We’re based in North America, so the majority of our public tours take place during N American spring, summer and autumn. Over the past 30 years we’ve also led tours in Africa, Australia, Europe, and South America where the optimal travel seasons don’t match ours here in Washington state. We can usually schedule a private tour anywhere the ground is not snow or ice covered and where we have a guide available.
The connection is geologist Bob Jackson, who owns the mine, founded the geologic tourism business Geology Adventures, Inc in 1988, and runs this website.
The mine originally operated for about 10 years between 1917 and 1929, producing fluorite for use as a flux in smelting metallic ores at Cominco’s Trail, BC smelter. The mine closed during the world-wide economic crash of 1929/30. By 1986, having seen little mining activity for almost 60 years, the mine had partially collapsed and appeared abandoned. Generations of local rockhounds and geology students had collected minerals from tailings piles left by the 1920’s miners. Jackson first visited the mine circa 1975, while a geology grad student at the University of Washington, in Seattle. Cominco still owned the 150-acre crown-granted mine property when Jackson purchased it to produce mineral specimens and lapidary material in a joint venture with Joe Nagel, then-curator of the M.Y. Williams Geologic Museum at UBC. The UBC legal department proved to be less than enthused about the university accepting ownership of (and thereby potential liability for) an old mine than Joe & Bob had been, and withdrew UBC’s participation in the project. Working with the BC Ministry of mines and the Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce, Jackson arranged to purchase the mine himself with the support of local tourism-oriented businesses. By partnering with several Boundary-area non-profit agencies over the years, Jackson & partners have now operated the mine for 33 years as a tourist attraction while also producing mineral specimens for museums and collectors.
We’d love to offer more tour dates, but as an operating specimen mine, we have many more tasks to accomplish and regulations to meet than most tourism businesses. Starting each tour involves considerably more time than simply opening the mine gate and greeting visitors! For instance, large mines initiate multiple blasts at a time. Blasting at a specimen mining project requires a thorough examination of each area post-blast so that specimens not yet exposed will not be harmed by subsequent work. Our primary concern is to ensure the safety of our visitors and miners while they are extracting the beautiful things we produce.
At our present rate of mining to support both mineral specimen production and tourism, we project a further mine life of 50 years. The Canadian Dept of Mineral Resources conducted a study (2012) which states the mountain still contains a profitably-mineable fluorite deposit. Whether the deposit will ever be commercially exploited again depends more on international trade relationships than the size of the Rock Candy deposit.
Depending on its structure, pure fluorite is white or colorless. A tiny percentage impurity of the rare-earth metal niobium makes it green. Purple fluorite was colored by radiation contained in the solution from which it crystallized; it is not radioactive now.
In 1966, Cominco core-drilled the vein down to the water table at 45 meters. The lowest level mined was 38 meters below the surface, and the 1927 mine map (see below) indicates that the first level drift (tunnel) followed the vein 50+ meters north from the original portal, which is now flooded along with most of the first level. In the 1960’s Cominco ran an exploration project to define other possible ore bodies along the rock candy fault, but found that the vein tapered in both width and tenor (% of ore vs waste rock) shortly beyond the originally mined areas. Though having zero interest in commercially producing fluorite by the ton, Jackson’s prospecting has identified several areas that show promise for additional zones that could produce fine mineral specimens.
Between 1983 and 2012 Bob Jackson ran many Spruce trips under his old business name: Jackson Mountain, which became Geology Adventures Inc in 1989. Around 2010 he was starting to consider retiring (which still hasn’t happened completely in 2020!) and invited some friends who were frequent Spruce visitors to kick around some ideas with him. After an initial chorus of “Oh no!”