Mine disasters

The Sunshine Mine, 1972

The Sunshine Mine is/was in Idaho near the towns of Kellogg and Wallace. The Mine itself was at one time the largest silver mine in the world. There are workings deeper than 5000 feet below the surface. The mine gets quite hot at depth (temperatures at the working face can get as hot as 127 degrees or more). The mine has produced over 360 million ounces of silver.

In May of 1972 a fire developed in the mine and ultimately claimed 91 lives. A mine fire is always a serious situation, but this one was made much worse due to gasses released by polyurethane foam that had been use to seal old stopes and workings to improve air circulation. There is a superb book "The Deep Dark" by Gregg Olsen. It is a riveting account of the disaster as well as a quality look at the lifestyle of an underground metal miner.

After you have read Olsen's book, read these:

The paper "a view from inside" was written by Bob Launhardt, the Safety inspector at the sunshine mine, and he makes strong objection to some of the conclusions drawn in the USBM report, in particular with regard to the involvement of polyurethane foam in the mine fire.

The Argonaut Gold Mine, 1922

The Argonaut Mine is in the motherlode gold district of California near the city of Jackson. The mine workings are as deep as 5570 feet and connect to the nearby Kennedy Mine. In August of 1922 a fire started and ultimately claimed the lives of all 47 men working in the mine.

There is a book, "47Down" by O. Henry Mace written about this disaster, but it is really not all that good, especially in comparison with the book about the Sunshine Mine. The writer forgets what he is writing about and spends as much time discussing the career of a female journalist Ruth Finney as he does the mine disaster.


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Tom's Old Mine Info / tom@mmto.org