Pyromorphite (November 16th, 2015)

pyromorphite (November 16th, 2015)

It is Mineral Monday again, and this week Below BC brings you this beautiful piece of rock covered in Pyromorphite crystals!

Pyromorphite is a relatively common mineral found in area where there is lots of lead. It is what is known as a ‘secondary mineral’, meaning that when it is exposed to the atmosphere, it oxidizes and changes its structure – the same process as iron turning to rust. As it morphs, it will incorporate other elements into its matrix, thus changing its look and colour. Where the lead content is high enough, Pyromorphite can be mined.

This specimen is from the Society Girl Mine in Moyie, south east of Cranbrook in British Columbia. Moyie is very rich in mining history with the discovery of a large deposit of galena and the establishment of St. Eugene Mine in the late 1800’s. The town prospered and was the largest in the region until the mine shut down in 1911.

The Society Girl Mine was originally staked by a Father P.N.J. de Coccola on the 25th June, 1893. He had originally arrived in the area to take over management of the St. Eugene Mission. This was a time when American prospectors were moving through the area as part of a great ‘gold rush’, and Coccola, being familiar with rocks, asked members of his Ktunaxa First Nations flock to be on the look out for minerals in the area that could bring prosperity to the otherwise poor community. Alas they were reluctant prospectors, afraid that they would attract more ‘Whites’ into the area to take from their lands.

In 1892, on nearby Mark Creek some particularly promising ore claims were staked, Father Coccola redoubled his efforts, exhorting his charges to find the chikamin he desired. His persistence finally paid off in the spring of 1893 when one of his young parishioners, “Pielle” Tête de Fer, dumped a sackful of likely stones on Coccola’s desk. Sent to Spokane for analysis, a sample was found to contain wonderful percentages of lead generously gifted with silver. This led to Coccola staking the ground in 1893.

A developer from Spokane offered $12,000 for the claims, banking that the discovery would attract a railroad into the area, thus increasing his profits, and both Coccola and Pielle took the deal. The area saw a spike in mining activity, with stockpiles made by the lakes which were then shipped by rail to Montana for processing at smelting plants to recover the lead and silver.

You can read more about the history of Moyie here:

Specimen Information

Store: Pacific Museum of the Earth, University of British Columbia
Collection: UBC Geological Museum Collection
Accession #: 6741
Primary Mineral: Pyromorphite
Secondary Mineral:n/a
Site Locality: Society Girl Mine
Location: Moyie, British Columbia
Special Features: n/a