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DIG FOR TREASURE

Want to search for tourmaline, several varieties of quart topaz, or beryl? Grab a sturdy rock hammer, some small shovels, chisels, gloves, and safety glasses, and hit the road fora likely spot. Many rockhounds head first for the Mt. Mica area in Paris the first mine in Paris Hill, which is still producing.

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Mt. Mica was named and mined primarily for the huge quantities of mica found there, a substance that was in great demand for industrial uses. Tourmaline and other gems w’ere found along with the mica, and gems were dug there until the 1970s. In 2003, new owners of the mine decided to dig deeper into the pegmatite, an igneous rock that is a coarsely crystalline type of granite where most Maine gems are found. Their decision paid off: They have made some of the best finds of multi colored tourmaline specimens since the mine opened in the 19th century.

The area in Maine where feldspar and mica were mined remains one of the best spots to find tourmaline, beryl, quartz, and amethyst. Besides these, pegmatite deposits also have produced chrvsoberyl, lepidolite, and spodumene. Metamorphic rocks have produced some garnet, kyanite, andalusite, sodalite, and staurolite. Dozens of old feldspar and mica mines are scattered across parts of Androscoggin. Sagadahoc, and especially the southern half of Oxford County.

Some mining spots that have traditionally been open may close to the public suddenly, so it’s best to check out any site before traveling there. Permission must be requested from landowners to use any private property.

Maine has a few businesses that offer guided mining experiences for a fee. If you just want to look at Maine gemstones, many are on display in the Maine Slate Museum in Augusta.

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