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Lucky Friday Mine to reopen in northern Idaho

The Lucky Friday Mine in northern Idaho will reopen early next year after a lengthy closure following three accidents that killed two miners and injured seven others, Hecla Mining Co. officials said.

The Spokesman-Review reports the company on Nov. 6 said it plans to resume mining in the first quarter of 2013 and expects to produce more than 2 million ounces of silver.

Phillips S. Baker, Hecla’s president and chief executive officer, said cleanup and repair of the 6,100-foot-deep Silver Shaft should be finished by the end of the year, and workers have been recalled to begin preparatory work on the No. 4 Shaft project.

“Work crews have completed the Silver Shaft rehabilitation work” to the 5,700-foot level, he said, 400 feet from the shaft bottom.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration in January ordered the mine closed for safety improvements, putting more than 100 miners out of work.

During 2011, a cave-in killed a miner in April, another died in November attempting to dislodge rock, and a rock burst injured seven miners in December. The company said a bypass is being built at the 5,900-foot level around the area where the rock burst occurred.

The company said it spent $90 million so far on the No. 4 Shaft project that’s expected to cost about $200 million. Work on that shaft is expected to resume early next year, the company said, with miners aiming for anticipated silver reserves and additional exploration targets.

Besides the Lucky Friday Mine, the company also operates the Greens Creek Mine in Alaska and has exploration properties in four silver mining districts in the U.S. and Mexico.

Baker said the company is moving toward its goal of producing 15 million ounces of silver by 2017 at all its mines combined. Baker said the company has a strong balance sheet, with $232 million in cash and no significant debt.

The company reported a third quarter net loss of $885,000. Third quarter silver production was up 19 percent from the previous quarter to 1.6 million ounces.

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