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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Mine worker killed

An employee was killed Monday in an underground accident that has shut down the Troy Mine in northwest Montana.

Two other employees injured in the rockfall walked away and were later released from a hospital, said Carson Rife, vice president of operations for Revett Minerals, the Spokane Valley company that is majority owner of the mine.

Rife identified the victim as Mike Ivins, a mechanic who was working in the southeast portion of the mine when a rockfall occurred about 10:30 a.m. Mountain time.

The phone book lists Ivins as a resident of nearby Libby, Mont. His age was unavailable.

Ivins, who had worked at the mine about 2 ½ years, was trapped in a vehicle underground, Rife said.

The vehicle caught fire. Under smoky conditions, a second rescue team was needed before the Troy Mines rescue team could go down in the mine, Rife said.

That second team, from the Lucky Friday Mine in Idaho’s Silver Valley, arrived early Monday afternoon. Rescue crews reached the vehicle about 7 p.m. Mountain Time.

“It’s a dark day for the Troy Mine,” said Rife, who was at the site Monday. “We feel like we’ve lost an important part of our family. Our thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to the family and friends.”

Revett officials did not identify the injured workers.

Officials from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration arrived Monday. The agency’s investigation will continue today, and the mine will remain closed until that investigation is complete.

About 180 people work in the silver and copper mine, which City Council President Laura Schrader said is the largest employer in the Troy area.

Opened in 1981 by Asarco Inc., the Troy Mine closed in 1993 due to low metal prices. The mine was purchased by Revett Silver Co. in 1999 and reopened in late 2004. Revett Minerals is the majority owner of Revett Silver.

The reopened mine turned its first profit last year.

The 973 residents of Troy welcomed the mine’s reopening in 2004, Schrader said.

“People celebrated. The whole county was happy about it because it put people to work,” she said.

Monday afternoon, rumors about the accident were spreading, but details were hard to pin down. There were rumors that as many as six workers were trapped.

Revett first issued a press statement saying that a single miner was believed to be trapped Monday evening, but offered few details.

Some Troy residents listened to public safety radio scanners to glean information.

“A lot of us down here have no idea what’s going on, we’re just sitting here waiting to hear,” said Jennifer Bonifas, a waitress at the Silver Spur Restaurant, whose husband is a mechanic at the mine.

Schrader said she called every extension at the mine office as soon as she heard about the accident. She was trying to find out if her husband, Max, the mine’s maintenance foreman, was safe.

He soon called her back to confirm he was fine.

Almost everyone in town knows or is related to someone who works at the mine, Schrader said.

“Of course, it’s devastating,” she said.