Digging Brandberg Amethyst crystals
Updated July 03, 2015
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Since I travel to Namibia every year and buy a lot of crystals, I have been able to get to
know all the dealers, crystal diggers, miners and mine owners. I am usually allowed into
one of the mines at Brandberg and this year I went in right after a blast.  The results
were fantastic!  I'll show some of the other diggers and their finds first.      The actual
mining for Brandberg amethyst is done on a volcanic lava flow of basalt on the
mountain adjacent to Brandberg (which is a granite).   In the photo with the red Land
Cruiser you can see the actual Brandberg Mountain in the near distance.   At this mine
they blast the basalt and pry apart the fractured bolders and look for pockets.  A simple
pocket is shown in a basalt boulder and a close-up showing the crystal lined cavity.  
This used to be an air bubble in the liquid lava before it cooled.  Hydrothermal solutions
then permeated the rock and formed crystals in these cavities.
I started prying fractured boulders apart and found a cavity and there was a large ugly
amethyst visible which I took to be  a good sign.  I looked in and saw nice crystals
inside the cavity so I immediately got the cam corder to record me opening the
pocket.   Just prior to this I had cut myself wide open when a piece of fly-rock came off
of the rock mass when I was hitting it with a sledgehammer.  The following pictures
show the pocket as I pulled them out.  These are all ones that I found and shown dirty
at time of extraction.
The video below shows the extraction of the above crystals
At brandberg I bought some amethyst crystal slices from where they slice up any crystals that get broken or too
badly damaged to sell.  I brought these home and polished them and as of July, 2015 I still have some nice
ones for sale.  Some of the slices even have tiny moving enhydro bubbles!
After digging at the big commercial mine at Brandberg I took a very rough 4x4 ride to a relatively new mine: Camp Extreme.   This is an additional 8
kilometers into the Goboboseb mountains.   While the distance is relatively short, the very rough primitive road takes a long time to travel on.    The
mine is located very close to the rim of the Messum crater and not very far from the ocean shoreline.
I got to the mine at a good time as they were blasting rock.  The pictures show them using an atlas-copco  Pionjar rock drill to drill holes to insert
dynamite.   The dynamite used here is a one piece stick with an integral blasting cap instead of the old type where you had to cut and insert the
blasting cap.   Below is a video showing the process. This video shows the process to blast rock to find pockets of amethyst crystals.   Once a hole is
drilled a garden hose is inserted into the hole to blow out any debris so that the dynamite can be inserted.  A broom handle is used to seat the
dynamite and then sand is poured into the hole and also tamped down firmly.    If the charge is not firmly tamped the rock would not break but instead,
the force would simply exit the hole similar to a shotgun blast.  In other words, the energy would go out of the hole instead of being trapped  and
breaking the rock.
At this location the basalt is much redder in color and the crystals are much darker.  One bad thing is that the cavities are usually completely filled with
calcite.   This requires dissolving the calcite to remove the crystal.   On the day that I was here, the day before they had just went to the local hotel
(hours away) and borrowed all the Hydrochloric acid that they had on hand for the swimming pool.  They used it to dissolve out the cavity (shown
below) to safely remove the amethyst crystal.
Next I went to Karibib which is a small
town near Usakos and very near to
Erongo Mountain.   There is a  tourist
museum here as well as a training
center to teach people how to  facet.    
I didn't take many pictures on this
stop.   Usually, there is some colored
tourmaline here but the prices were
crazy high.  To the right is one of the
bars in Karibib.
After leaving Camp Extreme I went by the
black camp.    This is where the indigenous
people dig and have their own claims.   The
camp is 2 hours away from any electricity or
water.  All water has to be trucked in.   The
Okorusu fluorite mining company, Solvay,
donated water tanks and once a month they
truck in water to refill the tanks. They do this
as a humanitarian gesture to help the small
scale miners. Otherwise, they would not be
able to live out here to mine the crystals.
The water in the tanks is untreated well
water and is described as "Brackish".  
At one point I was digging out there
and had no choice but to drink some of
it. It had a slightly salty taste and an
unnerving yellow tint!  I thought that it
would make me very sick but
surprisingly it didn't bother me at all. I
guess at this point, I have made so
many trips to Namibia that the local
water doesn't bother me.
Shown below is the black mining camp at Brandberg.
Note the courtyard flower garden
where the plants have crystals around
them.
The nearest town to the Brandberg
mining area is Uis.  There are two
good places to stay and I always opt
for the Brandberg Rest Camp.
Here's where it got weird!  I stopped in
at a small community called Tubusis
and got a bit of a shock.  I had walked
up to an old wrecked car to look at the
crystals on the back.   At first, I didn't
see the dead goat but smelled
something foul.   When I first saw it, I
couldn't believe it.  This was about 3
feet from the guy's living shelter!   
What is bizarre about this is that the
interior had been removed.  This was a
skin with the head & legs but the meat
and guts removed.  I am not sure of
the purpose but it was either voodoo
or the guy was deranged and liked the
smell.
The stores have all sorts of unusual
food, drink and medicines.
The next stop is the town of Omaruru. If I were going to live in Namibia, this would be the town that I'd live
in.  There is an American Mineral dealer that lives here and a German one.  The  German dealer had just
bought a huge pocket of aquamarine that had just been found.   I'll add a video once it finishes uploading.
The video shows the clusters being soaked in water to leach out any acid from the cleaning process.
I spotted some white girls on the street.
Crazy, I know!
Well, That about wraps up this particular mineral safari. But,
It's not over yet.  I have to stay in WIndhoek to get the
export permit.  This too yields some photographs of interest.
The Gibeon meteorite outdoor display
is a popular thing to photograph.   This
was at the mall in downtown Windhoek.
In one of the stores there I spotted a
picture of Obama & Bush?  Puzzling.
In Windhoek there is a really nice rock shop downtown on Werner List street.   This was originally owned by Sid
Pieters.   Sid was the man that discovered Pietersite which is named after the discoverer. Sid sold the rockshop
and has since passed on.  The present owners are really nice people. What was funny to me is that on my last
trip, the lady at the cash registered mentioned that she had heard of me and 'that I was famous".    :-)   She gave
me some free fluorite cleaves from Erongo Fluorite, so I was not about to argue with her!  Here are some pictures
from the shop.
Nice examples of quartz crystals
in a shattuckite encrusted vug.
Below is a chameleon lizard in
Windhoek that has matched the
colors of a tent
For the first time I was able to buy small fist-sized pieces of pietersite  rough.   I tumble polished these when I got them back home.
Be sure to check out our other Mineral Safari pages:
The photos of the above trip
were taken in August, 2012
which is late Spring in Namibia.
Below is a video of a fist-sized chunk of
pietersite that I polished.