Company Says Safety Improvements At Lucky Friday Ahead of Schedule

May 9, 2012

Work crews are ahead of schedule on safety improvements at the north Idaho mine where two men died last year. That’s the update today from the Hecla Mining Company, which owns the troubled Lucky Friday Mine. The federally mandated improvements have taken a bite into Hecla’s profits.

Federal inspectors ordered Hecla to make a whole stack of safety improvements at its north Idaho silver mine. The biggest task is a top-to-bottom scrubbing of the mine’s main shaft. Inspectors found loose cement on the wall of this 6,000-foot conduit that takes ore and people in and out of the mine.

That brought silver production at the Lucky Friday to a halt and cost around 250 miners their jobs. Hecla’s newly released earnings report also shows the hit. First quarter revenues were down 33 percent.

On a conference call with investors, Hecla president Phil Baker said the mine will likely remain closed for the rest of the year.

“While we’re ahead of schedule, we are not projecting that we will continue to outpace the schedule that we have,” he says.

Several pension funds and individual investors who bought Hecla shares have filed lawsuits against the company. They allege Hecla knew it wasn’t in compliance with federal safety standards but failed to disclose the problems.