Mineral Collecting

Visiting Betts Manganese Mine

Part of the land at Earthdance is the site of what used to be the Betts Manganese Mine, a classic mineral collecting locality best known for rhodonite, the official gemstone of Massachusetts. What was a mine is now a hidden treasure, nestled in the hills of western Massachusetts.

Rock and mineral collecting is a wholesome family-friendly outdoor activity and most of the terrain in the collecting areas can be enjoyed and shared by people of all ages. Limited collecting for a fee is permitted and must be arranged by email at least 48 hours in advance! The Betts Mine is closed December through March.

Continue reading below for more details. 

Introduction

80 years ago dynamite blasts shook the land at what is now Earthdance, as miners extracted manganese ore and other minerals from the Anson G. Betts Mine. For mineral collectors there is much to be found in the mine “tailings” dumps in the woods. The quarry pits are full of groundwater and off limits for collecting! Earthdance’s buildings and retreat center grounds are also off limits. To avoid conflicts with other programming at Earthdance, mineral collectors must apply for a permit in advance.

Rhodonite Gemstones in pendant settings (left); crafted from the rock (right) found at the Betts Mine, cut, polished, and set by Dick King.

About the Minerals

The acres of tailings piles contain manganese minerals such as rhodonite, the official Massachusetts State Gemstone, rhodochrosite, kutnohorite, spessartine garnets, and tephroite. In addition, other minerals such as magnetite, pyrite, chalcopyrite, almandine garnets, to name a few, can be found in the mine dumps.

Betts Mine spessartine-almandine garnets, rhodonite, and pyrite (left to right)
The Mineral Collectors parking area at Betts Manganese Mine. The Betts Mine is a favorite among mineral societies for its unique mineralogy.

What to Expect

You’ll be able to park at the old mine dumps, where you can start collecting just feet from your car in almost all directions. To find the desirable manganese minerals, Rhodonite & Rhodochrosite, pick a likely spot (e.g. a spot where others have recently been digging), dig down a few inches to a foot, pick out and start knocking the corners off the heavy black or dark brown rocks to see if you can find anything interesting. Because the manganese rocks here oxidize to black (manganese oxides), you can’t really tell anything about these rocks without at least breaking off a corner or two. That’s why it’s important to have a rock hammer or a crack hammer (a small sledge hammer). Please do not bring carpenter’s hammers; the metal is too brittle for these rocks, causing the hammer head to shatter and throw shards of sharp metal in all directions upon impact.

Mineral Collecting Permits

To make arrangements for collecting rocks and minerals at the Betts Mine in advance as required, please read carefully the following information on Collecting Fees, Recommended Tools, and Guidelines; and then follow the instructions below.

The Collecting Fees

The fee is $20/person; children older than 10 pay full price. Children 10 and under but over 5 are half price ($10). The fees benefit Earthdance, a 501(c) non-profit organization. Children 5 and under are free. It is important that children be closely supervised by responsible adults due to the potential dangers.

Recommended Tools and Some Unacceptable Tools

Left to Right:
1) A clam rake or garden rake can be helpful;
2) A mason’s hammer is very useful;
3) 2 or 4 pound sledge hammers are also helpful, and the safety glasses in the same image are required;
4) BUT do not bring carpentry tools!
See below for more about the tools to bring

Betts Mine Mineral Collecting Guidelines

These guidelines are designed to protect the safety of everyone using the property and help preserve the resources and ecological balance of the land

  • Access allowed for mineral collecting by prior arrangement only
  • Stay in the collecting zones designated on your permit or accompanying map
  • No restrooms; the nearest is at the Old Creamery Co-op, just 10 minutes away
  • No trespassing or collecting within 50’ of the quarry pits or buildings
  • No children under 8 yrs. old unless under close adult supervision
  • No carpentry tools (e.g. no tack or claw hammers, wood chisels, etc.)
  • No dogs (exception: certified support dogs)
  • No glass, no alcoholic beverages, no excessive noise
  • No flip-flops, no sandals, no open-toed footwear
  • No power tools, explosives, micro blasters, or motorized equipment
  • No undermining trees; no cutting or digging up roots of healthy trees
  • No fires, keep magnifiers covered to prevent ignition from the sun’s rays
  • Fill in any holes you’ve dug that may be hazardous; no tunneling
  • No littering (always carry out whatever you bring in)
  • No removing rock from stone walls or designated historic features
  • No more than 5 gallons of rocks & minerals to be taken per person
  • On slopes, avoid the falling rock zone of collectors above

Everyone must bring and use the following for mineral collecting:

  • Safety glasses /goggles
  • Appropriate footwear/boots if digging or hammering
  • Safe, appropriate, and well-maintained tools (subject to inspection)
  • Long pants if hammering on rocks with sledge hammers over 4 pound
  • Your own first aid kit

Suggested supplies to bring:

  • Gloves, water, food, 5-gallon pail, insect repellent, sunscreen
  • Cell phone (most cell networks are accessible at the collecting areas)
  • Rain gear, change of clothes

Printable version of the above lists

The Collecting Season is April – November

Starting in April, we will issue permits for collecting at the Betts Mine unless prohibited by government guidelines, weather conditions, or to allow for prioritized Earthdance programming. The Earthdance Minerals Program is separate from ordinary Earthdance programming and amenities, so other use of the land, facilities, or camping at Earthdance is not included in your mineral collecting permit or outing with us. Thank you!

To try your luck at collecting, follow these instructions to apply for a permit

1) Please contact the volunteer Earthdance Minerals Coordinator using this email address: minerals@earthdance.net. Let us know what day and time you want to arrive, and your cell phone number; and then we’ll check for availability and get back to you as soon as possible. A permit allows you to be on site for up to 4 hours. Please do not plan to arrive before 8am or stay later than 6pm or sunset, whichever is earlier.

2) Once we have confirmed that your preferred date and time are available, please submit payment to Earthdance ASAP via this page.

3) Typically within 24 hours, we’ll email your permit # with a map showing the parking and collecting areas. If you do not hear from us within 24 hours, please reach out to us at minerals@earthdance.net.


To Learn More About The Betts Manganese Mine and its Minerals

See this detailed guide to the Betts Mine (PDF)

The Mindat page for the Betts Mine has photos of the minerals found at the Betts Mine, as well as information about the minerals from other localities.

In addition to mineral clubs, we welcome schools, scout troops, and college groups for field trips at the Betts Mine.

Contact us at minerals@earthdance.net

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