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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Central Mine Rescue commemorates 100 years with silver coin

Central Mine Rescue’s commemorative coin features the original logo on one side and a special 100-year anniversary design on the other. Thirteen-hundred coins were sold as a fundraiser for the family of a miner who died in a job accident earlier this year.

An emergency response organization involved in rescue efforts during the Sunshine Mine Disaster celebrated its centennial anniversary this year with a limited-edition silver coin.

Based in Idaho’s Silver Valley, Central Mine Rescue was established in 1923 by a group of local mines to share resources in case of a disaster.

“It’s nice to know it is here if anybody needs it,” said Danny Peterson, director of the nonprofit that trains personnel from active mines across the western U.S. and occasionally rescues individuals who get lost or stuck in abandoned mines.

Engineer and Rescue Coordinator Bryan Stepro designed the coin, which features on its head the original Central Mine Rescue logo – a profile of a rescuer in a gas mask – while wheat stalks on the tail-side frame “100 Years” and the figure of a crouched miner panning for silver.

The 1-ounce 0.999 fine silver coins were minted with a loan from Sunshine Silver Mine and Refining Company.

“I think it demonstrates the heart of a miner,” said Tom Henderson, general manager of Sunshine Mine. “Salt-of-the-earth, hardworking people. This is what miners are all about.”

All 1,300 coins have been sold. Proceeds were donated to the family of Blaik Nutting, a 26-year-old miner who died in an accident in April at the Galena Mine near Wallace.

“It just kind of made sense to give it to them,” Peterson said. “We wanted to support someone in our community that was dealing with tremendous hardship. Our organization’s entire purpose is to help miners in need, so this is an example of that community coming together to do just that.”

Central Mine Rescue members presented the $16,700 raised through the fundraiser to the family at the Sunshine Miners Memorial in Wallace.

The organization was revitalized after 91 miners died in a fire in the Sunshine Mine near Kellogg in 1972, when Central Mine Rescue helped coordinate the rescue of two miners who were trapped underground for over a week. More members joined after the disaster, rescue equipment was updated and trainings were stepped up, Peterson said.

As some mines closed in the next few decades, the organization expanded to mines from Alaska to Canada to Nevada. Today, there are 150 mine rescue personnel from eight member mines. They also support 12 smaller mines.

The organization does exercises throughout the year and holds an annual competition in May.

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.