Now that we have taken a look at the geology of Vancouver Island, let’s take a look at some areas of mineral interest.
An old copper mine and an unmined gold deposit sit on the northeast side of Mount Washington near the top of the mountain, which is mainly composed of highly faulted Karmutsen Formation basalts intruded by a Tertiary stock. On the top of the mountain rare shell fossils can be found. The copper and gold deposits are rich in arsenic minerals such as realgar. Vuggy crystalline and chalcedonic quartz often forms with the mineralization. Placer gold can be found in Oyster River draining the northern part of the mountain. Relatively large nuggets have accumulated in the river further downstream.
Just west of Campbell River, the old Quinsam or Argonaut iron mine is a large open pit offering an abundant amount of andradite garnet crystals in the orebodies. Several narrow cobaltite/erythrite bearing zones within the skarned rocks, also exist.
A unique kind of syngenetic mineral deposit has been found in several locations near Menzies Bay and on Quadra Island, containing copper in the form of chalcocite and native copper, and vanadium in the form of volborthite. Just past Sayward, the Iron Mike mine, a magnetite skarn, is located west of the highway.
The Adam River drainage area hosts beautiful quartz and epidote crystals as well as some small gold-copper deposits, and copper-bearing amygdaloidal lavas. On the highway north of Adam River, a section of Quatsino Limestone is exposed and contains some small karst holes or caves visible from the road.
The next area of collecting interest is in the vicinity of Nimpkish and Bonanza Lakes. The Bonanza area is accessed from near the Zeballos turn-off, and can be driven through to Telegraph Cove and back out to the highway. The Bob copper mine, a small open-pit skarn, is located beside the road part way to the main lake. The upper Bonanza River is one of the few designated placer gold rivers on Vancouver Island. The gold source, similar to Mt. Washington, appears to be fine gold coming from Karmutsen lavas at the headwaters, concentrating into small nuggets downstream.
Near Nimpkish River, the Nimpkish Iron Mine is a large open-pit with some collecting opportunities for skarn minerals and magnetite. East of the Island Highway, the Kinman Creek area host a variety of small, rich copper deposits and interesting skarn minerals. Several large cave systems are found in the area, and local guides are available. Other minerals of interest in the local skarns include “peacock” chalcopyrite, magnetite, pyrite, specular hematite, bornite, galena, jasper, diopside, and serpentine.
The Hustan caves is an easy walk on the western side of Nimpkish Lake. West of Port McNeill, the Merry Widow and Old Sport/Coast Copper skarn copper/iron mines can be found on Merry Widow Mountain. The open pits at the Merry Widow Mine are very steep and dangerous with lots of active rock fall, so collecting from the dumps is the best and safest solution.