|Location:||Los Chupaderos, Los Checheses, Sierra de Baoruco, Barahona Province. 10km southwest of Barahona.|
|Classification:||Gem Mine Larimar, a blueish massive pectolite|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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|1916||discovered by Father Miguel Domingo Fuertes Loren.|
|1974||rediscovered by Miguel Méndez and Peace Corps volunteer Norman Rilling.|
During the Miocene the reef limestones of the area were covered by volcanic rocks. The eruption produced andesites and basalts. Bubbles of gases like carbon dioxide and steam emanating from the lave formed holes in the rock. Typically for such cavities are the subsequent crystallization of minerals from ground water percolating through the volcanic rocks. The material is dissolved from the rocks and transported through the pores of the rock, generally powered by the remaining heat of the lava. When the water reaches the holes the material is very slowly deposited and form crust or sometimes crystals. Typical minerals are zeolites, prehnite, calcite, datolite, sugilite, fluorite, and serpentine.
Here at Los Chupaderos the holes are mostly filled by pectolite, NaCa2Si3O8(OH) or sodium calcium inosilicate hydroxide. While it is generally white to gray, here it is turqouise with white clouds, a variety where the calcium is substituted by cobalt. The unique colour makes it a fine semi precious gemstone, the uniqueness makes it much more expensive than other pectolites. And this chemical structure is photosensitive, which causes the larimar to lose its blue colour over the years.
The larimar bearing rocks were eroded, but the larimar is harder and resists erosion much better. The mine searches for the gems at its original location in the residuals of the eroded basalts and in the basalt itself. But some larimar pebbles have been transported by the Bahoruco River to the sea. And so specimens can be found in the alluvium and the beach gravels. The further the material is transported, the more it is tumbled by the water and naturally polished. Specimens may be found at the beach where the blue and white larimar stands out in contrast to the dark basaltic gravels.
Larimar is a special blue semi-precious stone, which is found only in one location on earth. This is Filipinas Larimar Mine in the Dominican Republic. It is possible to visit the mine, but as far as we know only with guided day trips and tour operators. The mine is not developed as a show mine, it is just a working mine and mine workers take visitors into some parts of the mine to show them how the larimar is mined. The tours generally also include a lunch, possibility to find some larimar, and finally the chance to buy some jewelry and other items made of the rock.
The Larimar was first discovered by Father Miguel Domingo Fuertes Loren of the Barahona Parish. On 22-NOV-1916 he requested permission at the Dominican Republic's Ministry of Mining to exploit the deposit. But this was so strange, nobody knew what the priest was talking about, and it seems he never started to mine the gems.
The blue rock was rediscovered by Miguel Méndez and Peace Corps volunteer Norman Rilling in 1974. They discovered specimens at the beach at the foot of the Bahoruco Range. They followed the river upstream and revealed the in situ outcrops of the basalt. Miguel Méndez named the rock larimar, an artificial term he formed from his young daughter's name Larissa and mar, the Spanish word for the sea. So this is one of numerous minerals named after a person.
Today the area of Los Chupaderos is riddled with mine shafts. Approximately 2,000 vertical shafts exist on a single mountainside, the exact number is unknown as they are surrounded by dense rainforest. And each has a blue-colored mine tailing, where the debris of the mining is piled up. The whole deposit has a size of about one square kilometre.