Morton Mercury Mine Comeback Is Seen
MORTON - With the price of mercury skyrocketing on the world market, interest in the long-dormant cinnabar mines northeast of Morton have been revived.
And the red-colored vermilion ore is once again being brought out of mines that produced mercury or quicksilver more than 32 years ago.
Thus far, the work is mainly exploratory, with attempts being made to find ore veins that produced so lavishly from 1926 to 1933.
Durin [sic] that period, the cinnabar mines near Morton yielded 4,999 flasks of mercury valued at $509,717, according to a 1944 report from the Department of Conservation and Development. Each flask at that time weighed 75 pounds.
In 1926, mercury was valued at $91 a flask, and in 1932, it had dropped to $57.00. The highest it reached was $122 in 1926.
Current price of mercury is $720 a flask (76 pounds) on the London market and $689 a flask in San Francisco. A flask contains a pint and a half of mercury.
With that jackpot of moeny at stake, it was inevitable that interest in cinnabar would be renewed.
Tunnel Drilling On
Currently, one of the older mines (Roy No. 3) is being repaired and worked and a tunnel is being drilled into the hillside below another old Roy mine (Roy No. 5).
Three hundred acres of cinnabar property was obtained by Mr. and Mrs. F. E. Beck of Morton in 1961. Mrs. Beck said the property was originally intended for use as a tree farm. She said, however, that she and her husband found that they had also acquired the mineral rights to the land.
They have since leased out the mining property, which is located two miles from Morton, north of Davis Lake.
George Burgen and his son, Russ, from Portland, are currently working the old Roy No. 5 tunnel. Ralph Gillispie, son of O. G. Gillispie, the original homesteader, is building a new tunnel below Roy No. 5 tunnel in hopes of striking the original vein. Gillispie's tunnel has penetrated to a depth of about 30 feet.
Next week, Walter C. Nab of Portland, an experienced miner, will attempt to open pit mining operation on the Apex mining site.
Mining Not New
Cinnabar mining is nothing new for Morton. The original discovery of mercury is credited to Edward Barnum who, in 1913, is said to have found cinnabar in a seam of coal.
Mercury was first produced about 1916, when 75 flasks were recovered through a distilling method from 47 tons of ore.
Active production began with the opening of the Barnum-McDonnell mine in 1926.
Gillispie, who remembers when 300 men were employed in cinnabar and coal mines, believes there is a good future for cinnabar minin.
"We've got better methods of recovery now than we had back in those days", he notes. "We could return to a regular mining camp operation."
There are about two miles of tunnels that might be reopened in an area of some 2,000 acres.
Mrs. Beck, who has done prospecting for cinnabar, much in the same way a miner pans for gold, also is enthusiastic about the future of cinnabar.
Source: The Daily Chronicle (Centralia, WA), Thursday, 1 Jul 1965, front page.
Transcribed by Jenny Tenlen.