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Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns - (23)
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PostPosted: Jun 29, 2015 05:16    Post subject: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns - (23)  

First Newsletter May to early June 2015 - by Dehne and Maureen McLaughlin June 2015.

This newsletter is the first of a series of articles on current field work being undertaken in 2015 in the desert of Central Australia at the Malbunka Copper Mine (the MCM Project, or the Project) by Dehne and Maureen McLaughlin for the recovery of discoidal azurite specimens on white kaolinite matrix described as “azurite suns”.

Our field season scheduled for an early May commencement got off to a stilted start due to urgent family matters. Our two field workers also went off line and some people are aware via Facebook of Cameron’s motor car accident. Cams recovery is very encouraging.

We achieved two short mining trips in May but did not conclude a completed standard operation at the mine until the 3rd to 10th June 2015.



1 Fig 1.jpg
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 1. Mine site and tent camp looking to the north west. The NT Government environmental assessor required that we change our monitoring site so they could gain a better perspective of our waste rock placement over the footprint of the much larger area of historic quarrying and underground waste. No, we are not dumping our waste rock in the creek!
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PostPosted: Jun 29, 2015 05:17    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

In May we achieved completion of a project over 4 days that had evaded us in 2014, namely the completion of an air flow and short cut safety passage from our main up dip mining face to the central adit. Warm air was being trapped at the working face and as much as a fan kept the air circulating, it also raised dust.

The side passage is depicted in Photo 2. The passage was pushed through 3 metres of rock, the final metre completed in May 2015.



1 Fig 2.jpg
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 2. Depicts a side passage to the main adit to enhance air circulation and a short cut escape route to the main adit. Another upside was we were mining through hanging wall mineralisation wrapped around a slump/fault face. Sorry, that is not Maureen in the photo. Some silly old bloke.
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PostPosted: Jun 29, 2015 05:19    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

Driving this passage also widened the up dip working face so since the above photo was taken, we have placed timbers in a central position to pacify any potential hanging wall protests.

Returning to the mine on Wednesday the 3rd June we collected firewood on the way in and by 2pm after opening up the tent camp that had been closed down for 16 days, we had started cutting out the previous bench with the 20kg Makita hammer. That means tonnes of waste rock removal but due to the void created by driving of the passage in Photo 2 we had an underground site to place our excavated waste rock thereby reducing the amount of rock for barrowing to the open air waste rock dump. This reduced the time required to create a vertical working face by a day, so by Thursday we were creating a 0.5 metre undercut below the three hanging wall azurite layers. By Friday 2pm we were ready to start dropping the lower L1 azurite seam. The dingoes were also active this night and their blood curdling howls sent a message to dispose of chicken bones in the fire.

The L1 seam produced mainly azurite suitable for the natural paint market but interspersed through the seam were small gemmy azurite suns up to 5 mm diameter that we market as natural jewellery pieces. The next layer up, the L2 azurite layer, had some surprises. This layer can produce in patches numerous suns up to 2 inches diameter with clean edges scattered evenly across specimens as depicted below in Photo 3.



1 Fig 3.jpg
 Mineral: Azurite
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 3. A 40cm by 50 cm slab of azurite suns from the L2 azurite layer. We expect his specimen on cleaning will be the most outstanding specimen we have mined from this layer.
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PostPosted: Jun 29, 2015 05:21    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

The uppermost L3 layer contains the heaviest concentration of azurite mineralisation. Azurite suns up to 8 inches diameter have been mined in L3. The challenge is to mine the suns with intact kaolinite matrix to maximise colour contrast in specimens. If the suns sit too close to the hanging wall quartzite and the containing kaolinite layer is thin, matrix retention is difficult. Furthermore, in the current mining face a dominate thrust plane often sits just below the hanging wall slicing and crumbling the kaolinite. We can produce slabs of kaolinite with natural thrust faulted polished faces where you can run your hand over the polished face and determine the movement direction. Not a big demand for these specimens!

There is often clear micro faulting in a boudinaged sandstone layer within the kaolinite in L3 where we have found azurite suns dislocated by faulting in one face and then healed at the back of the specimen. We had lots of faulted material in this face but only one possible geological specimen.

Nevertheless, L3 produced an unexpected find. We define the left hand side/pillar of the up dip mining drive by the quality of the L3 azurite suns. This is a zone where the south limb of the anticline takes a steep dip as seen in Photo 1. To the right of the old waste rock dump the dip is approaching 20 degrees as compared to the 5 to 8 degree dip in the underground area where we are working. Normally azurite specimen quality deteriorates down dip along the southern anticlinal limb. However, in this new cut high quality cabinet size radial azurites of the type owned by the Carnegie Institute (Photo 4) were found to be pushing down dip to the left of the left hand pillar in the working face.



1 Fig 4.jpg
 Mineral: Azurite
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 4. Azurite sun mined in 2012 now in display entrance to Carnegie Institute mineral exhibit. Photo: Carnegie Institute.
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PostPosted: Jun 29, 2015 05:23    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

This is encouraging as our current theory is that as we mine towards the hydrothermal source of the copper mineralisation in this up dip drive, specimen volume and quality should improve.

It took 3 days to collect the mining face and pack up specimens for transport. Maureen did most of the packing. Dehne looked after the big pieces. There was a day and a half spare for Dehne to cut back the face using the final space in the underground waste rock site for the next undercutting and collecting round. During this face preparation space was created in the left of the face to chase the down dip extension of the “Carnegie” type azurite suns. Their edges are still visible in the hanging wall. See Photo 5. This is very much a Forrest Gump “box of chocolates” adventure.

Wishful thinking corner: The “chocolate” type we would love to find are azurite suns shot through with lustrous rays of malachite. There is evidence that malachite pseudomorphing may appear as we go upwards along the anticlinal axis. Eg faulted outcrop copper mineralization is dominantly malachite and occasional small spots of lustrous pseudomorphing have been found over the last meter of mining the face. Primary malachite is often seen but the pseudomorph forms are rarely found.

By day 7 at the mine we were very weary and looking forward to a break. The generator needed servicing, an electrical fault in one of the undercut hammers needed repairing, a barrow wheel needed replacing, more wood wedges were required, the chain saw would not start and needed repairs and so did we.

We will be back at the mine ready to undercut in 5 days time and will let you know how we go.


Dehne and Maureen McLaughlin June 2015.



1 Fig 5.jpg
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 5. Several Carnegie type azurite suns exposed in the left hand corner of next face cut. Directly underneath the thick right hand sun is the polished upper face of the dominant thrust plane found in the mine. You can trace the thrust plane to the left from this face.
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PostPosted: Jul 01, 2015 06:35    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

crocoite wrote:
First Newsletter May to early June 2015 - by Dehne and Maureen McLaughlin June 2015.

This newsletter is the first of a series of articles on current field work being undertaken in 2015 in the desert of Central Australia at the Malbunka Copper Mine (the MCM Project, or the Project) by Dehne and Maureen McLaughlin for the recovery of discoidal azurite specimens on white kaolinite matrix described as “azurite suns”....

Great thread Dehne and Steve. Thank you to publish it.

I can't wait to see more Newsletters! ;-)
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PostPosted: Jul 02, 2015 04:21    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

As soon as I get them from Dehne :)
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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 01:19    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

Second and final 2015 Newsletter: June to mid July 2015. The Malbunka Project - by Dehne and Maureen McLaughlin, July 2015.

This newsletter is the second on field work undertaken in 2015 in the desert of Central Australia at the Malbunka Copper Mine by Dehne and Maureen McLaughlin for the recovery of discoidal azurite specimens on white kaolinite matrix described as “azurite suns”.
We continued the mining program in June-July only in the up dip face tunnel for the purpose of testing for quality changes in the three layers of azurite mineralisation and completed 1.5 metres of tunnelling out of the total of 2.5 metres for the season.



2 Fig 1.jpg
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 1. Note that a 1.5 metre chunk of a thin sandstone lens just below the hanging wall has been picked by a thrust fault and dragged along to be placed over the right hand continuation of the lens. And mining maiden takes a well-earned break.
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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 01:22    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

As usual, the azurite concentration seemingly changed at whim, sometimes disappearing from the lower layers and then reappearing. The highest concentration was in the hanging wall L3 azurite layer above the main thrust plane. The thrust plane does not deform the azurite suns but azurite is deformed in the L2 azurite by the secondary micro faulting as seen in Photo 1 and 2. So in this location we have a local structural time sequence for the copper mineralisation. Further back in the drive, the sequence is thrusting, micro faulting and mineralisation which suggests the micro faulting and mineralisation are synchronous.


2 Fig 2.jpg
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 2. Fault of the Month. Continuing on from Photo 1, there are fine black pen dots that define the basal plane of the main mine thrust fault. Note the thrust fault plane has been dislocated downward corresponding with a sympathetic dislocation below of the sandstone lens. The L2 azurite layer is also deformed.
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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 01:23    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

However, the thrusting close to the hanging wall has broken up the kaolinite matrix that hosts the azurite to the point that it has been difficult to collect the desired number of specimens sitting in the white matrix that so many collectors desire. Bob Jackson has kindly suggested we use a plaster jacket to fix the matrix and the azurite sun as done with dino bones but we have not seen how we could do that easily with specimens attached to the ceiling in the L3 layer where the larger suns occur.

Photo 3 shows a sun firmly embedded in the ceiling/hanging wall. We managed to collect this specimen intact by punching through the very hard siliceous rind sitting between the kaolinite and the containing sandstone and on cleaning it could turn out to be an exceptional piece.

We only mine such specimens close to supporting rock pillars or timber supports as retention of the rind is important for hanging wall safety. When Ray Grant investigated the mine in 2012 he noted that the rind, comprising silica and fine atacamite crystals, bounded the kaolinite lens wherever exposed in the mine.

We also noted that there was a high level of silicification of kaolinite near the hanging wall in L3 increasing as we drove forward that we had not found deeper in the mine along the anticlinal crest. So we have to think that observation through against our current model of specimen occurrence. From this zone, we have ended up with some royal blue 6 cm diameter suns on a silicified kaolinite matrix with a light blue hue. Not sure how they will clean up! Always something different.

In our last newsletter we highlighted the presence of exceptional single suns in the left side of the mining face. We extracted those that were exposed in the previous face but then ran into the dreaded iron oxide patina that corresponds with down dip quality deterioration in the southern anticlinal limb. Then we found this sun type had moved several metres to the right. You simply have to mine what is on offer.



2 Fig 3.jpg
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 3. A 12cm diameter azurite sun sitting tightly against the 1-2 cm thick siliceous hanging wall siliceous rind. This specimen was collected intact by punching through the rind around the specimen with power tools. Specimen could be an exceptional piece.
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2 Fig 3.jpg



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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 01:25    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

An inspection visit by the traditional Aboriginal owners (TAOs) and the Central Land Council occurred in mid-June. Legal consent of the TAOs to an agreement under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act NT 1976 was required for the Project to commence, plus the follow on consent of the Australian Federal Government to the Deed and the Northern Territory Government. TAOs use this opportunity to visit their country and assess the state of the land. Feral animal control is an important issue for TAOs in the area due to high populations of camels, donkeys, horses and wild cattle.


2 Fig 4.jpg
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 4. Mine inspection by traditional Aboriginal owners in June 2015. Photo: Anne Pye, CLC.
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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 01:26    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

Sedimentary dyke.


2 Fig 5.jpg
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 5 A sedimentary dyke with a rim of malachite consisting of clasts of kaolinite embedded in quartzite from the hanging wall injected downwards into the kaolinite lens. This photo of the far right hand side of the mine face also illustrates downward plunging L2 azurite which is often encountered where the hanging wall nears a major slump/fault in the hanging wall sandstone/quartzite.
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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 01:28    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

The camp fire is essential where one lives in a tent camp in the open air and where night time temperatures drop to less than 4 degrees centigrade. The fire is also important for burning putreable waste for health reasons. We remove all solid waste from the mine site to Alice Springs at the end of each field trip. But all this does not keep the dingoes away. One time in the Harts Range after we had lit a camp fire in the bush, a dingo came up and sat down next to it to enjoy the ambience that goes with remote camp fire. At the mine it gets a bit rough when the dingoes let out blood curdling howls at the base of the waste rock dump demanding food and water. Scared Maureen out of her ugg boots. We do not deny them water and in the middle of the night they take their quota from a bird bath.

Open air night time living provides time for checking out the stars in the clear desert sky. We have become familiar with constellations and major stars and were able to view the Pleiades (The Seven Sisters) at 6 am in the morning. We also followed the transit of Jupiter close to Venus and using the birding telescope were able to view Jupiter’s four major moons in changing positions around the gas planet. Saturn’s rings were just visible through the scope as it sat above Scorpio each night. We use Google Sky Map to assist observations. It is a great app as you do not have to be on line to use it. And of course where we are there is no phone or internet. We have a sat phone for emergency call outs.



2 Fig 6.jpg
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 6. Rough Old Miner hugging the camp fire in winter night outfit complete with mine ugg boots. You can see why we get so few visitors.
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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 01:29    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

In a 2014 newsletter we posted a picture of a brecciated area full of copper oxides on the side of the waste rock dump that believe was the feeder hydrothermal vent for mineralising fluids that entered into the kaolinite lens in the anticline (See Photo 7).

David Aslin has corresponded using Google satellite photos on the potential for extension of copper mineralisation in the wider area and the disappearance to the west of the 2.5 metre thick kaolinite lens exposed at the mine entrance by the old quarry. The brecciated area does not appear to relate to any clear linear north-south fault. The deformation in the brecciated area is characterised by local compression deformation that has forced sandstone layers into a near vertical position. The deformation suggests more a pressure release in a local hinge area or a pipelike conduit structure (eg a diaper). Secondary and primary copper mineralisation is commonly associated with diapiric intrusions in the Flinders Rangers. Current geological thinking on the Amadeus basin is that halotectonics has played a major part in creating the compressional regime that has folded and thrusted the sediments of the basin. These models include diapiric processes.



2 Fig 7.jpg
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 7. Sandstone rotated from near horizontal to vertical in a crush zone rich in copper oxides.
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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 01:33    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

An explanation for the loss of the kaolinite lens is that it has dropped downwards and sits capped by sandstone beneath the current waste rock dump. However no local stratigraphic markers have been found to validate this theory. One thing is certain and that is what may appear on first observation to be a simple anticlinal structure containing the copper mineralisation has turned out to have a geology that gets more complex the closer it is looked at. We hope that Eric Melchiorre, Professor of Geology at California State University, is able to put together a field team to visit the Project to attempt to unravel some of those complexities.

Thank you for taking time to read our newsletter. This is our last newsletter for 2015.

We are happy to comment on suggestions or questions from readers concerning the Project.

Cheers

Dehne and Maureen McLaughlin July 2015.



2 Fig 8.jpg
 Locality:
Malbunka copper Mine, Western Aranda, Ltalaltuma, Australia
 Description:
Photo 8. Some of our rare potentially better matrix specimens awaiting packing.
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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 04:59    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

Hi Steve. Nice article! What a nice outdoor experience! I envy you. Wishing you all success.
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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 05:22    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

I wish Pierre! The closest I got was having Dehne and Maureen here last night for dinner on their way back to Tasmania!
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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 07:49    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

crocoite wrote:
I wish Pierre! The closest I got was having Dehne and Maureen here last night for dinner on their way back to Tasmania!


Oops, sorry Steve! I should have read more carefully. Anyway, maybe it is time you venture into the wild and tell us all about it. :-)

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PostPosted: Jul 22, 2015 22:25    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

Great posting. Thanks Steve!!
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PostPosted: Jul 23, 2015 23:52    Post subject: Re: Malbunka Copper Mine, Home of the Azurite Suns  

Steve,

Thanks for posting. Really enjoyed the comments and pictures. Well done.

Regards,

Don

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