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Mine shutdown to mean lost jobs, economic uncertainty

Thursday, January 12th

Federal regulators’ decision to shut down the Lucky Friday Mine’s main shaft was greeted with confusion and concern Wednesday in Idaho’s Silver Valley.

Officials at Hecla Mining Co., which operates the underground silver mine, said it will take a year to clean the shaft to regulators’ specifications. The mine will be closed during that time, resulting in the layoffs of more than 200 employees and contractors.

Federal inspectors closed the shaft last Friday, citing a buildup of sand and cement on the shaft’s walls. The deposits could break off and “potentially fall thousands of feet down the shaft and cause serious damage,” said Amy Louviere, a spokeswoman for the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA.

Hecla CEO Phil Baker said it will take about 12 months to power wash the deposits from the walls of the mile-deep shaft, which is used to transport workers and materials in and out of the Lucky Friday. The company is evaluating whether to appeal MSHA’s closure order.

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