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The staff at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center was shocked when the trip they offered back in August to explore an abandoned copper mine filled up immediately, with a waiting list just as long. So, back by popular demand, is PEEC’s trip to the Nacimiento Copper Mine near Cuba.
The fall trip, led again by local geology expert Patrick Rowe, will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 5. The trip will be hands-on for both adults and children. Participants will explore the area, with ample chances to find beautiful specimens such as petrified wood.
“I can honestly say that it was one trip my whole family truly enjoyed,” Colleen Swavely said, who went on the August trip with her husband and three sons ages 7, 9 and 11. “There was a geology talk at the beginning, during which they explained the mine’s history and clean up efforts. The best part, though, was when they just let us loose to wander. The boys found interesting specimens of rocks that they wouldn‘t normally see, and they came away with a new interest in geology. We packed a picnic lunch, and had fun exploring with our friends. Honestly, nobody wanted to leave!”
In addition to the petrified wood specimens, which are regularly covered with green malachite and blue azurite, trip participants can find “red-bed” septarian nodules (also known as Dragon Stones) that contain calcite crystals in the centers, as well as azurite balls “blue berries” and rosettes. Often deer and elk are spotted in the area, as well as some resident cows.
“We had no idea how popular this trip would be,” PEEC Executive Director Katie Watson said. “Already the October trip is filling up quickly, with few spots left, so I encourage anyone who is interested in the trip to sign up soon.”
The Nacimiento Mine was originally mined between 1881 and the early 1900s. Natives of the area say that copper was first mined and smelted by the Conquistadores, who used Indian slaves to extract ore and coal locally. Mining was sporadic at the site until the late 1960s, and in the late 60s and early 70s ore was removed using open pit mining techniques. This operation ceased in 1975.
The group will meet at PEEC just before 8 a.m. and will car pool through the Jemez Mountains to get to the mine. Those living in Santa Fe or Albuquerque can alternatively meet the group at the entrance to the mine at 10 a.m.