Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine

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Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Ukraine

INTRODUCTION

Although the Volodarsk-Volynskii Pegmatite Field was first described during the mid to late-1800s, for many years only industrial minerals were mined for piezoelectric quartz and optical grade fluorite. It is only in the post-Soviet era that mining for gem minerals developed. Although almost 100 mineral species have now been identified form this deposit, it is the world-class heliodor and aquamarine beryl, magnificent blue and Champaign topaz and jet-black Morion quartz for which it now famed. The deposit is renowned for its enormous crystal-lined pockets, termed the Chamber Pegmatites and these have been known to contain quartz crystals weighing up to ten tons! The Volodarsk mine was worked between 2015 and 2018 for the specimen collector market and within the first months of operation fine blue topaz crystals associated with muscovite and Morion were recovered.

LOCATION

The town of Volodarsk-Volynskii is in the Zhitomir Oblast of the Ukraine and lies almost due west of Kiev, some 188 km (117 miles) by road (Figure 1). The mine is a few kilometres west of the town.

Map - Ukraine In Europe Map - Ukraine
Figure 1: Location of the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine

Volodarsk-Volynskii is a small town that grew with the expansion of the mine during the Soviet era. Figure 2 shows the name sign, in Ukrainian, on entering the town. It must be mentioned that there are various spellings of Volodarsk-Volynskii in the English language and no standard prevails.

Entering Volodarsk
Figure 2: Entering Volodarsk-Volynskii.

Most of the old open pit workings are now water filled and Figure 3 is typical of the surrounding countryside.

Flooded Pit
Figure 3: The Vishnyakovka open pit with spoil heaps on the far left, one of many flooded pits in the Volodarsk-Volynskii district. May 2017.

MINING HISTORY

The occurrence of well crystallised minerals such as Quartz and Topaz were first recognised by farmers while working their fields; the plough would often turn up fine gem material. For many years no geological investigation was conducted because it was assumed the Ukraine could not produce such exotic minerals and presumed, they had been transported during the Ice Age from the northern Scandinavian countries. The pegmatite bodies were first described in 1851 but were not seriously mined until 1931 and this continued until 1993.

During the Soviet era the gem material was usually discarded to the waste spoil heaps because the economic commodity was piezo quartz. During the period 1944 to 1993, 5,200 tons of quartz was mined of which 119 tons was piezo quartz. Piezo quartz is that which develops a piezoelectric charge when compressed and has many industrial uses. A common appliance is that of the piezo lighter, used for igniting gas in a cooker or cigarette lighter. It is also recorded that 22 tons of topaz and 4 tons of beryl were mined. Figures 4 to 6 show mining operations during the Soviet period.

Volodarsk Archive 1
Figure 4: Archive photograph of surface mining operations at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Volodarsk Archive 2
Figure 5: Archive photograph of surface mining operations at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine. Rigging-up a water monitor.
Volodarsk High Pressure Jet
Figure 6: Archive photograph of surface mining operations at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine. A high-pressure jet of water is created by the large nozzle, termed a monitor, and is used to erode the working face of the friable granitic pegmatite.

Figures 7 and 8 show parts of the mine as it was in 2016 while specimen recovery operations were in progress. Martin Števko was the acting UKMV mineralogist at the mine during specimen recovery.

Headframe
Figure 7. Shaft No. 1 headframe at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Ukraine in winter, January 2017.
Headframe 2
Figure 8. Shaft No. 2 headframe at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Ukraine. May 2017.

REGIONAL GEOLOGY

The gradual formation of continental crust throughout geological time was primarily a result of partial melting of the original basaltic crust giving rise to the generation of granites. One reason why granite formation differs from that of basalt is the presence of water; a combination of volatile elements migrating towards the surface and recycled meteoric water. Granite is of lower density than basalt and migrated through and above it, so building the continental crust. The Volodarsk-Volynskii mine lies within the Ukrainian Shield (also termed the Ukrainian Crystalline Massif), an ancient and complex accumulation of rock which forms the East European craton. Much of the Shield is dated at between 3.2 to 3.8 Ga (Giga, billion or thousand million years) and originally formed the Archaean crust. The Earth formed some 4.54 Ga ago, so making these some of the oldest rocks on Earth.

The Volodarsk-Volynskii pegmatite body is a part of the Volynpegmatite of the Proterozoic Kotosten pluton. This is about 1.77 Ga old, considerably younger than the surrounding Shield rocks and covers an area of approximately 110 x 150 km (16,500 km2).

MINE GEOLOGY AND MINERALISATION

Granite Formation and Emplacement

When granite forms around the interface of the crust and mantle, the presence of water concentrates many of the rarer and most exotic elements which otherwise remain in extremely low concentrations throughout, say, a basalt. Because these elements do not easily combine with the elements which form a basalt, these remain trapped at crystal boundaries as individual atoms. Water is a powerful solvent and when granite forms in a partial melt, these rare elements are incorporated into the aqueous phase.

As previously stated, granite is of a lower density than most crustal rocks and so gradually rises through the crust. At first consideration this would appear a difficult process when, by definition, the crust is solid. Various mechanisms allow for this to happen, one being the process of piecemeal stoping. The hot viscous granite slowly rises due of its buoyancy and causes fractures to develop in the overlying solid country rock, as a result of the high stresses imposed. Blocks of the country rock become detached and sink down (due to their higher density) into granite melt. These may totally melt and become absorbed into the granite, or if they remain intact, they are high metamorphosed and become xenoliths. By this gradual process the granite progresses upwards. Granite and associated pegmatite distribution in the Volodarsk-Volynskii area is shown in Figures 9 and 10.

Geological Map
Figure 9: Geological map of the Volodarsk-Volynskii pegmatite, also referred to as the Volyn Quartz Deposit when mined for piezoelectric Quartz. The pegmatites cover a large area and form a complex distribution of mineralised chambers down to about 600m.
Satelite Image
Figure 10: Satellite image of the Volodarsk-Volynskii region with the pegmatite deposit highlighted together with the primary shafts. Google Images.
Granite Classification

The Volodarsk-Volynskii granite is a most unusual granite because of its rock forming minerals, texture and the scale of its miarolitic cavities. Unlike the most granites, this is a hornblende-biotite granite and contains large rounded crystals of orthoclase feldspar each with a rim of oligoclase feldspar. First thought to be unique, other similar granite bodies have been discovered around the world and the term Rapakivi granite is now used. This is named for type deposit in southern Finland where the rapakivi granite intrusions were first described by the Finnish petrologist Jakob Sederholm in 1891. The Finnish word “rapakivi” is used as it means “crumbly rock”. Such granites are extremely friable (or crumbly) due to the combination of rock forming mineral from which they are composed; their thermal expansion coefficients being markedly different, causing the mineral grains to part when subject to large changes in temperature (i.e. on cooling of the granite-pegmatite melt).

Pegmatite Formation

Although the rarer elements are now much more concentrated in the water phase of the granite, the problem remains that they do not readily combine with the more common rock-forming elements which gradually crystallise out to form the granite. As the granite cools and begins to solidify it is termed a crystal mush; a mixture of developing solid crystals in a viscous water-rich melt. As crystallisation of the granite continues the rarer elements become ever increasingly concentrated and accumulate above the cooling granite mass. Scum floating in a pan of jam or slag rising in molten iron are suitably analogous. Once all the rock-forming elements are exhausted only the exotic, metal-rich water phase remains and this cools to form a pegmatite. Through this process of differentiation pegmatite bodies usually cap the granite or are distributed along its cooler flanks. It is through this process of element concentration that the large array of minerals at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine have formed.

Miarolitic Cavities

Miarolitic cavity is the term applied to vugs which occur in granitic pegmatites, often containing well crystallised minerals. They are formed as the pegmatite body solidifies, usually from the outer margins inwards. The volatile portion of the magma is yet again concentrated due to its incompatibility with the granitic mineralogy. Often at the point where these elements are sufficiently concentrated to begin forming crystals of, say, Beryl, Topaz and Quartz, their remains suitable accommodation space in which perfect crystals to develop. A schematic of a mineralised miarolitic cavity in the Volodarsk-Volynskii rapakivi-type granite is shown in Figure 11. The cavities can be unusually large and are termed Chamber Pegmatites. These typically occur at between 100m to 150m below surface, but are known to be as deep as 600m.

Schematic
Figure 11: Schematic of a mineralised miarolitic cavity in a rapakivi-type granite.
Minerals

Mindat lists 83 valid minerals occurring at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine. The mine contains no type species but is world famous for its Beryl, Topaz and Quartz. Table 1 lists the primary and rarer gem minerals and Table 2 the varieties for Albite, Beryl and Quartz found at the mine. For a full and current full list visit https://www.mindat.org/.

Table 1: Gem minerals found at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine
Mineral Species Chemical Formula Word-formula
Beryl Be3Al2(Si6O18) Beryllium silicate hydroxide
Quartz var. Morion SiO2 Silicon oxide
Topaz Al2(SiO4)(F,OH)2 Aluminium silicate fluoride hydroxide
Very Rare
Euclase BeAl(SiO4)(OH) Beryllium aluminosilicate hydroxide
Spessartine (garnet) Mn32+Al2(SiO4)3 Manganese aluminium silicate
Spinel MgAl2O4 Magnesium aluminium oxide
Zircon Zr(SiO4) Zirconium silicate
Table 2: Gem minerals found at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine
Mineral Species Variety Colour Comments
Albite (Feldspar) Cleavelandite A thinly plated snow-white variety of Albite
Oligoclase A blocky crystallised variety of white Albite
Beryl Aquamarine Pale blue variety of Quartz
Heliodor Occurs as acidic lime-green and yellow crystals
Quartz Amethyst Lilac to deep purple Quartz
Chalcedony Variable colours: white, tan, buff, brown
Citrine Delicate lemon-yellow Quartz
Morion Jet-black opaque Quartz occurring as large xls
Rock crystal Colourless and water-clear Quartz
Smoky quartz Light to dark smoky-grey Quartz

SPECIMEN MINING AT VOLODARSK-VOLYNSKII MINE

Mining operations commenced in 2015 following the delineation of 12 main orebodies after a comprehensive sampling programme by auger drilling (Figure 12). Figure 13 shows freshly drilled pegmatite cores laid out ready for description which then feed into the overall geological and mineralogical assessment.

Specimen recovery took place both as shallow surface operations and underground mining operation in some of the chamber pegmatites. The accompanying video shows the surface operation being mined by several hydraulic excavators in the soft clay-rich upper zones of the weathered pegmatite body.

A selection of the pegmatite chambers mined during this period together with some of the stunning specimens found are featured throughout Figures 14 to 20.

Drill Drill
Figure 12: Geological mapping and pegmatite delineation by auger drilling within the pegmatite. The rig is show drilling Pegmatite No. 206.
Pegmatite 1 Pegmatite 1
Figure 13: Core recovered from Pegmatite No. 206, Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Ukraine.
Topaz Map Topaz Map
Figure 14: New Topaz find in Pegmatite 336, Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine. Summer, 2017.
Topaz 1 Topaz 2
Figure 15: New Topaz find in Pegmatite 336, Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Topaz 3 Topaz 4
Figure 16: New Topaz find in Pegmatite 336, Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Topaz 5
Figure 17: New Topaz find in Pegmatite 336, Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Topaz Map
Figure 18: Location of Pegmatite 521, Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Rock Drilling 1 Rock Drilling 2
Figure 19: Rock drilling in the Pegmatite 521 chamber, Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine. 2017.
Beryl Discovery
Figure 20: A new Beryl (variety Heliodor) discovery in Pegmatite 521, Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.

WHAT'S NEW

Friday 21st June 2019

The Volodarsk-Volynskii mine is currently non-operational until further notice.

UK Mining Ventures still have many superb specimens of both Heliodor (Beryl) and Topaz. Please contact us for more details.

PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVES

This section is a repository for information and photographs taken between 2015 and 2018 which document the mineral treasures of the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine.

There are two photographic archives: Photo Archive 1: Specimen Treasures of Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine and Photo Archive 2: Specimen Mining at Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine. These contain a wide selection of photos of many sublime gem specimens and mining activity during the specimen recovery operation in between 2015 and 2018.

Photo Archive 1: Specimen Treasures of Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine

Heliodor 1 Heliodor 2
Beryl var. Heliodor [lime-green], 12 cm (left) and Beryl var. heliodor [acid-yellow], 9 cm from Pegmatite No. 521, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Topaz with Albite
Bicolour Topaz on Albite, variety Cleavelandite, 12 cm; Pegmatite No. 569, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Topaz with Fluorite
Bicolour topaz with fluorite inclusions, 15 cm Pegmatite No. 233, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Heliodor
Beryl var. heliodor, 17 cm Pegmatite No. 521, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Surface Etching
Surface natural etch patterns in Beryl var. Heliodor, FoV 3 cm. Pegmatite No. 576, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Topaz And Aquamarine
Faceted Topaz and Aquamarine and Heliodor varieties of Beryl. Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Exquisite Topaz
Exquisite Topaz find from pegmatite No. 206, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Exquisite Topaz
Exquisite Topaz find from pegmatite No. 206, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Bi-coloured Topaz
Exquisite bi-coloured Topaz finds from pegmatite No. 206, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Bi-coloured Topaz
Beautiful faceted bi-coloured Topaz from pegmatite No. 206, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Heliodor
Beryl var. Heliodor, 5 cm, Pegmatite No. 206, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Heliodor
Beryl var. Heliodor, 6 cm, Pegmatite No. 206, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Heliodor
Beryl var. Heliodor, 11 cm, Pegmatite No. 206, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.

Photo Archive 2: Specimen Mining at Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine

Frshly Discovered Beryl
Freshly discovered large Beryl crystal in the shallow surface workings, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine. Ian Bruce pictured right looking well-pleased with a good day’s work.
Diana Bruce Digging Beryl
Diana Bruce helping to dig out a large Beryl crystal from the enveloping clay. Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine. It would appear someone is shouting down words of encouragement, or something to that effect!
Freshly dug Beryl
Freshly extracted Beryl crystal from the shallow surface workings, Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Ukraine. Ian Bruce (left) with Martin Števko holding the crystal.
Diana Bruce and Giant Beryl
Diana holding a giant Beryl, Volodarsk-Volynskii Mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Brian Swoboda with Giant Beryls
Mr Brian Swoboda himself about to be pounded with giant Beryl crystals at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Ukraine. Based on the position of Brian’s right arm, it would appear to be a selfie, therefore making this another Brian Swoboda photo! Don’t panic Brian, don’t panic!
Discovering Topaz
Topaz discovered during 2017 in the shallow surface workings of Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Ukraine. Martin Števko (left) with a local miner.
Impressive Topaz
A very impressive Topaz crystal, freshly extracted in 2017 at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Admiring Topaz
Miner admiring a bi-coloured Topaz crystal in 2017. Shallow surface workings, Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Champagne Pink Topaz
A rather chuffed looking Martin Števko with a more pensive looking miner showing off freshly extracted Champagne-pink Topaz crystals in 2017 from the clay-filled shallow surface workings. Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Morion Quartz
A superb clay-covered Morion quartz gets the big thumbs-up, freshly discovered in 2017. Even the miners are smiling now, so it must be a good ‘un! Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Large Morion Quartz
An even larger Morion quartz in this wonderful discovery of 2017 at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine. Martin Števko holding the crystal with Miroslav propping him up.
Stunning Morion Quartz
Martin Števko with three stunning Morion quartz crystals, now all cleaned free of clay, discovered in 2017. Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Lime Green Beryl
A choice lime-green Beryl crystal (variety Heliodor) showing good colour, clarity and a nice termination. Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Acid and Lemon Beryl
Two more Heliodor Beryl finds, acidic-yellow and pale lemon-yellow, at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Fantastic Heliodor
Just another day at the office! Yet another fantastic Heliodor Beryl found in 2017 at the Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Gemmy Beryls
More incredible gemmy Beryl crystals, both variety Heliodor, with yet again such terrific variation and richness of colour. Volodarsk-Volynskii mine, Zhytomyr Oblast', Ukraine.
Volodarsk mining team
The Volodarsk-Volynskii mining team with Beryl crystals and doing some super-cool “down-with-the-kids” hand gestures, no doubt directed by Mr Swoboda himself!
REFERENCES
Back, M.E. (2014) Fleisher’s Glossary of Mineral Species 2014. The Mineralogical Record Inc., Tucson.
Borisenko, L.F. and Chudinov, V.I. (1986) Distribution of Sc, Ta, Hf, Zr, Co, and Fe in the crust of weathering of metalliferous gabbro-norites in Volodarsk-Volyn rock body.
Cerny, P. (ed.) (1982) Granitic Pegmatites in Science and Industry. PDF download.
Dumanska-Slowik, M.A.; Natkaniec-Nowak, L. and Toboła, T. (2010) Preliminary investigations of inclusions in some topaz crystals from Volodarsk - Volynski massif (western Ukraine).
Dumanska-Slowik, M.A.; Wesełucha-Birczyńska, A. and Natkaniec-Nowak, L. (2013) Inclusions in topaz from miarolitic pegmatites of the Volodarsk-Volynski Massif (Ukraine) - A Raman spectroscopic study.
Edwards, R. and Atkinson, K. 1986. Ore Deposit Geology. Cambridge University Press.
Evans, A.M. (1980) An Introduction to Ore Geology. Elsevier Science Ltd.
Gramenitskiy, Y.N. and Pham, T.X. (1987) Chemical composition of the Volyn' granites and pegmatites.
King, V.T. (2010) Collector's Guide to Granite Pegmatites (Schiffer Earth Science Monographs). Schiffer Publishing Ltd., Atglen, Pennsylvania, USA. 96 pp.
Kravchenko, S.N. (2005) First estimate for the age of a Mesoproterozoic palaeomagnetic pole from the Volodarsk-Volynsky Massif, the Ukrainian Shield.
London, D. (2008) Pegmatites. The Canadian Mineralogist, Special Publication 10, 347 pp.
Lyckberg, P., Chornousenko, V. and Wilson, W.E. (2009) Famous mineral localities: Volodarsk-Volynski, Zhitomir Oblast, Ukraine in The Mineralogical Record Vol. 40, No. 6. pp. 473-506.
Mindat: on-line mineralogical database. https://www.mindat.org/
Moore, T.P. (2016) Moore’s Compendium of Mineral Discoveries 1960-2015. Volume I A-H. The Mineralogical Record, Inc., Tucson, Arizona.
Morgenstein, M. (2016) Quartz cubes from Volodarsk-Volynski, Ukraine.
Park, C.F. and MacDiarmid, R.A. (1970) Ore deposits. W.H. Freeman.
Praszkier, T. (2003) Volodarsk-Volynski, Ukraine. Web article @ Spiriferminerals.com
Shumlyanskyy, L. and Zagnitko V.M. (2011) The isotope age, geochemistry and mineralogy of pegmatites in anorthosites of the Volodarsk-Volynsky massif, Korosten complex.
Simmons, W.B., Webber, K.L., Falster, A.U. and Nizamoff, J.W. (2003) Pegmatology: Pegmatite Mineralogy, Petrology and Petrogenesis. Rubellite Press, New Orleans, Louisiana, 176 pp.

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