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Benitoite Gem Mine, Spring, 2007

by Jay Bates, member, SFGMS

May 20, 2007

This last weekend, I spent Sunday at the Benitoite Gem Mine in San Benito County. The mine is now open for business and you can go there and screen the tailings for $100 per person per day. It requires a four wheel drive vehicle and a couple hours of hard rough driving on miserable roads, sometimes in four wheel, after you leave the pavement. There are a couple of articles slated for publishing soon in the Rock and Gem magazine, one on mining there and most importantly on how to get there, and the other article provides information on a large stone found there and recently cut. Detailed directions are needed to get to the mine.

I found the following specimen there in my first trip to the mine...

A 5" X 8" Benitoite specimen, split and acid etched

The mine was bought in the last year or so by Dave Schreiner, who I talked to this morning on the phone. He is eager to get some information out there to potential miners. His phone numbers are: 559-935-5909 and cell 559-284-4126. To go to the mine you have to make reservations with Dave. You should bring your own screens if possible. The screen openings should be an eighth of an inch.

I need to forewarn anyone contemplating this trip, it is not for the faint hearted. The trip into the mine is an ordeal in of itself. Also, it is hard work digging, screening and washing for Benitoite. The rewards are found in one of the most beautiful and rarest of gemstones. There are also valuable and unique specimens to be had.

The night before we had camped at Staging Area Five on Clear Creek. The crescent Moon was seemingly reaching for a planet (Venus??), like you see on the flag of Turkey. It was quiet, since the off-road motorcylists were no longer there, with a summer ban on off-road travel in affect. We also could not have a fire because of high fire danger. The road was very rough, but dry and passable with a high clearance vehicle. We never had to resort to four wheel drive as is necessary in the winter months.

I got about 8 benitoites last Sunday, but only 1 that may be a cutter. The tailings at the Benitoite Gem Mine are those shown where we are screening and washing for benitoite crystals. I was digging, screening, then washing and separating by myself. It was a beautiful day in the seventies. We hauled in our own equipment and most of the water, although the mine provided some water. A couple of our group were searching for benitoite specimens rather than screening.

Myself and Harry White

Man looking through screenings

A benitoite find gathers all the crew

A good picture of my screening rig

Ahh, a benitoite crystal!!

New Idria is a ghost town on one of the ways to the Benitoite Gem Mine. We went through there on our way back.

New Idria... yes that is mercury mine tailing runoff

Mine Rescue Office. Wonder how often it got used


Ore chutes

Adobe house

The San Francisco Gem & Mineral Society, Inc.

4134 Judah Street

San Francisco, CA 94122


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