Alaska's Energy Desk reporter Krysti Shallenberger and KYUK Multimedia Director Katie Basile sit down with Coffee@KYUK to talk about their recent reporting trip to Red Devil to report on its historical mining contamination. You can find the three-part series online at KYUK.org, KTOO.org, and Alaska Public Media.
Leann Morgan stands at a makeshift table on bank of the Kuskokwim River, cutting a huge northern pike. Leann and her father, Joe Morgan, make pike a regular part of their subsistence diet. They eat salmon, lush, and sheefish. In the fall, they hunt moose. But the pike they eat contain high levels of mercury. So high, in fact, that the federal government issued a warning to Elders, children, and pregnant women to limit how much they eat from the area. But Leann and Joe aren’t worried.
Rebecca Wilmarth can see the empty school building across her lawn in Red Devil, Alaska. It shut down in 2009 and for a while, willows and alders shrouded it from view. Wildland firefighters recently cut them back to reveal a brown building with blue trim. For a place that’s been abandoned for 10 years, it appears in remarkably good shape.
The Red Devil Mine is located on the Kuskokwim near the Red Devil Creek between Crooked Creek and Sleetmute. Mining started in the 1930's, picked up steam in the 50's and 60's but has not operated since the 1970's. The problem is that there's mercury, arsenic, and antimony in the soils left behind by the mining, and the contamination is being released by erosion.