At approximately 7:40 p.m. that evening, a rock burst occurred 5,900 feet below the surface in the silver, lead and zinc mine, which is operated by the Hecla Mining Co. A total of 38 miners – 25 Hecla employees and 18 contractor employees – were underground at the time of the rock burst. All miners were evacuated, including seven who suffered non-life-threatening injuries that included lacerations, a broken arm and a broken pelvis. The injured miners were treated at local hospitals and are expected to fully recover.
"We are thankful that all employees are out of the mine and have been accounted for, and that those injured have been treated. The safety of our employees is our primary concern," said Phil Baker, Hecla president and CEO.
According to Hecla, no mine blasting had taken place in the mine in the 24 hours prior to the incident, and the rock burst was unrelated to mining activities. Hecla reported a seismic event on Nov. 16 that caused a rock burst approximately in the same location as the Dec. 14 event. No one was in the area when the Nov. 16 incident occurred.
This isn't the first time the Lucky Friday mine has experienced a dangerous incident: In 2011, two employees lost their lives in separate incidents at the mine. The most recent fatality occurred less than a month ago, on Nov. 17, when two miners drilling, blasting and mucking rock were drawn into material moving below them. Brandon Lloyd Gray, 26, was fatally injured in that incident. Another employee died on April 15 following a fall of ground within the mine.
Baker stressed that those fatalities are unrelated to this most recent incident.
"There's no connection to the previous fatal events," Baker said. “Our peoples' safety is very important to us, and we are working hard to get the mine back on track to its longstanding safety record prior to this year, characterized by more than 25 years and 8.5 million man-hours without a fatality."
The mine is currently closed and MSHA is investigating.