Hecla provides operations update

 

February 13, 2020

Annie Wooden

MINING UPDATE - Bruce Vincent (left) with Environomics, Inc., and Nick Raines of Hecla present information to the Sanders County Commissioners about Hecla's Montana operations during a meeting last Wednesday.

Hecla Mining Company last week met with Sanders County Commissioners to update them on mining operations in northwest Montana.

Nick Raines, environmental coordinator for the Montana operations, and Bruce Vincent with Environomics, Inc., both out of Libby, met in Thompson Falls with commissioners last Wednesday. The proposed Rock Creek Mine outside of Noxon would produce an estimated 6 million ounces of silver and 50 million pounds of copper a year, according to the company's website.

Raines recapped that in 2018, the U.S. Forest Service issued a record of decision for the project and in early 2019, Hecla began working with the state and Forest Service to update the plan of operations for the Rock Creek project. Hecla then submitted the revised plan of operations and late last year, received notification from the Forest Service that the plan was consistent with the requirements laid out in the record of decision.

Now, Raines said the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will review the updated plan. The company hopes to receive authorization to proceed with phase one of the project, which includes evaluation and data collection. Raines said phase one will consist of non-ground disturbing activities, such as water and ecological surveying, as well as design for the project. The evaluation phase, once approved, is expected to take five years.


"The evaluation phase will give us all he information we need to minimize impacts" of the project, Vincent said. "This phased approach is the way to go."

The second phase of the project will include construction, operation and reclamation activities. Raines said the Rock Creek project would bring an estimated 300-350 full-time jobs to Sanders County.

Vincent said Hecla has been in contact with legislators and agencies in Washington, D.C., to ensure that resources will be available for the Rock Creek project. Commissioner Carol Brooker was part of a delegation that traveled to the U.S. Capitol in 2017 to discuss the Hecla projects in Montana.

"We appreciate your continued interest and support," Raines told the commissioners. He said the mining industry, like other industries, is changing rapidly and embracing new technology. Much of the underground equipment is now operated from the surface. Vincent said Hecla has met with area schools to keep them updated on the project. "As we get closer, the skillsets will be different and we will need to be preparing students for a potential career in mining." He said similar programs have worked in areas with other Hecla projects, including Juneau, Alaska.


Sanders County Ledger canvas prints

Raines also discussed reclamation efforts at the Troy Mine site. He said reclamation efforts have been successful and the company later this year will be providing tours of the mine's tailing storage facility. He said that reclamation including over half a million tons of cover soil, seeding 350-400 acres with natural grasses, and planting seedling trees. The seeds were harvested locally and grown into seedlings by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Raines said future reclamation will focus on the hill and at the mine site, with building demolition and ultimately returning the site to its natural state.

"The Troy Mine is serving as a good example of what a modern day mine reclamation looks like," Raines said.

The other project Raines updated the commissioners on is the Montanore project, also outside of Noxon. In 2017, a federal court overturned environmental approvals in the Forest Service's record of decision. Raines said the Forest Services is working on revising the environmental impact statement and then the company will update its plan of operations. "We're continuing to see progress with the Forest Service and state," Vincent added.

For more information on the Montana projects, visit http://www.hecla-mining.com.

 

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