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The California Coast Ranges mercury deposits are part of the western North America mercury belt, in which mercury occurs most commonly as red cinnabar (α-HgS), sometimes associated with its high-temperature polymorph, metacinnabar (β-HgS). In the Coast Ranges, ores were deposited from hydrothermal solutions and range in age from Miocene to Holocene. Ore deposition at Mount Diablo generally occurred along active faults and associated extension fractures in the Franciscan complex, most often in serpentinite that had been hydrothermally altered to silica-carbonate rock. The Mount Diablo mine lies ~48 km (~30 miles) northeast of San Francisco in Contra Costa County and is mineralogically unique in California, because metacinnabar, the higher-temperature polymorph of mercury sulfide, is a major primary ore mineral in the deposit, while at all other mercury mines in California, it is quite rare. In addition, hydrothermal activity is so recent that sulfurous gases and methane continued to be released into the mine at least into the 1940s. Historically, long before active large-scale mining began in the 1800s, the Mount Diablo mercury deposits were known to the Indigenous people of the Ohlone tribes, who used the cinnabar in rituals as well as for red pigment to decorate their bodies, and as a prized trade item. The deposit was later rediscovered in 1863 and mined intermittently until 1958. The Mount Diablo mine and adjacent Rhyne (also variously spelled Ryne or Rhine) mine were the sites of most of the mercury operations in the region, and at both mines, mercury ore occurs in structurally controlled lenticular bodies of silica-carbonate rock and serpentinite. The total district production probably exceeded 12,300 flasks (at 76 pounds or ~34.5 kg per flask) at an estimated grade of 2711 g per metric ton. Low-grade ore reserves are believed to still exist, with 17,000 short tons of indicated and inferred ore. Other minor deposits of copper, silver, and gold occur on Mount Diablo, principally in and around Eagle Peak, but mercury is not associated with these deposits.

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