Federal inspectors shut down Lucky Friday’s silver shaft

Jan 9, 2012

Federal inspectors have shut down the primary shaft into a troubled silver mine in north Idaho. The order comes on the heels of three tragic accidents that led the owners of the Lucky Friday Mine to take a two-month hiatus from mining to make safety improvements.

The top of the Silver Shaft is an iconic feature of north Idaho’s Lucky Friday Mine; its tower sticks up above the trees near the outskirts of the town of Mullan. This mile-deep shaft is the main entrance and exit for people and rock at the Lucky Friday.

Now, safety inspectors with the Mine Safety and Health Administration have shut down that shaft. A spokeswoman for the federal agency cites “hazards associated with falling material,” though no accident occurred.

There were two fatalities at the Lucky Friday in 2011. And after a collapse in December put seven people in the hospital, the Hecla Mining Company decided to stop mining to allow workers to build a new tunnel. It bypasses the collapsed area and Hecla says the break allows more time to re-examine the mine's safety protocols.

However, all activity remains at a stand-still while federal investigators look into the most recent accident.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network