LEARNING FROM A Legend
Rock&Gem Magazine|June 2021
VISITS TO LUCKY STRIKE MINE PRODUCE GREAT MEMORIES AND MATERIAL
BRUCE MCKAY

Kop (Leonard) Kopcinsky was a legend in the Oregon rockhounding community. He owned the Blue Mountain Jasper Mine in SE Oregon plus the Valley View and Lucky Strike Thunderegg Mines in Central Oregon. A war injury from World War II left him with poor balance and using a cane, which didn’t slow him down a bit. I am not sure where he got his strong work ethic or stubbornness, but those attributes seem a necessary part of living a miner’s life. And I was lucky enough to meet him several times.

He moved to Mitchell, Oregon, in the early 1960s with his wife, Tessie. Already a rockhound, he soon went into mining full time. Kop discovered and filed a claim on the Blue Mountain Jasper Mine in 1967. This beautiful orbicular jasper has since become famous as one of the finest jaspers from Oregon.

The Valley View Mine that Kop owned was closed to public digging in the 1980s. It produces thundereggs with a flying saucer-shaped interior rather than the butterfly or four-pointed star interior common in thundereggs. The production here is mostly banded agate with plumes, while other patterns are rare. The finest plume ever to come out of the Valley View Mine was taken back to the nearby Lucky Strike Mine to be saved as a specimen. Nobody told Kop that an exceptional plume was in the pile of thundereggs, and he sold it to visiting rockhounds that same day. I sure hope they appreciated it!

The Lucky Strike Mine was opened in 1958, and Kop purchased it in 1963. Today, it is one of only two commercial thunderegg mines open for public digging in Oregon and the only fee digging mine with fine quality moss agate and occasional plumes.

In the early days at the mine, the cars of rockhounds had to be winched up the hill. Today, most cars can drive right into the parking area next to a cabin, where piles of thundereggs are available for those who don’t want to dig their own.

The Lucky Strike Mine’s thundereggs were discovered when a spring washed the overburden off, exposing the eggs. That spring now provides water for the cabin at the mine, but the excess water coming out of the hillside also creates mud at times. According to one story, once a Caterpillar bulldozer got stuck in a mud hole, and it took four trucks to extract it. Another time, a backhoe sunk, and it took a month of digging to get it out.

STORIES APLENTY

Those aren’t the only stories affiliated with the Lucky Strike Mine. At one time, Kop was in a prolonged legal battle with the Forest Service over the Valley View and Lucky Strike mines. The Forest Service thought that he was mining beyond the scope of his original plan of operations for the claims. It was also believed that he didn’t need a cabin at the Valley View when he had a better cabin nearby at the Lucky Strike, and in addition, it was thought an endangered Canadian Lynx might be further endangered by the mine, even though there were no reports of a Canadian Lynx seen in that part of the forest.

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