Quick viewing(Text Mode)

Graphite Deposits in the New Jersey Highlands

Graphite Deposits in the New Jersey Highlands

New Jersey Geological Survey Information Circular Graphite Deposits in the New Jersey Highlands

What is Graphite? ������ ������

Graphite is a dark gray to , soft ��� ������ ��������� with a metallic luster that occurs �� most often as flakes due to the sheet-like arrangement of the in its structure. Because graphite is composed almost �������� entirely of crystalline , it is also a native element. Graphite derives its name

from the Greek word graphien which ��� ����� �������

means to write. It is also referred to errone- ������������ ������ ������ � ously as plumbago, meaning leadlike, and �� � � black , both of which are misleading � �� � � � names because graphite is a and � � � � does not contain lead. � � � � The earliest known use of graphite � � � was by primitive man to draw on cave � ������ ����������� walls. Later, Egyptians decorated ������� using it, and about 1400 AD in Bavaria, ��������� it was used to fashion crucibles. Because ��������� ����������������������� graphite is a good conductor of heat and ������ electricity, today it is used as a source ������ ������ ������ ���� ������ �������� ���� of carbon in , for high-qual- ������� ity crucibles and ware, carbon ������� �� ��������� � �� �� brushes in electric motors, and in foundary

facings. It is also used in dry-cell batter- ������ ������ ies, as a , an additive in paint, and for . More recently it has replaced Figure 2. Simplified gelogic map of the Highlands showing the locations of graphite mines and the in the manufacture of brake pads, Precambrian rocks that host the graphite. and is used in the aerospace, nuclear power and sporting goods industries and as a com- is often overlooked, or perhaps unknown process the . These were located at the ponent in military technology. to most except for a few surviving remind- Bloomingdale Mine in Passaic County, ers (fig. 1). From about 1848 until 1931, Dickinson Mine in Morris County, and Graphite Mining in New Jersey various attempts were made to commer- the Annandale and High Bridge Mines in cially mine graphite at 14 locations in Hunterdon County. At the time, most mills New Jersey has a long and interesting the New Jersey Highlands (fig. 2). Most were separating the ore from its host rock mining history that dates back to Colo- of the mines, especially the smaller ones, by using a “dry” process in which the ore nial times when Dutch settlers first began encountered financial problems soon after was crushed under stamps and washed mining and copper ore. The com- opening and either closed or changed own- through sieves. The graphite was then paratively small and short-lived industry ership. Problems included an inefficient separated on five different dressing tables devoted to the exploration of graphite ore and uneconomical method of separating into various grades. This technique permit- graphite ore from the host rock, as well ted only 34 percent of the ore to be sepa- as competition from much larger mines rated after the first run, often requiring two in Ceylon (now ) and locally or sometimes three additional runs. The the Adirondack Mountains in New York. mill at Annandale (fig. 3) was modified The reliance of consumers on less costly about 1928 to utilize a new, more efficient, imported graphite, and the development of “wet” process to separate the graphite that synthetic graphite manufactured from involved wet grinding of the ore followed in electric furnaces, or as a by-product of by separation in flotation cells. This tech- blast furnaces, marked the end of graphite nique reportedly enabled 98 percent of the Figure 1. Vestige of a bygone era, a street sign in Bloomingdale Township, Morris County, exploration and mining in New Jersey. ore to be recovered on the first run. Unfor- points the way to Lead Mine Hill and the During the peak of mining activity, tunately, it developed too late to revive the Bloomingdale mine. four separate mills were in operation to struggling graphite industry in New Jersey. the ore zones was concentrated in layers the biologic remains of once-living organ- and occurs as flakes a few tenths of an isms. Other possible origins of this carbon inch, but occasionally as much as 1 inch include magmatic fluids, volcanic gases, in diameter (fig. 4). Graphite concentra- metamorphic fluids, or the breakdown of tions in the layers comprise anywhere from carbonate in limestone. 6 percent to as much as 40 percent of the Stable of carbon are par- rock. The ore zone layers are parallel to the ticularly useful in identifying the carbon rock layers that host the deposits. Under- source because each preserves its own ground workings at all of the mines were distinct isotopic signature from the time of relatively shallow and even the deepest formation, providing clues as to the origin shaft, that occurred at the Bloomingdale of the carbon. Graphite from the New Figure 3. Mill of the Annandale Graphite Mine, extended no further than 60 feet Jersey mines has carbon ratios that Corporation in Clinton Township, Hunterdon below the ground. Workings at some of the are enriched in 12C relative to 13C. Since County. Nothing remains of the original building. Photograph from New Jersey Geo- smaller mines consisted of prospect pits biologically-derived carbon preferentially 12 logical Survey archives taken in 1928 by M.E. and trenches excavated at the surface. concentrates the “lighter” isotope C, the Johnson. data provide compelling evidence that the Origin of the Graphite Deposits graphite is what remains of ancient living The Annandale Mine, the last operating . graphite mine in the State, ceased opera- Geologic investigations often resem- A billion years ago land plants had not tion about 1931. ble “detective” work because they involve yet developed. Thus the ocean would have the careful assembly and examination of been the source of this biogenic carbon. Graphite in the Highlands information and the reconstruction of an Given the depositional environment of the event from the accumulated scientific data. host rocks, the most likely source for this New Jersey graphite deposits and the To solve a complex problem such as inter- organic matter was algae. Geological evi- rocks that host them in the Highlands are preting the origin of New Jersey’s graphite dence suggests the algae collected in some Precambrian in age. They are among the deposits, geologists rely on historical of the sediments in this ancient ocean envi- oldest rocks in the State and are about 1.2 descriptions of the mines, detailed geologic ronment and were then preserved through billion years old. These rocks were meta- mapping, and laboratory examination of the rapid burial of the sediments and (or) morphosed deep within the ’s crust ore samples and host rocks using micro- stagnation and fouling of the water due to about 1 billion years ago under conditions scopic, geochemical, and isotopic analysis. the absence of oxygen. The algae was later of high temperature (about 700o C, or Rocks that host the graphite depos- converted into graphite upon being meta- 1300o F) and pressure (about 5 kilobars, or its reveal valuable information about the morphosed at high temperature along with 73,500 pounds/square inch). The graphite environment in which they originated. This the rocks that now host the deposits. Per- deposits are exposed at the surface today information is especially significant if the haps the essence of the New Jersey graph- because of geologic events over the past 1 graphite deposits and their host rocks were ite deposits is best expressed in the words billion years that included uplift and then formed at roughly the same time. Prior to of the English poet Lord Byron: “The dust erosion of the overlying rocks. being metamorphosed into gneiss (pro- we tread upon was once alive.” Graphite in New Jersey is neither nounced “nice”), and quartzite, the host widespread, nor random in its occurrence. rocks were originally deposited as sand ����� �� ��� ������ It is found in the Highlands, primarily in and mud along an ancient ocean margin ����� �� ��������� �������� the eastern part of the region (fig. 2). Most adjacent to what would later become ���������� �� ������������� ���������� of the deposits occur along a similar trend eastern North America. The carbon (now that stretches north from High Bridge to graphite) in these rocks could be biogenic, ������� �� ��������� ������������ Wanaque. that is, it might derive from organic matter, ���� ��� ���������� The Bloomingdale and Annandale ������ �� ����� ��������� ������������ Mines were unquestionably the two largest. ��� ������ ���������� ������ Total production figures for these mines are ���� �������� ����� ���������

unavailable, because mine operators were ����� � ��� ��� � � � � � � reluctant to report vital information that � � � � � �

� could be used by competitors. However, �

� � historic annual reports of the New Jersey � Geological Survey indicate that between 1882 and 1883 the Bloomingdale Mine �� � � produced 300 tons of ore, and in 1928 the �������� �� ������� �� ������� � ���� Annandale Mine produced 45 tons of ore. The size of the graphite deposits �������� �� �������� ��� ����������� ��� �������� varied from mine to mine. Widths of ore Figure 4. Thin, graphite-rich layers (dark gray ������ ����� ���� ��� ���� �������� �� ����� ������ ������������� ���� ������������ zones ranged from 4 feet to 50 feet and and black) enclosed within gneiss (tan) at the Bloomingdale graphite mine. Hammer for ����� ��� ���� ��� ���� � ����������������� lengths ranged from a few hundred feet scale is eleven inches long. ���� ����������� �������� �� ��������� ���� ������� ������� to as much as several miles. Graphite in �� �� ����������� � ���� ���� ��� ���� ��� �����