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Hecla fined over fatal cave-in at Lucky Friday mine

The federal government has fined Hecla Mining Co. $318,200 for unsafe practices that contributed to the death of a worker last year at the Lucky Friday Mine.

Larry “Pete” Marek died April 15, 2011, during a cave-in at the underground silver mine in Mullan, Idaho. It took rescue workers nine days of round-the-clock efforts to retrieve the veteran miner’s body because of unstable rock conditions and the sheer volume of material that fell.

In an accident report released last year, Mine Safety and Health Administration officials characterized the Lucky Friday’s management as negligent for failing to install adequate ground support and not testing the stability of the rock where the cave-in occurred. Hecla CEO Phil Baker disputed those findings at a December press conference but acknowledged that the company could face up to $1 million in federal penalties.

Hecla must either pay the $318,200 in fines by June 19 or contest them.

Jim Sabala, Hecla’s chief financial officer, declined to comment Tuesday, saying the matter is part of ongoing legal action.

JPMorgan changed strategy, federal regulator testifies

WASHINGTON – A top federal regulator says that starting late last year, JPMorgan Chase changed its strategy aimed at containing risk. His agency is examining whether the bank’s policies were inadequate before it suffered a $2 billion-plus trading loss this spring.

The disclosure by Thomas Curry, the U.S. comptroller of the currency, comes in his testimony prepared for a hearing Wednesday by a Senate panel. Curry’s agency, part of the Treasury Department, oversees about 2,000 national banks and has had about 65 examiners onsite at JPMorgan’s offices. Curry says the agency is conducting an extensive analysis of the JPMorgan loss that “will focus on where breakdowns or failures occurred.”

JPMorgan spokesmen declined to comment.

The loss has led to renewed calls for tougher bank regulation from lawmakers and Obama administration officials.

Paper Clips

• U.S. service companies, which employ roughly 90 percent of the workforce, expanded at a slightly faster pace in May, marking the 29th straight month of expansion. The Institute for Supply Management says that its index of nonmanufacturing activity edged up to 53.7 last month from an April reading of 53.5.

• Timothy Mayopoulos, the general counsel of Fannie Mae, will be the next CEO of the government-controlled mortgage giant.

• Kia Motors America is recalling nearly 73,000 Rio small cars to fix a problem with the front-passenger air bag.

• Johnson & Johnson plans to stop selling surgical mesh implants used to treat women’s health problems, which have been linked to injuries and have triggered hundreds of lawsuits.

• Food company Sara Lee Corp., which is splitting into two businesses later this month, is naming its North America company Hillshire Brands Co.

• Google has bought Quickoffice, the maker of a widely used mobile application for working on documents created in Microsoft’s programs for word processing, spreadsheets and presentations.

• Shares of Qantas Airways plummeted to an all-time low after the Australian flagship carrier forecast a drop of up to 91 percent in full-year profit.


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