The Sunshine Mine located in northern Idaho’s Shoshone county was once the most profitable silver mine in the state. Discovered in 1884 by the Blake brothers, they mined their claim for two decades before leasing to other people. The Sunshine Mining Company was officially created in 1918 and closed in 2001, producing over 360 million ounces of silver.
On May 2, 1972 tragedy struck when a fire started in the air intake side of the mine, leaving exits clouded with smoke and carbon monoxide circulating throughout. Of the 173 men that went down into the mine that day, only 80 were saved when the hoistman died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Ninety-three miners were unaccounted for, and over the next seven days only two men, David Wilkinson and Ron Flory, were rescued alive after being stuck in the rubble for 175 hours surviving off of water drippings and the food of their deceased co-workers scattered around them.
The tragic fire that took the lives of so many men did not go unrecognized by the industry or the federal government. Changes were made, the United States Department of the Interior and the United States Bureau of Mines increased safety standards and precautions and light was shown onto the dark tendencies of the industry that valued the profit of mining over the safety of their workers. This collection houses thousands of pages of deposition, trial and hearing transcripts from miners, managers, and Sunshine Mining Company officials, all telling the story of this historic disaster. Ninety-one miners lost their lives in the Sunshine Mine from carbon monoxide poisoning or smoke inhalation and each one of them hasn’t been forgotten. A memorial sculpture of a 13 foot tall miner stands near Interstate 90 in Kellogg with the names of the 91 men lost in the fire. An annual memorial is held for the families and descendants of the miners.
Post researched and written by Erin Geslani.
The Sunshine Mine Disaster, Spokane Historical, Cory Carpenter, accessed June 27, 2022.
Sunshine Mine Disaster: 50 Yeas Later, United States Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration, accessed June 27, 2022.
Sunshine Mine, Wikipedia, December 31, 2021.
Yes, Sir, This Has Certainly Been Considered a Safe Mine, The Atlantic, Rachel Scott, December 1972, accessed June 27, 2022.
This Historic Town Was Victim To One Of The Most Tragic Disasters In Idaho History, Only In Your State, Emerson, June 20, 2018, accessed June 27, 2022.