Rockhounding with the Copper Country Rock and Mineral Club

Copper Country

KEWEENAW PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – The Copper Country Rock and Mineral Club has been around for more than 60 years. As they prepare for the annual Gem and Mineral Show we met up with two members of the club for a unique look at what makes the Keweenaw Peninsula such a unique place for rock and mineral enthusiasts, also known as ‘Rockhounds.’

“We’ve done the mineral show, we provide scholarships to the university students at MTU. We bring in speakers from outside the area to talk about other geology in other areas,” said club President George Schriver.

The club works to provide a resource to current rockhounds while building interest with the next generation of geological enthusiasts.

“I think one of the most popular things in addition to getting together and sharing the war stories of what they’ve found, is a series of silent auctions, where we have minerals and fossils that are a little bit above grade. Things that you may never find,” added Schriver.

Money raised from the silent auctions goes to fund their Michigan Tech scholarships.

Steve Whelan, Treasurer of the Rock and Mineral Club met with as at the historic Cliff Mine site. It is one of the club’s favorite sites for Keweenaw week and a favorite site of the club for doing field trips for their members.

“If you come here, you’ll find copper, silver, epidote, prehnite, calcite. A variety of minerals, but you’ll also find historical artifacts. When we turn the piles over, when we bulldoze the piles, we’ve found chisels the miners used in the 1850’s when this mine was operating.” They’re called cape chisels. They stand about three feet high and I think over the years we’ve probably found about two dozen of them in a rock pile off to the side there,” said Whelan.

The historic Cliff site is owned by Keweenaw County. The club has permission to go there and other places like the Central Mine site which is also owned by the county. The owner of the Seneca Mine is privately owned, but the owner allows the club to use it. Whalen said, n most of the country, visiting rock piles like the one we visited are off limits.

“What we try and do is for the private owners, is reimburse them with dinner certificates and such. For county officials, we can’t do that,” said Whelan.

The week leading up to the rock and mineral show is called, Keweenaw Week. Part of the week includes field trips to those mine sites. This is typically the only time of the year people can get access to them. Whelan said this year’s field trips filled up within two weeks. He shared with us most unique find at a mine site.

“My favorite find that I’ve had here was group of calcite crystals that copper inclusions in them. That’s very unusual to find on a rock pile because calcite doesn’t usually hold up very well to weathering and or bulldozers running over them. This had been down in the pile and protected from weather. That was my best find,” said Whelan.

The Gem and Mineral show is August 13-15 at Houghton Elementary School. Entry is free. The hours each day are listed below.

Friday 1:00 – 8:00
Saturday 10:00 – 6:00
Sunday 10:00 – 3:00

You can learn about the Copper Country Rock and Mineral Club here.

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