Coeur d’Alene Mines Corp., a North Idaho institution for more than eight decades, may move its headquarters to Chicago.
Company officials broke the news Thursday to employees in the Coeur d’Alene office. It was unclear how many local jobs would disappear with such a move. The company has 60 employees in Coeur d’Alene.
Asked for comment, company spokeswoman Stefany Bales gave this statement: “Coeur d’Alene Mines continually evaluates its future needs and growth while also seeking to enhance its visibility among key U.S. and international stakeholders. With this in mind, we are in the process of evaluating the Chicago area as a possible location for our company headquarters.”
Implying a deal is well under way, Bales added, “We are still negotiating final terms and conditions with the State of Illinois and no final decisions in this regard have been made.”
Mitchell Krebs, 41, who took over as president and CEO of Coeur in July 2011, worked for the company for seven years in Chicago, handling Coeur’s business development. Krebs moved to Coeur d’Alene in 2008 to become chief financial officer.
Last February, Forbes placed Krebs at No. 6 on its list of the country’s 20 most powerful CEOs age 40 or younger.
He replaced longtime president and CEO Dennis Wheeler, who resigned but remained connected to the company as a consultant for a year. Wheeler declined to comment Thursday on the possible move of the company he once helmed.
The news took local business leaders by surprise.
“Coeur d’Alene Mines has been a tremendous supporter of the Chamber of Commerce, a great corporate citizen,” said Steve Wilson, president of the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce. “We have enjoyed a wonderful working relationship on many levels.”
Steve Griffitts, president of Jobs Plus Inc., the nonprofit economic development corporation that helps companies relocate to or expand in North Idaho, said his organization will do whatever it can to keep Coeur from leaving North Idaho.
“We hate to lose even one job out of the Coeur d’Alene area, and we will do all we can to retain these highly paid positions,” Griffitts said.
“They have invested heavily in the future of our area and we hope that they understand and know of our appreciation for their contributions,” he added.
The $1.5 billion corporation, incorporated in 1928 and traded on the New York Stock Exchange, operates silver and gold mines in Nevada, Alaska, Mexico, Bolivia, Argentina and Australia. It also owns strategic minority shareholdings in eight silver and gold development companies in North and South America.
The company this year expects to produce between 18.5 and 19 million ounces of silver and between 215,000 and 225,000 ounces of gold.
Coeur has not operated a mine in North Idaho since it sold its Galena Mine in the Silver Valley to U.S. Silver Corp. in mid-2006.
That $15 million sale also included the closed Coeur Mine and other exploration properties in the Silver Valley. Coeur d’Alene Mines operated the properties in conjunction with Asarco Inc. until 1999, when it acquired full ownership.
Coeur is one of many small mining companies that sprang up during the Silver Valley’s heyday, but it’s among a select few that went on to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. It transformed from a penny mining stock into a going concern during the 1950s and ’60s.