MULLAN, Idaho -- A miner is missing underground in northern Idaho after a cave-in at the Lucky Friday Mine.Rescue efforts are underway.
The cave-in, or ground fall, happened Friday night around 5:30, according to the mine's owner, Hecla Mining Company.
The Lucky Friday mine is part of the Coeur d'Alene Mining District and is in the town of Mullan. It is a deep, underground silver, lead, and zinc mine.
As of Saturday afternoon, the mine was on lockdown.Hecla says it doesn't know why the collapse happened but says all of its efforts are concentrated on the rescue.
Hecla President/CEO Phil Baker said on Friday night two miners were in the portion of Lucky Friday Mine that caved in.One miner made it out uninjured; the other is missing.
Essentially what's happened is the miner was in the stope and the ground above him fell, and this was about ten feet of material in terms of height and 20 feet wide and a number of feet long, Baker said. We just don't know how long that is.
As of Saturday afternoon, the missing miner hadn't contacted anyone above ground.The mine's former vice-president explained there aren't communication devices in the place where the miner was, and he would have to get to another area to make a call above ground.
Hecla is using its own mine safety rescue teams.Company officials say there is rescue equipment on site, but they are flying additional equipment in from the east coast. That equipment will allow crews to operate digging equipment remotely and make the rescue safer.
The employee's safety is our top priority and rescue efforts are underway to safely remove the material needed to access the area where the employee was working, Baker said.
As of 2:00 p.m. Mountain Time, rescue crews had advanced toward the miner about 25 feet.The mining company says the next steps will be more difficult and slower and theydon't know how long the efforts may take.
We're doing everything we can to reach the employee and will continue to make every effort as long as it takes, ensuring all the while that we are using safe methods in the process in order to avoid risk to other people, Baker said.
Mining company officials say they'll look into the collapse after the rescue.They are unsure of what may have caused the ground fall, but say there was no blasting going on around that time or area of the mine.
The mining company says it's providing professional support and emotional counseling for the miner's family and other employees.Officials are not releasing any information about the identity of the miner.