Rock and mineral collecting at sterling hill mine Sterling Hill Mining Museum, NJ



Tour the Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Video Tour
Overview of the Sterling Hill Mining Museum
Mineral Collecting
Fossil Discovery Center
Rock Discovery Center
Ellis Astronomical Observatory



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Trex dinosaur

On a guided tour in the Zobel Exhibit Hall you will find dinosaur eggs, dinosaur bones, petrified wood, a full-size replica Tyrannosaurus Rex skull, and a large slab of siltstone showing embedded dinosaur footprints.


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Edison's Electric Cap Lamp

Thomas Edison’s electric cap lamps lit the mine years ago.

Learn more about our Edison Connection.



Super DigMineral Collecting

Rocks & Minerals for Kids
Age 7 and Up 

The Mine Run Dump



200 tons of high-grade zinc ore, much of which contains fluorescent minerals.




The Mine Run dump, conveniently located adjacent to the visitor parking lot, contains hundreds of tons of high-grade zinc ore from the depths of the Sterling Hill Mine. Much of the ore is full of highly fluorescent minerals, making this area a favorite of collectors. Also in this area is a separate, smaller dump containing diverse minerals and rocks from all over the world.

A small brick building on the edge of the dump contains a scale and an ultraviolet lamp, so mineral-collecting visitors can weigh their specimens and view them under shortwave ultraviolet light before deciding on purchasing them.

When we are Open: 
The Mine Run dump is available for collecting from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM every day the museum is open for tours (see our Calendar for current schedule). 

Fees:  Admission to the collecting area is $5, plus $1.50 per pound for whatever specimens you choose to take with you.  Note:  The $5 admission fee is for the Mine Run dump only and does not  include admission to the mine or any of the museum buildings.  Tour prices are separate.

Who may Collect:  The dump is open to adults and children from age 7 on up.

  • Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult to collect in Mine Run dump.

  • Adults who accompany a minor must still pay the $5 entry fee, reguarless of if they collect.

  • Children under 18 are not allowed to use hammers.

For quicker registration when you get to the museum, download and fill out these prior to your arrival:

Hold Harmless Agreement for Adults                                                 Minor Children

What You Should Bring: 

rocks and minerals collecting for kids and adults
Our Gift Shop offers protective eyewear, hammers, and ultraviolet lamps among other items
for sale.
  • Sturdy shoes (NO flip flops or open-toed shoes) and protective eyewear is necessary if you are using hammers.  Standard American Federation of Mineralogical Societies safety rules apply.

  • Please bring your own hammers (NO claw hammer or ball peen), ultraviolet lamps, carrying bags, etc.  Should you not own such items, our Gift Shop contains a good selection of ultraviolet lamps, geologists' hammers, and protective glasses for sale. Also, as noted above, visitors may view any rocks they wish under ultraviolet light in a brick shed adjacent to our main collecting area.

  • Please note that the rock from this mine is both heavy and hard, and for that reason, claw hammers are not allowed – not only are they ineffective, but they can easily break. We recommend hand sledges of 40 oz or greater weight, plus long-handled sledges if you wish to break some of the larger rocks.

  • A carrying sack or backpack is useful but not necessary, because the collecting area is immediately adjacent to our parking lot.

  • Also useful, if you wish to collect fluorescent minerals, is a black barbeque cover to exclude light, so you can see the minerals fluorescing even on brightly sunlit days. (You will look ridiculous, a black blob slowly migrating across the dump surface, but you’ll find some wonderful things.)  The barbeque cover will save you the effort of lugging rocks to the aforementioned brick shed by enabling you to see the rocks fluorescing right where you found them.


Sphalerite vein in willemite
Sphalerite vein in willemite.  Similar specimens can be found on-site at the Sterling Hill Mining Museum.


What You May Find:

Fine specimens of zinc ore, consisting of variable proportions of brown willemite, red zincite, black franklinite, and white calcite, can be collected on the dump with ease. Much of the willemite and calcite are brightly fluorescent, green and red respectively.

Fluorescent sphalerite is commonly found as well, fluorescing variably orange, pink, or blue.

White calcite marble from a nearby excavation contains pale blue-fluorescing diopside and yellow-fluorescing norbergite.  Also found here are some of the rare species that made Sterling Hill famous as a mineral locality, but please note that these minerals are not called “rare” for nothing.

Passaic Pit Area

The floor of the Passaic pit, the “saddle” area leading up to the Noble pit, and a flat area adjacent to the Fill quarry are available for collecting by the public only on the last Sunday of every month the museum is open. Group collecting is occasionally possible by prior arrangement; for details call the museum at 973-209-7212.

The minimum age for collecting in these areas is 13. Fees and equipment needs are as stated above for the Mine Run dump, but due to the distance between the collecting area and the parking lot, a hand truck or similar wheeled conveyance will prove useful in transporting heavy rock to your car.  In contrast to the Mine Run dump, most of the rock in the Passaic pit area is not ore, but marble and gneissic rock from horizons below the orebody.  Collectible minerals vary accordingly. Wollastonite, sphalerite, and hydrozincite are popular targets among enthusiasts of fluorescent minerals.

Mineral Collecting at Night

Night collecting at Sterling Hill is scheduled twice a year for museum members only. Both the Mine Run dump and the Passaic pit area are open for collecting, but different age restrictions apply: 7 and up for the Mine Run dump, but 13 and up elsewhere. Fees are the same as for other collecting events: $5 admission plus $1.50 per pound for all material taken.

For Museum Members Only:  Nighttime collecting for museum members only is held on the third Saturday of June and October of every year.  Hours are 7:00 PM to 10:30 PM in June and 6:00 PM to 9:30 PM in October.

For Groups:  Groups interested in scheduling a nighttime collecting opportunity at Sterling Hill are encouraged to call at 973-209-7212 to discuss possible dates and terms.


Call 973-209-7212

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