Important Specimen Producing Mines in and Around Weardale - Page 2

Cambokeels Mine

The Cambokeels Mine (sometimes called Cammock Eals) was developed on a section of the Slitt Vein roughly half way between the villages of Eastgate and Westgate. The main adit is located on the north banks of the River Wear, and the abandoned workings can still be seen from the road (A689). The Slitt Vein in this area was first worked by the Beaumont Company between 1868-1871 for lead. Although the vein was large, lead values were poor and the mine was soon abandoned. The mine was reopened for fluorspar in 1905 and was worked in an on-again, off-again fashion by a succession of owners through much of the 20th century.

Several colorless penetration-twinned fluorite crystals, up to 2.5 cm on edge, on white crystalling quartz. Recovered in 1988 from the Zinc Flats, 320 level.

The most recent production cycle at Cambokeels began in the early 1970's and for the next decade and a half the mine was one of the most productive sources of fluorite in Weardale. Malcolm Brown & Madison acquired the mine in 1973 and put in a new incline below the old Horse Level, discovering high grade fluorite ore from the 40 meter level down. The mine was sold in short order to Swiss Aluminium UK (SAMUK) who established working levels at 200 meters (in the Tynebottom Limestone) and at 240 meters (in the Whin Sill and Jew Limestone). The mine was sold again in 1982 to Minworth Ltd., who established levels at 280 and 320 meters, and had reached the 340 level by the time the mine closed in 1989. Currently, all levels are flooded and inaccessable.

A group of lavender/purple twinned fluorite crystals up to 2.5 cm, on a quartz matrix. Recovered from a single pocket at the 340 level in 1989, shortly before the mine closed.

Fluorite from the upper levels of the mine is usually twinned crystals of pale/pastel shades of purple. In the last years of production a couple of notable specimen finds were made. In 1987 numerous specimens of twinned, transparent, colorless to pale aqua-blue fluorite associated with quartz and sulphides such as pyrite and pyrrhotite were recovered from the "Zinc Flats" at the 320 level. The flats at this level were rich in sphalerite, but mostly massive. In 1989 a single cavity from the 340 level produced some fine specimens of twinned, gemmy lavender-colored fluorite on a white quartz matrix. The lower reaches of the mine were also sulphide-rich, and some of the best pyrrhotite crystals from the UK were found there. Calcite was wide-spread throughout the mine, and specimens of numerous habits were recovered in recent years.

Calcite was a common accessory mineral in Cambokeels, and was found in a variety of habits. This one was recovered in 1984 from the 200 level.

Eastgate Cement Quarry

The Eastgate (or Blue Circle) Cement Quarry works an exposure of the Great Limestone on the south side of the Wear River, between the villages of Eastgate and Westgate. The smokestack of the kiln is a valley landmark, and the large, bright yellow trucks from the plant are a constant source of excitement to motorists along the narrow road through the Dale. The quarry has been in operation since the mid 1960's and is the third source, along with the Heights Quarry and Rogerley Mine, of green fluorite in Weardale.

A large, well formed, dark green penetration twinned fluorite crystal, 2.5 cm on edge, from the Eastgate Cement Quarry.

Fluorite crystals from the Cement Quarry are often paler green than either the Heights or Rogerley, and usually have a purplish gray cast due to internal purple color zones. On rare occassions yellow and purple fluorite has also been found. Specimens are sometimes encountered during quarrying activities, and over the years have come out in small numbers courtesy of quarry employees and weekend collectors. Clandestine visits by the latter have, as at the Heights Quarry, given the quarry management a decidedly unwelcoming attitude toward mineral collectors. Mineralization in the quarry has never been studied, but visitors to the quarry have reported that fluorite-containing cavities occur near the top of the Great Limestone (High Flats Horizon), associated with a mineralized vein which may be an unmapped extension of the Heights West Cross Vein on the south side of the River Wear.

A cluster of rare yellow fluorite crystals up to 2.0 cm on edge, from the Eastgate Cement Quarry.

In 2001 the quarry operation was purchased by the French firm La Farge, and operations ceased the following year. By 2006 the processing plant was completely demolished. Attempts at reclaimation in the quarry itself have now covered much, if not all the mineralized veins with overburden, leaving it essentially an extinct locality.

Frazer's Hush and Groverake Mines

The Frazer's Hush Mine was developed on the Greencleugh Vein, a western extension of of the Red Vein which runs most the length of Rookhopeburn. The mine takes its name from a nearby hushing site which likely dates from medieval times. Hushing was a form of hydraulic mining in which a stream was dammed and allowed to pond. The dam was then breached, allowing the rushing water to strip away the downstream top soil, exposing bedrock and any ore-bearing deposits present.

A well formed, twinned purple fluorite crystal, 2 cm on edge, recovered from the 340 level in 1988. The fluorite is on a matrix of fine grained sphalerite.

Numerous older workings are present in the vicinity, including 19th century workings for lead and iron at the nearby Groverake, but the Frazer's Hush Mine proper was established in the early 1970's when a drilling program revealed substantial fluorspar deposits on the Greencleugh Vein to below the level of the Great Limestone. Work was initiated by the Weardale Lead Company but was soon taken over by SAMUK, who drove an incline from surface (433 meters) down to the 338 level in the middle of the Great Limestone. The levels of the Frazer's Hush Mine are numbered from sealevel, unlike other local mines which usually number levels by depth from surface at the mine entrance.

During the late 1980's to early 1990's the Frazer's Hush mine produced numerous specimens of glassy, transparent, twinned purple fluorite crystals, associated with quartz or sulphides such as galena or sphalerite. Most of these came from the 340 and 325 levels in the Great Limestone. The mine has also produced large, untwinned, opaque fluorite crystals, both purple and green. The cores of some of these green fluorites proved quite gemmy and furnished some beautiful forest-green faceting material.

A group of twinned, pale purple fluorite crystals, up to 3 cm in size, on a matrix of crystalline quartz from the Groverake Mine. Though not a major specimen-producer, the Groverake was the leading producer of fluorspar in Weardale during the 1980's and 1990's.

During this time, the Groverake mine, located on the Red Vein, just to the east of Frazer's Hush was developed for fluorspar, and the mine became one of the region's major producers during the latter 20th Century. Operation of both mines were taken over by Weardale Minerals Company in the late 1980's and operated until shut-down in 1999. The underground workings on the two mines joined up in the early 1990s, and a result, the two are sometimes referred to jointly as "Frazer's Grove."

Greenlaws Mine

The Greenlaws Mine is located approximately 1 km south of St. John's Chapel. Two parallel veins, the Greenlaws East and West were worked by the mine, but the east vein appears to have been far more productive. The Greenlaws East Vein was worked by the Beaumont Company between 1850 - 1884 for lead, and for a short period there-after by the Weardale Lead Company. Attempts to reopen the mine in the 1940's for fluorspar were reportedly unsuccessful. Dunham (1990) reports the presence of a small belt of cavity-bearing flats adjacent to the Greenlaws East Vein at the High Flats horizon in the Great Limestone, along with some in the upper portions of the Scar Limestone. Specimens of amber fluorite are reported to have come from the mine. Recently, a group of collector/dealers have rehabilitated a shaft accessing the mine and have recovered some well formed, dark purple specimens of untwinned fluorite.

A cluster of yellow and purple fluorite crystals, up to 4 cm, overgrowing a mound of smaller purple fluorites, from the Greenlaws Mine, East Vein. Specimen dates to the latter 19th century.

Heights Mine and Quarry

The Heights Mine is located to the north of the River Wear, between the villages of Eastgate and Westgate. During the mid to late 19th century numerous underground workings were developed on three veins - the roughly parallel Heights North and South Veins, and the intersecting West Cross Vein. Though originally prospected by the Beaumont Company for lead, the Heights Mine was principally worked by the Weardale Iron Company between 1850 and 1868 as a source of iron ore. Commercial iron deposits were found in the flats surrounding the veins as limonite derived from the oxidation of iron carbonates (ankerite and/or siderite).

Green, twinned fluorite crystals to 1.5 cm across, on limonitic limestone matrix, from the Heights South Vein.

The flats in the Heights Mine occur primarily at the High Flat Horizon near the top of the Great Limestone. These flats are quite vuggy, and have been the source of some magnificant quality specimens of twinned, emerald-green fluorite, in crystals up to 4 cm. Well formed specimens of pale purple to colorless fluorite have also been found. Associated minerals include galena, calcite, and aragonite. Large, opaque green fluorite crystals up to 8 cm have also been found.

Pale purple, twinned fluorite crystals, to 2.5 cm across, from the Heights West Cross Vein

In recent years the area surrounding the original mine has been developed as a quarry for crushed stone. Most of the original underground workings are now inaccessable, or in very dangerous condition. In addition, most, if not all of the Heights South Vein has been removed by the quarry operation. Quality fluorite specimens are still occassionally found, but the quarry management is said to be fairly hostile toward mineral collectors. This situation has, no doubt, been aggrevated by the clandestine visits of numerous "weekend warriors" some of who have caused damage to the quarry operations.

Several twinned green fluorite crystals up to 2 cm on edge, on a cluster of larger opaque, untwinned fluorites. From the Heights South Vein.

Hilton Mine, Scordale, Cumbria

The Hilton Mine complex is located at the head of Scordale, approximately 4 km NE of the village of Hilton in Cumbria (formerly Westmorland). The Hilton Mine proper is located on the east side of the valley, while the Murton is on the west. Both mines accesses ore-bearing veins and an extensive belt of associated flats located at the top of the Melmerby Scar Limestone. Dunham (1990) notes that fluorite was more common in stopes developed on veins lower down in the Melmerby Scar Limestone than in the upper flats. Both the Hilton and Murton Mines were worked by the London Lead Company for galena between 1824 - 1876. The mines were reopened in 1896 and worked by a succession of owners for witherite and barytes (barite) until 1919. Though largely inactive since, the mine was held under lease until 1963 when it was finally abandoned. The area surrounding the mine was incorporated into a military manoeuvers range in the early 1980s, and since that time access to upper Scordale has been highly restricted.

A large twinned yellow fluorite crystal, 2.8 cm on edge, from the Hilton Mine, Scordale, Cumbria.

The Scordale mines are unusual in that, despite being well outside of the "Fluorite Zone" centering on Weardale, fluorite is commonly found in association with barite in the flats of both the Hilton and Murton Mines. In addition, the Scordale mines are one of the few localities in the region where fluorite and barium minerals are found together. The Hilton mine has been the source of the finest specimens of yellow-amber fluorite found in the North Pennines, and while a few specimens are known to have survived from the period of active mining, most seen today were recovered from the Dow Scar and Middle Levels of the Hilton during the 1960's and 1970's by private collectors who frequented the mine. Sadly, the area is now off limits to collecting.

A group of gemmy, twinned yellow fluorite crystals, up to 2 cm, from the Hilton Mine, Scordale, Cumbria.

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