Maine Rocks and Minerals

Maine is an excellent state for rock and mineral collecting!

The northern part of Maine is hilly and often swampy, the southern part is rolling uplands broken by hills, isolated mountains and valleys. Glacial action caused many lakes to form behind debris that damned off the normal drainage, thus stripping the rocks of soil and exposing the layer of crystalline rocks where tourmalines and other gems are located. Oxford County, particularly just northwest of Auburn, has been well-known for more than a century, for its many mines and rock quarries that produce awesome rocks and minerals.

Gem grade rocks found in Maine include several varieties of quartz (clear, rose quartz, smoky quartz, and amethyst), beryl (as blue aquamarine and pink morganite), red garnet and tourmaline (pink, green, blue, and multicolored). Tourmaline was named the official State Mineral of Maine in 1971. Tourmaline has been mined in Maine since the 1820's, and the oldest location (Mount. Mica in Paris Hill found in 1821) is still producing today.

The first rose quartz ever found was at the Mount Mica Quarry about 1913-1915. The Dunton Gem Quarry, Newry, Maine, was the second known location of rose quartz found in 1927. Rose Quartz crystals were not known in Brazil until 1958.

Many of the best rocks and minerals in Maine are found in an igneous rock called "pegmatite", which is a very coarse-grained granite. Some pegmatites are rich in minerals such as beryl, topaz, and colored tourmaline. Pegmatite veins are abundant in parts of Oxford, Androscoggin, and Sagadahoc Counties. Most of them were commercially worked for mica or feldspar, creating piles of waste rock called dumps where collectors can search for specimens.

Road cuts and natural outcrops of other rock types occasionally provide good mineral specimens. Examples of metamorphic mineral occurrences include the kyanite and staurolite crystals in mica schist at Windham, garnet crystals in schist and calcium-rich rocks at numerous places, and vesuvianite crystals in Sanford.

Ores of lead, zinc, copper, and other metals can be collected from small abandoned mines in several areas of Maine, particularly the coastal region between Penobscot Bay and Eastport. Agates and other materials are found on the beaches in this part of the state, including Jasper Beach in Machiasport and Loring Cove in Perry. Traces of gold have been detected in widely scattered bedrock ore deposits, but most gold prospectors wash the gravel from stream beds in search of nuggets. The Swift River in Byron is one of the principal sources of placer gold.

Today granite quarries and gravel pits continue to contribute to the economy of Maine. Mining has a long history in the state, stretching back to the early 19th century. The Lubec Lead Mine, located near the town of Lubec, was an early mine operating in the 1830s. The mine predominantly extracted ores composed of sphalerite, galena, and chalcopyrite. The mine is now closed, but the area is still popular for amateur mineral collecting.

High silver prices drove a short period of silver mining near Cherryfield between 1905 and 1907. Manganese ore, discovered in the 1840s, was mined during World War II in Aroostook County for the US war effort. Harborside Copper Mine in Brooksville first opened in the 1880s, but was acquired and reopened by Callahan Mining Corporation from New York in 1965. The company got permission from the state to drain the Goose Pond tidal inlet and opened an open pit copper mine that operated until reserves were depleted in 1972.

Before venturing out-do some research on where and what you can collect. Remember you must have permission to collect on private property.

See my page on Rockhounding Rules for general information on the rules of collecting rocks on various lands.