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:
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.
Mining was going on under the lake following gold ore in the Spur vein. On Friday, two men refused to go to work because of increasing amounts of water coming into the stope where they were working. The usual shift was 125 people and certainly all would have been killed. After 2 years of rehabilitation the mine was returned to production. The mine closed in 1991 (for the last time?).
A side note about the American Tunnel. The American Tunnels was originally part of the Gold King Mine at Gladstone. This is west of the Sunnyside Mine on Cement Creek. In 1922 the American Tunnel was extended to 6233 feet and below the main workings of the Gold King Mine. In 1959 work began to extend the Tunnel to below the Sunnyside workings. By 1962 the tunnel had been driven to a final length of 11000 feet and was 1800 feet below the Sunnyside workings. It provided drainage and ore haulage. Water from the Lake Emma disaster filled the tunnel with mud.
There was a big spill of trapped water, mostly colored by iron compounds, and it got a lot of news coverage. The statement on the EPA website declares:
“The Gold King Mine release was equivalent to four to seven days of ongoing GKM acid mine drainage. The total amount of metals entering the Animas River following the 9-hour release was comparable to the amount of metals carried by the river in one to two days of high spring runoff. However, the concentrations of metals were higher than historical acid mine drainage."
Tom's Old Mine Info / email@example.com