mining

Sen. Cantwell Opposes Mining Near Mount St. Helens

Mar 22, 2016
Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

Senator Cantwell says she’s concerned about drilling that's proposed on Goat Mountain, just north of the Mount. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.

Cariboo Regional District Emergency Operations Centre

A dam break at a central British Columbia mine could threaten salmon fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.

Idaho Silver Feels The Slip In Metals Prices

Apr 29, 2013

The decreasing price of gold has gotten a lot of attention among investors in recent weeks. The price of silver has received fewer headlines, but it's also dropped. That price has real economic impact in north Idaho, which has one of the richest silver deposits in the country.

There's not much wiggle room when silver drops down to $22 an ounce. That's only a little more than it costs the Galena Mine near Kellogg, Idaho, to get the silver out of the ground. Owner U.S. Silver has placed a hiring freeze on the mine and plans to cut costs by $1 million this year.

Controversial Dredge Mining Ban Advances in Oregon Senate

Apr 18, 2013
Amelia Templeton / EarthFix

A bill that restricts motorized mining in salmon and trout streams advanced in the Oregon Senate Wednesday evening. Amelia Templeton from our EarthFix team reports.

Idaho Mining Family Sues Company For Deadly Cave-In

Apr 15, 2013

The family of a silver miner killed in north Idaho has filed a lawsuit against the Hecla Mining Company. The suit claims the mine managers’ attempt to extract more silver caused the cave-in that killed Larry Marek exactly two years ago Monday.

EPA Requiring Dredge Mining Permits in Idaho

Apr 5, 2013

Anyone who wants to mine gold in Idaho streams with a suction dredge will need to get a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Coeur d'Alene Mines Leaves Namesake Idaho Home

Mar 27, 2013

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho – Idaho is losing one of its oldest silver mining companies to Chicago. The Coeur d'Alene Mines Corporation announced Wednesday it plans to move to the Windy City by the end of September.

The company employs 65 people at its headquarters in Coeur d'Alene in north Idaho. But the firm known as "Coeur" hasn't had any holdings in the state since 2006.

Company spokeswoman Stefany Bales says Coeur managers need easier access to properties in Mexico, Bolivia and Australia.

Photo by Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Mining pumps on average nearly a billion dollars into Idaho’s economy every year. Idaho, along with Nevada and Utah are considered mining friendly states. But the industry is frustrated that it can take years before permits are issued and work can get underway. That’s why mining officials appealed to state lawmakers this week to help speed up the regulatory process. As Earthfix reporter Aaron Kunz explains it’s a proposition that has environmentalists worried.

Audit Pushed To Rekindle Mining Act Reforms

Dec 12, 2012
Eric Guinther / Wikimedia Commons

A report released today indicates the United States Government has no idea exactly how much gold, silver and copper is being dug up from public lands. Lawmakers say it’s one more reason to overhaul a mining law from the 1800s.

Cleaning Up Legacy Mines, One at a Time

Nov 5, 2012

The Pacific Northwest is scattered with thousands of abandoned mines. Most have been abandoned for more than 50 years. But hard metals are still leaching out from some sites. Things like arsenic and lead. The U.S. Forest Service is working to clean up these mines. One-by-one. Reporting for EarthFix, Courtney Flatt visited one of Washington’s abandoned mining cities.

Mining Gold In The Northwest Causes Conflict

Sep 20, 2012
Photo by Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

A recreational gold miner in Idaho now has the exclusive right to mine for gold on a stretch of the Salmon River. But the lease process approved by the Idaho Land Board this week raised some questions about the process he will use to get the gold. Aaron Kunz with EarthFix explains.

Idaho Land Board Approves Mining Lease

Sep 19, 2012
Photo Credit: Aaron Kunz

The Idaho Land Board signed off Tuesday on a lease that would allow a gold miner along the Salmon River to exclusively mine for gold.

Report Faults Mining Company For Fatal Accident

Jul 19, 2012
Mine Safety and Health Administration

A new report faults managers of north Idaho’s Lucky Friday mine for an accident last November that killed a 26-year-old miner. It was one of two fatalities at the mine last year.

Photo courtesy Hayley Marek

Later this month, the Lucky Friday Mine in north Idaho will begin rehiring workers. It closed seven months ago for federally mandated safety improvements. Inspectors took a sharper look at the mine after a series of tragic accidents last year. Now, as the mine prepares to re-open, the family of one dead miner is speaking out for the first time. The family of Larry Marek told correspondent Jessica Robinson they believe the company still hasn’t taken responsibility for what happened.

The family of a miner who was killed last year in Idaho’s Silver Valley is speaking out for the first time. In interviews with public radio, the family of Larry Marek says the the mine’s owner, Hecla Mining, hasn’t taken responsibility for its role in the tragedy. Correspondent Jessica Robinson has more.

The daughter of a north Idaho miner killed in a tunnel collapse last year says federal regulators are failing to hold the company responsible. She says new fines do not do justice to her father’s death. The federal government is proposing $360,000 in penalties related to an accident that killed Larry Marek. Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports.

Fines For Fatal Mining Accident Less Than Predicted

Jun 4, 2012
Photo credit: Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

The federal government is fining a north Idaho mining company $360,000 for unsafe practices that killed a miner last year. That’s about a third of the penalties that were expected.

Last year federal inspectors said the Hecla Mining Company engaged in “aggravated conduct” when it allowed miners to extract silver ore from a mass of unstable rock. It happened about a mile underground at the Lucky Friday Mine near Mullan, Idaho. The practices led to a tunnel collapse that killed 53 year old Larry Marek, according to a investigation.

Gold mining with small dredges is popular in the rural Northwest. Today, the 9th circuit court ruled that the Forest Service has to strengthen its regulation of this kind of mining in salmon streams. Amelia Templeton of Earthfix reports.

Bristol Bay, in Southwestern Alaska, is the home of one of the world’s largest runs of Sockeye salmon. In fact, all five types of salmon spawn in the bay’s freshwater tributaries.

Bristol Bay could also become the home of a new mine to extract copper, gold and other minerals.

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a risk assessment study on how mining could impact the ecosystem there. The Agency will hold a public hearing in Seattle Thursday.

Ashley Ahearn reports that fishermen in the Northwest are watching the process closely.

Safety Improvements On Track At Idaho Mine Where Two Died

May 8, 2012
Photo courtesy of Hecla Mining

Work crews are ahead of schedule on safety improvements at the north Idaho mine where two men died last year. That’s the update today from the Hecla Mining Company, which owns the troubled Lucky Friday Mine. The federally mandated improvements have taken a bite into Hecla’s profits.

Federal inspectors ordered Hecla to make a whole stack of safety improvements at its north Idaho silver mine. The biggest task is a top to bottom scrubbing of the mine’s main shaft. Inspectors found loose cement on the wall of this 6,000 ft conduit that takes ore and people in and out of the mine.

Idaho's Rare Earth Minerals On The Radar

May 2, 2012

China’s stranglehold on the world’s rare earth mineral supply has re-ignited interest in Idaho. The state’s rare earth minerals run through environmentally sensitive lands. Bonnie Stewart has the story.

May 2 marks the 40th anniversary of one of the worst mining disasters in U.S. history. In 1972, a fire broke out underground at the Sunshine Mine in Kellogg, Idaho; 91 men died of carbon monoxide poisoning. The disaster had a devastating effect on Kellogg and the nearby communities in Idaho’s Silver Valley. People who were there still vividly remember the events of that day. Producer Phyllis Silver talks with four people about their memories and how, in a couple of cases, it shaped the rest of their lives.

Two-Headed Trout Spur Scrutiny Of Mine Pollution

Apr 19, 2012
Photos courtesy J.R. Simplot / Idaho DEQ

Here’s an image you usually don’t see without the help of Photoshop: two-headed fish. Pictures of deformed baby trout with two heads show up in a study of creeks in a remote part of southeast Idaho. The study examined the effects of a contaminant called selenium. It comes from a nearby mine owned by the agribusiness giant, J.R. Simplot. Critics say the two-headed trout have implications beyond a couple of Idaho creeks. Jessica Robinson reports.

Photo Credit: Hecla Mining Company / Northwest News Network

Laid-off silver miners in north Idaho aren’t staying out-of-work for long. Around 250 miners and contractors lost their jobs at the end of last year when the Lucky Friday Mine was shut down for safety improvements. But since then, the Silver Valley’s jobless rate has actually dropped two percentage points.

Photo credit: Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

The federal agency that oversees the nation’s mines says it’s changing how it handles key documents designed to improve mine safety. The move was prompted in part by a public radio investigation on a fatal mine accident in north Idaho.

In NW Mining, Most Deaths Happen Above Ground

Feb 28, 2012
Photo credit: MSHA / Photo courtesy MSHA

Federal mine investigators say a Northwest miner died by electrocution because the company that employed him failed to have proper safety procedures in place. The tragedy happened at a gravel pit last September near Pullman, Wash. Most Northwest mine accidents happen above ground.

Investors Sue Idaho Mining Company On Heels Of Accidents

Feb 2, 2012
Photo Credit: Jessica Robinson

The company that owns the troubled Lucky Friday Mine in north Idaho is now the subject of a new round of investigations. Only these don't come from mine safety inspectors. They're from the company's own investors. One group is even suing for what it calls “fraudulent conduct.”

Miners’ Prospects Reverse Of Economic Downturn

Jan 25, 2012
Wikimedia user: Plazak / Wikimedia Commons

SILVER VALLEY, Idaho - They say the days when you could go from high school to a high-paying, blue collar job are long gone. But there are places in the Northwest where those days still exist -- that is, if you’re willing to work a mile underground.

For gold and silver miners, it looks like boom times right now. Rising salaries, more job opportunities. Even a recent layoff in north Idaho doesn't look like other layoffs. Correspondent Jessica Robinson has this story on a job that's seeing the reverse side of the economic downturn.

Silver Valley Slams Feds For Mine Shut Down

Jan 24, 2012
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

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.