Mineral collecting in Slovakia

Slovakia is situated at the north-western end of the Carpathian Mountains, a region well-known for its metal ore mines and quarries. One of the Sussex Mineralogical Society’s members had been a schoolteacher in Slovakia and had explored many of its mineral locations. Through his contacts there, an 11 day visit was arranged and a quite large group, comprising 17 society members, descended on the rural tranquillity of eastern Slovakia in August 2008. We were met by our two expert guides, one of whom was Dr Rudolf Ďud’a, head of the Department of Natural History in the Eastern Slovak Museum in Košice and author of the Slovakia chapter in the book Minerals of the Carpathians.

Fig. 1. Andesite columns in the Vechec quarry – very similar to the basalt columns found in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Our journey took us on a round trip from eastern Slovakia up to Prešov and the Tatra Mountains on the border with Poland, across to Banská Bystrica in central Slovakia, south to šiatorská Bukovinka near the Hungarian border and back to Košice. Much of the driving was through heavily wooded mountains and attractive scenic valleys. The mines (now mostly inactive) and quarries were often well hidden, and generally required some walking (always upwards, of course) to get to from our coach.

During our trip, we visited four quarries, eight mine dumps and a wooded mountainside deposit of ‘flesh opals’, so we were kept busy. One of the lasting impressions of the mine dumps (some of which were very large indeed) was the richness of secondary mineralisation – when in Cornwall, one is usually excited by any tiny piece of blue or green on the rock. In the Slovakian mine dumps, we saw seas of green/blue mineralisation. However, closer inspection revealed much of it to be microcrystalline crusts, which we were happy to discard, while looking for the real crystalline specimens. In fact, I came home with a lot of small, but fine specimens of many of the copper secondaries, such as azurite, malachite, brochantite, chalcophyllite, liroconite, cornubite, tyrolite, chrysocolla and cornwallite. Others collected some good crystals of the famous euchroite from L’ubietová (the type location). Unfortunately, while we were at L’ubietová (Libethen in German), we did not manage to get to the area famous (as the type location) for libethenite, so I bought a nice specimen from a local dealer instead.

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