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Idaho Silver Company Says Mine Is Safer Since Accidents

Jessica Robinson
Northwest News Network

The owner of the troubled Lucky Friday Mine in north Idaho hopes new safety upgrades will prevent future accidents. Hecla Mining announced Tuesday that it’s reopened the silver mine in Mullan, Idaho, after a year-long closure.

Hecla President Phil Baker made the announcement at a press conference in Spokane.

“It's nice to be able to give you guys a good news story.”

For most of 2011, it was bad news out of the Lucky Friday. Federal mine regulators ordered major safety upgrades after two miners died and several others were injured in three separate accidents. Over the last year, Baker says Hecla spent $60 million -- on worker training, extra safety and engineering staff, miles of upgrades to the mine's infrastructure and communication, and new mining technology.

“We work for the mine to be safer today than it was yesterday," Baker said. "And we work for tomorrow for it to be safer than it is today.'

Three hundred people are again employed at the mine, including almost all of the people who were laid off last year. One notable exception is Mike Marek, the brother of Larry Marek, a miner who was killed at the Lucky Friday. Mike has refused to work for the company again.