With Pala Presents, we offer selections from the library of Pala International’s Bill Larson, who shares with us some of the wealth of information in the realm of minerals and mineralogy.
Natural Productions of Burmah
Our knowledge of the mineralogy of the Provinces has been increasing with each successive year, and will probably continue to do so for many years to come. Lead rich in silver, copper, manganese, Tremenheerite a new mineral, chiastolite, chalcedony, carnelian, and agate have all been discovered within the last ten years; and we have every reason to believe, that the next ten will not be less fruitful in discovery.
Common quartz is one of the most abundant minerals in the Provinces.
Small crystals of quartz are common in the Provinces, and large specimens of rock crystal are sometimes brought from the Siamese frontier. Some of the “Ceylon diamonds” which the Ceylonese offer for sale, are made of rock crystal; and many of the “rubies,” and other precious stones, that the Shans bring with them in their annual caravan from the north of Burmah, are made of rock crystal colored artificially. They are heated and plunged into colored solutions. A gentleman of my acquaintance being about to visit Calcutta a few years ago, purchased a few of these “jewels,” a great bargain, of a Shan who was anxious to return home, and therefore sold for fifteen rupees what, he said, was worth a hundred. On being subjected to the examination of a jeweler in Calcutta, they were found to be all either colored quartz, or paste, and not worth fifteen pice!
Green quartz, or prase, is sometimes found in the form of pebbles in our mountain streams, but it is not very abundant.
Milky quartz is occasionally found in the Mergui and Tavoy provinces.
Pebbles of amethyst, or violet quartz, are brought from the rivers in Burmah, where they are regarded as a variety of the sapphire; the Burmese name signifying “Eggplant sapphire,” or, as they are sometimes called, “Eggplant flower stone,” from the blue flower of the eggplant.
I have met with dull specimens of yellow quartz, or citrine, on the Tenasserim [southernmost region of Burma, now Tanintharyi Region]; but it is not common.
The laterite often incloses fragments of a granular quartz rock, which crumbles to pieces in the fingers into a fine quartz sand.
The cat’s eye, a gem, which gives out a pearly reflection resembling the eye of a cat, is often seen set in rings, and is brought from Burmah. Comstock says: “It is in great request as a gem, and bears a high price;” but those seen in Maulmain [now Mawlamyine, capital of Mon State] market are not much valued. A small one may be purchased for two rupees, and one of ordinary size for five; while ten rupees is the highest price given for the best.
Flint does not appear to be found either in the Provinces, or Burmah; all the flints that are used being imported from Bengal.
Chalcedony, both white and yellow, has been discovered at Moopoon near Maulmain, and is very abundant in Burmah. “Chalcedony passes insensibly into agate, and carnelian, and perhaps into hornstone.”
Streaks of cacholong, or milk white chalcedony, arc seen on some of the agates.
“This is of a deep rich, reddish brown color, probably a variety of carnelian,” but by some regarded as a variety of chalcedony, and is seen occasionally as constituting a part of some of the agates offered for sale.
Mineralogists are not agreed in the definition of onyx. According to Comstock, it is a variety of chalcedony, “consisting of alternate layers of opake milk-white chalcedony, or cacholong, and of the bluish translucent chalcedony,”—the chalcedonyx of Jameson. Such are found at Moopoon.
Aiken says: “Two or more plates of any of the varieties of the chalcedony form the onyx.” Such are found in Burmah, if not in the Provinces.
According to Comstock, sardonyx consists of stripes of “onyx and sard,” or sard and chalcedony; and such stones are occasionally seen in the hands of the natives.
Carnelian is very common in Burmah, and has been found at Moopoon and Mergui. “Its principal color,” says Jameson, “is blood red, of all degrees of intensity.” One of its Burman names is, “Fowl’s blood.”
“It also occurs sometimes milk-white, and in some specimens it is difficult to decide whether it belongs to chalcedony, agate, jasper, or carnelian.” Some varieties are yellow.
Bloodstone or Heliotrope.
The green stone with red or yellowish dots called bloodstone, or heliotrope, is not rare; but whether found in Burmah or not, is uncertain. The natives call it by the same name that they do green jasper.
Agate is found at Moopoon near Maulmain, and the natives say at Mergui [now Myeik, Tanintharyi Region] also.
If the stripes are chalcedony and cacholong, then the stone thus designated will be the onyx. Chalcedony, carnelian, agate, and onyx, are all [provides the name in the Burmese language, same as Common Agate, versus Striped Agate].
I have met with yellow jasper on the Tenasserim, but it is not of common occurrence.
A soft green jasper of which I have specimens, said to be found in the Provinces, the Burmese call, [provides the name in the Burmese language].
Precious green jasper, including striped jasper, is called by the Burmese, [ditto].
Precious Garnet, or Almandine.
Precious garnets in the form of pebbles, are often seen for sale among the Burmese; but it is not certain that any are found in the Provinces. Mineralogists say, the most beautiful come from Sirian the capital of Pegu. It is the carbuncle of the ancients.
“In a creek on the Siamese side” of the Tenasserim valley, Dr. Heifer says “rubies are found. They are however of a very inferior description”—probably garnets.
The common garnet is occasionally seen in the sands of our rivers, but it is not abundant.
A variety of the garnet, either identical or nearly resembling the pyrope garnet, is brought from Burmah. It is characterized by giving to transmitted light a yellow tinge, or as the natives say, the the color of the ox’s gall; and hence the Burmese name, which in Pali signifies ox-gall.
Clayslate is a very abundant mineral throughout the Provinces, and is found in numerous varieties, soft shales, and hard indurated slate abounding in silex; roof-slate, and a variety that soils and writes like graphic slate.
In some localities, especially in one near the head waters of a branch of Toung-byouk river, the clayslate cleaves into large thin plates that would serve for roof slates, or for slates to write upon.
Shale characterized as in “layers often uneven, protuberant, or knobby—often disintegrates and falls to pieces,” is abundant in the neighborhood of Maulmain, and near the forks of the Tenasserim.
Shale containing vegetable impressions, and carbonized stems of plants, is found at the forks of the Tenasserim, and perhaps belongs to the class of bituminous shales, though it does not appear to contain much bitumen.
A slate that “soils and writes,” as Dr. M’Clelland described it, is found east of Tavoy, and another and softer variety is found in Maulmain near Tremenheerite. They may be justly regarded as varieties of graphic slate.
Silicious slate is found near the granite mountains east of Tavoy. By some it is denominated indurated slate.
There is a thick bed of reddish claystone, a few miles east of Tavoy, that cannot be distinguished in hand specimens from Scotch claystone.
Iron clay is very abundant in the laterite, which is often wholly composed of iron clay.
The clays have not been analyzed, but there are clays at the bases of some of the granite mountains, where the felspar has decomposed so much, that the paths are thick with a coarse quartzose sand, and a few grains of mica that remain. As porcelain clay is produced by the decomposition of felspar, such is probably the clay in the localities to which reference has been made.
The clay in which the petrified trees are found has the appearance of fine potter’s clay; and clays from the banks of the Ataran and Oyaing rivers were found, Mr. O’Riley says, “after several trials at the Calcutta mint, to possess every good property of the best English fire clays.”
Loam, or Brick Earth.
The alluvial beds within the reach of tide waters, contain numerous strata from which bricks are made.
Reddle, or red chalk is seen in the bazar, but it is imported, though it probably exists in the provinces.
On the banks of the rivers near Maulmain and Tavoy, masses of dolerite are found which contain augite. They are not however found in situ in the Provinces, and have probably been brought from the Isle of France.
I have met with hornblende as a constituent of green stone; but never in the Provinces in any other connection.
Labrador Hornblende, or Hypersthene
Baron des Granges, to whom was sent specimens of the greenstone east of Tavoy, said that the hornblende it contained was Labrador hornblende.
Blue sapphires are brought from Burmah, and Dr. Heifer writing from Mergui says: “A Karen informed me, there are precious blue stones to be had, which the Shans collect and carry to Bangkok. He described the place as eight days distant, and did not know whether it was British or Siamese.”
Red Sapphire, or Oriental Ruby.
The red sapphire, or ruby, is brought from Burmah, where it is found with the common blue sapphire, probably in the valley of the Salwen. The Burmese call it by the same name that they do the precious garnet, and do not appear to be always able to distinguish them.
The violet sapphire, or Oriental amethyst; is found in the same localities as the common sapphire.
The most valuable topaz in Burmah, is the yellow sapphire, or Oriental topaz.
Green Sapphire, or Oriental Emerald.
A green gem is often seen for sale among the Burmese, brought from Burmah, which Europeans usually call emerald; but it is probably a blue sapphire. The true emerald may however be among them.
Corundum pebbles are found in “the gem-sand of Ava river;” and they probably exist in the sands of some of the rivers in these provinces. The common emery is a variety of this species.
By far the larger proportion of the rubies offered for sale, are, it is believed, spinelle rubies. I have a small specimen which every native, who has seen it, regards as one of the best kind of rubies, or red sapphire, but its natural crystalline form is easily recognised, as a regular octahedron; while that of the oriental ruby is a six sided figure, or some of its modifications. They are seen of all shades. Blood red, the proper spinelle ruby; rose red, the balas ruby, orange red, or rubicelle; and violet colored or almandine ruby. It is no easy task to distinguish, accurately, the true character of the different stones offered for sale as rubies. Both Europeans and natives often make great mistakes. An English officer bought a “ruby ” in Maulmain a few years ago for fifteen rupees, his friend bought one for five rupees; and the rubies were thought to be of nearly equal value; but on walking into a jeweler’s shop in Calcutta, a year or two afterwards, the jeweler offered four hundred and fifty rupees for the one, but refused to give two rupees for the other, characterizing it as “a worthless garnet.”
The dark blue, or blackish varieties of spinelle, called Ceylanite or pleonaste, are often offered for sale by the Shan under the same name as the sapphire.
Gem sand from the neighborhood of Ava, is sometimes one of the Shan articles of merchandize. It consists of small fragments of nearly all the precious stones found in the country, but garnet, beryl, and spinelle are its principal constituents, more especially the last, which seems to constitute more than three fourths of the whole mass. A single handful will contain specimens of every shade, black, blue, violet, scarlet, rose, orange, amber yellow, wine yellow, brown, and white. Many retain their original crystalline forms, some have the fundamental form of the species, a perfect octahedron; but many others have some of the secondary forms, among which it is not uncommon to see twin crystals with three re-entering angles, formed by two segments of the tetrahedron truncated on the angles, and joined together by their bases.
Dr. Heifer found serpentine on the islands of the Mergui Archipelago, and Dr. Morton picked up a boulder near Amherst, containing a small vein of common serpentine; which indicate its existence in the Provinces, although no definite locality where it exists, is known.
Precious serpentine exists in the Hookhoong valley, north, west of Ava, whence it is exported to China, and brought into the southern parts of the empire, but it has not yet been discovered in these provinces.
Some of the best of the Ceylon jewels are probably zircon, the pale variety of which supplies the diamonds used in the jeweling of watches; and Jameson says, it is often sold as an inferior kind of diamond.
Beryls are found in the sands of the Irrawaddy; and may probably be found in some of the rivers, that descend from the granite mountains in these provinces.
Carbonate of Lime.
This is a very abundant mineral in the Provinces and embraces several varieties.
Stalactical Carbonate of Lime.
All the limestone caves have stalactites hanging from their roofs; and stalagmites raised on their floors. The Siamese Karens often bring over bits of limestone of the shape of a shell, and when broken, a shell usually of the genus melania appears, that has been encrusted with carbonate of lime. Much of the alabaster of which ornaments are made is stalagmite; but all the alabaster images of this coast are made of marble; and not of compact gypsum, which they much resemble.
This is the marble of which the images of Gaudama [Buddha] are formed, which are usually called alabaster images. It is a primitive limestone which has not hitherto been found in the provinces; but is abundant near Ava.
All the limestone of the provinces that I have met with, belongs to the older secondary formation; which produces what is usually denominated common limestone. Of the specimens sent to Dr. Ure by Mr. Blundell, he said: “The limestone from Tavoy has a specific gravity of 2.7, and is a perfectly pure, semi-crystaline carbonate of lime, akin to statuary marble. It is well adapted to act as a flux in the melting of iron. The limestone of Mergui has a specific gravity of 2.7; it is a pure calcareous carbonate.”
There is a calcareous grit apparently of the tertiary formation, found on the Tenasserim in about latitude 14° 20'. It is composed of grains of sand united by a calcareous cement. It is of a uniform grey color, and makes the best whetstones that are found in the provinces.
Chalk is seen in the bazars, but it does not appear to be a production of this country, being imported from Bengal.
The soil may be characterised as marly in the neighborhood of some of the limestone ranges, but no beds of marl have yet been discovered.
Several varieties of calcareous tufa are found in the vicinity of the limestone rocks, formed by the deposition of the waters that run over them. They often contain shells belonging to existing species; especially Helix anguina, and Cyclostoma tuba.
Some of the caves on the Salwen furnish a species of double refractive spar, which I judge to be Arragonite.
Dolomite, or Magnesian Carbonate of Lime.
A few of the limestones in the east part of Amherst Province, Mr. O’Riley found to be magnesian carbonates; and Prof. Mitchell in his analysis of the lead ore from the Salwen-limestone found magnesia among its constituents.
A limestone in Arracan, Mr. Stilson has used as a lithographic stone in a small way; but it does not do well.
I have a small specimen of bluish crystals of fluor spar, which the Burman, who brought it, said was found in the northern part of Province Amherst. As the mineral is often found in connection with lead, it is probable they will be found together in these Provinces.
Fluate of lime.
A fine transparent crystal of selenite in the shape of a parallelopipid was brought me by a Burman, who said it was found in Amherst Province.
Crystallized sulphate of lime.
Foliated sulphate of lime.
A fine variety of fibrous gypsum is seen in some of the China shops; but it is brought, the Chinese say, from China. They use it in medicine, and say “it is very cooling”!
Sulphate of lime.
Gypsum is found near the banks of the Tenasserim in about latitude 13° 40' N. It is granular and friable, and does not correspond in appearance to ordinary specimens; but Dr. Morton who analyzed it, pronounced it a decided sulphate of lime.
Saltpetre is found in some of the caves, and is imported from Rangoon.
Nitrate of potash.
Natron is abundant in the vicinity of Ava, where it is used by the Burmese instead of soap, and they call it “earth soap.”
Carbonate of soda.
Borax is seen in the bazar but it is imported.
Borate of soda.
Rock salt is also seen among the drugs, being used by the natives in medicine.
Chloride of sodium. Muriate of soda.
Sal ammoniac is not a product of the Provinces, but it is sold by the druggists.
Muriate of ammonia.
Alum is found in a reddish slate clay, or soft clayslate in the valley of the Tenasserim, about forty miles below Matah at the forks; this, with an indurated sand from a neighboring locality that also contains it, is the only alum that has been yet met with in the Provinces.
Sulphate of alumine and potash.
Mica is found in the mica slate and granite, but has not been met with in large plates on this coast, though such are sometimes seen for sale in the bazar. It is usually white, but black mica occurs in the granite of Double Island. It is often by a misnomer called talc.
Crystals of felspar abound in the granite, and where it is porphyritic as on Double Island, and on the islands opposite Yay, they are sometimes quite large. It is usually white, but the granite at the mouth of Tavoy river, on the east side, is studded with beautiful crystals of flesh-colored felspar.
Some of the “cat’s eyes” that are brought for sale by the Ceylonese, are made of adularia or moon-stone, a variety of felspar found in Ceylon resembling opal. In Europe it is often sold for opal.
Soapstone, potstone, or steatite, is constantly for sale in the stalls, being used by the Burmese to write with on their blackboards, as Europeans use chalk. It is not however a production of the Provinces but is imported from Burmah, where it is abundant.
Grains, or lamina of chlorite are found in connection with tin; and portions of the beds of clayslate east of Tavoy, contain chlorite slate.
Schorl, or black tourmaline, is found in quartz near the mouth of Tavoy river on the east side, and also at the foot of the eastern mountains, near the head waters of the Dahgyaine, north east of Maulmain. These are the only localities where I have met with this mineral. In both, the crystals are numerous and in Tavoy they are large, but not so handsome as seen in foreign specimens.
A green jewel that cannot be distinguished by the eye from beryl, is brought with the Ceylon diamonds; it is however, green tourmaline; as may be ascertained by a very simple test, for beryl scratches quartz, but tourmaline is scratched by quartz.
White jewels of an inferior quality are often offered for sale in Maulmain under the name of Ceylon diamonds, but they are usually made from green tourmaline. White tourmaline, is a rare mineral, but the green variety being common, the jewelers by exposing it to heat expel its color and it becomes white.
Among the Ceylon diamonds that are seen for sale in Maulmain, is a yellow jewel resembling a topaz; but which I find on examination to be yellow tourmaline.
An occasional crystal of white tourmaline is seen among the crystals of the black variety in specimens from the Shan states; but I have never met with it in the Provinces.
Indicolite, white variety.
Red tourmaline is found in Burmah, though it is not seen here. Jameson says the king of Ava gave a specimen to Symes which was valued at five hundred pounds in England.
In the slate strata near the granite east of Tavoy, are numerous crystals of what Hitchcock calls Andalusian macle; because with many other mineralogists he thinks Andalusian, and chiastolite or macle, one species. The crystals are very small, but exceedingly numerous. Occasionally their rectangular ends are marked with the Greek Chi, or English X, from which they are called chiastolite; but more frequently the X is wanting. It is much softer than either Andalusian, or chiostalite, as described in works on mineralogy, but it is quite as hard as arc specimens which I have received from America.
It must be a very rare mineral in India; for the Curator of Mineralogy and Geology, of the Asiatic Society’s Museum did not recognize it as any mineral with which he was acquainted; and other Indian geologists, and mineralogists have been equally puzzled with it. There can be no mistake however, in the identification, for I have specimens before me, labelled by one of the first mineralogists in America, differing in no important respect from the Tavoy mineral.
Dr. Royle says that platina is found in Burmah; but on what authority? Captain Glover had a specimen which he obtained from a priest in Tavoy, that he thought resembled platina more than any ether metal; and I had a specimen of a Tavoy mineral with the general aspect of platina, which occasioned me no little perplexity, until I found that it was a mixed metal formed of silver, bismuth, zinc, and some other things to aid the alchemists in their search for “the philosopher’s stone.”
Though not quite so abundant as in California, yet there is perhaps, no mineral except iron, more universally diffused over the Provinces, than gold. It is found in the lead near their northern boundary, it is washed from the sands of the Tenasserim on the south, and the streams, that tumble from the high granite mountains between Yay and Monmagon, are constantly ‘rolling down their golden sands’ into the valleys around. It has been collected, in small quantities in the tin deposits east of Tavoy, Mr. O’Riley found gold in the tin from Henzai, half a degree south of Yai, and “almost all the creeks,” says Dr. Helfer, “coming from the eastern or Siamese side of the Tenasserim river, contain gold. The greatest quantity is obtained close to the old town of Tenasserim where people wash it, and obtain sometimes one anna’s weight each, during the rainy season.”
The richest deposit of gold in the Provinces, is however, at the head waters of Tavoy river, where it is found in an alluvial or diluvial formation of red earth and pebbles, very similar to that in which gold is found in North Carolina. On the east side of the mountains at the base of which this deposit rests, “the Siamese Government,” says Dr Morton, “have several hundred men permanently occupied, each of whom it is said, is expected to deliver one tickal (about one rupee and a quarter) weight of gold dust per annum.—The Burmese authorities in former times also employed people in this work at the streams on our side of the boundary, but though the quantity then procured was greater than at present, this does not appear to have ever been considerable. The method adopted is that of digging a longitudinal excavation in the sand, and washing from time to time the deposit found therein.”
Three or four years ago, the head native officer in Tavoy made an experiment at “the diggings” on Tavoy river, and by the washings of nine days, obtained gold to the value of about ten rupees. This gold appears to contain a considerable proportion of silver. Mr O’Riley says that the Assay Master at the Mint in Calcutta reported it:
Quicksilver, or native mercury, is imported from Burmah; and it is said to be brought to Ava from China.
Manufactured cinnabar is found in all the bazars, but it is imported. The native doctors use considerable to salivate their patients, which they do most effectually by causing them to inhale its fumes. The Burman name appears to be derived from the Sanscrit.
Sulphuret of mercury.
In the lead ore of the Salwen valley, which Dr. Morton sent Professor Mitchell for analysis, “ the quantity of silver appeared to be considerable;” and in the mines north of the provinces, silver is said to be found mixed with lead. Mr. O’Riley had a specimen of an ore of silver, antimony, copper, and sulphur brought him, which produced thirty-five per cent of silver; and the Tavoy gold, it would appear, contains nearly ten per cent of the same metal.
Dr. Helfer says: “The existence of copper on the Lampei Islands, the very first I suppose in this part of India as yet traced, is worthy of attention, and may lead to farther discovery of extensive veins of this ore.”
Mr. O’Riley states, “that specimens of copper ore have been brought from several islands of the Mergui Archipelago, and all obtained appears to be of the same character, viz the grey copper ore, containing from forty to fifty parts of the metal in combination with antimony, iron, and sulphur.” He has also “traced the existence of the sulphuret of copper” on the Ataran; and I had a fine specimen of the green carbonate, or malachite, brought me by a Burman who said he received it from a Karen, who represented that it was found near the head waters of the Ataran; and other natives have assured me, that the same mineral exists up the Salwen.
green carbonate of copper, or malachite.
Blue Carbonate of Copper.
The blue carbonate of copper is seen in the same specimen united with the green carbonate. The natives say it is found in Province Amherst, but I have seen it only in specimens from Cheduba near the coast of Arracan.
Blue Vitriol, of Bluestone.
Blue vitriol is imported from Burmah, and seen in all the bazars, but is not a production of the Provinces.
Sulphate of copper.
The limestone of the Provinces probably contains large quantities of lead. In the valley of the Salwen, there is a rich vein of argentiferous galena, which is reported to appear on the surface. A specimen that Dr. Morton sent to England for analysis, was said to be a very valuable mineral, and destined to make a fortune for some one. Professor Mitchell in the certificate that he furnished Dr. Morton of the analysis, says: “It contains
Lime, Magnesia } Carbonic acid
It is a sulphuret of lead or galena. The quantity of lead and silver appears to be considerable, but there was not sufficient of the mineral to estimate either.” The ore is seen in the limestone, precisely as galena is found in the limestone of the Mississippi, one of the richest known deposits of lead in the world.
Mr. O’Riley states that the carbonate of lead exists near the head waters of the Houngdarau.
Manufactured minium is seen in the bazars, but it is not made in tie Provinces.
Red oxide of lead.
Mr. Piddington, the Mineralogical Curator of the Asiatic Society’s Museum, mentions in his reports, that he found bismuth in one of the ores sent him from “the antimony mines” near Maulmain; and it is found in connection with silver in Burmah.
There is a large variety of ores of iron in the Provinces, some of which are uncommonly rich in metal.
Iron pyrites are very abundant in the Provinces. In some places they contain arsenic, and constitute arsenical sulphuret of iron. The Burmese names though usually applied to iron, are generic, and might be applied to any pyrites.
Sulphuret of iron.
globular masses containing pyrites in the centre.
small iron pyrites.
About three miles north west of Tavoy, is a hill upwards of a hundred feet high which appears to consist almost wholly of magnetic oxide of iron. A large rock near its summit is highly magnetic, and constitutes a magnificent loadstone.
Dr. Ure to whom Mr. Blundell sent specimens of this ore reported: “1st Compact magnetic iron ore.—Tavoy, No. 1.
“Colour iron black with a metallic glimmer, fracture fine grained, possesses magnetic polarity, specific gravity 3.511 , compared to water= 1,000.
“It yields in analysis the following constituents:
|Peroxide of iron||86.5 equivalent to 60.55 metal.|
|Silica with a trace of phosphate of lime,||3.5|
It contains no manganese or titanium.
“2d Compact magnetic iron ore.—Tavoy, No. 4.
External and Magnetic characters as above.
Specific gravity, 3.462.
It yields in analysis:
|Peroxide of iron||86.0 equal to 60.2 metal.|
|Silica with a trace of phosphate of lime,||0.9|
It contains no manganese or titanium.
“3d Tavoy ore, No. 2.—External characters as above.
Specific gravity, 4.369.
“4th Tavoy ore, No. 3.—Characters as above, as to aspect and magnetism.
Specific gravity, 4.100.
“The two latter samples are even richer than the former, as is evinced by the specific gravity, but they are all quite rich enough and pure enough for making the best quality of bar-iron and steel.
“I instituted two elaborate sets of experiments in search of titanium, which when present in any notable quantity in iron ores, renders the iron made from them red-short, but I found none in the above ores.”
Octahedral iron ore.
Magnetic oxide of iron.
Specular Oxide of Iron.
There is a very rich ore of this species on one of the branches of Palouk river. The natives think it an ore of silver, and call it “the silver stone.”
Brown Oxide of Iron.
Iron ore is very abundant near Mergui, and according to Dr. Ure is brown hematite. Of the specimens that Mr. Blundell sent him, he wrote: “The three samples of iron ores from Mergui, are brown hematites, and from their density, will afford good iron in the smelting furnace.
|Mergui iron stone No. 1 specific gravity||3.37|
|Mergui iron stone No. 2 specific gravity||3.18|
|Mergui iron stone No. 1 specific gravity||3.32”|
There is a fine bank of red ochre near Kallioung on Tavoy river. It might perhaps, be turned to account in a commercial speculation. Comstock says: “It is sometimes employed as a pigment, under the name of Indian red; but more commonly, it is believed, under that of Spanish brown.”
Ochery red oxide of iron.
Clay Iron Stone.
Several varieties of clay iron stone are seen in the Provinces, among which, the nodular variety is common.
Argillaceous oxide of iron.
Bog Iron Ore.
Bog iron ore is very abundant in the Provinces, and in many places is quite rich in metal. It occasionally contains vegetable petrefactions, some of which have the form of branches of trees, but are wholly composed of iron ore, and which the Burmese call [Burmese text].
Copperas, or sulphate of iron, is often formed from the decomposition of pyrites or sulphuret of iron, forming an efflorescence on the rock that contains them.
Sulphate of iron.
Tin is abundant in the Provinces, commencing from the mountains in which Tavoy and Henzai rivers have their rise, the northern limit of tin in the Provinces, to the southern boundary of Mergui, Pakchan river. The richest locality in the province of Tavoy, is nearly opposite the city of Tavoy on the eastern side of the mountains.
That large quantities of tin must have been found in Tavoy three hundred years ago, we have evidence in an incidental remark from Mr. Ralph Fitch; who, says Mr. Hough in the Maulmain Chronicle, “travelled in this part of the world in about the year 1586, or 1587.” He says: “I went from Pegu to Malacca passing many of the sea ports of Pegu as Martaban, the Island of Tavi whence all India is supplied with tin, Tenasserim, the island of Junkselon, and many others.”
Captain Tremenheere found the richest deposit of tin in the Provinces, at Kahan on Mergui Island, about eleven miles above the town, and near the Tenasserim river. “Kahan itself,” he writes, “is the highest portion of a low ridge of hills, not more than 200 feet above the level of the river: it is composed of a soft friable white sandstone rock, the upper portions of which are decomposed and irregular. The surface gravel does not contain tin. It is found in the crystallized form interspersed in decomposed granite, forming a vein about three feet wide, which is enclosed by the white sandstone rock, and dips down at a high angle with the horizon.
“Large scales of chlorite occur with it, which, as they are generally found where the tin is most abundant, is called by the natives ‘the mother of tin.’ The face of the hill is in one spot scattered over with these, which appear to have been brought down from the vein with other matter from which the tin has been separated by the usual mode of washing. It will be noticed, that the granite is completely decomposed, and that the crystals would be easily separated by washing. No tin has been raised here since the country came into our possession, but the locality has been known. It was worked during the Burmese rule, and valued as supplying the richest ore of tin. A Burmese residing near the spot, pointed out the place where his operations had ceased. He had followed the direction of the vein alluded to, as well as he was able, and had driven a gallery under ground in an inclined direction upwards, till the bank above fell in, when the mine was abandoned. He stated that he had procured considerable quantities of tin daily, and that he often found it in large masses mixed with yellow ground. Arriving at the spot where his work had terminated, I set people to excavate and find, if possible, the vein which had been described. It was reached after about two hours’ digging, at the depth of five feet from the surface of the cut in the hill in which we stood. In about a quarter cf an hour, a few baskets of the decomposed granite were removed down the hill, from which an amount of the crystallized peroxide of tin, equal to 63.176 grains of pure tin, were collected.
“The crystallized form in which the ore is here found renders its separation extremely easy, and the whole processes of stamping and dressing, which in England are tedious and expensive operations, can thus be dispensed with. No arsenic or sulphur being mixed with the ore, it need not be roasted before it is placed in the furnace.”
This ore he adds, as quoted by Mr. O’Riley, “contains specimens of macled crystals, which in weight and size surpass any thing 1 have ever seen in Cornwall, or in cabinet specimens. Specimens have been extracted of great weight and richness, consisting of large macled crystals of tin on quartz, and contain more tin in proportion to the bulk than any specimens I have before seen. The largest, which measured about fourteen inches square by twelve deep, was so heavy, as to require some exertion to hold it steadily in both hands.”
In another report, Captain Tremenhere writes: “With the view of ascertaining its value in the home market, I transmitted, a box of average samples of the ore, to a smelting establishment in Cornwall, (Messrs. Bolitho &. Co.) having extensive connection with the tin mines of that country. In April 1843, Mr. Thomas Bolitho informed me that—‘The samples of once-washed ore produce about 70 per cent, of tin, and the twice-washed yields nearly 75 per cent. The metal is very good, being almost free from alloy; some of the samples which have been sent to me from the Malayan peninsula contain titanium. The ore appears to separate from the matrix very easily.
‘The consumption of tin throughout the world increases so slowly, and the supply at present being more than equal to the demand, there is little inducement to speculate in tin mines.
‘The produce of Cornwall is 6,000 tons per annum, and we calculate that the quantity produced at Java together with what is raised in the Malayan peninsula, will rather exceed the produce of Cornwall. The average price of tin in Cornwall has been about 72s. per cwt., but it is now as low as 56s., which is the present price of the best Straits tin, and tin mines are suffering greatly from the depreciation in the value of their metal.
‘It may serve for your guidance to know, that at this moment tin ore of the description of the sample twice-washed, would fetch in England about £46 per ton.’
“The following calculations of the probable result of a shipment of tin ore, and of the metal, have been obligingly made for me by two mercantile gentlemen of Maulmain. They are based on the lowest prices which, according to Mr. Bolitho, were obtainable in the market in April 1843, and show a probable profit on tin ore of 7s. 8d. per cwt.; but a loss on shipment of the metal of 12s. 4d. per cwt. in one case, and 4s. 9d. per cwt. in the other.
“July 1843. Tin ore from Maulmain purchased at 45 rupees per hundred viss, equal to 365 lbs.
|45 Rs. per % viss.=per cwt. 14 rupees, or||0||28||0|
|Stout boxes and shipping charges in Maulmain,||0||1||0|
|Freight home £2 per ton,||0||2||0|
|Insurance 2½% on 40 s.||0||1||0|
|Commission and London charges 5½%||0||2||2|
|Interest commission 5% on purchase,||0||1||2||0||10||4|
|Sale price per Mr. Bolitho||0||46||0|
|Leaves a profit per cwt.||0||7||8|
July 1843. Tin from Maulmain purchased at 77 rupees per hundred viss.
|77 Rs. per % viss.=23 Rs. 14 annas or per cwt.||0||47||9|
|In Maulmain shipping, &c. per cwt.||0||0||6|
|Insurance 2½% or 6%||0||1||6|
|London charges, viz. commission 2½% Ware-house
and Dock dues 1½% other incidental expences 1½%
|Interest on Purchase.|
|Six months @ 5 per cent.||0||2||4|
|Freight @ £3 per ton,||0||3||0||0||20||7|
|Sale price per Mr. Bolitho,||0||56||0|
|Leaves a loss of per cwt.||0||12||4|
Another calculation of November 1844.
|Usual cost of tin in Maulmain, Rs. 77-8 per 365 lbs., or Rs.||23||5||2||per cwt.|
|Freight to England @ £1-10 per ton,||0||12||0|
|Duty, @ 10s.||5||0||0|
|Shipping charges here and in London,||0||8||0|
|Commission in London @ £2½ per cent.||0||13||0|
|Assumed price in London,||0||56||0|
|Leaves a loss per cwt. of||0||4||9|
“The assumed rate for the ore at Maulmain, 45 rupees per 365 lbs., would be I think subject to a reduction; but that for the metal, is probably the lowest average. It will be observed also, that the London price of 56s. per cwt. is taken at a period of great depression in the value of the article which had averaged 72s. per cwt.; but it would nevertheless appear, that to send it to England in the state of clean ore would be by far the safest investment.”
any mixed metal resembling tin—as tin and zinc.
tinned iron plates.
In a broken boulder that a native brought me at Tavoy, was a large vein of some ore, that I judged to be black blende, or black sulphuret of zinc. I was never able however to ascertain the locality whence it was brought. Dr. Helfer reported the existance of ores of zinc on the Mergui Islands. He says: “The other ores discovered are of less importance. They are arsenic and zinc. The latter may contain some silver.”
Captain Tremenheere has given a full report on the manganese of Mergui, on the Tenasserim; and I have seen specimens of manganese mixed with iron from one of the islands south of Mergui.
Captain Tremenheere wrote: “During my stay at the Tenasserim coal basin, a piece of manganese ore, (black wad), of good quality, was brought to me by a Karen, who stated, that it had been found accidentally in the bank of a stream called the Thuggoo, which enters the Great Tenasserim, seventeen miles below the coal site. Subsequently, several other pieces of the same ore were brought to Mr. T. A Corbin, Assistant to the Commissioner from the Therabuen river, five miles above the Thuggoo, and from an intermediate spot, the locality of which had been previously known, and had been, I believe, originally pointed out by Lieutenant Glover of the Madras Army.
“In proceeding down the river, I visited these spots, and found at each, that a valuable bed of manganese ore existed close to the surface of the country. It had been apparently cut through by the action of the stream and river before mentioned, leaving a section of the bed of ore in their banks, covered only by the debris of the banks themselves. Large quantities might have been carried away, but a few hand specimens only were taken, which sufficiently shew the nature of the deposit, and are fair samples of what might be easily collected.
“Of the extent of these manganese beds it is difficult tor pronounce. The face of the country in which they are situated is flat, thickly overspread with soil, and with the densest jungle. It is not, as far I could perceive, intersected by many streams which would afford the means of tracing the mineral deposit. The Great Tenasserim river has passed through the manganese bed in one spot, 2½ miles removed from two other points at which it occurs to the north and south, at both of which it is like wise discovered near the surface by the action of the streams Thuggoo and Therabuen. The probability therefore, is, that it is an horizontal deposit covering many square miles. But without indulging in conjecture, there is sufficient at the localities referred to, to indicate large quantities of manganese ore which could be collected by penetrating through the soil lying above it, and immediately near the spots in which it is now exposed to the day.
“It occurs in the form of the black oxide, and is the manganese of commerce. It is largely consumed in Europe in the preparation of bleaching compounds, and when pure, is valuable to the manufacturer of glass.
“The soft black ore, No. 1, is a hydrate of the peroxide of manganese, known under the name of wad. It contains of water two equivalents, or 29 per cent; Iron, 1.96 grains by analysis; its specific gravity is 1.47. The specific gravity of the grey peroxide, No. 4, is 1.46.”
Mr. Piddington, in analyzing the ores of antimony, found “in one instance a trace of molybdena.”
The sulphuret of antimony, appears to be a very abundant mineral in Province Amherst. It is reported as being often met with on the mountains, that bound the valley of the Thoungyeen, Mr. O’Riley found it at the sources of the Ataran, and large quantities of the ore have been dug up in the neighborhood of Maulmain; but there was no demand for it in Calcutta whither it was sent, and operations have been suspended.
Mr. Piddington made the following report on specimens of the ore that were sent him: “We received some time ago from Messrs. Fowle and Lonsdale of Maulmain, a box containing upwards of thirty specimens of Ores from the Antimony Mines near that place, with a request that they might be examined, their desire being of course to ascertain carefully and certainly, if they contained any, and what, proportion of the precious metals. One of the Ores sent up was indeed a ‘supposed antimonial silver.’
“Now, in complicated ores of this description, this sort of examination requires great care, time, and often repeated analysis, before a negative can safely be pronounced from a small specimen, to assure the miner or smelter who works on a large scale that nothing of value exists in his ores, and these references have thus occupied a very considerable portion of time and labor, and as, is often the case in such investigations, have proved wholly unfruitful. Antimony, iron, arsenic, and sulphur with bismuth, and in one instance a trace of molybdena being all which can be discovered in them. The results have been sent to Messrs. Brightman, but are not worth detailing or printing.
“I have suggested however, to these gentlemen that they may find it well worth their while to sink a shaft ‘for a change of ores.’ As I now understand their operations, they seem to be occupied with what one might call mere surface-digging rather than mining, and the pronouncing, as we must now do, that these ores contain nothing of value, is not to be understood as saying that the locality contains nothing, but merely that the ores at the surface have not been found valuable; which in Cornwall, and I think in Germany, is often thought to be a favorable indication.”
Dr Helfer reported the existance of ores of arsenic on the Mergui Islands, Mr. Piddington found it in the antimony ores, and Professor Mitchell also found arsenic in the lead ore that he analyzed.
Oxide of Arsenic.
This is the common arsenic of the shops, and is imported from Bengal.
Red orpiment, or realger, is found in great quantities in Burmah, and is constantly seen in the bazars.
Red sulphuret of arsenic.
This is also a production imported from Burmah, which has not been found in the Provinces.
Yellow sulphuret of arsenic.
The tungstate of iron, or wolfram sand, much resembles tin, and it is found in most neighborhoods where that ore is obtained, and for which it is often mistaken. One of the Assistant Commissioners at Mergui a few years ago, reported several valuable deposits of tin, not before known, and he raised furnaces on the ground to smelt the ore; but although he tried hard, and increased the heat to the highest point he was capable of doing; still the ore remained refractory, and would not turn into tin. He attributed the fault to his furnaces, and came away with large specimens of his tin ore, which proved on examination to be tungsten, or wolfram sand. A magnet will distinguish the two ores at once, for the iron in the tungstate of iron is attracted by the magnet, while the tin is not.
Sulphur exists in the ores that are found in the forms of sulphurets: as the sulphuret of iron, the sulphuret of antimony, the sulphuret of lead, and the sulphuret of copper; but native sulphur has not been found in the Provinces.
Although the diamond is not found in Burmah yet it forms one of the nine gems, which worn together in a ring, are supposed to protect the wearer from evil. They are diamond, emerald, coral, sapphire, topaz, pyrope, cat’s-eye, pearl, ruby.
According to the analysis of Mr. Piddington, Curator of the Museum of Economic Geology in Calcutta, these Provinces contain a new carbonaceous mineral, which he has named Tremenheerite. In his report, he writes :
“This substance was sent to the Museum from Tenasserim by Captain Tremenheere, as black wad, but it contains no trace of manganese.
“It is, when fresh, in masses of a scaly structure and of a deep black colour, with a highly metallic lustre, much resembling coarsely foliated graphite; after a few months it partly falls to powder, or rather into scaly flakes, evidently from the decomposition of pyrites, of which it contains three per cent. It powders easily, but the powder is always scaly, soiling, greasy, and glittering, like graphite. If the pulverised part be washed and ground, the tougher metallic looking scales remain as a black micaceous residuum, and it is only after long rubbing and washing that they also are pulverised, showing great toughness in the compacter and larger scales of the mineral. It soils much, but is too soft to mark with, nor can any very determined streak be made; what is so, is of a deep black. When heated a little sulphur sublimes; the mass burns but very slowly indeed, reddening only at first and for a long time like some varieties of graphite, and requiring a good supply of air to the crucible and constant stirring to effect its combustion.
“With patient attention the whole is burnt, with the exception of a small residuum of a very light, and bright fawn-coloured powder, which is a mixture of oxide of iron and silex. Its composition is found to be in 100 parts.
|Water and sulphur,||4.00|
|Earth, chiefly silica||7.50|
|Water and loss,||.30|
“This mineral then, differs from the anthracites in its high lustre, scaly structure, and ready pulverisation, by which it approaches the graphites; as well as by its iron and very slow combustion; but then from these it differs by its streak, and high combustibility with nitre; for, like coal and the anthracites, when projected upon melted nitre it deflagrates, heating the crucible instantly to redness, while the graphites not only boil but heat the crucible also, and seem but partly and very slowly to part with their carbon till a much higher heat is given.
“This distinction I have not yet found noticed in any chemical or mineralogical work, but it seems to me to be no bad test by which to separate the graphites from the anthracites; namely, that with nitre, at a heat a little above its melting point only, the former melt and are consumed, while the latter, deflagrate and almost explode. My trials were made with graphite, from Borrowdale from Cochin, and from the Himalaya, all of which, as above stated, diffused themselves over the nitre and were consumed gradually, while Newcastle coal, American anthracite, and our present mineral deflagrate smartly.
“It is usually taken, on the authority of Berzelius, founded on Karsten’s researches, that the iron in graphite is a mere fortuitous mixture; but Beudant acutely says, alluding to this, that ‘when the iron is wanting we have no graphite, and when this substance is found in our furnaces, the proportions are sensibly the same,’ i.e. about 8 per cent, which he seems to think may be the true proportion. I do not advert to Kirwan’s experiments, which were merely relating to coal, and not to coal and graphite in comparison with each other.
“In Professor Vanuxem’s experiments (Phil. Mag. for September 1845) the quantity of manganese and iron in anthracites is stated to be from 0.2 to 7.10 per cent, and the water from 4.90 to 6.70. In the graphites he found from 1.40 to 3.60 per cent, of oxide of iron and manganese in the pure, and 20.00 per cent, in the impure kinds; and of water from 0.60 to 1.23 in the pure, and 5.33 per cent in the impure kinds.
“It may then be a mooted point to which of these two classes of the anthracine our mineral belongs, but as I have found nothing of the kind described before, I have given it a distinguishing name to be adopted or rejected, as better authorities shall determine.”
It appears to be an abundant mineral in the Provinces, there being several localities where it is found in the vicinity of both Tavoy and Maulmain. The Burmese often mistake it for coal.
No indications of bituminous coal have been found in Maulmain Province, but there is reason to believe that anthracite exists under the town of Maulmain itself. In digging a well on one of the Baptist Mission compounds, beneath several alternating beds of sandstone and slate, or shale, more than twenty feet below the surface, beds of carbonaceous matter were reached. One thin bed contained Tremenheerite, which, from Mr. Piddington’s analysis is nearly allied to anthracite.
Another thin stratum consisted principally of sand and carbonaceous matter, and similar beds are said to accompany the anthracite of America. Below this, is a stratum of shale and carbon containing fossil plants. One was decidedly an impression of a part of a leaf belonging to the palm tribe; and others unquestionably fern leaves such as indicate the anthracite coal formation in America. One of the ferns, and apparently the most numerous one, cannot be distinguished from specimens of Neuropteris Scheuchzeri from the anthracite coal mines of Rhode Island, and Massachusetts in my possession; and others bare [sic] a strong resemblance to Neuropteris and Odontopteris of the American anthracite coal fields that have been figured, but not described.
These are the only impressions of ferns that have ever been discovered in the Provinces; but from the bottom of a well deepened last dry season on the margin of the north west corner of Mr. Paterson’s compound, an abundance of Tremenheerite was brought up, and it is very probable that the fossiliferous strata are below it; though not the same as those on my compound, the inclination of the strata showing that they are above them.
I have also noticed indications of Tremenheerite in the old piles of rocks brought up from a well within Mr. Paterson’s grounds at the same corner; and from Mr. Hough’s description it would seem that he came to similar strata at the bottom of his well.
The Mergui coal is regarded by the Coal Committee as true mineral coal, but of inferior quality. A similar coal is found on the banks of the Tenasserim north of the latitude of Tavoy; but Capt. Tremenheere regards both as superior varieties of lignite, and it is believed correctly.
“Lignite or brown coal,” says Hitchcock, “appears to be peat which has long been buried in the earth, and has undergone certain chemical changes, whereby bitumen has been produced. Bituminous coal is probably the same substance, which has been longer buried in the earth, and has undergone still further changes.” The coal of the great Tenasserim valley appears to have been so long buried in the earth, that the best parts of it are better than ordinary lignite and equal to the inferior portions of bituminous coal, which is true of beds of lignite in other parts of the world.
On the banks of the Little Tenasserim, coal of a superior quality is said to exist, and in that direction further examination ought to be made. Of that section of country I have no knowledge from personal observation, but the Coal Committee say: “Eighty miles from Mergui in exhaustible beds of coal of an uniformly good quality occur on the Thian Khan, one of the main branches of the Little Tenasserim. The various beds appear to be what is called cannel coal, remarkable for consisting of upwards of 50 per cent of bitumen, which, to use the words of Mr. James Princep, shews it to be a superior blazing material, which is the main point in getting up steam.”
Coal has also been found on the banks of the Lenhea river, south of Mergui; but of this nothing is known. It is a field for examination.
Lignite, or brown coal, has been found in several localities. On the banks of a small tributary of the Tenasserim, in about ten miles of latitude north of Tavoy, trunks of trees changed to lignite may be seen in the stiff clay, and near them the trunks of other trees completely silicified, and turned to stone.
There is a great variety in this wood coal, both in its appearance and chemical analysis. Dr. Goodall, to whom I subjected specimens for analysis, wrote: “100 parts contain,
The specimen was not good. Is it wood coal!” When Mr. Blundcll saw several baskets of the coal that he had had brought in, he said it looked exactly like the first that was brought him from the Mergui coal field. This must be the coal referred to by the Coal Committee in their report, for 1841, in which they say: “More recently, excellent specimens of coal have been presented to the Committee by Mr. Blundell, the Commissioner of these Provinces, as found somewhere on Tavoy river.” No coal has been found on Tavoy river, and as this was the time when Mr. Blundell obtained the specimens of this lignite from the Tenasserim, there is doubtless an error in the reference to the locality. The Committee call it “Cannel coal,” which only proves that lignite is sometimes “a perfect mineral coal;” for that this coal is lignite, no one will question who has visited the locality.
The Committee also reported on a specimen of coal from Maulmain as “Cannel coal,” but Mr. O’Riley who visited the locality whence it was said to have been brought, says that if found in that neighbourhood, it must be lignite.
Dr. Morton recently furnished me with specimens of lignite collected by the commander of the surveying vessel on the coast, below Amherst. As the shore there for many miles is covered with laterite, it is probably found in that rock. Lignite occurs in laterite on the other coast.
Mr. O’Riley found lignite near the head waters of the Ataran. He says: “Approaching the head waters of the Ataran River where the strata are considerably elevated, with the dip at an angle of 38° two separate lines of lignite occur in a coarse sandstone conglomerate with shale and a semi-indurated blue clay containing limestone pebbles. This lignite is highly pyritous, its decomposition affording a copious deposit of sulphate of iron which covers the exposed surface with a dirty-colored efflorescence. Some of the pieces taken from the deposit retain their original characteristics, do not fracture, and may be sawn through in sections across the grain, the same as wood imperfectly carbonized. Other deposits of wood less charged than the foregoing are found in the banks of the rivers Dahgyaine and Gyaine, some 20 to 30 miles to the north east of Maulmain, covered with the same blue clay as that already noticed, but none possess any useful quality as a combustible material.”
Petroleum is always for sale in the bazars, it is not however a production of the Provinces, but is imported from Burmah. At one locality near the banks of the Irrawaddy there are said to be more than five hundred productive wells.
Amber, though universally used for ear knobs, is not found in the Provinces, but Dr. Bayfield described the amber mines that he visited north of Ava as being in a lignite formation. The amber, he said, was always found among the lignite; and, as there are numerous localities of lignite in these Provinces, some of them, if explored, might be found as rich in amber as they are in Burmah.