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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals and minerals 1978-79
Year 1978-79, Volume 1 (1978-1979)

Drake, Harold J.
Mercury,   pp. 593-600 PDF (695.7 KB)


Page 593

  593Mercury 
By Harold J. Drake' 
 Mercury production was reported from three mines, two in Nevada and one
in California. Increased production in 1979 was due primarily to higher prices,
which prevailed throughout. the year. Secondary production also increased
in 1979. Part of the total supply was from sales by the General Services
Administration (GSA). 
 An overall decline in consumption was led by reduced demand for mercury
use in catalysts, paints, dental equipment, and for general laboratory purposes.
Increased use was reported by chlorine and caustic soda manufacturers. Producer,
consumer, and dealer stocks fell sharply. The average monthly price rose
through the first half of 1979 but then fell off through August before beginning
a rise that continued through the end of the year. The average annual flask
price in New York was $281.10.2 
 Imports for consumption decreased by 39% from the 1978 level, to 26,448
flasks; but imports nonetheless accounted for over 50% of U.S. mercury consumption
in 1979. Japan, Italy, Spain, Canada, and Mainland China were the principal
sources of imported mercury. 
 Producers in' Italy, Spain, and the U.S.S.R. reportedly continued to restrict
sales of mercury during most of 1979; and Italian, Yugoslavian, and Mexican
producers continued to sharply curtail or completely shut down mercury mining
operations. Canadian mining operations, suspended in 1975 because of low
prices, did not reopen in 1979. An international association of mercury producers
that was formed in 1975, reportedly met intermittently during 1979. The group
continued to advocate 
price stabilization by curtailing production, withholding supplies from the
market, restricting sales to dealers, and closely controlling sales agents.
 Legislation and Government Programs.—GSA offered 1,000 flasks
of mercury
for sale each month during 1979 and sold 11,300 flasks. GSA obtained the
mercury from other Government agencies. At yearend, the strategic stockpile
contained 194,290 flasks, which was 140,286 flasks more than the 54,004 flask
goal. 
 In order to obtain public comment, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
published in 1978 its proposed plan for implementing the Toxic Substances
Control Act which was passed in 1976.~ Although mercury was not included
in the initial list of toxic substances, the metal was being evaluated by
EPA to determine if there is a need for its regulation. Mercury lost in'
past years during chlorine manufacturing continues to find its way into rivers
adjacent to former production plant sites.4 The mercury content found in
fIsh in these waters greatly exceeded guidelines that have been established
for edible foods by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These guidelines
resulted in the bans on fishing for food purposes in these areas several
years ago. 
 Information on the production, geology, and ore reserves of mercury deposits
in Oregon was developed for inclusion in the Bureau of Mines Minerals Availability
System.~ A report on the mercury deposits of Thrkey was published.6 The study
details the mineralogy, geology, size, and grade of deposits and includes
a brief history of Turkey's productive mines. 


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