A suction gold dredge has been shown in Water Board Reports to be at least 98% efficient at removing mercury from rivers.
The mercury I've recovered from my dredging claim is way more than the State and environmentalist groups combined, which isn't saying much because the State has no mercury removal program and the environmental groups only feel good about posting signs providing dire warnings to fishermen about mercury.
Mercury has an almost magnetic attraction to gold. Put mercury and gold in the same bottle and you'll have immediate amalgam. All the mercury I've ever recovered has been amalgamated with gold. I've still got all of it in a few one ounce bottles, still amalgamated. Perhaps some day I'll use a retort to separate it, but right now it's not enough to worry about, so there it sits.
Certainly we've heard a lot from the State and the environmentalists about the threat of suction dredges re-suspending mercury. Don't the floods do that? They do. In fact a report published in 2014 by Dr. Michael Singer of the University of Santa Barbara found every major flood re-suspends enormous amounts of mercury and pushes it down hill to the valley. Just what we'd expect, and it's common sense. Mercury rolls down hill.
I may be the exception, and I haven't talked to every dredger in the state, but every bit of mercury I've found is attached to gold. I've never seen just drops, or the pools the environmentalists cry about. If it's there - well, where is it? I would imagine there are pools in some of the drainage tunnels of the old hydraulic pits, but we don't dredge in drainage tunnels and that stuff is going to work its way down to the rivers someday like all the rest of the mercury did. So why don't we just go remove it? Easy enough with a dredge isn't it?
Common sense would tell you this is a good solution, let dredges remove the mercury and give us a place to turn it in. Better yet set up a retort facility in some of the small towns and give us a place to turn it in and get our clean gold back while the State can have the mercury. Almost too easy isn't it?
I suppose I've been dredging now about as long as anyone, so I speak with some experience on this problem. I'm not so sure the State or the environmentalists do. They read reports and they wring their hands but they do nothing. We actually do something, we remove it. This notion that we "only" remove 98% of the mercury and leave 2% is an ignorant statement.
What's wrong with removing 98%? That's gone, not to travel down hill ever. As Dr. Singer pointed out, it's going to eventually travel down hill so why don't we remove it now, before it does? The accurate answer is there is no profit in it for the State or the environmentalists. Every environmental problem has money associated with it. Save this, save that and turn the page and you'll see there is millions of dollars flowing to the problem to the benefit of environmental groups of course.
For years the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) published information on their website which stated no person in California had ever been sickened from eating sport fish. One week after the Western Mining Alliance quoted this site in a news release it disapeared. The truth is still the same, but apparently the truth didn't sit well with groups who are making big money by denying the truth, or making a problem where there isn't.
Environmental groups are paid to scare the public. No danger, no money so they've seized on mercury as the big threat of the day. According to the environmental groups a doctor in San Francisco has plenty of evidence of people being sickened from fish. The miner's are just misinformed.
Facts are stubborn things. They tend to want to remain facts. The problem with the environmental groups is they can stretch a tale. In this instance the doctor's book is actually about the very well-heeled eating too much high end sea fish which the working class typically can't afford. It appears her patients were over indulging in very expensive fish such as swordfish and tuna. Both of which are known to have high levels of methylmercury in their tissue. These people weren't eating bass or catfish.
The rich eat differently than we do. We tend to buy a ribeye and throw it on the grill when we're flush with cash, the rich tend to eat at sushi bars and high end restaurants.
Ocean fish is high in mercury. Fish from freshwater areas may be, and it's wise to limit your consumption of fish from low elevation areas such as some of the reservoirs, but the fish in the dredging rivers at the higher elevations are not only safe to eat, they are well below national averages and US EPA advisory levels.
If we want to remove mercury, then we should use the tools we have and quit crying about 2% we may not recover, but that's never been scientifically proven. It was more a guess. I suspect a modern suction dredge recovers close to 100% of the mercury we encounter and it doesn't cost taxpayers a dime. However, the State is more than glad to shovel millions of dollars to environmental groups to post signs around reservoirs but they don't allocate one dollar to setting up facilities for miners to turn mercury in. Ironic isn't it?
The only ones with the capability to actually remove mercury at no cost to the taxpayers are prevented from removing mercury from the rivers because the environmentalist declare 98% isn't good enough. Yet with each flood this mercury is pushed downhill to the lower elevations where it transforms into the harmful type of mercury.
Wouldn't it make sense to let dredgers remove the mercury, set up turn in facilities and perhaps pay them some pittance for their time to turn it in? Would $20 an ounce make more sense than $1 million per gram? That's what the Combie Lake project is charging for removing mercury. Maybe that's why it would never happen.