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Ouro Preto: Imperial Topaz Mine

Rodrigo Silva (District of Ouro Preto), MG, Brazil

August 21, 2009 08:27 a.m. ( local time )
August 21– Friday: Drive to Rodrigo Silva and visit Imperial Topaz Capão open pit Mine.

As we arrived we were very gently received by the staff at the mine. After greetings we were invited to watch a corporate video containing the company information and technical stuff about mining processes and the nature and history of imperial topaz.

That’s done and after having fresh drinking water and a Brazilian coffee shot, we were taken to the pit. We could watch and learn how the topaz is formed and all the layers geologically formations in an professional and knowledgeably explained from Dr. Antonio Liccardo. We also learn about all the equipments used, digging, transporting, washing, straining and hand selecting the topaz crystals

When going down the mine pit we were very fortunate because not only seeing many topaz being taken out of the ground, but one of the biggest in the mine’s history. Siiimmpplllyyyy Aaammmaazziiinnnnggg!!!!!!! (picture will be posted soon).

It’s really impossible to describe all the frisson, energy and beauty we experienced. Hope to have you there next time…

Overnight in Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil, at the Bed & Breakfast Sinhá Olimpia.

1823 Ouro Prêto becomes capital of Minas Gerais.
1876 School of Mines established at Ouro Prêto.
1897 Belo Horizonte becomes new capital.

Imperial Topaz

Geology Hydrothermal lodes contain quartz, hematite, magnetite, and accessory rutile, pyrite, and euclase. The enclosing rock was once schist, but it altered to a lateritic clay. This process is pretty fast in tropic climates, but despite its aggressiveness it does not harm the resistant gemstones.

Topaz is mostly yellow, but it varies very much and actually it appears in many colours. The topaz mined here is the so called Imperial Topaz, which is reddish, sometimes also called peach. This area, about 20 square miles around Ouro Preto, are the only relevant source of various coloured topazes in the world.

Mine Description

Capão Mine (Big Lid Mine) is the largest mine for imperial topaz in the world. It is an open cast mine, where weathered topaz-quartz-calcite veins are mined. The gravel is transported by a dredge bucket to the hydraulic washing station. The clay is removed with huge water cannons
and the rocks in the material transported to sorting a belt, where the gems are sorted out by workers. The result of processing many tons (4,500 m3) of clay are a few dozen topaz crystals per day (2 m3 of rough for 1ct of gem).

Nevertheless this mine is environment friendly as it does not use any chemical substances in the whole process and all native vegetal covering and trees are replaced to reconstitute land’s original state.

Capão Mine Overview

Open cast Imperial Topaz Capão mine seen from the top.

Capão Mine Imperial Topaz

“Official” picture at Capao Mine

“Official” picture at Capao Mine

Walking through the pit at Capao Mine

Imperial Topaz

After wash clay, gravel and imperial topaz.

Crystals obtained after clay/gravel washing

Crystals obtained after pulling out topaz

Topaz mannual picking

Girls picking crystal right from the vein after a machine digs out the clay.

Capão Mine pit

women picking crystals

Showing a gem topaz crystal

A huge crystal came out broken in two

The two parts of the huge crystal

Itacolomi Peak in Ouro Preto

Sun set in Ouro Preto

Bread and Breakfast in Ouro Preto

Very nice in all aspects and very cozy bread and breakfast called Sinhá Olimpia. Family owned and managed business: This is Geotourism.

Bread and Breakfast in Ouro Preto

Very nice in all aspects and very cozy bread and breakfast called Sinhá Olimpia. Family owned and managed business: This is Geotourism.

Bread and Breakfast in Ouro Preto

Very nice in all aspects and very cozy bread and breakfast called Sinhá Olimpia. Family owned and managed business: This is Geotourism.

Overview of Ouro Preto

An overview of typical Ouro Preto with the down mist.

Overview of Ouro Preto

An overview of the UNESCO world heritage site, the biggest and most important baroque architecture in the world.

Tiradentes Square

A view of the “praça tiradentes” or Tiradentes Square from the top of the School of Mines in Ouro Preto.

Tiradentes Square

Tiradentes Square in Ouro Preto seen by level.

Street of Ouro Preto

A typical baroque architecture street.

Overview of Ouro Preto

An overview of the UNESCO world heritage site, the biggest and most important baroque architecture in the world.

Windows in Ouro Preto

Typical baroque windows and porch architecture.

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