Kurt's China photos - Baiyunebo- Summer 2004

china location mapChina, like many countries, is divided up into provinces (or states).  Baiyunebo (Bayan Obo) is in the northern province of Inner Mongolia (Nei Mengu) along the border with the country of Mongolia.  The sovereign nation of Mongolia is highlighted in red on the map.  The province of Inner Mongolia is highlighted in yellow.  The star indicates Beijing. 

The Mongolian people have a very rich history and are truly fascinating people (although I imagine they'd probably tell you that they are just plain normal and we're the curiosities!). 
bilingual signSigns in Inner Mongolia are written in both Chinese characters and the Mongolian alphabet.  Chinese characters have the advantage that they represent meaning, regardless of how you pronounce the words, so people from southern China that speak Cantonese can communicate with the rest of Mandarin-speaking China.  There are radicals built into the Chinese characters that can help you pronounce the words, but you need to memorize them.  The Mongolian language uses an alphabet (on the left in this photo) that allows you to pronounce the words, but does not tell you the meaning of the word, similar to alphabetic languages in the west.
Bayan Obo townThe streets in Baiyunebo are nice and wide and were in excellent condition.  I'd expected potholes like we have in Pennsylvania, but potholes were pretty limited.
Bayan Obo peopleThe people in Baiyunebo were incredible!  These folks were in the central plaza when Zach and I went to look around on the first day.  Westerners are a pretty rare sight, so many people were curious about us and everyone was extraordinarily friendly. 
Bayan Obo nut sellerOne of the two seed and nut sellers near the central plaza, this woman always had a smile.
Bayan Obo nut sellerBayan Obo nut sellerWe would alternate buying sunflower seeds between the two seed and nut sellers.  Both used a simple balancing scale to measure their product.  The Chinese and their levers - they move the world just like Archimedes said 2200 years ago!
Bayan Obo plazaBayan Obo plazaThe central plaza had a great fountain with lights and a water show.  I suspect it was paid for by profits from the mine.  People from all over town would collect here each evening for a quiet walk or to watch children play.  The Chinese have an incredible sense of community this way - something I really respect and admire.
Zach and kids in plazaZach lined up with a bunch of kids under the eaves of a building facing the central plaza during a bout of rain.  The rain only lasted about 15 minutes, then everyone went on with their socializing in the park!
pit map poster in hotelPhoto of the mine by the front desk of the hotel.  I was surprised at how small the pit was compared to some I've visited, especially considering this is by far the biggest Rare Earth Element mine in the world.  It was my first REE mine, though, so I didn't know what to expect.  Studying the pit walls in the photo showed they'd seriously steepend some of the high walls and it looks like they've had a couple slope failures - I hope no one was hurt.  I always get a bad feeling when I see stuff like that.
steppessteppesTypical Inner Mongolian grassland terrain near the mine.  These are some of the roads and exploration trenches dug by the mining company to better characterize the geology in the area.  These photos were taken on the first day - before we were informed by the mining company that we were forbidden from taking any photographs, video footage, rock samples, or anything else except notes in our field notebooks.  I'd heard that REE companies are hyper-secretive (like diamond mines), but we could have been much more productive scientifically without the restrictions and constant security escort - and I think we could have potentially helped the company, too!  (I also felt bad for the security escorts who had to follow us around in the field to make sure we didn't break the rules - they were just guys doing their job.)  That said, I am very, very grateful for being granted the access we had so I could see one of the world's greatest mineral deposits!
steppesLots of nice trenches!
LisaLisa - she did a very good job and made some good mineral ID calls in the field.  She was particularly enthusiastic the day we visited several so-called carbonatite dikes (she likes igneous rocks and volcanoes).  She graduated and now has a great job as a geologist in the western U.S.  She's enjoying work, but I am hoping that she eventually goes to graduate school after a few years of making big bucks because she always did well on research projects with me (i.e., both this one and a hydrogeology study the year before).
KristenKristen graduated and is now studying hydrogeology at the University of West Virginia.  I think she's studying acid rock drainage, but I don't really know since she doesn't write.  I hope she's doing alright.
ZachZach graduated and will study with Adam Simon at the University of Nevada Las Vegas after working for a summer in industry.  Zach accompanied me to China again the following year (2005) to help teach in Beijing.  He did a spectacular job both trips and I think he's one of the most talented students I've met.  He'll do good work with Adam and I think UNLV is a great school. 
basalt dikebasalt dikeOutcrops in the grasslands may not be bold, but geologic contacts can be fairly easy to track.  This narrow basalt dike can clearly be seen tracking off into the distance.  Finding places one can stick a brunton compass on to get good orientation measurements isn't too bad, either.  I'd really like to see IR aerial photography of the place in the spring because the vegetation really responded well to different rock types and faults. 
little gold minelittle gold mine minersThis was a small gold mine at the north end of the district.  The miners had just gotten off work and were hanging around on one of the dumps.  They seemed like a friendly and curious group, but we were trying to get some ground studied, so we didn't stop to talk.
little gold mine quartz veinslittle gold mine quartz veinsTypical quartz veins in gneiss at the gold mine.  Pretty thin-looking stuff, but low sulfide.  I don't know what their grades or recovery were. 
gold mining areaold exploration townThis is the region north of the REE mine where there are a couple smaller gold mines and an old limonite mine.  Xiao believes the limonite mine was a hot spring.  The Russian geologists who'd been here 30 years ago called it an iron cap (weathering deposit after sulfides).  The "town" in the background is where the exploration staff were housed back when the company was first exploring the district. 
group on steppesThe group (sans me, of course - someone's got to take the picture!) 
Bayan Obo resterauntSome locals at the restaurant who were having a great time.  I saw that they were singing toasts and drinking baijiu (very strong, colorless, distilled alcohol made from sorghum).  I went over and sang a few songs in toast with them and they were very welcoming.  People are great, aren't they?
Bayan Obo computer cafeEven in Inner Mongolia, one can connect to the internet.  This is the internet cafe in Baiyunebo.  It's primarily a place where young people go to play computer games, but it was nice for us to be able to email home periodically and to look up the Mongolian alphabet so I could try to read signs.
steppessteppesBeautiful views of the Inner Mongolian steppes.  It was such a wonderful place to be!  Growing up in the west and now living in the eastern U.S., I really miss the open spaces.
steppessteppesAgain we see evidence for a recent downcutting erosion. 

Kuangou creek with magnetite-REE oreZach by a creek filled with cobbles of magnetite-bastnaesite "ore."  A nearby fellow spent his time collecting cobbles by hand and then hauling them over the hill where he could sell them to a small mineral processing mill.  It's a tough life!  Seeing so many cobbles of ore in the stream really made me wonder how big this deposit was before glaciation and several episodes of erosion. 
Bayan Obo restaurantThe waitresses at one of the local restaurants.  Several of the waitresses were fighting a cold and so have reddening of their necks where they pinch the skin as a remedy.  It looked painful, but that's their way.
group at Monkey Rock templeThe group with one of the Baiyunebo mine administrators at Monkey Rock Temple - a local Buddhist temple set amongst interesting rock outcrops.  We stopped here on our way back to Hohhot. 

photo by Zach ArtzZach's photo of me stopping to look and appreciate the outstanding scenery.  Yeah, I know I should have been working harder, but I loved being in such a beautiful place!!
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