Tag Archives: mining

Geo-pic of the week: “The Great Little Rock Silver Rush”

 

Argentiferous galena enhanced

In September of 1982, this 800 lb. boulder was excavated by a backhoe operator during construction of the La Quinta Inn on Fairpark Boulevard (currently Day’s Inn), Little Rock, AR. Another worker on site recognized it as galena (ore of lead) and, wanting to score some quick cash, the finder began contacting local geologists, hoping to sell. Eventually, then State Geologist, Bill Williams, heard about it and sent another geologist from the Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS), Ben Clardy, to investigate. Clardy bought the boulder for $100 and the backhoe operator loaded it onto Clardy’s truck for transport back to the AGS office.

At the office, an engine lift was rented to remove it. The agency’s chemist, Gaston Bell, assayed a piece for silver, determining it contained 1 – 2 %, making it high-grade silver ore. Feeling he had cheated the seller, Clardy contacted him with the results but the seller was happy with the $100 deal. The State Geologist reimbursed Clardy and placed the specimen on display in the lobby of the AGS office.

News of the find spread quickly, as the story was picked up by local newspapers. Someone claiming to be the hotel property owner announced that the backhoe operator had stolen the rock and came to the AGS office demanding it back. It was now property of the state, but Bill Williams told him he could have it, as long as he could bring some large guys to carry it off; he didn’t want heavy equipment in the office lobby. The man left and never raised his claim to the rock again. A couple days later another piece was found on the property in the same mineralized pocket which was at the intersection of two quartz veins. The property owner took possession of that piece and sent it to Colorado where it was smelted and produced a substantial silver bar.

Around the same time, as the public became aware of the find, some midnight rock poachers began sneaking onto the property, after hours. Small chunks of galena appeared around town for sale, being marketed as “Little Rock Silver Ore”.

At least one silver company took an interest in the find, conducting a series of soil tests over several blocks surrounding the La Quinta property. They soon abandoned the effort due to the difficulty of mining in such an urbanized area. Results of their tests were never disclosed. Eventually, construction of La Quinta was completed, the lot was paved over, and thus ended the “Little Rock Silver Rush”.

The original 800 – pound chunk is still on display in the lobby of the AGS office in Little Rock. Part of the other piece, which was not melted down, was displayed in the lobby of the La Quinta Inn on Fairpark Boulevard before the property changed hands.

Based on written correspondence with Michael J. Howard

Geopic of the week: Turkey fat smithsonite

 

PB255451

Turkey fat smithsonite is the common name for the variety of zinc-ore mineral pictured above.  It derives its name from its yellow color and globular crystal habit (called botryoidal which is Greek for bunch of grapes).  The yellow is due to the presence of cadmium.  Early miners likened its appearance to the fat of a delicious turkey.

Smithsonite, along with other lead- and zinc-bearing minerals, was mined in the lead/zinc districts of the northern Ozark Plateaus and the western Ouachita Mountains.  Production started in 1857 and ended in 1962, with the peak occurring during WWI.  Though mining has ceased, it’s estimated that 110,000 short tons of shallow resources remain, and significant deeper deposits may, as of yet, have gone undiscovered.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Arkansas Geological Survey!

Geopic of the week: Arkansas gold scam

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Pictured above is one of the “gold” mines of Arkansas.  This is one of many prospect holes dug in the Ouachita Mountains around 1886 when investors fell victim to the first documented Arkansas gold scam.  It’s located in the Charlton Campground just west of Mt. Ida in the Ouachita Mountains.  The reality is no gold in commercially minable quantities has ever been found in Arkansas. 

Scams involving gold and other precious metals are not unique to the state, but they have been a recurring problem, as recently as the mid 1980s.  The scams, in a nutshell, consist of staking out a claim on a piece of land, obtaining falsified assay reports that show inflated values of precious metals, and then duping investors into buying parts of the claim.

Though it’s hard to imagine falling victim to such a scheme, the con-men have historically been quite successful.  As rumors spread, more and more people rush to get in on the bonanza.  By the time the dust starts to settle, the original instigators are gone and so is everyone’s money.