Nick Rounds followed his dad into Idaho’s silver mines, proud of the work and good wages that came with being a miner.
“I know that my brother didn’t want to do anything else, and I don’t think that Nick did, either,” said his uncle, Dave Rounds.
The 36-year-old miner was killed Monday afternoon at the Sunshine Mine in Big Creek, near Kellogg, when he was caught between the mine shaft and the skip, which is used to transport materials and workers to different levels of the mine.
Rounds was one of two miners working on top of the skip, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. The two men were getting ready to move the skip, but it moved before Rounds was in the clear, according to the MSHA report. The other miner wasn’t hurt.
Federal inspectors were at the Sunshine Mine on Tuesday, where work had ceased pending the accident investigation. The mine is owned by Sunshine Silver Mines Corp. of Denver, which is cooperating with federal and local authorities, said Monica Brisnehan, vice president of investor relations and corporate development.
Family members want to understand what caused the accident but aren’t assigning blame, Dave Rounds said.
“You make a mistake in that line of business and there is no forgiveness,” said Dave Rounds, who spent several years as a miner. “You get hurt, or you’re dead.”
Nick Rounds started mining after he graduated from Wallace Junior-Senior High School in 1996, working at several Silver Valley mines before he joined his father, Phil, at the Sunshine Mine.
He was part of a crew of 29 at the Sunshine, which was one of the Silver Valley’s historic silver strikes but hasn’t had commercial production since 2008.
Sunshine Silver Mines Corp. bought the 130-year-old mine at a bankruptcy auction four years ago with plans to restart production.
The Sunshine’s history includes one of the nation’s deadliest mining accidents. A 1972 fire caused carbon monoxide poisoning of 91 miners.
There was another fire two years ago, and 12 people were safely evacuated.
Nick Rounds played football for his uncle, who is the Wallace athletic director and head football coach. “He was so fast and so big,” Dave Rounds said of his nephew, who topped 6 feet, had broad shoulders and played defensive end. “He just wanted to tackle.”
During his senior year, Dave Rounds deployed his nephew as the kickoff returner. Nick Rounds wasn’t good at catching footballs, but once he got the ball he was unstoppable, his uncle said. In track, he ran the 400 meters.
Rounds retained that athleticism throughout his life. He was an elk hunter, a fisherman and enjoyed campouts with his extended family. He liked to ride all-terrain vehicles in the nearby forests, and he helped his dad build a house from the ground up.
On Tuesday, Dave Rounds remembered his nephew as a young man who went through some rough patches in his early adult life but had matured into a family man.
Nick Rounds has a son, Dilon, a seventh-grader, and was engaged to be married this summer.
“A lot of people in this valley will miss him,” Dave Rounds said. “This is a tight community. When we lose someone, the whole valley feels it. It’s not just our family” that’s grieving, he said.
Arrangements are pending at Shoshone Funeral Services.
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