North Idaho

Lucky Friday's reopening puts Silver back in the Valley

MULLAN, Idaho - After a yearlong shutdown at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, the facility is getting ready to reopen and workers are being told to come back to their jobs.

In 2011, there were a series of accidents at the mine, including two deaths and a rock blast that injured seven. The mine was shut down for safety improvements and more than 100 people were put out of work.

Miners head to Dirty Ernie's in Kellogg all the time to get a drink, kick back and relax. Debbie Cameron knows them well. Back in May, in the midst of the Lucky Friday closure, she was sharing the pain with those out of their jobs. Now she's sharing their relief.

"It's really nice to see the miners come in all happy," Cameron said.

Those same people are being told to come back to work. Lucky Friday is working towards re-opening and ramping up production in the next few months.

"Everybody is just thrilled to get a paycheck now, get off unemployment. Families aren't struggling as hard. Everybody just seem to be doing a lot better," she said.

Lucky Friday reopening

During the closure, Dirty Ernie's business took a hit. Things did pick up in the fall and miners coming back to Lucky Friday will help out.

Going back to work is not only a relief for workers, businesses and the community but also the children.

"The greatest impact I've observed is the psychological impact," Wallace School District Superintendent Dr. Bob Ranells said.

Ranells said some students in his district were dealing with family separation.

"One or the other spouses had to leave the area to find employment elsewhere," he explained.

But this holiday season, miners were able to come back home and celebrate with their families.

Hecla said that most of the people out of work are coming back and expects production to start within the first quarter of 2013.