The Hecla Mining Company announced early today that it had received the all-clear from the Mine Safety and Health Administration to re-open its Lucky Friday mine in north Idaho—the scene of a series of accidents, including two deaths in 2011. MSHA officially notified Hecla officials that the federal agency would not be issuing a potential pattern of violations notification, a possibility the agency had indicated late last year.
When Hecla shut down its Mullan mine in January 2012, more than 110 of the mine's 250 workers were pink slipped.
Lucky Friday, one of the nation's deepest silver mines, was the scene of a number of accidents in 2011—two of the incidents resulted in death. In April 2011, a roof collapse trapped a miner. His body was recovered nine days later. In November 2011, another miner was killed at the site. Additionally, two separate fires in July 2011 led to evacuations from the mine. And in December 2011, yet another accident resulted in an evacuation.
In addition to the shutdown, Hecla was slapped with a $318,200 fine by the MSHA, which called Hecla managers "negligent" for failing to install adequate ground support and not testing the stability of the rock where the cave-in occurred.
But the company has recalled the employees necessary to reach full production and resumed operations in the last few weeks. Production is expected to ramp up to normal levels by mid-year, and the mine is expected to produce approximately 2 million ounces of silver for the full year.