“Gold Rush-Era Mercury Mine Closed in 1972 Is Still Contaminating”

“Nearly half a century after a Gold Rush-era quicksilver mining operation shut down in northern California, mercury continues to flow into a nearby creek, and federal officials blame the mine’s state landmark status for cleanup delays.

In its heyday, the New Idria mercury mine was the second most productive mine of its kind in the U.S. By the time the mine closed in 1972, it had produced more than 38 million pounds of mercury. Today, the site is a remote ghost town 135 miles southeast of San Francisco where history buffs visit, but less than 10 people live nearby.

California condor, giant kangaroo rats, blunt-nosed leopard lizards, and other endangered or threatened animals live in the area. Mercury and other toxics like arsenic are still present, posing a threat to those species as well as to fish and grazing cattle.”

Emily C. Dooley reports for Bloomberg Environment July 18, 2020.