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Employment Up In Idaho’s Silver Valley As Miners Find Work

Hecla Mining
Lucky Friday Mine workers in Mullan, Idaho are valued for their skill at "jackleg" mining, using hand-held equipment seen here.

Laid-off silver miners in north Idaho aren’t staying out-of-work for long. Around 250 miners and contractors lost their jobs at the end of last year when the Lucky Friday Mine was shut down for safety improvements. But since then, the Silver Valley’s unemployment rate has actually dropped two percentage points.

The price of gold and silver right now makes experienced miners a hot commodity. Idaho labor officials say some Lucky Friday Mine workers have been temporarily recruited to California, Nevada, Montana, Alaska -- and even the sunnier climes of Guatemala. In many cases, their families remain in Idaho to wait out the year-long closure of the Lucky Friday.

Other miners, like Heidi Miller’s husband, found local work. The mother of four says her husband was hired at the nearby Galena silver mine about a month ago.

“I was really praying. I mean I was open to whatever he needed to do. But I was really hoping he would not have to move away," Miller says. "So we were just really thankful.”

Some miners have been put back to work at the Lucky Friday Mine itself. Federal inspectors ordered the mine to make a long list of safety upgrades after a series of accidents last year.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network