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Rescuers making fast progress at Lucky Friday

Lucky Friday mine. (Staff graphic)
Lucky Friday mine. (Staff graphic)

Fresh air, water pumped into blocked off area

Rescue workers are blasting their way closer to a miner trapped at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho.

By late Friday afternoon, crews had excavated nearly 75 percent of a 220-foot long tunnel needed to reach Larry “Pete” Marek’s work area. About 57 feet of excavation work remained.

But as the tunnel gets closer to stope No. 15, where Marek is trapped, unstable rock is expected to make the excavation more difficult, slowing the advance, Hecla Mining officials said.

It’s not known whether Marek, 53, survived an April 15 roof collapse at the Mullan, Idaho mine. A tiny camera threaded through a drill hole into his work area has not detected him. Fresh air and water are being pumped into the work area through drill holes.

The tunnel’s excavation started Monday after rescue workers had to halt an earlier effort to reach Marek by clearing away a 25-foot high rock pile. Rescue crews were at risk from falling rock.

In other news, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health sent a pump to the mine, which will be used to test the air quality before rescue workers enter the area where Marek is trapped.