Ag report: The north country’s hidden gems

Ag report: The north country's hidden gems
Published: Jun. 28, 2023 at 6:33 AM EDT
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GOUVERNEUR, New York (WWNY) - Amethyst, quartz, vivianite, hexagonite — these spectacular crystals weren’t found at the ends of the earth, they were found right here in the north country.

Geologist William DeLorraine, who’s president of the St. Lawrence County Rock and Mineral Club, has spent his life mining and studying them.

“These are black tourmalines from Pierrepont. That was from the Bush Farm in Richville,” he said, pointing out some samples.

For more than 40 years, he worked at the Empire State Mine, part of the Belmat-Edwards Mining District. There, ainc is collected — and the occasional crystal.

“The rocks here at Belmat were buried about 12 to15 miles during a continental plate tectonic collision event about a billion years ago,” he said. “Say, if this is our continent, and this is another one, the other continent crashed into where we are, overrode where we are, and buried us 12 to 15 miles, and the rocks heated up to 700 degrees, so some of the rocks began to melt, other rocks re-crystalized and formed various crystals of sorts.”

St. Lawrence County is actually known as the mineral capital of the Northeast for this reason.

“There are metamorphic minerals, igneous minerals, sediment minerals, that’s why there’s such a variety here,” DeLorraine said.

It’s also where the first talc mine in America was formed.

There are many locations around the north country where you just might find a hidden treasure. At a mine in Harrisville, the blue calcite may seem unassuming, but take a closer look and you’ll see it’s a beautiful mineral.

These coveted crystals can go for tens of thousands of dollars or more. But to local geologists, knowing the history and mystery behind them is priceless.

“To a large extent, it’s a hidden gem,” DeLorraine said. “Literally.”

If you’re interested in learning more about local mines and minerals, the St. Lawrence County Rock and Mineral Club is having is annual expo in Canton on August 26 and 27.’