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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals, minerals, and fuels 1972
Year 1972, Volume 1 (1972)

Cammarota, V. Anthony, Jr.
Mercury,   pp. 771-781 ff. PDF (1.1 MB)

Page 771

By V. Anthony Cammarota, Jr.L 
 Primary mercury production of 7,286 flasks 2 in 1972, valued at $1.6 million,
was the lowest since 1951. Only 21 mines were active during the year, compared
with 56 mines in 1971, when 17,883 flasks were produced. By yearend a few
mines remained, most of which were intermittent producers. 
 Secondary production of 12,651 flasks was down from the 1971 level. Some
of the mercury came from a closed mercury-cell chlor-alkali plant and releases
by the General Services Administration (GSA). 
 The consumption of 52,907 flasks in 1972 was slightly higher than in 1971.
Increases were registered ' for agriculture, dental preparations, and industrial
and control instruments, but the use in electrical apparatus declined. 
 Consumers worked off inventory as prices continued their decline to a low
of $145 per flask in April. At the same time producers stockpiled metal.
As prices recovered in the second half to finish the year at $285 per flask,
producers took advantage of the rally to sell metal and consumers increased
 Exports were down sharply. Imports were up slightly from 1971, with Algeria
becoming a significant supplier. World production of mercury in 1972 decreased
6% from that of 1971. Spain increased production, whereas Canada, Italy,
Mexico, and Yugoslavia showed declines. 
 The West German Government and a team of British and Australian divers both
claimed ownership of an undisclosed quantity of mercury recovered from a
U-boat sunk off the Malaysian coast during World War II. German U-boats are
believed to have used mercury as ballast. 
 Legislation and Government Programs.— 
—Government financial assistance on a participatory basis was available
for mercury exploration projects through the Office of Minerals Exploration,
U.S. Geo 
logical Survey, to the extent of 75% of the acceptable costs. No contracts
were execuXed during 1972. 
 In July, GSA resumed its sale of surplus mercury on a sealed bid basis at
the rate of 500 flasks per month. In August 450 flasks were sold at an average
price of $225.77 per flask, but in September 49 flasks were sold for an average
of $269.44 per flask. Total releases for the year of 512 flasks included
13 flasks transferred to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
 As of December 31, 1972, total strategic stockpile accumulations from all
programs stood at 200,105 flasks. 
 In March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under terms of the
Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, canceled all biocidal
uses of mercury, and in addition suspended the registrations for alkyl compounds
and nonalkyl uses on rice seed, in laundry products, and in marine antifouling
paint.3 The suspension order immediately halted all interstate shipment of
the products. Under a cancellation order, sale and interstate commerce are
permitted while an appeal is filed by manufacturers and a final decision
is reached by a special scientific panel. 
 Pursuant to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Food and Drug
Administration proposed removing mercury from cosmetics other than those
used around the eye.4 
 The goal of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, as amended,
is to 
 i Physical scientist, Division of Nonferrous Metals. 
 2 Flask as used throughout this chapter refers to the 76-pound flask. 
 Federal Register. Certain Products Containing Mercury, Cancellation of Registration.
V. 37, No. 61, Mar. 29, 1972, pp. 6419—6420. 
 ~ Federal Register. Use of Mercury in Cosmetics Including Use as Skin-Bleaching
Agent in Cosmetic Preparations Also Regarded as Drugs. V. 37, No. 127, June
30, 1972, pp. 12967—12968. 

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