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Yogo Gulch Sapphire Mine, Judith Basin, Montana


Shown above is one portion of the Yogo Gulch sapphire mine as it appeared in 1985. The sapphire deposit is actually a lamproite dike that intruded a fissure in the earth millions of years ago. The dike stands on end, varies from a few feet, to almost 100 feet in width, and runs across country for over five miles. The sapphires, of exceptionally fine clarity and fine blue color, are more or less randomly scattered through the lamproite dike rock. Jake Hoover, a gold prospector, discovered "little blue pebbles" in nearby Yogo Creek back in 1894. Since that time the Yogo sapphire deposit has been mined by both open pit and underground methods. An English syndicate first mined the deposit, on a large scale, in the early 1900's. That operation produced hundreds of thousands of carats of fine blue sapphire rough. In the later part of the 20th century other corporations, both large and small, have leased the mineral rights and undertaken sapphire mining with marginal success. The above photograph shows the commercial mining that was being conducted by the still current mine owner. Weathered portions of the sapphire-containing dike material were being removed by trackhoe and hauled to a screening and washing plant for extraction of the gem sapphire. A guest of friends who owned digging rights on a portion of the dike, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to do some hand mining during my 1985 visit. Follow this link to see some of the sapphires that I collected on that trip. Most of the Yogo Gulch sapphire still mined from this deposit never reaches the commercial market. The gem rough is being collected by Sapphire Village residents who have digging rights on a portion of the dike. The sapphire they find is faceted locally and rarely makes its way beyond local jewelers and collectors. In 1984 a previously undeveloped section of the Yogo Gulch sapphire deposit was opened by the Vortex mining group.