Friday, May 11, 2012

Finding the Nodular Agua Nueva Agate

An agate from the Mi Sueno claim.
Not too long after The Gem Shop, Inc. started selling the Agua Nueva Vein Agate a new nodular banded agate started to become available from several El Paso dealers.  I asked Rodolfo (see previous blog posting) about it and he got some for me.  It was fantastic! It was similar to Laguna, but with a larger size range.  Laguna Agate production in the 1970s was down, and this agate seemed to be as appealing, although it was expensive. I asked Rodolfo for some more, and he told me he could get some more, but he did not control the deposit.  I asked him where it came from and he told me it was just "over the hill" from the vein agate he was digging for me.  He continued to get this new agate for me in small amounts. No one knew what to call this agate, so it was sold under several names.  The Gem Shop sold it as "New Laguna" for a while, but it was also sold under the names "Laguna Agate" and "Coyamito Agate".  Eventually it became known that it was from the Agua Nueva Ranch and as more became available, it's distinctive characteristics became identifiable.  Today, Agua Nueva Agate is well known and can easily be distinguished from Laguna Agate and Coyamito Agate.
An agate from the Agua Nueva claim.
The actual area where the Laguna Agate deposits are located is about 20 miles to the south of Agua Nueva Ranch and the Coyamito Ranch is located about 7 miles to the North of the Agua Nueva Ranch.
20 years later in1998, I was mining the Agua Nueva Agate and still wondered about the wonderful nodules.  On the top of the ridge, above the vein agate I was working on, there were several outcrops of rocks.  I went up to look at these, and sure enough there were agate nodules all through them.  Also, the area had been extensively worked.  The rock here was very hard and the area had been worked in such a way that it was very difficult to see the workings from below.  I thought for a while I had found the area where the nodules had come from, but why had Rodolfo told me the deposit was over the hill and not up the hill?  Also, if the nodules were found so close to the vein agate, why would Rodolfo have trouble getting them or say he had no control over what was produced?
Agua Nueva nodule lodged in place.
I knew a man who was named Ramon Olivas who lived in Juarez, Mexico who mined the Mexican Blue Chalcedony.  He once told me he visited the Agua Nueva Ranch when he was a boy and his father worked there.  I invited him to come to the Mi Sueño Claim to look around and see if he remembered anything.  
After he arrived, we walked all over the claim.  He recognized the nodules in the host rock from years ago but he was not sure if it was the same place his father had worked in the past.  He finally came to the conclusion there must have been another deposit somewhere else.  I asked Ramon if he thought he could find it for me.  Ramon's father was still alive and lived in Denver at the time.  Ramon told me after he talked to his father he would look for it.  
The visible fault lines on the mountain (see arrows).
There is a large mountain north of the Agua Nueva Hacienda that has two very visibly distinct fault lines through it.  This mountain with its fault lines can be seen from hwy 45, 8 miles east of the ranch.  The Mi Sueño Claim is on the south west corner of this mountain and the other nodular agate deposit is on the north side of this mountain.  It was as Rodolfo described it, "On the other side of the hill" which really meant on the other side of the mountain.  The two deposits are less than 2 km apart, as the crow flies, and about 12 km apart on the ranch roads.  When I was walking around the mountain looking for the deposit, I was one little ridge away (about 100 yards) from finding it myself, but I missed it.
Brad Cross at the Agua Nueva monument.
A year or two later I arranged a trip to look at the deposit.  Brad Cross, Daniel (the foreman of the Agua Nueva Ranch), Ramon, and I all went together.  There was no road close to the area, so we walked in.  I remember seeing lots of nodules in very hard rock, but few good ones.  Most of them were just quartz.  The agates were in the gently sloping ledge below the top of a hill located to the North of the fractured mountain.  With the hardness of the host rock and the fact that I would have to build over a mile of new road just to get there, I was somewhat discouraged about mining this deposit.  Ramon said he would look into re-establishing the claim (there was already a claim marker with the name "Agua Nueva") if I would pay all his expenses.  Daniel offered to help with the road using the dozer that belonged to the ranch.  How could I refuse?  So the second claim on the "Agua Nueva Ranch" was established.  The first was named "Mi Sueño" and the second "Agua Nueva".  Both claims have nodules and veins.  The Mi Sueño has mostly vein agate and a few nodules, and the Agua Nueva Claim has mostly nodules with a few veins.  It is amazing how seemingly insignificant information i.e. “over the hill” and “I was there when I was a boy” can be so important in finding something that is lost.