RUMFORD – The owners of a quarry on South Twin Mountain have found several rare phosphate minerals, but the self-taught mineralogists have yet to strike pay dirt in their prospecting endeavors.

Tim Blake, a full-time security guard at Bates College in Lewiston, and Scott Soucy, a Greene bookstore owner, have dubbed their new pegmatite quarry “Lookout Mine.”

So far, they’ve only scratched the surface.

“There are some interesting minerals here, but the most significant thing is that they have found triphylite,” noted mineralogist Vandall T. King of Rochester, N.Y., said Thursday while visiting the quarry.

King, a Skowhegan native, is a distant cousin of Soucy. In the past, he has helped identify minerals they’ve found or explained geologic processes and where to look for potential finds.

“Triphylite is the starting material for a lithium-rich mineral that is the exciting kind of (gem) tourmaline that everybody is after and wants to find,” King said. “It has the same nutrients. Triphylite is rich in lithium.”

Blake, 47, of Leeds, and Soucy, 33, of Greene, have yet to find tourmaline. But they’re excited that they’ve found triphylite, along with 20 other rare minerals, at last count.

“For us, this is pretty cool, because we were expecting just beryl and quartz,” Soucy said. “Having a tourmaline mine would be awesome, but I could be happy just with quartz.”

King explained the importance of their finds by e-mail on Friday.

“When the mineral deposit was evolving underground about 300 million years ago, the triphylite was attacked by superheated water and began to convert into other minerals,” he wrote.

Those minerals “make mineralogists’ hearts beat faster, just as a rare bird or plant affects ornithologists or botanists,” King wrote.

He said the end of the line in the chain of events of water and other hot fluids chemically changing the original mineral resulted in a dark brown mineral called heterosite.

When powdered, heterosite has the peculiarity of being bright raspberry purple, he said.

“There are several unknown minerals which I will send off to a laboratory for a chemical analysis and, there is at least one I believe is new to the state,” King said.

Blake said the pair’s mining venture began after former Oxford County mine and quarry sites were closed to the public.

Faced with reduced prospecting chances, Blake and Soucy bought 40 acres on South Twin Mountain two years ago after Soucy found a beryl crystal the size of his thumb in the roots of an uprooted tree.

“There was 3 feet of snow on the ground and we were out looking for rocks and then I found that chunk of a crystal in a 20-pound rock and said, ‘We’re going to buy this property, whatever it takes,'” Soucy said.

They stripped the quarry area as much as they could by hand, then rented an excavator to uncover the rest and make a road off Route 120 up to the site.

The men created an Internet page about the endeavor off Soucy’s bookstore Web site at www.barilbooksandminerals.com/links.htm.

In addition to the quarry, Blake parked his trailer nearby and Soucy built a camp there last year from which to hunt and admire the panoramic view below of the Swift River valley.

“It’s our own little slice of heaven up here,” Soucy said.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.