Sunshine Mine preparing to re-open for business

Sunshine Mine preparing to re-open for business

At one time the historic Sunshine Mine in the Silver Valley produced the most silver in the world. In 2001 however the declining demand for the precious metal forced the mine to shutdown. Now, under new ownership, the mine is expected to re-open next year.

After being shut down for more than five years the Sunshine Mine is slowing coming back to life with air flowing through the tunnels and employees putting on their hard hats again to get this silver producing mine back on the map.

When Sterling Mining took over the Sunshine Mine in 2003 President Ray DeMotte knew it wouldn’t be easy.

”When the mine closed, took out a lot of transformers, no electricity installed, [the] mine was not taken care of when it was closed,” he said.

Dropping silver prices forced the mine to shut down in 2001 and for several years there was no silver mining meant no jobs. But with the mine being brought back to life miners are coming back to Silver Valley.

Right now there are 36 employees at the mine, with many who have worked at the mine before, and every month DeMotte expects to hire five to ten more workers and hopes to have the mine operating again by this time next year.

To get the mine up and running again it will mean restoring power underground and checking and double-checking every cable, piece of wiring and equipment.

”We have about 25 buildings, 100 miles worth of workings underground, the mine goes down 6,000 feet,” DeMotte said.

The news of Sunshine’s reopening is news that Shoshone County Commissioner Sherry Krulitz has waited a long time to hear.

”It will bring a lot of miners who had to leave home, working in Montana, Nevada, places out of state to relocate back to the Valley,” she said.

Some however say the impact is much deeper than more jobs. Barbara Miller is part of an grass roots organization keeping a close eye on the Bunker Hill Superfund site clean-up. Bunker Hill at one time was a silver mine like the Sunshine Mine and has concerns about the environment in light of the re-opening of the mine.

DeMotte, however, says his company works hard to protect the environment.

”It’s an extremely important factor for us, from the beginning we look at that everyday. If you look around us,” he said, gesturing around the Silver Valley, ”no sane person would want to hurt that.”

When the mine is fully operational DeMotte expects to produce four to six million ounces of silver a year which would be enough, he says, to be considered a significant player in the precious metals market once again.


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