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Silver Valley Miner’s Family Still Angry

Mike Marek talks about his brother, Larry, who was killed in an accident at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan in April 2011. (Family Photo courtesy of Jessica Robinson)

Mike Marek was rolling up his water hose, about to make the last wrap, when it happened. “Loud thuds like, ‘Vvoof, vvoof.’ And instantly it’s just dust,” he said. The dust choked the air, turning into a grayish fog under his miner’s headlamp. After what seemed like minutes, the air cleared enough for Marek to make his way down the tunnel to where his mining partner and younger brother Larry Marek had been working. And then his light landed on it. “A huge pile of boulders and sand,” Mike Marek said. “That’s when I was praying, ‘Oh my god, I hope he ain’t under that.’ ” Marek called out, “ ‘Larry! Larry!’ I was trying to move rocks with my hands. Then I’d holler some more.” It was April 15, 2011/Jessica Robinson, Northwest News Network. More here.

Question: I lost my father in a vehicle accident in October 1976. Have you ever lost a family member in an accident?

Lucky Friday Shutdown Costs Jobs

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/Becky Kramer, SR. More here. (Kathy Plonka SR photo: Hecla Mining CEO Phil Baker)

Question: Is it better to be safe than sorry? Or is the Mine Safety & Health Administration over-reacting to Lucky Friday Mine accidents in 2011?

Bypass planned at Lucky Friday Mine

Hecla Mining Co. today announced that it is going to build a bypass at Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho, to take workers away from an area where a rock burst last week injured seven miners.

The company said it will build a 750-foot bypass through an area previously mined to access ore at the 5,900-foot depth where the rock burst occurred.

Three of the seven injured miners were held at local hospitals right after the rock burst on Dec. 14, but all were later released.

Hecla closed the mine right after the accident, an action that was followed by an order from federal officials to close the mine.

The bypass will create a new haulage way for moving silver ore out of the mine.

2 Miners Hurt At Lucky Friday Mine

A miner is hospitalized in critical condition after an accident Thursday night at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan. A second miner was taken to Shoshone Medical Center, but the condition of that worker has not been released. Mike Dexter, a community relations spokesman for Hecla Mining Co., the mine’s owner, said the workers were constructing a new shaft at 4,900 feet below ground. The miners are employees of Cementation USA/SR. More here.


2nd fire reported at Lucky Friday

Investigators are looking into the cause of a second fire in three weeks at the Lucky Friday Mine.

The underground silver mine near Mullan, Idaho, was evacuated at 7 p.m. Tuesday after a contractor’s employee reported that he smelled smoke.

Hecla Mining Co. deployed three mine rescue teams to monitor the fire and prevent its spread. They were able to contain the fire to a small area on the 4900 level, according to a statement from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

The fire was extinguished at around 3 p.m. Wednesday. Underground workers were able to return to work on Wednesday evening, said Melanie Hennessey, Hecla’s vice president of investor relations. More.

Do have any friends or family members who work in the mining industry?

Work Resumes At Lucky Friday Mine

The Lucky Friday Mine is back in operation, Hecla Mining Co. officials said today.  The underground silver mine near Mullan was closed for nearly two weeks following a fatal accident at the mine. Larry “Pete” Marek, 53, was killed in a roof fall at the mine. The accident is under investigation by the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration/Becky Kramer, SR.

Question: Have you ever been in a mine? And/or: Could you go back underground after the tragedy at the Lucky Friday Mine earlier this month?

AM: Hundreds Recall Miner Marek

Linda Miller sister-in-law of Larry"Pete" Marek hugs an attendee of Marek's memorial service at Kellogg High School on Thursday in Kellogg. Marek died April 15 after a roof collaps at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Kellogg Reporter Rips Mine Coverage

Seems Andie Tessler, a staff writer for the Shoshone News-Press two weeks out of journalism school, is "embarrassed" at the way the media has conducted themselves during coverage of the Lucky Friday Mine tragedy. In a News-Press column today, she said: "I have watched them walk the streets of Mullan without seeing them, speak to people in genuine distress without hearing them, and attend a heartfelt and moving vigil without actually being there. I am sickened. Being an objective journalist does not mean it is acceptable to sell your soul for a story; there must be a level of compassion and connection to the people around you or the integrity of your words is lost." I'd say young Tessler has lost her objectivity in an attempt to ingratiate herself to individuals that she will be covering in the Silver Valley. I'd also say that she certainly wasn't describing professional SR staffers Becky Kramer, Alison Boggs, and Kathy Plonka who have been covering the tragedy. She should name names and specific examples rather than slime a whole profession that knows a whole lot more than her how to deal with breaking news. You can read more of Tessler's column here. (AP file photo)


Otter on Marek: ‘A tragic loss’

Gov. Butch Otter has issued this statement in reaction to the recovery of the body of miner Larry "Pete" Marek, who had been missing for more than a week after a cave-in at the Lucky Friday Mine in North Idaho:

“With the news of Mr. Marek’s death, we extend our prayers and empathy for the family and the community of friends and co-workers. It is a tragic loss for Idaho’s historic mining community, and a personal loss for family and friends. It also is a stark reminder of the harsh realities that generations of mining families have proudly faced as they made their lives and their livelihoods in the Silver Valley. To everyone involved – the leaders in Mullan, Shoshone County and at Hecla who coordinated rescue and recovery efforts, and the volunteers, neighbors and others who kept vigil for Mr. Marek and his family – First Lady Lori and I offer our sincere sympathy and our heartfelt condolences. We pray they know they are surrounded with love and support during the difficult days ahead.”

DP: MSHA Should Clean On House 1st

DeePee (re: Feds pledge mine cave-in probe): Oh boy, just what we need: a bunch of coal-mining types, who don’t understand a thing about hard-rock mining, “investigating” what happened here. MSHA inspectors have standing orders to sweat western hard-rock mining companies here for every violation they can, no matter how trivial and irrelevant to safety, in order to keep funding the agency. That they will attempt to capitalize on the tragedy of one mining family (and community) is simply egregious. MSHA ran a full inspection of the Lucky Friday not very long ago and found nothing of import wanting, and Pete’s is the mine’s first fatality in a quarter of a century. MSHA should clean its own house, including the rule that no rescue efforts can begin until their people show up from all over the country, when there are people “on the ground” and ready to roll right away.

Question: Can any mine ever be safe enough to prevent a cave-in?

INW: Feds Pledge Mine Cave-in Probe

An unidentified man walks toward the covered staircase leading to the second level at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho, on Sunday. Larry Marek's body was recovered Sunday after more than a week of rescue efforts.  The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has promised to thoroughly investigate the cause of the roof collapse. Click here. (SR photo: J. Bart Rayniak)

Otter Cancels Mullan ‘Capital For Day’

Mike Perry/KHQ tweet: Otter hasn't contacted miner's family yet, and doesn't plan on visiting mine. Doesn't want his presence to impose on the rescue effort.

Gov. Butch Otter has issued this statement: “In light of the recent accident and continuing rescue efforts under way at the Lucky Friday mine, out of respect for the community and in consultation with the City of Mullan and Hecla Mining Co., the Governor is postponing his scheduled April 27th Capital for a Day in Mullan. We hope to reschedule it in May at a date to be determined”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise.

Question: Should Butch Otter visit mine to see the rescue effort firsthand?

Guv cancels planned ‘Capital for a Day’ in Mullan next week

Gov. Butch Otter has issued this statement: "In light of the recent accident and continuing rescue efforts under way at the Lucky Friday mine, out of respect for the community and in consultation with the City of Mullan and Hecla Mining Co., the Governor is postponing his scheduled April 27th Capital for a Day in Mullan. We hope to reschedule it in May at a date to be determined."

INW: Mine Rescue Try Alters Course

A Lucky Friday miner was positioned at the front entrance of the mine in Mullan on Monday. He was keeping out the general public while crews worked to free trapped miner Larry Marek. Hecla has altered its rescue attempt as a result of unstable ground. See story below. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Hecla Rescue Operations Hit Snag

Mining Company community affairs representative Mike Dexter, left ,and CEO Phil Baker addresses a crowd of about 35 people at Mullan City Hall in Mullan to give updates on the trapped miner on Saturday. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Federal mine safety officials ordered the current rescue operation under way at the Lucky Friday mine suspended due to unstable ground conditions. Instead, rescue operations for a miner trapped in a cave-in Friday will commence from another part of the Mullan, Idaho mine, requiring 225 feet of digging. It’s unknown whether the miner, Larry “Pete” Marek, survived the rockfall, but if he did, he could be trapped behind the massive rock pile. There has been no communication with Marek since the incident on Friday evening/Spokesman-Review.

Lucky Friday Miner Remains Trapped

Hecla Mining Company community affairs representative Mike Dexter, left, and CEO Phil Baker address a crowd Saturday in Mullan. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Item: Silver Valley awaiting news of 53-year-old trapped by cave-in: Concern for miner fills community/Becky Kramer, SR

More Info: By Sunday night, rescue teams had labored for more than two days to free a miner trapped by a cave-in at the Lucky Friday Mine. But they still hadn’t reached Larry “Pete” Marek, pictured. As the hours tick away, concern grows in Idaho’s Silver Valley, where generations of families have worked in the mines. Marek, 53, was trapped more than a mile underground when the ceiling of his work area, or stope, collapsed Friday evening. Marek’s brother – his mining partner – escaped unharmed.


Missing Lucky Friday Miner Identified

Lucky Friday miner, Brad Sala, of Mullan holds his 8 month-old-son Cael Sala during the press conference at Mullan City Hall today. One miner is still trapped in the mine after a cave in. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Community members and media accounts have confirmed the identity of the miner trapped more than a mile underground at the Lucky Friday Mine. Larry “Pete” Marek, a longtime Silver Valley miner, has been the subject of an intense rescue effort since a collapse at the mine Friday evening. Company officials continued to call their efforts a rescue operation nearly 24 hours after the roof of a tunnel where the miner was extracting silver-bearing ore collapsed.“We’re doing everything we can to reach the employee,” said Phillips Baker, Hecla’s chief executive officer. “Our current focus in 100 percent on the rescue of the employee and to ensure the safety of the rescue team”/Becky Kramer & John Stucke, SR. More here.

Update: Special digging machine arrives in Mullan to aid search for missing miner/Spokesman-Review