AUGUSTA — Maine’s status as a premier source for fine and unusual gemstones, and as a state that attracts many visitors for the nature-based tourism activity, gets recognized next month with the 21st annual Maine Mineral Symposium.
“We’re doing it primarily for the mineral collecting community,” Woody Thompson, Maine Geological Survey physical geologist and symposium organizer, stated Wednesday in a report about the event.
It will be held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 7-9, at The Senator Inn and Conference Center (Best Western) on Western Avenue in Augusta. Doors open Friday at 3 p.m. and Saturday at 8 a.m.
Sunday is a field-trip-only day, open to people who register, wear name tags, bring their own hand tools, and provide their own transportation. The destination to a notable mining site will be announced at the symposium.
Registration for all three days is $15.
“Maine is famous for its mineral and gem deposits,” Thompson said. “We thought it would be good to have a forum where people can learn about what’s been done in the past and what’s being done today.”
Sponsored jointly by the Maine Mineral Symposium Association and the Maine Geological Survey — under the Maine Department of Conservation — the three-day symposium is meant to be an exploration not only of one of Maine’s most valuable resources, but also minerals — both across the region and worldwide.
“This is not like a regular rock and mineral show,” Thompson said. “What distinguishes this symposium is the program of educational talks at its core.”
For instance, several speakers will discuss gems and minerals found in Maine’s famous pegmatites. Pegmatite is a host rock that often contains other minerals, such as tourmaline and garnet, and Maine is famous for it.
• Louise Jonaitis, a partner at Plumbago Mountain in Newry, will discuss “What’s New at Newry,” where the rare Eureka Blue tourmaline was discovered last fall. A large stone was presented as a gift to President Barack Obama during his recent Portland visit.
• Frank Perham of the famous Perham mining family of West Paris, will speak on “Recent Pegmatite Mining at the Waisanen and Albany Rose Quarries, Maine.”
• Vandall King of Rochester, N.Y., will speak on “Lithium Mineralization in Granite Pegmatites.” Lithium is an important ingredient in many rare and colorful minerals in pegmatites.
• Richard Bostwick of New York City will speak on “Franklin and Sterling Hill, New Jersey: A Great American Mineral Locality,” and the world’s premier source of fluorescent minerals.
“I don’t want people thinking this is some big, scientific discussion — these are more informal educational talks with a really interesting mix of speakers,” Thompson said. “There are always a couple of talks on Maine, and several talks on New England and the Northeast area, including Maritime Canada.”
The symposium, which attracts between 300 and 350 people annually, also includes a touch of the exotic and foreign.
“This year, the program features what promises to be two fascinating talks on mineral exploration in China and the giant crystal cavern in Naica, Mexico, by Kevin Downey of Florence, Mass., a mineral dealer and professional photographer,” Thompson said. “His presentation is going to blow people away. Both his talk and photographs should be mind–boggling.”
The exhibit room, open on Saturday, will feature a display of gems and minerals, including the famous Eureka Blue tourmalines from Newry; minerals from China; a fluorescent mineral display; and personal collection displays by three women collectors from Maine and Massachusetts.
A benefit auction on Saturday will help cover the cost of symposium, and two silent auctions — including a table for youngsters — will provide an opportunity for collectors to make purchases. There will also be more auctions and vendors.
For more information and registration, visit: http://www.maine.gov/doc/nrimc/mgs/explore/minerals/symposium.htm. Preregistration is not required, despite what the website states, Thompson added.