COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho (AP) — Federal safety inspectors have ordered one of the nation's deepest underground mines closed in Idaho following an investigation prompted by a series of accidents that killed two miners over the last year.
The Lucky Friday Mine, one of the nation's top silver producers, will remain closed for a year after inspectors determined that sand and concrete material that had piled up over the years needed to be removed. The material is in the mile-deep Silver Shaft, the mine's main access shaft.
The news caused the stock price of parent company Hecla Mining Co. to lose a quarter of its value on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, tumbling to around $4.40 a share.
About 275 people work at the mine. It wasn't immediately clear how many would be idled by the Mine Safety and Health Administration order.
The mine has been shuttered since mid-December when rock burst injured seven miners. Hecla said production was expected to begin again in early 2013.
"While we are disappointed with this order and are considering what action we might take, work has already begun to resume production as quickly as possible," said Phil Baker, president and chief executive of Hecla, which is based in Coeur d'Alene.
Last month's rock burst was the latest in a string of incidents at the mine in Idaho's Silver Valley, about 50 miles east of Coeur d'Alene.
Miner Brandon Lloyd Gray, 26, was buried in rubble while trying to dislodge jammed rock on Nov. 17, and died two days later. On April 15, miner Larry "Pete" Marek was crushed when his work area collapsed. Federal inspectors found company safety failures led to his death.
Prior to last year, the mine had gone 25 years without a fatality.
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