Sirius Barite Mine in Western Colorado

Sirius Barite Mine in Western Colorado

The story of the Sirius barite mine in the Book Cliffs of western Colorado.

Each morning I take my young Labrador Retriever for a walk in the North desert near Grand Junction. Working our way through the winding riverbed I found these white colored heavily weathered crystals. I have found thin Gypsum crystals and Mica in the area but this was much too large and heavy for Gypsum.

A little research on the Internet and I discovered that a rare water clear crystal of Barite existed in the Book Cliffs, had been heavily mined in the past, and that most of the crystals have already been removed.

In late February I set out to find an old Barite mine and chose the eroded hilltops near the area we walk. Still quite muddy and snow covered on the North hillsides we worked our way up the hill following a ATV trail. At the base of one of these hills I found several sugar cube sized crystals on the hillside. As I climbed the steep hill collecting specimens the quality seemed to be improving as I went up, in both size and clarity. I decided to climb to the top and found lots of exposed crystals and broken shale. I collected as many crystals as I could carry in my coat pocket and headed back to where my SUV was parked about a mile away.

I looked up the location of the crystals on Google Earth and discovered what surrounding shale layers looked like and started to map out other locations to explore. I noticed that with the sun angle in the google earth picture revealed a rectangular shadow on most of the hilltops where a chunk of rock had been removed. I had been standing in a series of mine locations and did not realize it. The broken shale was the tailings from the mining operations, and the calcite crystals strewn everywhere were shattered parts of much larger formations that had been discarded. Considering all of the nice crystals I was finding, the one they pulled out of there must have been impressive.

Now that I had identified what a barite mine site looked like, we would go explore these each morning on our walk. It appeared that all of the exposed shale had about a yard of material removed in a cube or box shape. I read that a barite "egg" had been removed that contained perfect clear crystals in the center. The scrap material that had been removed from around the center crystal was the discarded material found on the hillsides. The scrap consists of mostly calcite ranging from white in color to clear and even some nearly transparent, or optically clear.

On March 1st of 2022 I found the first unmined crystal very close to a location already mined. I established the markers for the four corners of the claim site, built a locator cairn, and filed a lode mining claim of the site on BLM land.


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