Visit to a Mine!


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Feb 2, 2010
As promised in the Csarite thread, I said I would do a write up after my visit to the mine in Turkey ……. So here it is!

First of all, I have to say a HUGE thank you to Steve Bennett for making the arrangements. The day at the mine was one I will never forget. It was a superb experience not just for me but my family too! It made our holiday something very special! So, without further ado, this is what happened…….

We had arranged to meet the Mine’s General Manager, Ali, at the mining company’s office in the nearest town to the mine, Milas. It was a four hour drive from our villa and the heat was intense (in the high 40s) so we were dressed for the beach! On the phone the night before, Ali had assured us that we would be provided with all the protective equipment/clothing we needed so we turned up in flip flops and sunglasses! At the office we had to sign an insurance waiver in case anything happened – which did make me stop and think and wonder whether we should take our 9 year old, Katya, but she was so excited there was no turning back! Then we had to sign a Confidentiality/ Secrecy Agreement stating we wouldn’t divulge the location of the mine etc etc. We signed on the dotted line and then bundled ourselves into Ali’s pickup for the hour long drive to the Mine.

We turned off a main road onto a bumpy unmade road and for about 45 minutes had a bone shaking ride up winding mountain roads through dense pine groves, glimpsing wild horses and Lycian ruins dotted around and between clearings. It’s a good job that Katya’s loose tooth had fallen out the night before because otherwise that journey would certainly have stood in for the Tooth Fairy!

Finally we reached the top of the mountain and entered a small open clearing lined with various buildings, some that housed the 30 mine workers (who live there) and others containing mining equipment and various other unidentifiable bits and pieces. The air in the mountain was lovely and clear but it was still very very hot. The view was breathtaking and I hadn’t appreciated how high we had driven. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the person sent for provisions only to realise I’d forgotton the milk! (See photo 1)

So, after a quick slurp of water we got back into the pickup and drove another few minutes to the entrance of the Mine. I have to say that this was one of those times where I had an “OMG” moment as we had to take a sharp right hand bend to the entrance but there was a sheer drop on our left hand side and the pickup was too big to go around the bend so we had to go forward and then reverse back a bit (so the drop was RIGHT behind us) and inch our way forward. If you’ve ever seen the film “The Italian Job” you may recall the last scene with the coach? Well, I could see us all leaning forward willing the pickup not to roll back as Ali changed gear and moved forward slowly! You can see the “road” and the lack of width of it (and get an idea of the drop) in photo 1!

We had arrived! We were at the mine entrance and Orhan the Chief Miner came out to meet us. After a few introductions we established that he didn’t speak English but thankfully my husband is Turkish so we had our own translator! Orhan gave us all hard hats with a light that we could attach (or hold) with a lead to a battery pack that we tucked into an appropriate waistband. We suddenly realised that this was the only equipment we were going to be given so we are officially the only mine-visiting, flip flop wearing visitors they’ve probably had! Anyway, that wasn’t going to deter us and we went into the Mine, dressed for the beach but in a hard hat!

I should point out that it was at this moment as we were walking towards the Mine entrance that it occurred to me that I’m seriously claustrophobic! Yep – I’d been so excited that I had glossed over that part in my mind and in truth I hadn’t realised we were going to go into the Mine and I thought we might just see where they sort the rough or something like that! Okay, not one of my better thought processes but never mind, I was committed and was going into that Mine claustrophobia or not! (See Photo 2)

We walked into the Mine entrance and the first thing that hit us was the drastic drop in temperature. We had literally gone from over 40 degrees outside the entrance to probably about 10 degrees inside. The cold dropped literally a few meters inside – not even deep inside the Mine. Another thing that was a surprise was how high the Mine was (about 2 metres) so it didn’t feel too cramped and it was also about 2 metres wide so we could walk side by side. The reason for that became apparent later on! (See Photo 3)

The walls and ceiling are shored up by timber struts spread about a metre apart and you can see the walls of the Mine clearly through them. Orhan explained that the Bauxite deposit (an aluminium ore) was first discovered in 1949 but it wasn’t until 1962 that mining first began. Initially, the government issued licenses only for bauxite, so any gem diaspores couldn’t be mined until 2005 when new mining laws led to a private mining company reopening the mine for zultanite, (the proprietary name given at the time for gem diaspore). The new laws permitted them to secure a mining permit and so today the Mine produces mainly Bauxite but also has a smaller find of Csarite. It’s not mined in huge quantities and because it has perfect cleavage, Csarite is incredibly challenging to facet so some rough can’t be faceted at all. To give you an indication of how small the supply is, while Diaspore was first discovered in 1801 in the Ural Mountains in Russia, the Turkish deposit remains the world's only source of Turkish Diaspore (Csarite). So, unlike Diamonds, it really isn’t found in huge quantities. Couple that with the difficulty of cutting it and you start to begin to understand the rarity of good size/well cut specimens. I’ve certainly got a new found appreciation for it.

As we moved deeper into the mine, the light from the entrance tunnel disappeared (another OMG moment for me) but suddenly you could see the floor glittering like tiny stars had fallen all over the muddy floor. Orhan explained that this was the Aluminium and the black was caused by the Iron. Orhan has worked in mining for over 20 years and 5 years at the Csarite Mine and he clearly loves his job. He would just stop every now and again by a bit of wall and would point out a crystal Csarite or Mica (a silicate mineral that looks like Mother of Pearl) and say things like “that’s not a good one”! I’ve collected gemstones for years and can tell a good cut gemstone from a bad one BUT rough is something I’ve not had the opportunity to study much so I was incredibly impressed at his ability to look at a piece of seemingly innocuous wall and determine what was good and what wasn’t! Apparently, this isn’t a good bit of crystal (See photo 4).


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The Mine itself is 400 metres long but it then stretches up 100 metres and down 100 metres. To move between levels there are cut outs to the side walls with precarious wood ladders that are used to go up and down. The miners literally scamper up and down them like mountain goats but we were less successful and in the darkness it was really odd not being able to see where you were putting your feet, so there was much banging of hard hats against walls and scraping of hands against unseen parts of the Mine! (see photo 5 taken with a flash, photo 6 taken with no flash and just the light of our helmet and photo 7 - my flip flop wearing 9 year old miner!)

To get the material out of the mine, a digger type thing (you can tell I’m not into those), thunders into the Mine and scoops up material to take out. It dawned on me that the reason the mine is the height and width it is, is because of this machine as you could only just squeeze to each side of it when it was in the Mine. Clearly the digger thing can’t get to all floors as getting up the ladders would be problematic so at certain points there are open sections of floor leading from an upper to a lower floor lined with a metal shute that material is put into and collected into containers below that glide on railway lines (you can see them in the mine entrance photo).

At different points along the way we could meet a miner working away and digging out the seams or standing on a platform surveying a seam in the ceiling. They were so relaxed and seemed really enthusiastic about what they were doing.

At one point, Orhan stopped, bent down and literally picked up a Csarite crystal off the floor! I was amazed. I can normally spot a gemstone at a hundred paces but in the darkness I couldn’t find anything! This crystal is apple green in daylight (you can see that in the photo) but at night time in incandescent lighting it turns a peach/brown colour. If it were to be cut, I would expect that it would only produce a gem of around 0.5ct and you can see the size of it – most of it would be lost in the cutting process. (See photos 8 and 9 – apologies for the quality but they were taken inside the Mine).


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He also stopped and literally with his bare hands pulled a chunk of the wall away that had crystal and Mica all through it and handed it to me! Claustraphobia? Not any more! I was beyond myself with excitement seeing the wonders that nature had created. Here are photos that I took of it outside in daylight and you can see the mother of pearl effect created by the Mica. (See photos 10 and 11)

I have to say that there were some odd things that I didn’t expect. For example, would you believe that there are midges flying around (attracted by the lights)? If you stand still they literally cover you in minutes which isn’t the most pleasant thing on earth and if I become a Miner, I’ll be the fastest miner ever to avoid being swarmed! Also, the damp and darkness meant that huge bizarre looking mushrooms were growing along the floors! I meant to take a photo of them but forgot but they looked like huge white spidery alien mushrooms! Very strange indeed. The only thing I really didn’t like was hearing the huge digger on a floor above and the stones dropping from the roof as it moved around, together with hearing the vibration of the machine working. That was unnerving.

Believe it or not, we were in the Mine for over an hour and it was fascinating/strange/weird /unexpected and a hundred other emotions that I can’t even begin to mention BUT most importantly, it was FANTASTIC. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

When we emerged back into the heat and light of the day, we were taken back to the main station and had a cup of Turkish coffee and Orhan told us about the seams and how the earth makes the gems and he clearly was incredibly knowledgeable – he wasn’t just a Miner – he was a gemmologist as well.

It’s also important to say that the living/pay conditions etc., for the Mine workers are excellent and I believe that has a lot to do with the affiliation with GemsTV. There’s a huge emphasis on ethical mining and you get a real sense of that when you’re there. Having lived in Turkey, I know that workers in some industries are not given health insurance or basic conditions that you and I would think of as normal but that’s not the case for the Mine workers. They are looked after really well.

So at 4pm we headed back down the mountain and back to reality ……….. sort of! As we were winding our way down a wild stallion decided to challenge the pick up to a duel and literally launched itself at the front of the pickup! Ali slammed on the breaks, we lurched forward in our seats but thankfully he avoided the stallion that galloped off, unhurt, into the forest!

Hope you enjoyed reading about our adventure!


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So glad to hear that you all enjoyed yourselves! A lovely write-up of a very interesting day out.

Inge x
Thankyou for sharing with us it sounds like you had wonderful experience and your pictures brings it to life.
Wow, sounds like a great day out. Your photos were really interesting. Glad you and your family enjoyed it.
Fascinating reading! Lucky you Meesh, I can just imagine how fabulous the experience must have been for you and thanks so much for taking the time to share it with us.

Ahem, my second go at replying to your thread, first one disappeared into the ether!

Wow Meesh what a fantastic and very memorable experience for you and your family. Many thanks for the very descriptive and detailed account of your day at the mine and also for all the great photos. Sounds like a very arduous journey even to get there and well done to Katya, she's a very brave little girl. What with alien mushrooms, hordes of underground midges, sheer mountain drops, wild horses and dark mines.....think it would have totally given me the heebee geebees!
If I hadn't already melted in the heat first..........:pizza:
What an amazing day out. I have been to Turkey and can imagine the scenery you saw, it must have been wonderful to see the mine in real life!
Were you able to make use of Argey's old knickers with the pockets? :giggle:
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It sounds like a dream come true for any gemstone lover. An amazing experience that will last you all for the rest of your lives.

T-shirts and flipflops - hope you took along your bucket and spade to complete your ensemble! :mysmilie_845:

Thanks for taking the time to write up your day. It was really interesting to read.
Thank you so much Meesh for going to so much trouble to share your experience with us. Both wonderful and scary, I've done the mountainside roads thing meself a few times in my younger days but you wouldn't catch me near one now and, as for entering the black hole, no chance. It looked like a scary cold coffin, not to mention rickety - lol. Well done you for braving your claustrophobia. Your posts made for a smashing read, so thanks again. <a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="" border="0"><img border="0" src=""></a> xxxxxx
Arge - I'm so pleased you weren't with us on the trip to the mine because had I heard the word "coffin" I most definitely wouldn't have gone inside! :sad:

Glad you enjoyed the write up. It was such an experience (and we're still talking about it now).
wow meeshoo thats an amazing opportunity, thank you so much for taking the time to tell us about it and post pictures aswell, bet thats one holiday you will never forget xx

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