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New Idria grounds, 2004

New Idria is an unincorporated town in San Benito County, California. It is named after a now-inoperative quicksilver mine of the same name. The mine itself was named in honor of the world's second largest quicksilver mine in Idrija, Slovenia (Slovene pronunciation [ĭdrija]; California English pronunciation [īdria].)[1] The town grew to support the mining operations, but the mine closed in the 1970s. The town is currently an abandoned ghost town with more than 100 standing buildings, though vandalism has contributed to their deterioration in recent years.

According to the US Geological Survey, Idria (primary) and New Idria (variant) are both official names recognized for federal use in describing this community. Located in San Benito County, a feature ID Number of 1660786 has been assigned. The community is defined by the US Geological Survey as a populated place at 2,440 feet (608 m) AMSL elevation. NAD27 latitude and longitude are listed at 36°25′01″N 120°40′24″W / 36.41694°N 120.67333°W / 36.41694; -120.67333 on the "Idria, California" 7.5-minute quadrangle (map).[2] The US Census Bureau flags the area with a "rural" indicator. Commercial road maps often identify the community as New Idria. The community is inside area code 831.

The US Postal Service agrees with the use of New Idria as name and includes the community in ZIP code 95043. The same ZIP code is shared with several other nearby communities.[3]

You can get to New Idria by taking California State Route 25 to Paicines and then head east on Panoche Road, or you can head west on Panoche Road from Interstate Highway 5. Either way, there are no gas stations anywhere on the route.[4] There is only one paved road, New Idria Road, leading to the ghost town. New Idria Road connects with Panoche Road about a quarter mile east of the small town of Panoche, and heads southward. From there it is winding twenty mile drive before arriving at New Idria. The road continues past the ghost town, but becomes unpaved at that point; on some maps the name changes to Clear Creek Road.

Contents

History

A part of a mercury extraction plant of the New Idria Quicksilver Mining Company

The community was established to support the mine, which mainly extracted mercury, since cinnabar was abundant in the local rock formations. The history of mercury mining at the location begins in 1854. At one time, the New Idria mines were America's second most productive mines, with the New Almaden mines in the vicinity of San Jose, about 82 miles (132 km) northwest, being the first.[5]

The discovery of mercury ore at New Idria came soon after the discovery of gold in the Sierra foothills, which began the California gold rush. At that time, mercury was a key component in extracting gold from gold ore. Before New Idria and New Almaden, the mercury came almost exclusively from Europe.[5]

The New Idria Mining Company was formed soon after the discovery of cinnabar (quicksilver ore) in the southern Diablo Range of central California in 1854. The town of New Idria began around 1857 and about 300 men were employed at the mine by 1861. The first school opened in 1867 and the New Idria Post Office opened in 1869, with Edward A. Morse as the first postmaster.[6] In 1894, the New Idria Post Office dropped the word "New" and the town become known as Idria.[7] The New Idria Quicksilver Mining Company closed in 1972 and the town has since become a ghost town.[5]

New Idria is a California Historical Landmark (#324)[5] and home of the world’s first Gould Rotary Furnace, which revolutionized ore processing technology worldwide.[8]

The New Idria Mining District is known for its abundance of rare minerals such as benitoite, named after the San Benito River. Gem quality benitoite is only found in this area of the world. New Idria is also home to serpentinite rock. Many thousands of tectonic events acting on the serpentinite have produced extensive deposits of short-fiber asbestos.[9]

Politics

In the state legislature New Idria is located in the 12th Senate District, represented by Republican Jeff Denham, and in the 28th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Anna M. Caballero. Federally, New Idria is located in California's 17th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +17[10] and is represented by Democrat Sam Farr.

Nearby areas

The area is inside Area code 831. It is included in the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District and the Panoche Elementary School District.[11] San Benito Mountain, elevation 5,241 feet (1,597 m), is located 3.6 miles (5.8 km) southeast. The nearest city is King City along US101.

Environmental concerns in the area

The New Idria Mercury Mine was listed in the 1990s by the EPA, but has since been delisted after a preliminary assessment completed in 1998, and a site reassessment which was carried out in 2003.[12] Some elevated levels of mercury were found downstream of the town, but the site is no longer on the EPA's National Priorities List. The region has a long history of mining, with asbestos and chromium being mined in addition to mercury; the EPA's 2004 Risk Assessment for the nearby Clear Creek Management Area identified 86 separate abandoned mines in the vicinity.[13] The natural rock formations in the area have been shedding asbestos-rich debris into stream valleys for millions of years[9] The average New Idria rock contains 5-15% volume percent short fiber asbestos.[9]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ http://www.new-idria.org/pronun.html
  2. ^ "National Geographic Names Database," US Geological Survey, 1995.
  3. ^ ZIP Code information was derived from year 2000 US Census data.
  4. ^ http://www.new-idria.org/getting_there.html
  5. ^ a b c d http://www.new-idria.org/
  6. ^ Salley, Harold E. (1991) History of California Post Offices, 1849-1990, p. 99. The Depot, ISBN 0-943645-27-1
  7. ^ http://www.new-idria.org/timeline/t1880.html
  8. ^ http://www.new-idria.org/details/gould_furnace.html
  9. ^ a b c Ross, M (2003). "History of asbestos discovery and use and asbestos related disease in context with the occurrence of asbestos within ophiolite complexes." Geological Society of America, special paper 373
  10. ^ "Will Gerrymandered Districts Stem the Wave of Voter Unrest?". Campaign Legal Center Blog. http://www.clcblog.org/blog_item-85.html. Retrieved 2007-10-20.  
  11. ^ Area Code and school information was derived from US Department of Education files.
  12. ^ New Idria superfund status at U.S. EPA
  13. ^ US EPA Atlas Asbestos Mine Fact Sheet, 2004

External links

Coordinates: 36°25′01″N 120°40′24″W / 36.416944°N 120.673333°W / 36.416944; -120.673333

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