Virtual Museum ID: 17-PME22834
With calcite from the Bluebell Mine
Quartz is the second most abundant mineral on Earth, present in many different types of rocks. Although usually clear or milky white in colour, quartz is found in a variety of colours due to impurities in the crystal structure. Pure quartz consists of silicon and oxygen only, but atoms of other elements often make their way into the quartz crystal structure. Some varieties of quartz, like purple amethyst and yellow citrine, are considered to be semi-precious gemstones and have been used since ancient times to make jewellery and decorative objects. Well formed (euhedral) crystals of quartz have a hexagonal cross section and are highly collectible.
Calcite is a form of calcium carbonate that grows in rhombic crystals and is usually white or pale pink in colour. Calcite can sometimes be confused with quartz but can be easily distinguished when scratched or tested with weak hydrochloric acid. Unlike quartz, calcite can be scratched with a pocket knife and fizzes when it comes into contact with acid. Calcite occurs in many different geological environments, either filling veins and cavities, forming chalk and limestone sedimentary rocks, or turning into marble when heated and metamorphosed. It is the main constituent of many shells and marine organisms like plankton. Trilobites, which have been extinct for about 250 million years, had special compound eyes made up clear calcite lenses.
This sample is from the Bluebell mine near Riondell, on the eastern shore of Kootenay Lake in southeastern BC. It contains beautiful needle-like euhedral quartz crystals as well as milky white rhombic calcite crystals.
The Bluebell mine was known for its galena and sphalerite enrichment, and was an important source of lead and zinc in the East Kootenays during the early 1900s. Quartz and calcite were abundant gangue (waste) minerals at the mine. The ore was mined out and milled to separate the valuable ore minerals from the quartz and calcite.
The area has a long mining history. Galena was first discovered in the Riondell area in 1825 and, according to some accounts, used by Hudsons Bay Company traders in the mid 1800s to make bullets. The first mineral claims were staked by American Robert Sproule, and included the area around the Bluebell Mine. He didn’t keep them for long though. When he left to register his claims, his claims were restaked by an Englishman, Thomas Hammill. A dispute followed and ended with Sproule shooting Hammill dead. Not long after, Sproule was also dead, executed by hanging as punishment for his crime.
The Bluebell mine went into production in the 1880s and changed hands several times throughout its history, with active mining operations from 1888 to 1929 and again from around 1950 to 1972. Ore was processed at a concentrator built by Cominco in Riondel in the 1950s. Cominco also built power lines across Kootenay Bay for the first time, bringing power to the east shore communities. A smelter at Pilot Bay to the south further refined the ore to extract lead and zinc, which were then transported further afield for use in industry.
Just how much ore was produced at the Bluebell mine is uncertain, but it was enough to generate over 500,000 tons of mill tailings, which ended up mainly at the bottom of Kootenay Lake.
The town of Riondell grew and shrank with the mine. At its peak in the 1950s, the population exceeded 300. Since the closure of the mine in the early 1970s, the population has declined and the community is now mainly a retirement community.
The information listed below relates to the current holding location or collection that the sample is from, and whether the item is viewable at that location or is part of a private collection. Coordinates are given as guides, and we remind you that collecting specimens from these locations is not allowed. Caution is advised visiting such sites and Below BC assumes no responsibility for any injuries or trespassing charges that may occur as a result of the viewer entering these sites.
Original Collection:Pacific Museum of Earth (PME)
Virtual Museum ID:17-PME22834
Date Added to VM:2017-12-08
Sample Origin:Riondel, British Columbia
Specific Site:Bluebell Mine
Datum:11 (NAD 83)
Primary Mineral Formula:SiO2
Primary Category:oxide silicate
Advanced Geological Information
The following section provides geological data relating to the specimen or the site it was collected from, when available. Information has been obtained from various sources including private and government datasets but may not be up to date. Any geological time periods or ages listed often relate to the primary geology of the area, and may not be the actual date of an event such as mineral formation.
Geological Formation:Badshot Formation
Geological Period:Lower Cambrian
Stratigraphic Age:510 to 541 Million Years Ago
Geological Terrane:Ancestral North America
In 1825, a botanist discovered sulphide ore at the Bluebell site. In later years, Hudson Bay Company trappers used galena from this site to make bullets. The site was staked by R.E. Sproule in 1882. The Bluebell occurrence consists of three main zones approximately 500 metres apart along strike of the Lower Cambrian Badshot Formation marble. The Comfort zone (082FNE044) occurs at the north end of Riondel Peninsula, the Bluebell zone in the centre, and the Kootenay Chief (082FNE042) at the south end. The zones are localized along steep cross-fractures that trend west-northwesterly and dip 80 to 90 degrees north. Within the zones are tabular ore shoots that are transverse to the bedding and plunge westward following the intersection of the fractures with the marbles. The ore occurs as replacement deposits along steep cross fractures in the marbles. Bedding planes and minor structures tend to localize the deposit. The ore consists of galena, sphalerite, pyrrhotite, pyrite, arsenopyrite, and chalcopyrite. The gangue occurring with the sulphides consists of carbonates, coarsely-grained quartz and knebelite. Oxidation of the deposit has occurred to depths well below lake level.
The large surface showing was known to early fur traders and was brought to the attention of mining capital as early as 1865. The first claims were located in 1852 and development work was begun two years later. By 1891 about 70 claims had been staked in the surrounding area. From 1888 to 1896 the mine was operated by the Kootenay Mining & Smelting Co. Ltd.
In 1906 the property was taken over by the Canadian Metal Co. Ltd. Due to financial difficulties the company was reorganized in 1911 under the name of the New Canadian Metal Co. They worked the property intermittently for about 20 years. There are three known centres of mineralization in the mine, spaced at approximately 457 metre intervals along the strike of the limestone. These three ore zones are known from north to south as the Comfort, the Bluebell, and the Kootenay Chief. At the time the mine closed an inclined shaft had been sunk on the Comfort ore zone and an adit driven on the Kootenay Chief claim.
The Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Ltd. acquired the property in 1931 and did some exploration work on the Bluebell, Comfort and Kootenay Chief claims, however the mine was not reopened. Further diamond drilling was done in 1942 but the results were not encouraging. In 1947 diamond drilling was done along about 1524 metres of limestone outcrop and the three orebodies mentioned above were outlined. The mine was reopened the following year.
Since 1947 an inclined shaft, located between the Bluebell and Kootenay Chief ore zones, has been sunk for 572 metres to a vertical depth of 247 metres. Development work has been carried out on all levels from 69 to 267 metres. A large volume of water enters the lower workings of the mine.
Development work during 1961-62 consisted of 3500 metres of drifting and crosscutting, 2,413 metres of raising and 10,394 metres of diamond drilling.
The mine closed in December 1971 due to depletion of the Ore reserves.
Approximately 500,000 tons of mill tailings containing zinc, lead and silver were dumped on the shore of Kootenay Lake in the early 1900s. Most of this material eventually slid to the bottom of the lake, 128 metres deep and 290 metres offshore. (Mining Magazine, December 1983, p. 446)