I’d be willing to bet that not many of you know what diopside is. Don’t feel bad though. Prior to our trip to Brazil, I didn’t know either.
Diopside – chemical formula MgCaSi2O6 – is an industrial mineral used for everything from covering electrodes to absorbing oxygen in molten steel to helping contain nuclear waste.
And it just so happens that Julius Cesar Uchoa has a mine on top of the largest diopside deposit in Brazil. And it just so happens that Julius Cesar Uchoa (JC) is the ex-husband of my dear Uncle Teddy’s girlfriend – Susan.
It’s complicated, but the bottom line is that we were given a tour of the diopside operation by JC himself.
This is JC inside the processing facility for the diopside, explaining to us how things work:
And this is the machine that processes the diopside:
And this is the transformer that pumps out 300 kilowatts to keep the machinery operating:
The raw chunks of diopside are fed into this machine that grinds the diopside down…
…into these balls that Eleonora is kindly holding here for you, dear readers, to demonstrate its size…
…or into a powder which is what these sacks are full of:
Here is the processing machine feeding diopside powder into a sack like those featured above:
It doesn’t take many guys to keep the machine operating:
An office at the main facility:
Equipment outside waiting to be used:
Next we drove out to the site where the diopside is currently being mined, which was just a few minutes away:
The miners at work:
There may be bulldozers in the background, but a lot of these guys are working with picks and hammers:
This is what they’re after… A pile of diopside ore ready to be taken for processing:
The lunch bell rang while we were visiting and the miners disappeared like phantoms. It wasn’t until we were leaving that we saw them again, huddled under a tree down the road for shade.
These two jackhammers, powered by a nearby air compressor, are being used to break up a rich vein of diopside:
The diopside deposit here covers approximately three hectares and extends for 20 to 30 meters down.
Explosives are used in conjunction with heavy equipment such as the bulldozer below to pry out the diopside:
JC surveying his mine… He has 30 employees now and would like to get up to 60 employees with a goal of shipping 800-1000 tons of processed diopside a month.
JC started mining here fifteen years ago and has been shipping diopside to Sao Paulo for the last seven years:
In front of the bulldozer, you can see the shovels and hammers used to break up the tough rock:
Not all the miners were able to take off for lunch. These guys had to stay behind to get this Cat working again:
You might be wondering how JC discovered this site and got into mining… Or you might not, but I’m going to tell you the story anyway.
Two decades ago when the road pictured below was being constructed, an engineer friend noticed some unusual rocks as the road crew cut through the small hill pictured on the left. The friend took some samples to JC and after testing, it was determined that they were very pure diopside. JC bought up the surrounding land and his mine was born:
Lastly, JC took us to a nearby site that he is just starting to develop. He owns 90% of the land and is now just waiting for permission from the government to start extracting diopside here. The whiter diopside is, the more desirable it apparently is. As you can see, the diopside that JC has on these sites is extremely white:
Below is a device used to drill for test samples in order to determine the range and quality of the mineral deposits here.
The machine on the right is the drill and the blue device on the left is a high pressure pump to supply water for the drilling:
The drill descending into the depths… JCs goal is to go down fifty to sixty meters at each of the test sites:
The engine that powers the drill:
An interesting geological “oh by the way” is a field of graphite that covers one part of the new site:
It is not economically viable to mine it, but it is noteworthy all the same. Below, is a picture I took of a chunk of graphite on my notepad: