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By Shane Lasley
Mining News 

BLM finalizing Red Devil clean-up plan

Proposes on-site containment of mercury mine materials

 

Last updated 3/13/2020 at 4:13am

Historic Red Devil mercury mine Kuskokwim region Southwest Alaska

Bureau of Land Management

The surface facilities at the Red Devil Mine in 1960. BLM is now finalizing plans to remediate this historic mercury mine that was abandoned in the 1970s.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management March 9 announced a proposed plan to finish cleaning up Red Devil, a historical mercury mine site along the Kuskokwim River in Southwest Alaska.

The mercury mineral cinnabar was discovered in the Red Devil Creek drainage in 1933 and over the next four decades roughly 36,000 flasks, or 1,224 metric tons, of mercury was recovered from 74,000 ton of ore with an average grade of about 1.5% mercury.

The mining started off at surface and transitioned to underground in the 1940s. During this period, a 40-ton rotary kiln was installed to process the mercury. After a fire in 1954 destroyed most of the surface structures at Red Devil, a second furnace was installed.

The waste rock and tailings from this and subsequent placer operations that continued until the early 1970s were disposed of in settling ponds in the Red Devil Creek drainage.

In addition to the mercury, the ore at Red Devil also contained high levels of arsenic and antimony, the latter of which was recovered during the final years of mining.

Over the years, BLM has worked on cleaning up the surface of the abandoned mine. Now the federal land manager plans to finish the remediation.

"The remedial action proposed for the Red Devil Mine is intended to protect human health and the environment from risks associated with exposure to elevated levels of site-related contaminants in tailings and waste rock, contaminated soil, groundwater, sediments in Red Devil Creek, and nearshore sediments in the Kuskokwim River," BLM penned in the proposed Red Devil clean-up plan.

While the proposed plan considers several alternatives, the land manager's preference is to dig up the heavy metals contaminated soil and store it in a covered repository near the historic mine but outside of the drainage areas.

"The BLM takes seriously our obligations at this site," said BLM Alaska State Director Chad Padgett. "The methods we're proposing were developed in close coordination with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation concurs with our preferred alternative. This has been a long time coming, and we're looking forward to getting started on the next phase of cleanup."

Before getting started, however, BLM is taking public comments on the "Proposed Plan for the Red Devil Mine," which includes four different alternatives that range from no further action to shipping contaminated soils to an off-site location for disposal.

During the second half of March, BLM will be holding public meetings for 10 communities in the middle and lower Kuskokwim region. During these meetings, BLM experts will be available to summarize the work completed so far and describe the preferred cleanup alternative.

Comments from the nearby communities will be accepted through April 30. After reviewing and considering the comments, BLM will develop a record of decision on the Red Devil Mine cleanup plan.

Additional information about the Red Devil Mine project can be found at https://www.blm.gov/alaska/red-devil-mine.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

Over his more than 11 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.

Email: [email protected]
Phone: (907) 726-1095
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