Saturday, 26 July 2008

2008 LENGENBACH - The Year of the Book

Like every year, David Hospital and I have been in Switzerland, in the Binn valley (Binntal). We have had the chance to visit the Binn mineral show (July 20th). David and I both decided to spend some days there. We went out last July 17th from Barcelona to Geneva by flight and then, after three hours drive, we arrived at Binn. We get Binn in the afternoon and we went directly to the small Pius restaurant in Imfeld where we reach Ralph Cannon, who works in the Lengenbach quarry (from now LGB) during the skilful season. He told us that next day he would be in the quarry.

The next day we went to the small quarry where Peter Strunz was helping Ralph in the consolidation walls tasks for next extraction works. We give Ralph a hand but we only could see they were working an area where we only saw “tourmalines” and some quartz crystals.

The next day attended the meeting of the Verein Lengenbach Freunde (VFL) or LGB Friends Association that since this year we are new members. We are the only members that are not either from Swistzerland, Austria or Germany. The association has 60 members (2007) giving their support to the LGB mineral research. We didn’t understand anything about the meeting conferences because they were German spoken, but we must thank one of its members, Thomas, for their translations on what they were talking about and voting. The new two “foreign” members were kindly accepted and everyone applauded the new way to expand its membership and nationalities represented. After the meeting Dr. Stefan Graeser made a guided tour (in German!) at the LGB mineral showcases in the Binn museum. Dr. Graeser, aware of our linguistic ignorance, gave us all kinds of post explanations in excellent English language, a luxury. Following the visit and for our stomach enjoyment there was an excellent cheese “raclette” with potatoes and good wine... and after the lunch they share out few rich-sulfosalt dolomite batches to the members. It was a surprise which minerals could appear from these samples.

The reason for our trip was the Binn mineral show that would take place on Sunday, but we enjoyed soon the mineralogy of this area as one of the most recognized Binn strahlers, André Gorsatt, put up for sale much of their material. We were able to buy some uncommon minerals from the area as: Cafarsite, Davidite, Senaite, Crichtonite or Asbecasite and other more usual but also very nice as: Rutile, Hematite and of course, excellent Anatase specimens from Gorb, along with several LGB pieces. Another reason for our trip was the presentation of the new book (in German!): Faszination Lengenbach (1958-2008) (Authors: Graeser, Cannon, Drechsler, Roth & Raber, ISBN 978-3-940814-16-6, Kristallografik Verlag, 2008). This book, with 192 color pages, has been published to celebrate 50 years (1958-2008) from the exploitation of this unique quarry by various communities: the Arbeitsgemeinschaft LGB (AGL, 1958-1997), the Interessengemeinschaft LGB (IGL, 1998-2002) and currently the LGB Forschungsgemeinschaft (FGL, 2002-present). The book contains many photographs, some of them from our own archive, about the deposit and the mining works. In addition, you could find the most complete information about Lengenbach: geology, geochemistry, working methods, identification and mineral catalogs, curiosities... there is a comprehensive index of all species found in LGB, with many information and photos. Given our "insistent" request to publish this book in English we have begun to talk to the editor to manage the idea and edit, at least, a short supplement with English texts, but we would like to publish all the book in English. It depends on mineralogical English spoken community: you decide! A book highly recommended.

The Mineralienbörse Binntal was held on Sunday. We saw a lot of alpine material as each year, but there were not many novelties. A beautiful and perfect shape Sphalerite crystal (17 mm) almost black on a LGB Dolomite gray matrix. Also an exceptional well defined and bright Tilasite 6 mm crystal, a very rare arsenate (CaMg[F/AsO4]) from the Wanni glacier (Wannigletscher, Binntal, Valais, CH). Individualized Magnetite crystals, very bright and with exceptionaly sharp faces and edges from Lercheltini area (Binntal). As a novelties, we could talk about some Bornite old samples (they said) coated by Malachite and with some Silver wires from Ausserbinn area. Each year we enjoy the excellent specimens of Rutile and Hematite iron-roses. Also the yellow to honey color Fluorite cubic crystals from Orismühle Quarry (Basel-land, CH) with Calcite scalenohedral crystals. From Lengenbach Grube we would like to emphasize on the new Quadratite crystals, small crystals but high price. Some interesting samples of Sinnerite, Hatchite-Wallisite, Liveingite or Baumhauerite, which LGB is type locality. Some new specimens of Mimetite and Baileychlore, recently analyzed. We were talking with Dr. Graeser about the new article about Struvite-(K) from LGB.

The next day, before leaving Binntal to Barcelona, we made one last visit to the Toni Imhof mineral shop. Toni, always a gentleman, surprised us with some old specimens from LGB quarry with an excellent quality, which almost makes us miss our flight to Barcelona. Binntal is always a surprise and we will try to come back soon.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

2006 LENGENBACH - Our LGB Trip

We planned to travel to Binn Valley a long time ago, in order to spend some days there visiting the different quarries and deposits of the area and, also, make a visit to the already famous Binn Mineral Show, at the end of July. Finally, this summer we got to arrange a trip to the valley. After doing the trip from Barcelona to Binn in one day by car (about 1000 Km) we arrived to Ofenhorn Hotel in Binn, the most famous hotel in the valley. This old-time hotel, opened at the end of 19th century, still has an old-fashioned style, so our stage there was a great pleasure.

Next day we went to the Binn Mineral Show, always the last weekend of July. It’s a classical alpine-type show, with plenty of material from the area, that we can’t find in other bigger shows, like Munich or Saint-Marie-aux-Mines Shows. We saw a lot of material from the nearby Lengenbach quarry at a reasonably prices, and we could also speak with the well-known swiss photographer Walter Gabriel, whom an interview with him was published in a back issue of the Spanish version of Mineral Up, Revista de Minerales (vol.VIII, num.3, 2002). We spent the following days to go around the different places of interest in the valley. Binntal is actually very small, being basically three towns: Binn, Giessen and Imfeld, with some other very small inhabited places, being Binn the biggest of all with a population of only 200 inhabitants.

But, if you’re lacking of time to search minerals in the area, you can buy them in shops. We advise you to visit the Toni Imhof’s shop in the center of Binn, and the André Gorsatt shop in Imfeld. Even though both shops are focused on tourist material, they have a good offer for mineral collector’s.

You can find here cafarsite, cervandonite, asbecasite, senaite-crichtonite, tilasite, etc, all of them typical from the valley. Even more focused on tourists we have the MONIK shop in Imfeld.
On the other hand, most interesting is to visit directly the quarries. The most famous and interesting of them is Lengenbach; you can reach it in a 20 minutes walk from Imfeld. Even though entrace to the quarry is not allowed, you can find some good micromount material in the dumps. Dolomite there is really fresh and has a good potential of binnite, sphalerite, realgar, dravite and also some sulphosalts like sartorite and baumhauerite.

Just 100 meters west from Lengenbach we find Messerbach, another dolomitic quarry where is much more difficult to find something. We can say the same about the third quarry we visited, Turtschi, in the right side of the road from Binn to Giessen. If you are interested in a harder excursion like going to Alp Lercheltini (Gorb, Spiessen,…) we advise you to speak with an alpine guide, the most famous of them is André Gorsatt, who guides mineral-oriented excursions in the valley.
Last but not least, we want to pinpoint two small but very interesting mineral museums. First in Binn Museum, next to the Ofenhorn hotel where we find a good selection of minerals from the valley, especially a complete room focused in Lengenbach with 3D-maquettes of the different stages of the exploitation. Second, the private museum of André Gorsatt, on the surroundings of Imfeld, that surprised us for the big quality of the displayed minerals.

But if you prefer a good lunch after so many minerals, you can’t avoid a visit to the Restaurant Imfeld, in Imfeld of course, where Pius, the picturesque sthraler owner, will receive you with his savoir-faire and will allow you to take a photograph with his most showy self-found minerals.Finally, to close the trip with more mineral shows, going back to Catalonia, you can stop at Chamonix (first week end of August) or even at Narbonne in the same week end.

Joan Rosell & David Hospital