Ariz., Jan. 6 /Xinhua-PRNewswire/ -- The following was
written by John Roskelley:
In some circles the name means nothing, but in the
western mining world Rick Tschauder (pronounced "chowder")
has gained a reputation for having an uncanny ability
at sniffing out the good mineral deposits.
Rick received his hands-on geology education in Colorado
and New Mexico, but has literally looked under almost
every rock he has since come across. His stint as
Chief Geologist at Hecla Mining Company helped round
out his experience, and now when he speaks of mining
and geology, it's worth taking notes.
"I had put off the idea of looking at this property
for almost a year," Bill Jacobson, current President
and CEO of Atlas Mining Company recently told me.
"I thought, why do I want to look at a clay mine?
We are hard rock, underground miners." The property
owner, who has also been a business associate and
friend of Jacobson's for many years, kept the pressure
on to go have a look. "I finally relented and
sent Rick and a fellow geologist to Utah."
Back in 2000, Rick took a trip to the company's Dragon
Mine property in Juab County, Utah. "Like all
well-planned excursions, the trip was made in the
middle January," said Tschauder. I told Jacobson
it was only fitting, and if the property was in the
desert of southern Nevada, we would have just had
to go look at it in the middle of August. Guys like
Jacobson like to do that sort of thing to me."
I recently had the chance to interview Rick Tschauder
after he recently revisited the Dragon Mine. His explanation
of what happened to make the Dragon Mine a unique
deposit started with a history lesson.
"Everything just came together perfectly in this
location," explained Tschauder, referring to
the forces of nature which converged in the region.
"Quite a while ago -- something like 600 million
years ago -- this entire area was once a very shallow
sea. The clay, which we now find at the Dragon Mine,
was on the ground, at the floor of that sea. It was
a very fine, very soft layer approximately 80 feet
This region, known as the Tintic Mining District,
sits along the Wasatch Front, a range of mountains
running through Utah, and part of the Rocky Mountains,
in the west desert some two hours south of Salt Lake
City, Utah. Over time the mud that covered this entire
region became deeper and deeper until all of that
material on the floor just sat there undisturbed,
literally for eons.
"Millions of years later the water level dropped.
In fact, the sea vanished and all this clay became
encased essentially in a limestone tomb as the receding
water levels caused slabs of the mountainside to collapse
on top of the clay." This particular part of
Utah is rich with limestone, and it can be seen in
the architecture around the area.
Protected from being invaded and cluttered by various
forms of debris and other impurities, the clay remained
virtually untouched and undisturbed until about 34
million years ago.
"At that time some heat source raised the temperature
in the region. This caused the very flat molecular
particles to dissipate moisture and to curl into what
we now call microtubules," explained Tschauder.
"These are very small tubes, which are hollow
and have a predictable rate of controlled time-release.
600 million years of history, a little luck along
the way, a warming of the region and what do you get?
Perhaps the most unique and valuable source of naturally
occurring microtubes on the planet.
"Under an electron microscope, we have compared
the tubular clay from the Dragon Mine to those from
clay samples which can be found in New Zealand. At
the molecular level we discovered we're not really
making an apples-to-apples comparison. The clay samples
from New Zealand are misshaped, blocky, and quite
contaminated with various types of debris including
quartz, volcanic ash, and silica," explained
The clay in New Zealand, the only other viable commercial
source for halloysite clay, was formed in a much different
manner and only at the raw, unprocessed level does
it even compare to the halloysite clay at the Dragon
Halloysite is a mineral made up primarily of Aluminum,
Silicon, and Oxygen. The purity and quality of the
Dragon Mine halloysite is unmatched anywhere in the
world, which has spawned interest in this particular
mineral deposit into areas of cutting edge research
"The company had originally sought the rights
to mine the Dragon Mine clay because of the opportunities
which existed in the traditional halloysite markets,"
explained Jacobson. "However, because of the
unique molecular structure of our clay, the viability
of our microtubes serving as carriers for a wide variety
of nano applications has become a topic of significant
Historically, the primary commercial uses for halloysite
have been in the manufacturing of fine china, bone
china, porcelain and ceramic products, various petroleum
cracking agents, and some glazes and finishes.
Several U.S. biotech and nano-tech companies have
shown a tremendous amount of interest in the Dragon
Mine halloysite. The time-release attributes are quite
attractive to companies currently researching the
deployment of various agents through nano technology,
where a predictable method of controlling the release
of that agent is critical.
"For nano-scientists interested in being able
to control, or to better deploy the time-release agents
in a natural, benign container," explained Tschauder,
"the microtubes found in the Dragon Mine clay
may provide the perfect solution."
Scientists control the time-release attributes of
the microtubes simply by the length and thickness
of the tubes. The longer the duration sought, the
longer and thicker the tubes used.
What does this all boil down to?
"After I had a chance to revisit and to see the
underground bed of clay," continued Tschauder,
"and to really see first-hand how well the plan
has come together since those first days when there
was virtually nothing here, I told Bill Jacobson that
to use this clay to make ceramic and porcelain products
was like using gold to wire or plumb your house."
Tschauder continued, "It's an overkill use of
a very precious commodity and to be quite honest,
other resources around the world are more than adequate
for those needs. The Dragon Mine clay is a one-of-a-kind
resource, which has been perfectly blended over hundreds
of millions of years, and when it's gone, it's gone.
To let it be used in the production of such things
as china teacups and saucers, or spark plugs, or toilet
tanks is to grossly misuse its potential. I'm certain
the more the nano companies see this clay at the molecular
level, and the more academia researches its potentials,
the more resistant each of these groups is going to
become to letting this product be used for any other
reasons than their own. In fact, I'd expect them to
become quite vocal about it," concluded Tschauder.
One thing is certain: Whether used traditionally or
in new and exciting nano applications, Atlas Mining
controls one of the most valuable and unique minerals
on the planet. I'm certain it will be put to good
Source: John Roskelley
CONTACT: John Roskelley of
First Global Media, +1-480-902-3110