Hecla representatives meet with community about progress, future plans

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Representatives of Hecla Mining recently visited with local leaders and residents to discuss the future.

“They have a long history of being engaged in communities for a long time,” Bruce Vincent, president of Environomics, told faculty at a visit to Libby High School Jan. 23.

“Their projects run decades, and they understand the community responsibility, and they understand the importance of our schools in their communities,” he said.

As with a visit earlier that day with the Lincoln County Commissioners, Vincent, Luke Russell — vice president of External Affairs for Hecla — and Doug Stiles — manager of Montana Operations — spoke about current plans for Montanore, Troy and Rock Creek mines.

“We’re still pushing forward. That’s the key message we wanted to leave you with,” Russell said.

Stiles said that the U.S. Forest Service had authorized the first, exploratory phase at Rock Creek and Montanore.

“The goal there really is to get underground, get some more information around the rock mechanics, the ore body itself, the groundwater,” he said.

That exploration is necessary in order to be able to begin designing the mine, he said.

Stiles said the Rock Creek first phase should take three-to-four years and involve 30-to-40 workers. But first Hecla will have to update the plan to match the decision made by the Forest Service.

The Montanore mine is at a similar place, but just further back along the timeline than Rock Creek, he said.

“We were hoping to get that permitting work completed by the end of this year for Montanore,” he said. However, he said they were unsure how the federal shutdown might impact the timeline.

At the Troy mine, Hecla is hoping to complete reclamation work at the tailings facility this summer, Stiles said.

Following the reclamation plan at Troy, Hecla is putting eight-to-10 inches of cover soil followed by six-to-eight inches of topsoil, he said. Around 70 acres still need topsoil, with re-vegetation to follow.

There will also be stormwater management to get the porject “buttoned up,” he said.

Stiles said that the company is hoping to finish planning during the winter months and get the work at the Troy mine finished during the next construction season.

Over the next several years, Hecla will work on the design for the mine site reclamation, which they will take on after the tailings reclamation is completed.

At the high school, Russell responded to questions regarding the suit pending by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality regarding accusations that Hecla is in violation of the bad actor provision in state law.

“We should know in the next week or two what the schedule is,” he said.

Russell said that the company hopes to have the suit resolved within the year. However, he also noted that the suit is not preventing Hecla from moving forward with permitting currently.

However, while Hecla is still trying to get things lined up and ready to go, the lawsuit may discourage them from investing “millions of dollars” beyond the permitting until they know the suit is resolved, he said.

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