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Hecla completes remediation work at Troy mine

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | November 21, 2020 12:00 AM

Four years into their restoration of the Troy Mine, Hecla Mining Company officials say they have reached a crucial milestone.

The company has completed remediation efforts at the mine’s tailing storage facility, according to Nick Raines, environmental coordinator for Hecla. As a result, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality is set to release a third — or $7,959,340 — of the reclamation bond they hold on the site.

Public comment on the release of the bond is open until Nov. 24.

The tailings, or waste material produced by mining operations, stored at the facility are primarily fine powdered quartz, or sand. Thanks to the geology of the Troy Mine site, Raines said the company has not had to deal with environmental hazards like acid drainage that have plagued many former mine sites.

Following a reclamation plan developed by DEQ officials, Hecla has placed over 500,000 cubic yards of soil, planted more than 200,000 seedlings and seeded over 350 acres of the site since 2017.

To revegetate the tailings site, Hecla partnered with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Raines said the seedlings that the company planted at the former storage facility were nurtured in a tribal nursery. Hecla restored the area with plants ranging from snowberry and alder to white pine and ponderosa, according to Raines.

“The reclamation goal is to turn [the site] back to priming conditions just like the forest in that area,” he said.

The coming years, Raines said Hecla officials will focus remediation work on the former mill facility. While company officials had hoped to move forward with demolition efforts this year, the project timeline was delayed due to the coronavirus.

“We didn’t feel like we should bring in contractors from out of town at the time,” Raines said.

The company is currently working with DEQ on finalizing a schedule for remediation of the mill site. Though he was unsure of when the project would be completed, Raines expected work to continue for several years.

Once Hecla finishes its remediation of the Troy Mine, the company will continue to monitor the site for at least 20 years from now. Crews will track the revegetation of the tailings facility twice a year and the company will keep up long term water management programs.

Following more than 30 years of operation, the Troy Mine formally closed in 2015 shortly after Hecla purchased Revett Mining Company, the previous owner. Between 2004, when the mine ramped up to full production, and 2012, when it closed due to seismic activity, miners extracted more than eight million ounces of silver and 70 million pounds of copper. At its peak, Revett employed nearly 200 people.