new idria mercury mine


The New Idria Mercury Mine (NIMM) site is on 8,000 acres of private land in the Diablo Mountain Range and incorporates the abandoned town of Idria in San Benito County, California. The mine is located in the New Idria Mining District, which includes over a dozen smaller mercury mines. The NIMM operated from 1854 to the early 1970s, was the second most productive mercury mine in North America, and produced over 38 million pounds of mercury.The abandoned town of Idria was comprised of dozens of dilapidated buildings until a fire in July 2010 destroyed nearly half of the historic structures in the northern portion of the town. The New Idria mining claim was declared in 1854 by prospectors and investors. In 1857, the first brick furnace to roast cinnabar ore was built at the Site. The mine operations expanded to include San Carlos and Molina mines and miles of tunnels, shafts and drifts were used to access the cinnabar. In the 1920s, the overburden was stripped down to form pits in order to access cinnabar. The mining continued nearly uninterrupted with a few idle and low productivity periods due to low mercury values and land owner disputes. The mine operated until the early 1970s. Several furnaces were built over the years including four large furnaces still located at the site adjacent to the Level 10 adit. Mercury was extracted from the cinnabar ore by crushing the ore and roasting it to release elemental mercury vapor which was cooled and condensed for bottling. The roasting process is called calcination and the roasted ore is known as calcines. Typically, calcines still contain some soluble mercury. Extensive waste rock and calcine tailings piles (0.5 to 2 million tons) cover over 40 acres at the Site. A large furnace and process area and other mine working features remain at the Site. Over 30 miles of tunnels and 20 levels (levels are inversely synonymous to floors of building) were constructed as part of mining operations at the Site. The Level 10 adit was used as the main haulage level and is connected to other levels by shafts and raises. The extensive mine levels have flooded with water which reacts with the high iron and sulfur content of the bedrock to form an acidic solution, typically known as acid mine drainage (AMD), which drains from the Level 10 adit. Although regulated by the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) starting in the late 1960s, surface water discharges of AMD from the mine remained uncontrolled after the mine shut down in the early 1970s. The EPA, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), RWQCB, and academic institutions have conducted investigations at the NIMM site and surrounding area to assess mercury contamination in sources at the Site and in creeks downstream of the mine.

Hazardous Ranking Score

32 / 100

A score of 28.5 or higher qualifies a site for the Superfund National Priority List.

Regional Contact

Region 9
Phone: (415) 947-4251

Contact Region



Site Inspection
Preliminary Assessment
Final Listing On NPL

Contaminants & Health Effects

      Endocrine Disrupter
      Reproductive Toxin
      Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic


        African American
        American Indian and Alaska Native
        Native Hawaiian


        People living
        within a 1 mile radius


        Average Income


        Occupied homes

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