Little Pine Garnet Mine
Madison County, North Carolina
July 21, 2005
Bill Hayward

At around 8 AM, I dropped my daughter off at daycare and headed west from Huntersville, NC for Marshall and the Little Pine Garnet Mine. As is usually the case, the 2-Ĺ hour trip was uneventful. I made it to the BP gas station to pay the $10 fee at just after 10:30am. From my brief conversation with the man behind the counter, I learned that I was the only one to sign in for access to the mine that day. After packing far too many tools and supplies, I headed up the road to the mine with my trusty handcart. The handcart is a must have since the mine is up a hill about 300 yards.

From one previous trip to the mine with Mike Streeter, I knew exactly where I wanted to go in the mine. Fortunately, a dangerous piece of rock that had hung above this area and that would have forced me to find another place to dig in the mine was either knocked down by someone else or it simply fell on its own. Using my tools of choice, 4-lb hammer, chisels and pry bar, I cleared more rock to provide more working room. In the process, I was able to pull some nice matrix (chlorite schist) pieces out that you can see in the pictures below. I was also able to pull a few matrix pieces out with part of a quartz vein. It gave a little bit of variety to my day's take. I did this for about four of the seven hours I spent in the mine. I feel like I learned more about the structure of the mine and where the garnets form. I noticed the matrix was typically harder near the quartz, which made it better for the matrix pieces since the garnet crystals were less likely to break loose from the matrix. If you have ever worked the mine, you know that sometimes the chlorite schist is very loose making it difficult to take home any sizable matrix pieces with the crystals in place. Just about anybody can pop out single crystals of all sizes from the mine but getting out decent matrix pieces is the real trick.

I spent the last few hours working a section just below were I was pulling the matrix pieces out. This was very difficult and frustrating because every time I tried to work around a garnet crystal, I would inadvertently chisel into another one. This particular section had crystals in the 3-inch diameter range. My prize from this section were two crystals that had grown together to form one long crystal (see picture). All future trips to Little Pine are likely to include working this particular area before any others.

As is typical for me, I wanted to take far too many matrix pieces home. This made for an interesting exit from the mine. It took me four trips to get everything I wanted to take home. If you are like me, I would suggest taking in two backpacks so you can pack them with your matrix pieces. They allow you to keep your hands free to navigate your way out of the mine or carry a bucket in one hand and a big matrix piece in the other. The latter part was what I tried (and failed to do) on my last trip out of the mine. The silky residue from the mine and the loose tailings contributed to a very painful fall. I lost my footing at one point in the loose tailings and with a heavy pack, fell on my bottom, spilling the bucket and the big matrix piece. I replaced the big matrix piece into the bucket and noticed that I had a big scrape from elbow to wrist. Fortunately, the scrape was the worst of my injuries.

All in all, it was a great day working in the Little Pine Garnet Mine.

A word of warning must go along with this report, as digging with someone or alone in this environment is dangerous and the utmost in caution should be used. Make sure someone knows you have gone to the mine and set a time for when you will call them to let them know you are safe and that you are done mining. Just walking in the mine can be treacherous so be careful and donít rush to get in or out of the mine.