.

View to the North photo image

View to the north with the old structure in the foreground. (Photo: Jason Stephenson)

Once on top we all check out the old broken-down structure that sits to the south end of the property, looking out at a beautiful view of the valley and Lake Henshaw far below. We make our way over to the north end of the property where the pegmatite comes close to the surface. A washed out edge and sink hole mark where the original tunnel was. Now all that’s left is an opening barely big enough to crawl in.

I decided to wiggle down in for a closer look but once I was a body length in I realized it wasn’t safe. Unstable, thick mud shifted below my feet and the cavern was at a steep angle with minimal room to move around. To top it off, an angry bee started dive bombing me, as if a signal to get the hell out of there. I did, immediately, but the bee wasn’t done with me; he attacked me for another 20 yards or so until I could lose him.

Bluff photo image

A look up the bluff toward the original glory hole, and the thick bushes which were heavily bee infested. (Photo: Jason Stephenson)

John Surveys Bluff photo image

John McLean surveys the bluff for signs where the pegmatite surfaces. (Photo: Jason Stephenson)

John and Casey surveyed the lay of the land and figured out a plan of attack to uncover the near-horizontal pegmatite. The end of the pegmatite to the north is exposed on a 30-foot bluff. At the bottom of the bluff is a level edge that then drops off again down the mountain. The plan is to basically remove the bluff face incrementally and pile the earth back at the level plane and create a big berm, all the while sorting though the rich pegmatite. Seems easy enough, but time will tell as we begin to move some dirt around.

John and Ben Look at Mineral Samples photo image

John McLean and Ben Castillo look over the mineral samples collected throughout the day. Notice the weathered bluff in the background where the pegmatite lies in wait. (Photo: Jason Stephenson)

We all found traces of blue and green tourmaline even in the heavily picked-through tailing, signs of a rich vein above. We turned over every quartz crystal too, just to make sure it wasn’t topaz, which is another gem we’ll be on the lookout for up there.

Faceted Indicolites photo image

Indicolites from the Mountain Lily Mine: marquise 0.46 ct and the emerald cut 0.56 ct. A gift from Jeff Swanger of the Ocean View Mine. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

John Sinkankas at the Esmeralda Mine, Apr 1962

February 1, 2012 in Esmeralda Mine, Uncategorized

A scrapbook page from John Sinkankas.

Esmeralda Mine Scrapbook Apr 1962

Esmeralda Mine scrapbook page from John Sinkankas, Apr 1962. Collection of Bill Larson. Click to enlarge.