We ran two separate times during 2011 with the excavator to dig up new gravel for screening. In April, the weather was unusually dry and we were able to bring in a John Deere 160. As a result, we had some large piles of gravel during the summer for guests to rake and find some great topaz.
We have found the big machines can dig up and around the boulders in the alluvial terrace. We don’t have a screening plant so a couple of us watch as the machine piles up the gravel. Occasionally we find a stone or two, but most of them remain in the piles. Later, during the summer, Carl brings in the mechanical shaker, know affectionately as the magic topaz machine, and screens the gravel piles.
Also, during the summer, I hire George Quist to remove the material that has been screened and pile it on the end of the claim. He then exposes new material in the piles so we can continue screening them and give our visitors new material to rake. This year, by the end of the season, we had screened the material we dug in the spring so decided to go for another week with the track hoe. We brought in our John Deere 690, a larger machine, and were able to move a bunch of huge boulders. Despite common belief, there are not a large number of topaz under the boulders. Most remain fairly evenly scattered throughout the alluvium.
We piled up some huge piles of gravel so feel we are ready to go for next spring. We anticipate a lot of great stones will be found.
The mine is still producing. There are not many stones. There never have been, but over time, the number of topaz has been good. Most remain cutting material with less than 2 percent being quality collectible crystals.