Otter in Panhandle Today to Discuss Mine Closure



Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter travels to Idaho's Panhandle today. He's scheduled to host a town hall meeting in Wallace to listen to residents talk about the effects of the recently announced one-year shutdown of the Lucky Friday Mine.

On Jan. 11, the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a closure order based on Hecla Mining's failure to fix hazardous conditions found by MSHA inspectors in a late-December inspection. Among the violations cited during the inspection was the repeated failure to maintain established ground support systems throughout the mine. According to the MSHA, shafts had not been systematically inspected, tested and maintained, and steel structures in the shaft were not kept clean of hazardous materials. An MSHA spokeswoman said the agency had still not received a plan from Hecla for cleaning the mine shaft.

The silver mine, one of the nation's deepest, was the scene of a number of accidents in 2011, with two of the incidents resulting in death.

Hecla employs 275 men and women at its Lucky Friday opeations. The closure also affects 50 to 75 contract employees at the mine. The Associated Press reported that an Idaho Department of Labor economist said the closure could result in a $25 million economic impact to Idaho's Silver Valley. The figure included lost wages plus the multiplier effect of the money being spent in the region.

A recent job fair targeting pink-slipped Lucky Friday miners offered positions, but almost all of them were out of state.

The MSHA ordered Hecla, for safety reasons, to scrub the walls of the mile-deep shaft that is the main entrance to the mine.


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