Agua Nueva Mining Operation 1997-98
Many years ago, The Gem Shop purchased agate found on the Agua Nueva Ranch from the now deceased Rodolfo Quevedo. He arranged for the agate to be mined and when he had some, he would call or write and ask for money. He would then deliver the rock to Richard Vaughn in El Paso, who would then forward it to our shop.
After working this vein agate deposit for a year or so, another agate deposit containing mostly nodules, was found on the other side of the mountain. Other people controlled this deposit but Rodolfo would bring me some from time to time. This nodular material was sold as New Laguna since it was similar to Laguna agate and few people were familiar with Agua Neuva. After a few years the mining of both deposits was abruptly stopped for some reason.
In 1988 I had the opportunity to visit the site of this vein agate deposit and look it over. I was surprised that there was no claim marker in the area. In 1995 I went back and with the help of a Mexican company called Agata Aldama established a claim and called it Mi Sueño.
The Agua Nueva agate from this claim is formed in veins and is basically a moss agate. Occasionally Laguna-like banded pockets of agate form in the moss. If these pockets get large enough, tube formations occur.
Rose and pink banding are the most prevalent but red, yellow, and deep purple colors are also present. The tube formations can be quite spectacular and desirable in collector pieces.
Some nodular agate is found here also but not as much as the deposit on the other side of the mountains. Sr. Jaime Creel owns the Agua Nueva Ranch and it was necessary to get his permission before any work could be done on the claim. This took a few years, but permission was granted and arrangements were made to begin in March of 1997. Thom Lane came with me on this trip. I rented a small excavator from Caterpillar in Chihuahua City. It was necessary to repair about 2 miles of road to get to the canyon where the deposit lies.
I made a flat area near our monument at the base of the canyon. The next day we moved the trailer and set up camp.
The Agua Nueva vein agate deposit lies in a rather narrow canyon running up hill to the Southeast. All the old hand diggings were near the head of the canyon on the right side. There is no agate on the left side of the canyon.
I decided to build the road to the deposit in the left side and cross over the drainage just above the old excavations. This took about one and a half days but could have taken a lot longer. Toward the upper part of the canyon I hit some soft ash rock. This made the building of the road much easier.
After I finished crossing the arroyo I started working down the other side toward the old diggings. Thom and my expectations were growing as we were finally getting close to where we wanted to start working. Then to our surprise a 30 lb. chunk of agate rolled out of the dirt. It was full of violet colored agate eyes. This chunk was loose in the dirt and we were not even looking for agate yet. A couple of days later on our first full day of mining we produced the better part of 1,000 lbs. of agate.
This deposit had never been worked with equipment before with the exception of some drilling done up the hill where nodules were exposed. With the excavator it was easy to follow the veins of moss agate until the veins turned good. Part of the problem in mining here was deciding what to keep and what to throw away. If the pieces were just a dense mass of agate with no color we threw them away. Javier from Agata Aldama arranged for our workers and his father was there to supervise them. Sometimes we had four people picking agate and carrying it to a pile where it was sacked the then moved to camp. The Excavator was rented for 30 days and in that time we kept about 6 tons of agate. Of the 6 tons about 25% was high-grade agate (with tubes or Laguna like banded pockets in the moss agate).
I spent several days building a road to the nodular area up the hill. The rock is very hard here and I never did find anything worthwhile. The agate here was quite deep, and I could not penetrate the host rock any further with the excavator than the “old timers” had done with their portable drill.
Brad Cross and Skip Eggelston came to visit one weekend and Lou Wazny also visited at the end of our operation. These friends have contributed some of the pictures shown on this page.
I made arrangements with Javier to continue working the Mi Sueño claim in the spring of 1998. Javier was in charge of providing the workers again.
If there is one truism about mining it is that events will not go as planned. The 1997 operation was about, “as an ideal of an operation”, as I have experienced. The 1998 operation was not. Thom Lane went with me again and when we got to Chihuahua City the excavator was not ready even though arrangements were made months in advance. A couple of days after we arrived at the claim, set up camp, and got started. Javier’s father decided we needed a shelter built for the helpers so we spent a few days building it. It seems that in the second year we were finding more moss agate that was not economical to keep.
In the 30 days of work we must have discarded 10 tons of the material. We did find good material however, including some exceptional deep purple agate in the southwest corner of our diggings. The whole operation was fret with problems. One of the workers was useless and had no idea what was going on. Another worker quit in the middle of the operation. A third worker got so drunk on the weekend he could not make it back on Monday. I finally drove to Laguna and asked Armando and his son if they could work for the last week. They said yes, and I finally had some good help for a few days.
Ramon Olivas visited one weekend. I had asked him to come because he had worked here for his father when he was a boy. At this time, I did not know the exact location of the nodular deposit and I had hoped Ramon could remember where it was.
He recognized the Mi Sueño area but could not find the other nodular deposit. But he was sure there was another place. Later he did finally find it, and I went to look at it in the fall of 1998.