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ABC-7 Xtra: The Life of a Miner in southern New Mexico

OROGRANDE, New Mexico (KVIA) -- In the mountains near Orogrande, New Mexico lie several private mining claims with many types of ores, crystals, gems, rocks, and fossils to offer. The only catch is, you have to do a bit of mining to find them. Local miner, prospector, and owner of Rockstargems on Instagram and eBay, Robert Lairy, took ABC-7's Jared Ortega and I on a once in a lifetime experience. That is, for non-miners of course.

After a 15-minute hike up a mountain, we made it to the area Lairy and the owner of the private claims have been working on. The mission is to find amethyst, quartz, and garnets along the mountainside. Lairy, who has been mining for years, lights up when given the opportunity "to be the first one to see something come from the earth," and he shares his passion with his wife and two young sons.

"We have a bus, and we go to different locations and camp for a number of days and dig together. We spend a lot of time together. They all love it," Lairy shared with ABC-7. His two sons are homeschooled by Robert and his wife, and they are able to get first-hand experience, learning about the earth and the history it holds.

Mining is not for the light-hearted. It can be a dangerous and even deadly profession. But some, like Lairy, are able to turn the complicated job into a living.

"This is what I do. I curate a fine mineral collection of things that I bought from all over the world, and then also, I dig my own crystals and minerals all over the state of New Mexico, and even further up north into Colorado and Wyoming," said Lairy.

While the purpose of mining is to find precious and rare specimens, it's not always the most lucrative job.

"The truth is that the miners hardly ever make the money, even though they're the ones that discover the most amazing stuff," Lairy continued, "if you want to make all the money, then you have to start with a lot of money," he added with a laugh.

As the sound of pickaxes rang, and dust clouds formed, Lairy managed to find several crystal clusters that day, including scepters, crystals that have small crystals in the bottom with larger ones on top. Katie Frazier and Jared Ortega were able to pull some crystals out, too.

Once the crystals are recovered, there is an intricate and timely cleaning process as well. That includes spraying the gems with water, soaking them in various acids and more. These are all things Lairy does for a living. If you are interested in checking out the wide variety of gems Lairy and his family have found over the years, click on the links found in the first paragraph of this article.

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Katie Frazier

Katie Frazier is an ABC-7 meteorologist.


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