Rockhounds chisel away at surplus minerals

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One of Anna Vandendries-Barr’s least-liked chores as a kid was picking rocks from the family farm after frost had heaved them from the ground as spring’s first crop. The rocks she chose Friday, during a minerals sale to raise money for a new Geosicence Collections facility, were a whole lot more interesting.

From a selection of several thousand sample, Vandendries-Barr chose a handful – mostly for their colour, texture and esthetics – which she plans to display in her home and use to decorate a fairy garden.

“I’ve always been fascinated with rocks. They’re all so different – and to think they all came from the same Earth,” she said.

Rockhounds of all sorts lined up Friday to examine and buy the minerals, which ranged from antimony to fluorite to zincite.

Some were surplus samples from the Dana Minerals Collections, while others had been donations that couldn’t be incorporated into the collections because they were too small or were duplicates.

“These we’re selling because we had much larger or nicer samples in the collection and we didn’t need 100 of the same thing from the same place,” said Alysha McNeil, Geoscience Collections Curator in the Department of Earth Sciences.

Some other mineral samples weren’t useful for a scientific collection because the donor hadn’t identified what they were or where they’d been found, but were still valuable enough for amateur geologists that some queued outside the room for an hour waiting to get in.

So, for a few dollars, enthusiasts could buy a brownie-sized chunk of feldspar, from parts unknown or, for $1, four shiny crumb-sized something-or-others from Mt. Ste-Hilaire. For $5, they could buy a brick-sized sample that might be either marble or quartz. (If it reacts to acid, it’s marble, McNeil noted. Don’t try this at home.)

Ten dollars could get them a freezer bag of nondescript rocks from Faraday Hill or a sparkly sand-coloured half of a geode.

The formal collections – which continue to grow – will soon find a new home in the North Campus Building. Ultimately, the Dana and G. Gordon Suffel mineral collections will be located here and be used for teaching and research purposes.

Money raised from the mineral sale and from other fundraising efforts will go towards equipping the space.