The Baja California sulfur has been known to collectors for years, but what is really known of the locality? I had the fortunate experience in 1993 to travel to the locality with Mike New of Hilltop Minerals at the time, which would morph with Joe Kielbaso of Gemini Minerals to form the company Top Gem Minerals with this mining adventure.
Mike and I had started out from Tucson, Arizona and headed towards the border town of San Luis Rio Colorado, Baja across from Yuma, Arizona and proceeded to head towards the town of San Felipe, Baja to get a hotel and then subsequently head towards Bahia Santa Maria to find some locals to help dig and rent a piece of equipment for the heavy overburden removal.
The great thing about being in San Felipe during the "R" months is the abundance of fresh shrimp that is available every evening for the taking and eating. After loading up on fresh shrimp the night before Mike and I headed down about twenty five miles to the Ejido Delicias to look for people.
We ran across some young guys looking for work and took them on and then we were fortunate enough to hook up with a man named Jose Castro who had a small trailer to rent on the beach just down from Bahia Santa Maria and only about mile from the sulfur pit known as the Veronica Mine and owned by the Ejido Delicias.
We were lucky the next day back up in San Felipe and found a Caterpillar D7 for rent that looked like it was held together with bubble gum and bailing wire and had a smiling man named Rigoberto as the operator.
Things were starting to come together and it looked like we would be mining in a couple of days for the yellow stuff.
The dozer showed up a couple of days later and we began stripping the top of the fumarole off to try and get to lower parts of the pits that had not been worked by the likes of John Whitmire out of Yuma years before.
We found quite a bit of what we called yellow paint on rock, which was great for the wholesale business which we were beginning.
The hope was for some lemon drop crystals of some size. The most typical large crystals were hoppered or skeletal growth, which looks cool, but we were hoping for Sicilian looking smooth shaped large lemon drops.
Stripping continued with Rigoberto happily driving the dozer to oblivion it seemed, but cutting the overburden at a good rate, which seemed like we would be in virgin ground within four or five days. All the while we were still getting from the edges of the fumarole decent yellow color on rock by the box full and starting to see hints of larger crystals and aggregates of crystals bunched up on the loose plates that were hanging in the fried out voids that we would encounter.
It seemed to me that every time we turned on the bulldozer it was broke or needed some more diesel, which I thought it had just got.
We spent more time working on the damn motor than we did moving ground by the time the project wrapped up.
It was great having guys like Chapulin, Sergio and Cuco working right along collecting the yellow stuff as it came out.
Mike and I had to end up checking every box that was loaded into the truck, due to the fact that the guys were loading every white rock with a little patch of yellow on it.
The first week of production yielded forty percent recoverable material and sixty percent waste. By the time the project ended we had the guys around ninety percent good and ten percent waste depending on what the ground gave up.
One interesting point of the project was the fifty five gallon water drum, which was filled and left for us as water for the dozer and trucks. As the project wore on we ran out of drinking water late one week and decided to try and drink the water from the drum before we could make it into town to the desalinization plant for more real drinking water...ah the joys of learning thru your youth. That was the worst mistake I had ever made and it played out over the next three or four days in the worst case of Montezuma's revenge that I can imagine or have ever had.
It was interesting to note as we progressed deeper in the fumarole that the state of the sulfur changed with what I assumed was the cooling effect of the vapors or gases as they migrated towards the surface. The sulfur began to become much more transport and the crystal size was becoming larger and when I speak of larger I mean around 1/4 of an inch.
Typically there was a thin coating of yellow on the walls and ceilings of the open voids and possibly in the middle of the pocket with depth there would be aggregates of crystals forming clusters and plates that would resemble floaters.
Usually in these clusters the color would be the deep lemon and the transparency would begin to get very rich with the smaller crystals and somewhat opaque with the larger crystals.
With the matrix being very friable it was no problem when a good piece was encountered to take your time and carve away the surrounding matrix and extract the piece you desired.
Life in the travel trailer on the beach was great for ease of getting to the locality and just generally relaxing after a hard day's work in the sulfur pit.
We would stock up on fresh shrimp in San Felipe and then gorge ourselves for the remainder of the week until running out. While in San Felipe Mike and I would enjoy dinner at a steak restaurant by the name of El Nido and run by a wonderful gentleman by the name of Juan who would go to the Mexicali border for the beef.
Juan made his after dinner coffee in an old copper coffee pot that he told us had not been washed for years, so as to keep the flavor rich and bold. After a wonderful meal full of the restaurants ambiance and the rest of the customers had left for the evening, Juan would put some old Carlos Santana and we would all sit around smoking our after dinner cigarette and sipping some Mexican brandy.
After three weeks of digging we ended up with hundreds of flats of good looking yellow paint looking stain on white rock. One of the problems with the matrix from this locality is that it eats cardboard flats and clothes with the gas that it releases when sitting around. A decent pair of blue jeans with minimal mileage on them will be literally falling off of you after a couple of weeks and the cardboard flats will completely decompose after a month of sitting around full of sulfur.
Preparation of the sulfur was a fairly quick process of either blowing off with air or a quick wash with the material that has harder matrix.
Stay tuned for the exciting next Sulfur report from 1995 when we really break something good!