Silver Valley Slams Feds For Mine Shut Down

Jan 24, 2012

WALLACE, Idaho - Residents of Idaho's Silver Valley are outraged over a federal order that will put 250 local miners out of work for a year. They expressed their frustration to Idaho Governor Butch Otter Monday at a town hall meeting in Wallace. Correspondent Jessica Robinson has more.

The Lucky Friday Mine in north Idaho is one of the deepest and most productive silver mines in the country. And in 2011, it had a string of accidents -– including two fatalities.

Federal inspectors have ordered safety measures that the mine's owner, Hecla Mining, says will take a year to complete.

At the public meeting, retired miner Dan Thompson told the governor the decision by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration -- or “MSHA” -- put his son out of work.

“This thing is outrageous, what MSHA is doing," Thompson said. "It's abusive of federal power and authority. You're the governor of this state.”

Otter promised the crowd he would work to bring MSHA officials out to the Silver Valley to answer for the mine's closure.

“I just want you to know I'm just as frustrated as you are,” Governor Otter told the crowd.

A spokeswoman for the federal mine safety agency says that inspectors have found a “repeated failure” to maintain rock support systems throughout the mine. She says the year-long closure was the company's decision, in response to an order to clean the Lucky Friday's main shaft.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network