Southwest New Mexico and adjacent southeast Arizona is a paradise for rockhounds and mineral collectors. In Michael’s humble geological opinion, the area enclosed within a 75-mile radius of Casitas de Gila Guesthouses offers the visiting rockhound and mineral enthusiast access to one of the most rewarding and diverse assemblages of collectible rocks, minerals and gemstones found anywhere in North America. Throughout this area, which comprises most of Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, and Luna counties in New Mexico plus portions of Greenlee, Graham, and Cochise counties in Arizona, numerous highly mineralized mining districts were discovered, developed and worked beginning in the early 1800s. During the heyday of this mining, from the 1880s through the 1950s, these areas were some of the richest mining areas in the West.
Grant County, with its county seat in Silver City, lies at the heart of this vast mineralized area and is New Mexico’s richest mineral producing county. Mining began here in 1804, when native copper was extracted by the Spanish at Santa Rita (now the Freeport-MacMoran Chino Mine), 15 miles east of Silver City, and has continued unabated right up to the present. Over the last 200 years, mining in Grant County has produced more than $4 billion in copper, gold, silver, lead and zinc, plus significant values of molybdenum, tungsten, manganese, nickel, cobalt, fluorspar, uranium, perlite, turquoise, and hematite from Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks and from Tertiary volcanic rocks.
Today, almost all of the old mines within the area have closed, with the very notable exception of the large-scale, open-pit copper mining operations of Freeport-MacMoran at Santa Rita and Tyrone in Grant County and at Morenci in Greenlee County, Arizona. However, since many of the old mining districts are located on Federal National Forest or Bureau of Land Management lands, the opportunity for rockhounding and mineral collecting remains virtually unlimited because most of this land is open to the public and collecting of rocks and minerals is permitted. Searching the old dumps from these mines can be particularly rewarding.
Although many of the old mines have been sealed off by Federal agencies, the rockhound will, while exploring the old mining districts, come across mines and prospect pits that are still open.
It is tempting to enter these old workings, but it cannot be stressed strongly enough that all old mines are unsafe, extremely dangerous and should not be entered at any time. Rotten timbers, unstable and crumbling rock can lead to tunnel collapses at any time. There’s also the probability for bad air and mine gases. And unseen vertical shafts can turn a pleasant collecting trip into disaster within seconds. In a word – DON’T!
Rocks and Minerals You Might Find …
Of course, when metallic mineralization is this complex it...
An indication of the exceptional richness of the rockhounding potential of the Southwest New Mexico and Southeast Arizona areas is the areas that have been set aside by government agencies especially for rockhounding, such as Rock Hound State Park in Luna County near Deming, New Mexico, and the Black Hills Rockhound Area in Graham County near Safford, Arizona. Whether you consider yourself a novice or experienced rockhound, you will find that Casitas de Gila Guesthouses are a perfect base for short or extended collecting in this area.