Important Specimen Producing Mines in and Around Weardale - Page 3

Redburn Mine

The Redburn Mine was developed to recover fluorspar from a section of the Red Vein begining approximately one kilometer west of the village of Rookhope. The mine is one of the few in Weardale of completely modern origins. Data from surveys conducted by Sir Kingsley Dunham suggested the possibility of commercial-grade deposits along an unproven section of the Red Vein between Rookhope and the Groverake Mine. In 1964 the Weardale Lead Company drove an incline and reached a substantial vein of fluorite at the base of the Great Limestone. The mine was later taken over by SAMUK, and a mineralized section of the vein was worked for over 300 meters to the west. Levels on this section extended down to the Five Yard Limestone. A second mineralized section was discovered 1200 meters west of the first. This section was worked for an additional 610 meters from levels largely in the Great and Little Limestones. Extraction of fluorspar is reported to have been very thorough, and the mine was closed in 1981 when economic reserves were considered depleted.

A cluster of green fluorite crystals, up to 2.5 cm, with selected faces coated by fine crystalline quartz, along with minor calcite. From the Redburn Mine.

While not a major source of mineral specimens, the Redburn Mine did produce some interesting material. Pale to medium green specimens of fluorite, both twinned and untwinned, associated with quartz, calcite, and minor sulphides have been seen by the author. Groups of small purple fluorite crystals, as well as some good quality "Jack-Straw" cerussite specimens were also recovered from the mine.

A pale green twinned fluorite crystal, 2 cm across on quartz, recovered from the Redburn Mine in 1974.

Rotherhope Fell Mine, Alston Moor, Cumbria

The Rotherhope Fell Mine (also known as Rodderup Fell) was one of the most prolific specimen-producing mines in Alston Moor. Lead mining on the Rotherhope Fell and related veins dates to the late 18th century, and Fairbairn (1993) lists a continuous succession of lease-holders and operators through the 19th. The property was acquired by the Vieille Montagne Lead and Zinc Company who operated the mine until 1947 when the mine was sold and dismantled. Reprocessing of old dump material for fluorspar continued into the 1970's.

A twinned fluorite crystal, 3 cm on edge, on quartz, from the Rotherhope Fell Mine, Tynebottom flats, ca. 1930. The fluorite shown the amber over purple color zoning characteristic of specimens from this find.

The most recent workings were accessed by an incline known as the Blackburn Level. From this level a number of drifts and underground shafts worked the vein at levels from the Five Yard Limestone down to the Whin Sill. During the late 1920s and early 1930s extensive flats were encountered in the Tynebottom Limestone, which produced some spectacular specimens. Fluorite, galena, and calcite were the most common minerals found, along with lesser amounts of other sulphides. Various shades of purple were the most common colors of fluorite, though amber fluorite was found as well. Fluorite crystals are often untwinned, and associations with galena and well formed calcite crystals are common. A good selection of specimens from the mine was acquired by Sir Arthur Russell, and are now with his collection in the Natural History Museum, London.

A twinned, purple fluorite crystal, 3.5 cm on edge, with associated calcite and quartz. From the Rotherhope Fell Mine, Tynebottom flats, ca. 1930.

St. Peter's Mine, East Allendale, Northumberland

The St. Peter's Mine, developed on the St. Peter's Vein, is located along the road between Allenheads and Allendale Town, near the hamlet of Spartylea in Northumberland. The current entrance is a vertical shaft of almost 100 meters (>300 feet) which accesses both vein and flats at the High Flat Horizon of the Great Limestone. According to Dunham (1990) the St. Peter's Vein was first discovered during the construction of the Blackett level, an adit originating at Allendale Town and driven 7.5 km southward toward Allenheads in order to explore and provide drainage for mine workings in East Allendale. Work began on the level in 1855 and was discontinued in 1903 at a point not far south of the St. Peter's Vein. The mine was worked for lead in the late 19th century by the Beaumont Company, who drove a level below the Great Limestone from the East Allen Wash, with a rise reaching the flats. During the first half of the 20th century the mine was operated by the Weardale Lead Company for fluorspar from both vein and flats in the Great Limestone. The was closed in 1946 when the Great Limestone (and ore-bearing veins and flats) were found to be truncated to the west by glacial sediments filling the East Allen valley.

A cluster of lustrous, amber, untwinned fluorite crystals, up to 4 cm, with minor overgrowths of quartz. Collected from the St. Peter's Mine in 1996.

Mineralogically, the St. Peter's Mine is best known for producing some very good quality specimens of bright apple-green fluorite during the 1930's. Most of this find was acquired by noted English collector Sir Arthur Russell, and was donated to the British Museum of Natural History, where it remains today. During the mid 1990s a group of English collectors and cavers leased the rights to work the mine (using hand tools only) for specimens. Some attractive specimens of lustrous, untwinned purplish-gray and amber fluorite with siderite overgrowths have been recovered, but the location of the legendary green fluorite remains ellusive.

A large cluster of green fluorite crystals from the St. Peter's Mine. The specimen was collected by Sir Arthur Russell in 1937 and is now in the British Museum of Natural History.

Stotsfieldburn Mine

The Stotsfieldburn Mine was developed on the Red Vein in an area on the southeast edge of the village of Rookhope. The mine was originally worked between 1863 - 1878 for lead by the Rookhope Valley Mining Company. The Weardale Lead Company reopened the mine in early 20th century for fluorspar, initially extracting it from dumps left during the lead mining period, and later, underground. Shafts and inclines eventually worked the vein down to the Three Yard Limestone, but by the early 1960's reserves of ore were becoming depleted, and the mine closed in 1966. Specimens produced from the mine include lustrous, twinned crystals of purple and purple-green fluorite, often associated with shiny, cubeoctahedral galena crystals, and a white quartz matrix.

Purple, twinned fluorite crystals to 1.8 cm across, with cubeoctahedral galena, on a quartz matrix, from the Stotsfieldburn Mine.

West Pastures Mine

The West Pastures Mine accesses the West Pastures Vein which is located on the eastern side of Stanhopeburn, approximately 2 km north of Stanhope. Details of the history of the mine are scarce, but it is located near the Stanhopeburn Mine, which worked the eastern end of the Red Vein for fluorspar until the late 1970's. Dunham (1990) describes the West Pastures Vein as an eastern branch of the Red Vein, and work on the West Pastures may have been related to activity at the Stanhopeburn Mine. Though in poor condition, the mine is still accessable, and collectors have recovered specimens of fluorite from flats in the Great Limestone in recent years. Fluorite from the West Pastures Mine ranges from apple green to gray-green when first recovered. Unfortunately, the color is not wholey stable and will fade on exposure to direct sunlight. Crystals are usually untwinned and often associated with a galena crust.

Apple-green, untwinned fluorite crystals, up to 2 cm across, on a crust of galena and limonite from the West Pastures Mine.

Whiteheaps Mine

The Whiteheaps Mine is located along the headwaters of the Derwent River, just south of Hunstanworth, in northern County Durham. Lead mining on several related veins in the area is recorded back to the early 18th century, but it appears that overall lead values were poor and none of the trials were overly successful. In 1921 Hunstanworth Mines Ltd began work for fluorspar but ceased operation in 1932 due to low prices. Blanchland Fluor Mines Ltd took over the operation in 1938 and installed a modern mill, which also processed fluorspar from the Groverake Mine. With nationalization of the industry in 1962 ownership passed to British Steel Corporation who drove several new inclines. In 1982 the mine was taken over by Weardale Mining and Processing Ltd, who continued work until 1987 when all work in the area ceased due to depleted reserves.

Lavender, twinned fluorite crystals to 1.5 cm across, with finely crystalline quartz from the Whiteheaps Mine.

The more recent mining for fluorspar was confined largely to the Great Limestone on both the White and Red Veins, accessed through both the Whiteheaps and Sikehead shafts. Though not a large specimen-producer, fluorite from the Whiteheaps mine is often a fairly distinctive pastel lavender-purple color and associated with partial overgrowths of white crystalline quartz. Flats were not reported to have been encountered in the Whiteheaps mine thus all specimens have come from cavities in the vein.

Fallowfields and Settlingstones Mines

A bit of a novelty for the North Pennines are the Fallowfields and Settlingstones mines, both located near the town of Hexham on the northern perimeter of the orefield in Northumberland. While both were originaly developed for lead, they are best known for being perhaps the only mines in the world that have been worked commercially for witherite as an ore of barium. Work on both sites can be traced back to the early 17th century. With the collapse of the world lead market in the later 19th century both mines transitioned to the production of witherite. The Fallowfields mine ceased production around the time of the First World War, while the Settlingstones mine remained in production until 1970. While fluorite is absent from the ores found at these mines, both produced excellent quality specimens of witherite, often associated with alstonite, and those from the Fallowfields are among the best known for the species. Both sites have been completely reclaimed and little evidence of the workings now survive.

Witherite is also known from a number of other North Pennines mines, including the Murton mine in Scordale and the Nentsburry Haggs mine in Nenthead, Alston Moor. At the latter, witherite specimens are often found pseudomorphed to varying degrees by barite.

A group of witherite crystals up to 3 cm tall on alstonite from the Fallowfields Mine, near Hexham, Northumberland. Specimen was recovered ca. 1890.

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