Arrow-right Camera


Hecla Mining eyes assets of Independence

Hecla Mining Co. has agreed to buy the assets of Independence Lead Mines, a junior mining firm that owns a partial interest in an underground silver vein at Hecla’s Lucky Friday Mine.

The deal is subject to approval from Independence Lead Mines’ shareholders, who would receive 6.9 million shares of Hecla’s common stock in return for mining claims in Idaho’s Silver Valley. Hecla’s stock closed at $10.15 per share Wednesday.

The sale is expected to close by March 31. If the deal falls through, Independence must pay Hecla $1.25 million.

The purchase guarantees that Hecla will receive all future profits at its Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho. It also resolves a dispute over the mine’s Gold Hunter deposit.

Independence leased mining claims to Hecla, which were developed as part of the Lucky Friday’s Gold Hunter deposit.

In a series of lawsuits, Independence officials said Hecla squandered its assets by mining the silver at a loss during years of depressed prices, preventing Independence shareholders from collecting royalties. Hecla officials disputed the accusations, prevailing in court.

Mountain West Bank has reported record earnings for 2007 and year-end assets that exceed $1 billion for the first time since the Coeur d’Alene bank was founded in 1993.

After-tax net income for the year rose to $14 million, 3 percent better than 2006. Fourth-quarter results fell $762,289 to $3.44 million, an 18 percent decline. But a one-time adjustment that reduced income taxes by $815,000 inflated results for the 2006 quarter.

Mountain West finished the year with $1.03 billion in assets, up 13 percent over 2006.

Loans increased 19 percent to $847 million. Loan loss provisions were set at $2.22 million to accommodate the larger loan portfolio.

Mountain West added a branch in Eagle, Idaho, in 2007, bringing its network in Idaho, Washington and Utah to 23.

Chief Executive Officer Jon Hippler said he is cautiously optimistic about 2008, but added that it may be 2009 before the real estate markets the bank serves, particularly Boise, begin to recover from the current downturn.

Mountain West is a subsidiary of Kalispell-based Glacier Bancorp.

Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc., the nation’s biggest brewer, is adding a twist of lime to its flagship brew Bud Light to help add some fizz in the face of stagnant demand.

Anheuser-Busch will launch Bud Light Lime nationwide in May.