Sunshine Mine fire still a mystery

Carbon monoxide levels falling inside Kellogg-area mine

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COEUR d'ALENE - Sunshine Silver Mines Corp., owner of the Sunshine Mine near Kellogg, said a fire inside the mine is likely out and carbon monoxide levels have come way down.

A spokeswoman for the Denver-base company, Monica Brisnehan, said all intakes feeding oxygen into the mine were sealed off to fight the fire.

Nitrogen then was injected to further reduce oxygen levels and extinguish the fire, she said.

The company has been working to put the fire out for several weeks. The Press reported earlier this month that the company reduced its workforce at the mine because of the gas levels and fire.

Brisnehan said carbon monoxide levels are very low now.

"It looks very positive," she said.

The company is optimistic the fire has been extinguished. But, it will continue efforts for several more days.

"We don't want to rush things," she said. "We can't go down there and look without risking re-ignition."

Once the fire is out, the company will begin investigating damage to underground infrastructure.

"We'll make plans from there" for restarting operations that were ongoing before the fire, she said.

The company did find some evidence of damage from flames in an early investigation at what was likely the point of the fire's ignition.

The silver mine was evacuated on Feb. 14 after a sensor in a vent shaft detected elevated levels of carbon monoxide inside. Twelve people were underground at the time.

Layoffs followed the evacuation.

The long-term goal of the company is to return the mine to production.

The company had been working on refurbishment of the mine since purchasing it in 2010.

Ninety-one men died in the historic Sunshine Mine fire in 1972.

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