For more than a quarter of a century, men and machines carved on this hillside, creating a huge bowl a mile long .a half mile wide, more than 800 feet deep. 55 million tons of ore were hauled from here to be processed for the copper it contained. But the waste left behind now has some residents concerned.
Peggy Pauly's home overlooks the tailings left by the mine. Those tailings contain potentially hazardous materials heavy metals, and radioisotopes of uranium, thorium, and radium. Perhaps in harmful amounts. There are signs on the site warning of radiation, but the worry is that whatever is here in whatever amount, it doesn't stay here. The pit itself has half filled with ground water, people like Pauly worry what is lurking in their wells a short distance away.
Pauly points to results from some test wells indicating unsafe levels of radiation, and when the wind blows dust rises from the site, settling elsewhere in the valley.
All of this has caught the attention of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which has come up with an action plan to deal with the problem and will be in Mason Valley next week for further monitoring.
Anger has been the reaction from some apparently worried about the impact on property values. Local government has also worried about where all of this is leading. A county commissioner told us the county is concerned the mine could end up on the federal Superfund site list, a potential roadblock to future economic development. Pauly says it doesn't matter to her as long as someone is held responsible.