In 1978 I, Richard J. Wegner, discovered the alluring beauty of the Ouachita Mountains in west central Arkansas. The attraction was so great that I began searching for a new home in the Spring of 1979; after the heavy snow in northern Illinois began to melt. After searching for a month, I narrowed my search to the area surrounding Lake Ouachita - a jewel in the mountains. Soon, by word of mouth I located a couple hundred acres nestled in a boxed-in valley. After seeing the virtually undeveloped property, I knew I was home. By the summer I was constructing a log cabin home and other buildings to start up what I thought would be a horticultural business.
One day I discovered broken clear stones in my garden. Curious, I walked the property perimeter to familiarize myself with the land and it new potential. Soon I discovered several shallow trenches around the mountainside. Gleaming in the piles were small quartz crystals. They were everywhere and I felt a deep heartfelt connection to the earth and its glory at that time. I stayed at the site and quietly saw my calling laid out in front of me. My spirit was moved and my previous carefully laid plans were put aside and I began to follow my heart.
My time was spent studying geology and other earth sciences. I didn't consult with existing mining operators because I wished to create a venture based on my vision. In 1980 I started Wegner Enterprises, Inc. and Wegner Quartz Crystal Mines to begin the prospecting on my land and on government lands. The crystals began to emerge from the earth as I and my neighbor Randy hand dug in several areas on my land. Realizing the need for equipment to move the large rock, I leased a excavator; powerful & track mounted. We produced thousands of pounds of high quality clear crystals in a short time. I realized that finding a market entailed a global approach, so I attended the largest marketplace, the 1981 Tucson Gem & Mineral Shows. Once discovered, our crystals sold out in a few days, leaving a week to still sell with no product. I loved the thrill of mining the exquisite crystals, so it was time to expand and hire employees. By 1983 I employed 30 full time workers and we took semi-trucks loaded with many tons of crystals to Tucson and still we sold almost everything except the truck. "Wow", I thought, "the world needs these gemstones" as they went all over the planet.
At some point during all this success, I realized the important role I played. My intention from the beginning was to protect the environment, contribute to the local economy as an employer, and to spiritually grow through my grounding connection to the earth. I studied the metaphysical aspects as well as traditional Native American Indian uses of the stones. I invited the local Ouachita Indians to have their Pow-Wow on my land. We participated in a blessing of my land and were accepted as honorary tribal members. We've learned a great deal about care of the earth from the Indian people. On the 22nd of September 1996, Reiki Masters from around the country visited our Phantom mine with the intent of attuning the earth with love. I was privileged to stand in the circle as they carefully walked the symbols into the earth. This powerful experience was joined by people in many places via the internet.
I wish to be a good caretaker of the land I am privileged to use. We invite and have hundreds of students visit yearly to experience our way of mining and relating to the environment. This is also a very fulfilling aspect of our work which can be arranged for school groups though our office at little or no expense.
Over the past 20 years I have been involved in much charitable work in our community. We have donated or sold quality specimens to museums worldwide which are currently on exhibition. One of our more recent projects was with the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada. Their earth science gallery, called "Dynamic Earth", opened May 26th, 1999 with a spectacular permanent display of minerals and gemstones from around the world. We were asked by the curators to provide quartz specimens to re-create a crystal cave and assorted vugs. The end result is the entrance to this gallery is a 40 foot high crevice which you can walk through; lined with our crystals from the floor to the ceiling. I am pleased to have a part in such a permanent exhibit which touches so many lives. Millions of people pass through the museum yearly. Maybe our crystals will play a part in interesting children in the earth sciences and in turn, a bonding relationship with all nature.
Currently, my focus is on producing the more rare and unusual quartz crystal types. Phantom, (manganese included), crystals are our mainstay, also smoky crystals and huge single crystals are being mined currently. Occasionally, we find huge clusters weighing thousands of pounds and laboriously extract these intact to clean and market.