Hecla named pollution prevention champion

Lucky Friday Mine workers. Source: Hecla Mining Corp.

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Hecla Mining Company [HL-NYSE] was recently recognized by The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality as a 2019 Pollution Prevention Champion. It won the award for reducing waste pollution at its Lucky Friday Mine.

Lucky Friday is a deep underground silver, lead and zinc mine located in the Coeur d’Alene Mining District in northern Idaho. The mine began operating in 1942 and celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2017. Due to the implementation of the #4 Shaft project, which is now complete and operational, the mine is expected to have another 20-30 years of mine life.

In 2018, the mine produced 169,041 ounces of silver. The union members at Lucky Friday have been on strike since March, 2017. The union is negotiating for higher wages and better working conditions.  In 2019, limited silver and lead production is being performed by salaried staff.

“The upgrades, process modifications, and recycling projects that have been implemented at Hecla’s Lucky Friday mine have resulted in significant reductions in waste, water and energy used by the mine for the production of silver, zinc and lead,” said Ben Jarvis, a pollution prevention co-ordinator with the DEQ. “With growing demand for these metals, eliminating waste and pollution from production is more important than ever,” he said.

Pollution prevention includes any technique that reduces or eliminates the generation of pollution, the DEQ said in a press release. In contrast to most pollution control strategies that manage a pollutant’s effect on the environment after it has been generated, pollution prevention seeks to eliminate or minimized the amount of wastes and pollutants before they are generated.

To qualify for pollution prevention recognition, Hecla Mining submitted an application demonstrating how they incorporated pollution prevention into daily operations by reducing raw materials or toxic materials purchased, hazardous or solid waste generated, water, energy or fuel used, or air pollutants emitted.

“One of the driving features behind waste reduction at the mine is the implementation of an Environmental Management System that focuses significantly on risk reduction,” Jarvis said. “This policy has allowed the company to systematically identify and eliminate environmental hazards and the wastes associated with them, resulting in significant reduction in pollution,” he said.

The mine’s pollution reduction successes include process modifications that have reduced water use by over 125 million gallons annually, wastewater treatment, plant upgrades that have reduced lead and zinc concentrations in effluent by 96.5% and 97.5% respectively, and waste management programs that recycled 4,200 gallons of used oil, 2,572 pounds of lead-acid batteries 55 gallons of antifreeze, and 56,960 pounds of scrap iron/steel in 2018.

The mine has also purchased over 21 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy for its electricity needs, and implemented a biodiesel purchasing program to cover its fuel needs, totalling 168,095 gallons in 2018.

Hecla Mining is a leading U.S. silver producer with operating mines in Alaska, Idaho, and Mexico. It also has gold mines in Quebec and Nevada. They include three high-grade gold mines in Nevada, which the company added to its portfolio through the US$462 million acquisition last year of Klondex Mines Ltd.

They included the Fire Creek Mine, the Midas Mine and ore facility, plus the Hollister Mine,

The Klondex assets are largely high-grade, narrow vein deposits operated as underground mines that fit well with Hecla’s underground experience and expertise located close by in Idaho, the company said.

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