An unemployed mining technician faces federal charges of possessing dangerous explosives stolen from the North Idaho mine where he was laid off four years ago.
Corey Lee Miller, 34, of Osburn, Idaho, is the second person arrested in the theft of 500 pounds of deadly “stick powder” stolen July 30 at the Lucky Friday mine.
Most of the explosives remain missing.
Other suspects are being sought by a team of agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
It isn’t known whether Miller or his friend, Kent Allen Johnson, 31, of Post Falls, are cooperating with federal agents.
“It’s a very sensitive case,” one Justice Department official said.
Johnson was arrested Monday in Post Falls on charges of possession of stolen explosives. Authorities say he may have ties to a large methamphetamine trafficking ring called The Circle.
Court papers in the case are sealed. Some details are expected to be made public Friday when Johnson and Miller appear at detention hearings in Spokane.
ATF agents worked around the clock for two days before arresting Miller at 3 a.m. Tuesday at his Osburn home.
They interviewed him at length before he was taken before U.S. Magistrate Cynthia Imbrogno in Spokane for an initial court appearance.
Shoshone County Sheriff Dan Schierman and his deputies helped make the arrest.
Authorities wouldn’t say whether they recovered a stolen acetylene torch believed used to cut a reinforced padlock off a metal bunker door at the Lucky Friday mine.
A similar break-in occurred at The Coeur Mine, in Osburn, where Miller also once was employed, authorities said. That explosives bunker was empty, but an acetylene torch was stolen from a storage building.
Ralph Noyes, a vice president of Hecla Mining Co., said Miller worked at the company’s Lucky Friday mine near Wallace from about 1987 until 1991, when he was laid off.
The suspect’s father, Clifford Miller, and brother, Gary, are still “great employees” at Lucky Friday and aren’t suspected of any involvement in the theft, Noyes said.
Hecla’s $2,000 reward for the return of its 500 pounds of stick powder has prompted some calls to the Shoshone County sheriff and the ATF office in Spokane.
“I remain amazed at the boldness of this daylight break-in,” Noyes said. “It either was very astute or a very desperate act.”
The FBI entered the case after authorities determined some of the explosives were used over the weekend in an attempt to blow open a bank depository in Post Falls.
Shoshone County court records show that Miller has been arrested for several minor crimes over the years. He has been convicted of drunken driving, possession of marijuana and domestic battery.
The records also show he owed more than $3,000 to various businesses throughout the Silver Valley, and that he once worked at Division 9 Finishes in the Spokane Industrial Park.
Miller’s wife, Tracy, said Tuesday that her husband surrendered after learning that Johnson had been arrested.
The couple has three children, ages 2, 10 and 12, she said.
Tracy Miller said her husband told her Monday evening that he participated in the explosives theft.
Corey Miller met Johnson in April through another friend, she said.
But Tracy Miller said her husband had nothing to do with the explosives after they were stolen. She said she didn’t know whether her husband even knows who ended up with the stick powder.
She also insisted that her husband was offered no money to help with the theft.