Messina copper deposits (RSA)

The history:

The town of Messina is the most northerly settlement in South Africa and lies 8 km south of the Limpopo river which form the border to Zimbabwe. The copper deposits were discovered centuries ago by ancient indigenous African tribes. Stone hammers, soapstone artifacts and iron tools have been recovered in the 80 feet deep (water level) and 30 feet wide diggings. Ancient smelting sites are still visable in the high ridges within 20 km of Messina. It was tales of these copper mining activities that lead Lt.-Colonel J.P. Grenfell to explore the area and eventually form a mining company in 1905. By 1914 Messina was exporting high-grade matte (containig high concentration grades) to Welsh refineries. Between 1938 and 1940 Messina was producing 10 000 tonnes of copper annually. Since beginnig the minig operations 40 million tonnes of ore yielded approximately 700 000 tonnes of copper. Copper, which occurs in the primary sulphide minerals chalcopyrite, bornite and chalcocite,is the only economic metal won from the ore bodies. The chalcopyrite is present along the peripheries of ore bodies and is gradually replaced by bornite, chalcocite and native copper towards the centre and downwards. There are five separite mines: the Artonvilla, Spence, Messina, Harper and the Western Campbell mine. These mines show slight variation in their local geology and mineralisation. In 1992 the last mine (Messina - No. 5 Shaft) stopped production and was closed down. This ended 88 years of copper mining in this region. 1


Messina became famous for it's quartz. It is by far the most abundant and attractive mineral from a collectors standpoint because of the habits and varieties of size and groups, together with several colourful secondary mineral inclusions. The inclusions of shattuckite, papagoite and ajoite are in particular spectacular. The brecciation of the ore bodies provided the space for crystals, in some cases almost 1 m long. The Messina Mine (No. 5 Shaft) is in well known for its wealth in beautiful quartz crystals ranging from mircoscopic to a metre in size. Coubly terminated crystals over 10 cm in length have often been found. Almost all of the larger crystals are zoned inernally and one can find over a dozen phantom layers in some crystals. These zones consist of minute layers of hematite, kaolinite, edidote and chlorite. Clear euhedral quartz is commonly found as an outer layer over a zoned core which is coated by hematite, epidote, talc, sericite, chlorite, zeolites, malachite or azurite. The presence of flaky specular hematite gives a striking sparkle to the well-formed clear crystals. Hollow kaolinic spherules are also sometimes found inside the core of quartz crystals. A feature of the quartz crystals is that many are doubly terminated also the large crystal in a group is sometimes encirled by a peripheral halo of small crystals.2

The quartz also occasionally partially or completely covered with calcite. The colour of the calite ranges from bright yellow or orange to white. Also large groups of calcite have been found in the Messina mines.

Minerals from the Messina Mining District 3


As the mine is closed the only way of getting material is via dealers or collectors (such as us) who bought the minerals while the mine was still operational.


"Minerals of South Africa" by Bruce Cairncross and Roger Dixon:

1: Cairncross, B./Dixon, R.: in Minerals of South Africa, Singapore 1995, p. 46-50.
2: Cairncross, B./Dixon, R.: in Minerals of South Africa, Singapore 1995, p. 51-52.
3: Cairncross, B./Dixon, R.: in Minerals of South Africa, Singapore 1995, p. 68.

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