The party comes across a nice hermit in the woods. He gives them food and lodging for the night. They awaken to his terrified screams. "East! It's east! Stop it! It'll kill us all!" The poor horror-stricken hermit dies thrashing in agony, one boney arm outstretched, his finger pointing to the east.
Mining in a certain area turns all exposed skin (maybe just parts that are actively disturbing the chemicals that cause the reaction) of the those doing the mining to a dark blue color. Will wear off taking as many years/days spent in the mine. ... meeting a party of blue-skinned humans armed with pick-axes etc. Strange disease? Demon offspring? Curse? If they meet only one ex-worker, they will very carefully listen to any stories he says, no matter if drunken or insane, or just makes up to get a beer.