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Hecla Mining Company agrees to pay $85,000 for federal Clean Water Act and hazardous waste violations

Release Date: 12/04/2008
Contact Information: Suzanne Powers, EPA CERCLA Program, (360) 753-9475, powers.suzanne@epa.gov; Robert Grandinetti, EPA Compliance Officer, (509) 376-3748, grandinetti.robert@epa.gov; Tony Brown, EPA Public Affairs, (206) 553-1203, brown.anthony@epa.gov

Company will also provide over $17,000 in emergency response equipment for Shoshone County Fire District #3 as part of latest settlement

(Coeur d’Alene, Idaho – December 4, 2008) The Hecla Mining Company, owner and operator of the “Lucky Friday” Mine and Mill in Idaho’s northern panhandle, has agreed to pay $85,000 and provide more than $17,000 in cash and emergency equipment as part of it’s latest legal settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The deal is outlined in a Consent Agreement and Final Order (CAFO) that resolves the Company’s alleged Clean Water Act and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) violations.

Today’s settlement involves actions related to a spill at Hecla’s lead and zinc mine complex located near Mullan, Idaho on November 3, 2006. On that day, approximately 22,500 gallons of mine tailings spilled at the facility, with an estimated 898 gallons of liquid mill tailings and 191 pounds of solids entering the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River.

According to EPA officials, Hecla failed to immediately report the spill – as required by law - to the National Response Center.

"The health and safety of workers, responders and our communities depend on prompt spill reporting," said Mike Bussell, Director of EPA’s Office of Compliance & Enforcement in Seattle. "Effective spill response begins with timely notification, which allows local, state or federal responders to take action and reduce risks to public safety and the environment.”

Further, EPA inspections on June 6, 2006, and November 16, 2006, revealed that Hecla failed to adequately maintain on-site storm water controls and had experienced discharges from its outfalls that exceeded its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit limits. This information was supported by Hecla’s own (self-reported) record-keeping.

“Discharge permitting protects our nation’s waters,” said EPA’s Bussell. “Facilities must abide by their permits and ensure our waters remain healthy for the enjoyment and use of future generations. If they don’t, they will pay a penalty”

In addition to the penalty payment, Hecla will also perform a Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP), providing over $17,000 in emergency response equipment for the Shoshone County Fire District #3. This equipment will expand the Department’s ability to respond to wildfires. This equipment will allow firefighters to be able to draft water from remote locations such as creeks and ponds.

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