Robert Luce (right) shows an example of a piece of manganese to members of the club who visited an old open-pit mine worked in the 18th and 19th centuries in southwestern Frederick County. The club members, including Nicole Kolmstetter, 13, enjoy geology.
Members of the Royal Rock Hounds stand at the base of the manganese mine floor, as others climb toward the original ground level, picking up brown rocks coated with the gray manganese metal. When the mine was operating, the ore was carted out to a smelter on the property.
A climb through the deep woods in May brought the Royal Rock Hounds to the old diggings. Manganese was valuable for making a number of products, including steel, but eastern sources were limited and much larger sources were found in western states, making Virginia mines worthless.
On rocks along Mineral Ridge in Star Tannery, it appears as a smoky black layer on pieces of brown rock lying about.