On May 2, 1972, one hundred and seventy-three men began work at 7:00 a.m. at the Sunshine silver mine, about 8 miles east of Kellogg, Shoshone County, Idaho.
The mine produced silver, copper and antimony. It was first opened in the 19th century. On this date, the principal operating officials of the Sunshine Mining Company were in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, about 45 miles away, attending their annual stockholders' meeting. During their absence, surface and underground foremen were responsible for the activities of their own crews, with no designated individual in charge of the entire operation. Shortly after lunch, about 11:40 a.m., two electricians stepped out of the electric shop on the 3700 level, smelled smoke, and shouted a warning.