PEND OREILLE COUNTY, Wash. - The improving economy is bringing hopes and dreams of work and stability to Pend Oreille County. The Canadian-based mining company Teck is reopening the Pend Oreille Mine, meaning jobs for more than 200 people.
For the towns of Metaline, Metaline Falls and Ione, it's a step towards putting the recession in the past. These communities were built on the abundant natural resources in the area. Deep within the mountains lies a treasure of lead and zinc. But, the price of zinc plummeted in 2009 and, as the mine goes, so go these small towns.
"You've seen a slow dwindling of people, a slow attrition," said Blake McAnerin. He lives in Metaline Falls and is recently unemployed. He's hoping this mine will bring new employment for him and many others.
Zinc is used to rust-proof steel. It's important for construction and in vehicle building and repair. As the construction and auto industries improve, the price of zinc has risen enough to make the mine profitable once again.
"We're very excited about this," said Teck spokesman Dave Godlewski. "We're excited for the new resource for the company but also very excited for the community... and we do hope to get some of those workers from the past back."
That's welcome news for the people who live here.
"This whole area is going to benefit from it," said McAnerin. "I just want to stay up here and keep raising my family."
Geologists say they are confident the mine has enough resources to stay open for at least another five years.
"Our intent is to keep exploring while we mine and there's potential for longer than 5 years as well," said Goldlewski.
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