NEWRY — In 1972, more than a ton of tourmaline was pulled from Plumbago Mountain.

But how much is left? That’s for the new owner to find out.

The site of one of the world’s largest tourmaline finds went up for sale this month — 2,222 acres with exclusive mining rights on 50 acres — with an asking price of $2.7 million.

“I think it’s a very intriguing and interesting project,” said listing agent Kevin Fletcher at Malone Commercial Brokers. “If you go down and you dive in and you happen to strike a vein, there could be $20 million, $30 million sitting there.”

Or, there could be lovely views and a whole lot of dirt.

That’s the intrigue.

“There have been no bonanzas since 1972,” said Carl Francis, curator at the Maine Mineral & Gem Museum opening next spring in neighboring Bethel. “There aren’t very many (mine sites like this) so they don’t turn over very often. So you could argue that this is a historic opportunity for someone to own a piece of property with a lot of history and some potential for future production.”

That area of western Maine has been mined for more than 100 years. Three men explored in the right place on the Newry Hill spur in 1972, eventually unearthing more than 3.5 million carats of gem tourmaline, according to Cross Jewelers’ extensive history on the discovery. The store has a prized 17-pound stone from the find encrusted with pink, green and bicolored tourmaline.

“When the mining season ended that first year in late November (1972), they had a ton of tourmaline crystals and specimens (stored) in the bank in Rumford,” Francis said. “If you talk to the people who are mining tourmaline now … when they find pockets, if they can measure the quantity in hundreds of carats or a couple of thousand carats, that’s a significant find. This was a ton, a ton, of rough tourmaline — orders of magnitude larger than anything that had ever been found in Maine before.”

Honeycombed from all that excavation and considered a potential hazard, the mine was blasted in 1974, according to Cross Jewelers’ history.

Fletcher said the current listing took months to pull together, with several different owners involved: Ubrich2 LLC owns 1,762 acres, Northeast Trading Inc. owns 460 acres and Denney Properties Inc. owns the exclusive mineral rights to 50 acres that include the 1972 mine site. Also included in the sale is one-half interest in mineral rights on 436 acres.

The property’s assessed at $586,717 by the town.

The undeveloped land is now accessed by a several-miles-long dirt logging road. It hasn’t been opened to the public for mining. 

Exploratory work has continued right along, said Fletcher, who intends to market it internationally.

An excavation in 2009 uncovered tourmaline that ranged in size from 8 inches to almost 3 feet.

“I think the buyer profile is either somebody that is actively pursing and seeking mines throughout North America or somebody that’s got $2 million to $3 million and wants to own part of western Maine,” Fletcher said. “At the end of the day, when are you going to ever get the chance to buy the most famous tourmaline mine in North America ever again?”

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