Silver Valley Business Owners on Mine Closure: 'We Will Survive - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Silver Valley Business Owners on Mine Closure: 'We Will Survive This'

PINEHURST, Idaho - Not too far from the snow-capped mountains of Mullan, Idaho and the Lucky Friday silver mine far below the surface of the town, you'll find family-owned businesses sprinkled across the Silver Valley.

One of those businesses is Bonnie's Creations in Pinehurst, about 30 minutes west of Mullan.

"In Pinehurst, there isn't anything that you get things like we sell," owner Bonnie Berneman said. "That is probably what has kept us here because, for one thing, there isn't anything around."

Bonnie and her husband Dick Berneman have owned the gift shop in Pinehurst, next to a campground, for more than a decade. At the shop, they sell dozens of unique trinkets and art work.

Right now, Bonnie said silver FROG necklaces, charms and other jewel-encrusted FROG-inspired silver jewelry are the store's hottest sellers.

"They stand for Fully Rely On God," she said, pointing to a necklace inside the jewelry case. "Just $9.95!"

Its that very silver that hundreds of miners dug out of the earth at the Lucky Friday mine, and into our lives, who are now are out of jobs. Wednesday, the Hecla Mining Company, which operates the underground silver, zinc, and lead mine in Mullan, announced it would close the mine for a year to clean its main shaft to federal regulators' specifications.

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) inspectors closed the mine last Friday as a result of what they said were hazards associated with sand and gravel buildup in the shaft. The shaft is the silver mine's main entrance and exit. It hauls both workers and materials.

The closure resulted in the layoffs of more than 200 employees and contractors. The move not only impacts workers but the many businesses, like Bonnie's Creations, in the Silver Valley that depend on those workers and their families to keep the economy thriving.

"I feel terrible for those miners," Bonnie said.

But much like miners, you'll quickly find that business owners in the Silver Valley are used to hard work in the face of uncertainty.

"I think you can make a business survive regardless," Bonnie said.

Those sentiments were echoed by Patty Nelson, the owner of Permanent Solutions Beauty Salon, across the street. Nelson's owned the salon for 24 years.

"I think, overall, we've been through this hundred times," she said. "It's up and downs, and they're resilient and the miners are already looking for other jobs. And the miners I know are already at other miners here in the Valley. We'll live, we're strong."

Who knows how long restoring the Valley's economy may take while Lucky Friday is closed, but for now, business owners here don't think the challenge will be as tall as the mountains they call home.

"If you want it bad enough you'll do something else," Bonnie said.

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