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Andes: Mountains and Minerals


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Perů is a wonderful country.  Anyone from an archaeologist to a zoologist will be fascinated by Perů, ...and obviusly the same thing is true for Minerals Collector!!  The Peruvian Andean Mountain  are arguably the most beautiful and accessible on the continent and the Cordillera Blanca has became world famous among all visitors of this region.    There are several other ranges in Perů which are less visited but no less magnifient (many of the precipitous glacier-clad mountains have peaks of more than 6000 metres ).   But the Peruvian Andes is not just the scene of remote wilderness.   It is also home to millions of highlands Indians who still speak ancient tongue ( Quechua or Aymara) and preserve much of their traditional way of life.

Huascaran, at 6768 metres above sea level, is Peru's highest mountains and the highest mountain anywhere in the tropical world.   Most of the Peru's Andes lie between 3000 and 4000 metres above sea level and support half the country's population.   It is a rugged and and difficult landscape with jagged ranges separeted by extremely deep and vertiginous canyons.

For minerals collector Perů has been the world's most prolific source of mineral specimens, producing top-quality pyrite, rhodochrosite, hubnerite, tetrahedrite, pink fluorite, pyrargyrite, chalcopyrite, rhodonite, orpiment, ecc.  

Look for minerals in Peru is quite complicated, because roads are terrific, sometimes enviroment is dangerous and to find the mine is an adventure, often is easier look for minerals near the local dealers (called 'piriteros') that walk many times from the mine to Lima where you can meet him.

Here we try here to give you a short description of main mineral localities present in this country and for each the most important minerals of them.

peru.jpg (161973 byte) 1) Quiruvilca District

2) Pasto Bueno District

3) Raura District

4) Pachapaqui District

5) Huanzala Mine

6) Uchucchacua Mine

7) Cerro de Pasco Mine

8) Huaron Mines

9) Morococha District

10) Casapalca District

11) Pampa Blanca Areas

12) Julcani District

13) Castrovirreyna District

Quiruvilca District

The Quiruvilca district is located 80 km east of Trujillo; the different working in this area are from 3.800 to 4.000 metres.   This district is an old lead-zinc-silver-copper deposit located on layered volcanic rocks of the Miocene Calipuy Formation.   The ore deposits have four distinct zones: Enargite zone, Transition zone, Lead-Zinc zone and Stibnite zone.

Near mineral collectors Quiruvilca best known for its fine Pyrite (in different crystal forms: pyritohrdrons, octahedrons, dodecahedrons and cubes), Orpiment (among the best orpiment in the world: found in crystals up to 7 cm in sizewith bright orange colour) , Hutchinsonite (the world's finest for the species, in black to silver black prismatic crystals) and Enargite (in showy specimens in well defined crystals sometimes encrusted with pyrite), but here is possible find many other minerals with a good quality for collector: Arsenopyrite (uncommon in good specimens, but when found very attractive in xx till 2 cm long), Dolomite, Enargite, Galena, Sphalerite, Stibnite, Tetraedrite, Apatite, Barite, Baumahurite, Bournonite (xx till 3 cm sometimes in associations with pyrite and calcopyrite), Calcite, Chalcopyrite, Scheelite, Wurtzite, ecc.

Pasto Bueno District

The Pasto Bueno district is located in the northern Cordillera Blanca approxumately 90 km east of the Pacific coast with elevations  from 3.300 to 5.000 metres.   Pasto Bueno is a vein-type tungsten deposit, mineralization occurs in steeply dipping quartz veins associated with the late tertiary quartz monzonite consuco stock.  In this district are located the famous Huayllapon mine,  La Magistral mine and Mundo Nuevo mine and Tamboras mine.

Near mineral collectors Pasto Bueno is  known for its   Pyrite, Fluorite (occurs as pale green crystals often in associations with quartz, rarely as fine octahedrons to 8 cm on and associated with hubnerite and quartz), Sphalerite, Orpiment (nice orange colour), Hubnerite (the world's best in the world!! in crystals up to 25 cm in lenght usually in associations with quartz xx; smaller hubnerite crystals can be traslucent in deep cherry red colour), Quartz, Tetrahedrite, Rhodocrosite (the Huyllapon mine has produced rhodochrosite of exeptional quality among the best in the world, the crystals occurs in several shades of pink to near red in association with fluorite or quartz), Fluoroapatite, Augelite, Scheelite.

Raura District

The Raura district is polymetallyc deposit of veins and replacement orebodies located northeasr Lima, about 15 km due north of the town of Oyon.      The main sedimentary unit in the Raura area is Cretaceus Machay Limestone; known mineralization covers about 24 square kilometres.  The Raura depression contains several orebodies each with different mineralization: Catuvo orebody is predominantly in Pb-Zn; Lake Ninacocha orebody is Ag-rich galena; Esperanza  and Restauradora orebody.

Minerals offered from Raura district are: Barite, Calcite, Calcopyrite, Fluorite, Gypsum (in crystals over a meter in lenght), Manganoancalcite, Pyrite, Rhodochrosite, Stibnite, Tetrahedrite, Saligmanite.

Pachapaqui District

The Pachapaqui district is in the northwest corner of Bolognesi Province; this area is extensively glaciated, the mining district occupies an area 18 km long by 9 km wide with different mine from about 3800 to 4500 metres.   Three main types of deposit are recognized: fissure veins and replacement, contact m,etamorphic and stratabound.

Minerals offered from Pachapaqui district are: Arsenopyrite, Bournonite (in black to gun metal blue till 2,5 cm in size), Calcite, Calcopyrite, Fluorite, Galena, Helvite (in bright canary-yellow tetrahedral crystals), Manganaxinite, Manganoancalcite, Pyrite, Quartz, Rhodochrosite, Rhodonite, Sphalerite, Tetrahedrite (highly lustrous crystals up to 2,5 cm in brilliant black to silver black group).

Huanzala Mine

The Huanzala mine is about 250 km north of Lima in the northwest corner of the Huallanca district.   The orebodies contain pyrite, lead-zinc, copper, silver-tin-tungsten minerals.

This mine is very famous for the incredible pyrites and for the fantastic pink fluorites, probably the best in the world for quality and association.

 Here follows a not complete mineral list of the mineral occurrences in Huanzala, giving an idea of the richness of this mine complex:
Acanthite, Alabandite, 'Apatite', Arsenopyrite, Barite, Bornite, Calcite, Canfieldite, Cassiterite, Chalcopyrite, Cosalite, Dolomite, Emplectite, Enargite, Fluorapatite, Fluorite (most fluorite from Huanzala is colorless to green and more rarely in shades of purple to pink), Galena, Hessite, Hocartite, Hübnerite, Kaolinite, Lillianite, Natrolite, Polybasite, Pyrargyrite, Pyrite, Pyrrhotite, Quartz, Rhodochrosite, Rhodonite, Scheelite, 'Sericite', Silver, Sphalerite, Stannite, Stephanite, Tennantite, Tungstenite, Wittichenite, Wurtzite.

The mine is still active, being one of the most important in the region nowadays.

Uchucchacua Mine

Uchucchacua is a silver-manganese-lead-zinc replacement vein and skarn district located about 30 km south of Huanzala, elavations range is from 4.500 to 5.100 metres; this mine is very famous among the collectors for the very nice samples of rhodocrosite, of gemmy quality and schalenoedral shape, the only ones can compete with the Sweet Home mine samples in Colorado and the South African ones; usually occurs on a dark manganese-rich matrix.

Recently in association with the rhodocrosites there some spectacular silver wires that create an association unique for attractiveness and mineralogical value. The mine is now the largest silver mine of Peru and the extracting activity is continuing. in addition to the silver, also Manganese is very common in the mine, with Rhodocrosite, but also with some rare minerals, among which Uchucchacuaite, a rare sulphur of Manganes, antimonium,siler and lead.

Other minerals interestin for collector are: Arsenpolybasite, Kutnohorite, Pyrrhotite, Acanthite, Fluorite, Proustite, Pyrargirite, Pyrite.

The mine was of the most important silver mine in Perů and it appears that the mine will be in production for at least another ten years.

Cerro de Pasco

Cerro de Pasco Mine is exploited in a pit, 2400 x 2000 m wide and 500 m deep.  Explotation developed in four steps: first the oxidation area; second the volcanic area; third a Pb-Zn-Ag massive sulphides; fourth a body with pyrrotite, marcasite and minor vivianite.   By a geological point of view rocks in the area are mainly sedimentary, Paleozoic to Quaternary, and useful material is concentrated in Giurassic to Triassic limestones.   Tectonic structures are oriented N-S; tertiary magmatic activity set here in place both effusive and intrusive bodies: the Rumiallana Pyroclastic conglomerate and quartzitic monzonite dykes.  Compressive stresses subsequently fractured both sedimentary and ignous rocks; hydrotermal solutions gradually deposited almost all the minerals in these fractures.

In this mine have been indentified more than 58 minerals, many of them interesting only for systematic or micro resercher, the most important for mineral collectors are: Barite, Enargite, Galena, Pyrite, Sphalerite, Tennantite, Gratonite.

In the same district is located the Colquijirca Mine that offer Chalcopyrite, Enargite, Native Silver.

Huaron Mines

Huaron lies 40 km south south-west of Cerro de Pasco; the mines are located on the east flank of the western Cordillera of the Andes at elevations ranging from 4.300 to 4.800 meters.   Huaron is a complex copper-lead-zinc-silver deposit and there are about 20 mines in the Huaron district.   

The most important minerals for collector are: Chalcopyrite (in nice pseudo-tetrahedral shape often bigger than 5 cm in size), Dolomite, Galena, Pyrite, Quartz, Rhodocrosite, Sphalerite.

Morococha District

The Morococha district is about 4.400 metres elevation and is located roughly 17 km east-northeast of Casapalca; in the ores are present arsenic and antimony and in association other minerals.

For mineral collectors Morococha offer Enargite, Pyrite, Quartz, Tetraedrite, Siderite, Vivianite, Rhodocrosite.

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Casapalca District

The town of Casapalca is about a four-hour drive east of Lima and is an elevation of 4.300 metres.   Epithermal silver ores which contain acanthite, proustite, pyrargirite and myargirite were found with pyrite in a siliceous and pyritic gangue; three main zones of mineralization have been defined which are based on alteration, metal content and mineral type: Zone I is intensely silicified, with no carbonates in the central part and pure calcite in the edge of the zones; Zone II contains abundant carbonate and sericite, sphalerite, tetraedrite and galena are the main ore minerals deposit; Zone III has dolomite, siderite and rodocrosite as the dominant carbonates.

The most important minerals for collecting are: Calcite, Manganoncalcite, Chalcopyrite, Dolomite, Galena, Pyrite, Quartz, Rhodocrosite, Sphalerite, Tetraedrite, Anhydrite, Barite, Bournonite, Geocronite, Gypsum.

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Pampa Blanca Areas

Pampa Blanca is a very small village located in the valley of the Pisco Chiris River on the road called 'Carretera de los Liberatores' the link Huancano to Huancavelica in the Cordillera Occidental.  This is a region very rich of mine and very famous among mineral collector, here a short description of minerals and localities:

Rosario Mabel Mine (now La Flor del Perů II ) and other localities on Gato Moro Mountain: the firts outstanding specimens that was finding in localities was the worldwide famous specimens of epidote crystals in fascicular aggregate till 10 cm in lenght, sometimes in association with quartz; from the same localities also andradite crystals.   Only in a second time miners started to take care of the quartz that occur in Japan-law twins in trasparent and semitrasparent crystals.

Ullpac Mine ( now La Flor del Perů I): from this mine, located on the other side of the river on the Cerro Ullpac, the first Japan-law twins crystals of quartz

San Genaro Mine: from this mine Pink Quartz (quarzo rosado),   Sulphur, Silver Sulphosalt and Barite

Julcani Mine: from this mine Enargite, Tennantite, Barite, ..

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Julcani District

The Julcani district is located about 65 km by road southeast of the city of Huancavelica at an elevation of 4.200 metres.  The Julcani district is dominated by a series of rhyodacitic to dacitic dikes, volcanic domes and pyroclastic material.   In this district are located many interesting mine for collector:

Herminia Mine:  Barite, Bournonite (in nice crystals from black to steel-gray up to 2,5 cm), Chalcopyrite, Enargite, Pyrite, Siderite, Stibnite, Tennantite.

Lucrecia Mine: Barite, Tennantite

Tentadora Mine: Galena, Pyrite, Quartz

Estela Mine: Apatite, Arsenopyrite, Bismuthinite

Mimosa Mine: Bismothinite, Boulangerite

Sacarmento Mine: Orčpiment, Realgar


Castrovirreyna District

The Castrovirreyna district is located along  the road from Huancavelica to Pisco; this district is composed by  a series of vulcanic peaks that average about 5.000 metres in elevations.    There are five major mines in the district: Caudalosa, Candelaria, San Genaro Carmen Lira, Reliquias Mine.

The most important minerals for collector are: Barite, Boulangerite, Bournonite, Chalcopyrite, Galena, Miargyrite, Polybasite, Proustite, Pyrargyrite (very nice crystals over 4 cm in size, among the best in the world), Pyrite, Quartz, Rhodochrosite, Native Silver, Sphalerite, Stibnite, Armayonite, Tetraedrite.

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