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Spruce Pine Mining District

Updated on March 20, 2011

early mining

Carolina Mineral Company Mine before 1923 US Geological Survey plate 22 bulletin 740 1923
Carolina Mineral Company Mine before 1923 US Geological Survey plate 22 bulletin 740 1923 | Source

Pegmatite mining in Spruce Pine Mining District

Pegmatite mining was once a big part of commerce and industry here in eastern New York and New England.Today these mines are closed.No so for the Spruce Pine Mining District in North Carolina.With a history going back as far as 2000 years it is still going strong.

The pegmatite area covers parts of three counties and stretches for 25 miles and is known as the Spruce Pine Mining District.Early on during the Woodland Age native Americans mined this area for mica.This silvery and glittering mineral was used as a grave decoration and as wampum,wampum was like money and was used to trade for goods.

Pegmatites contain feldspar,quartz and mica.They usually form the majority of minerals in a pegmatite.This is the case in this district.All three minerals are mined for industrial use today.

Mica was first commercial mined in the 1800s in this area.The early use was as isinglass.The wood and coal burning stoves used this heat resistance and see through mineral for the windows in these stoves.In the 1870s when Thomas Edison invented an electric motor there was a boom in the mica market.The mica was used as an insulator in these early motors.Another early use was insulators in radio tubes.Today mica is still used in industry.It is added to paints and plastics,such as metallic flake auto paint.It is still used as an electric insulator.It is added as an ingredient in plaster for wall broad.And many of the woman's make-up products have mica as an ingredient.

Feldspar is a major ingredient in ceramics.China ware,earthenware,plumbing fixtures and floor tiles to name a few.The feldspar acts as a flux in ceramics.Flux here means it lowers the melting point and helps to crystallize the ceramics structure.Feldspar is used in diner ware ,pottery,plumbing fixtures like your toilet,enamel coating and porcelain.It is used as a bonding agent in making abrasive grinding wheels and discs.Uses also include soap and abrasive cleaners. The glass industry uses feldspar as a flux and for its high aluminum content.The fluxing lowers the melting point of the glass mixture and lowers production cost.The aluminum adds resistance to impact,bending and thermal shock in glass.Feldspar is also added to plastics,paper,textiles,rubber and paints.

Quartz was once a once throw in the dump pile from the mines in this district.Today it is a major commodity of the mining.With modern separation technology quartz of high purity is mined in the Spruce Pine Mining District.The quartz makes up about a quarter of the pegmatite.So at 25% of the total minerals content good thing for modern technology and earths resources.The quartz here is of high purity and is used to make semiconductors.Every computer chip contains quartz from this district.That is right ,100% of the quartz in all computer chips comes from this district.I would say quartz has come from being waste to grace.The quartz is also used in the glass industry for high temperature glass.And it is aslo used as crystals in telescopes because of the high purity.The Hale Telescope has crystal made from Spruce Pine mining District quartz.

The pegmatites in the district also contain gemstones.Emeralds,aquamarine,morganite,helidore,garnet,amozonite and smokey quartz.There are many gem mines in this area.Here is a list of some you can visit.

The Rock Mine Tours

Thermal City Gold Mine

Rio Doce Mine

Spruce Pine Gem Mine

Emerald Village

Foggy Mountain Gem Mine

Grandfather Gem Mine

Blue Ridge gemstone Mine

Pegmatites are one amazing natural resource that provide us with some many things.From the dishes we serve our meals on to the rings on our fingers.

Spruce Pine North Carolina

mica hand

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Mica carving in Hopewell tradition
Mica carving in Hopewell tradition
Mica carving in Hopewell tradition | Source

mica

mica flakes
mica flakes | Source

porcelain

Chinese porcelain pottery
Chinese porcelain pottery | Source
Electric insulator
Electric insulator | Source

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    • your cybersister profile image

      your cybersister 

      7 years ago from Just relocated from Florida to the mountains of North Carolina

      Very interesting hub, glowingrocks! I have visited Spruce Pine and that area of North Carolina (it's so beautiful) for over ten years, but had no real concept of the mining other than the tourist gem mines. I like to learning that sort of thing.

    • Lady In NC profile image

      Lady In NC 

      7 years ago from A Small Town In North Carolina

      Hi , I live 20 miles from Spruce Pine . I know about & visited all the mines you have listed . GREAT job ! You KNOW what you're talking about !

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This is a very interesting hub about the Spruce Pine Mining district and pegmatites and all that comes from it. Thanks for this tutorial. Rating it useful and up.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 

      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I never thought about this before. Thanks for your report. I really enjoy reading all this information. Well done, my friend. Cheers....

    • glowingrocks profile imageAUTHOR

      glowingrocks 

      7 years ago from New York

      Scribenet Thanks for reading the hub.Recently awareness has become a focus for me.I have been collecting rock for 17 years and never really knew so much about pegmatites till about two years ago.I now am aware that just about everything we build and use starts with mining & quarrying.

      I also was amazed that only quartz for that mine area was pue enough for chip making.I believe it has to do with the high tech separation process that is used there.

    • Scribenet profile image

      Scribenet 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Interesting Hub! Now I know something about pegmatites and the valuable minerals they contain. I was not aware of how much in demand in industry there is for mica,feldspar and quartz.

      Interesting that the quartz used in every computer chip in any computer comes from the Spring Pine Mining District! Awesome.

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