March 21, 2013 in Business

Hecla gets a pass on tougher oversight

CEO: Changes at mine satisfy federal agency
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Federal mine safety officials will not impose tighter enforcement on the Lucky Friday Mine in Shoshone County after Hecla Mining Co. demonstrated it has made safety improvements there.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration warned Hecla last November that the company might be issued a notice of a “potential pattern of violations of mandatory health or safety standards.” The agency said the company would be subject to enhanced enforcement unless it reduced the rate of “significant and substantial” violations at the Lucky Friday in Mullan, Idaho.

Separate accidents there in 2011 left two miners dead and seven workers briefly trapped 5,900 feet underground. Mining was halted in early 2012 and more than 200 employees and contractors were laid off in response to a federal order to rehabilitate the mine’s main shaft.

Because of that work and additional safety training for workers, the federal agency decided the violations notice is not required, Hecla President and CEO Phillips S. Baker Jr. said Wednesday.

Coeur d’Alene-based Hecla recently resumed operations at the Lucky Friday and said production levels are expected to ramp up to normal levels by midyear. The mine is expected to produce about 2 million ounces of silver this year and about 3 million ounces in 2014.

Returning and new employees are receiving supplemental safety training, and Hecla has enhanced its procedures to assess risk and prevent accidents, the company said. Also, ground support has been upgraded for more than eight miles of underground workings.

The mine is undergoing a $200 million expansion that will plunge to depths of 8,800 feet to reach richer silver deposits.


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