Mining May be Idaho’s Toughest and Dirtiest Line of Work
49 years ago this month, Idaho suffered its worst ever mine accident. The Sunshine Mine Disaster took the lives of 91 men. It happened after a fire broke out. Most died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Families of many of the men still live in the area. The Sunshine Mine is located in Kellogg. A few miles from the Sierra Silver Mine in Wallace, which I toured a few years ago. Our guide was a survivor of the 1972 disaster.
A chamber containing untold riches in silver ended up flooding. The minerals are trapped in a watery grave.
He was a very good humored man but when he shared the story of the tragedy, he became very solemn. I was thinking of him today when I posted a picture from the tour in illustrating another story. He left such a profound impression on me that I was actually sharing stories about him with friends a couple of weeks ago. He kept making jokes about a particular nationality. Then he mentioned it’s his wife’s ancestry.
The Sierra Mine has its own unique story. Jobs were so coveted there, high school students apprenticed underground. To improve efficiency, there was a classroom carved out of the rock and all the usual high school subjects were taught beneath the surface! Mining paid well. Students considered responsible were recruited from local schools.
Sierra is now a tourist site. A chamber containing untold riches in silver ended up flooding. The minerals are trapped in a watery grave.
I bought a ticket for the tour in downtown Wallace. A few minutes later, a trolley came along and on a sunny and breezy July day, we rambled off to the mine. Which is a short distance from downtown. On the return trip, I sat facing the land we were leaving and soaked in the history. It was 80 degrees and I said my blessings. Because my line of work isn’t anywhere near as demanding.
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