I was thinking it would be nice to be able to do mining and metalworking without rare tools. Humans have been working with metal for thousands of years and there are plenty of methods that don’t require complex machinery or equipment. A few ideas:
Collecting ore rocks on the surface. There are plenty of rocks that can provide iron, tin, copper and other metals in the New England area and some of them are easily accessible as loose rocks. Collect enough of these and you can smelt them into usable metal.
Iron-Oxidizing Bacteria. Certain bacteria survive by processing and breaking down iron. They exist in puddles and along riverbanks and can be identified by their reddish brown/yellow color. It is possible to collect enough of them to get usable metal.
Prospecting and shallow quarries/surface deposits. Analyzing soil and rock samples to determine where good deposits of minerals are has been done for hundreds of years. There could be an “prospecting kit” item that will give a readout on the available minerals in that map square. More advanced kits give more detail. You can also build shallow quarries to reach surface deposits, albeit with significant effort. More allied survivors to help would be almost necessary using primitive tools.
Primitive tools. Ancient people didn’t have jackhammers and forged picks. They made do with stone picks, or maybe cast bronze/copper. Being able to create tools to use in mining, instead of being forced to go out and find one, would make metalworking much simpler and realistic.