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“Deep Dark” explores human toll of Idaho’s worst disaster

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Add to cart. Mining there, as everywhere, was not an easy life, but regardless of the risk, there was something about being underground, the lure of hitting a deep vein of silver. The promise of good money and the intense bonds of friendship brought men back year after year. Mining is about being a man and a fighter in a job where tomorrow always brings the hope of a big score.

REVIEW: “The Deep Dark: Disaster and Redemption in America’s Richest Silver Mine” by Gregg Olsen

On May 2, , miners entered Sunshine Mine on their daily quest for silver. Aboveground, safety engineer Bob Launhardt sat in his office, filing his usual mountain of federal and state paperwork. From his office window he could see the air shafts that fed fresh air into the mine, more than a mile below the surface. The air shafts usually emitted only tiny coughs of exhaust; unlike dangerously combustible coal mines, Sunshine was a fireproof hardrock mine, nothing but cold, dripping wet stone. There were many safety concerns at Sunshine, but fire wasn't one of them.

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The men and the company swore the mine was unburnable, so when thick black smoke began pouring from one of the air shafts, Launhardt was as amazed as he was alarmed. When the alarm sounded, less than half of the dayshift was able to return to the surface. The others were trapped underground, too deep in the mine to escape. Scores of miners died almost immediately, frozen in place as they drilled, ate lunch, napped, or chatted.

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No one knew what was burning or where the smoke had come from. But in one of the deepest corners of the mine, Ron Flory and Tom Wilkinson were left alone and in total darkness, surviving off a trickle of fresh air from a borehole. Zeebra Books. Show other formats.

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Discover what to read next. The Most Anticipated Books of Fall PW Picks: Books of the Week. The surface buildings of the Hecla Mine can also be seen in Burk.

Murray, north of Wallace, was an important gold placer and hardrock mining area. Between Wallace and Kellogg, along Big Creek, the Sunshine Mine was the site of a disastrous fire in which killed 91 miners.

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A memorial to those who died is located along I Kellogg and Wardner are home to the inactive Bunker Hill Mine. Only the foundations of these once huge facilities remain. The hillsides where sulfur dioxide had killed all vegetation are now turning green again thanks to revegetation efforts.

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Click here for a map of mine locations. Courtesy, Wallace Mining Museum, In , at the time of the conference, the silver price was low and the deep and rich mines were becoming uneconomic. All but one mine was in the process of closing. Fortunately, by , the silver price had risen dramatically and mining and exploration were back on the upswing. Historic Bank Street, Downtown Wallace. Trolley Tour of Historic Wallace, June 20, Idaho Division of Tourism.