Federal ineptitude will reduce US silver supply by over 3 million ounces of silver from the Hecla mine in 2012. This is approximately a month's worth of silver eagle sales!!
Just when was it that the United Snakes of America declared war on the Coeur d'Alene Mining District, and why?
Was it just last year, when the US EPA sweated a $200 million settlement out of Hecla Mining Co. for alleged “environmental damages” for having the temerity to mine silver, lead and zinc in the Silver Valley? (That amount, ironically, is about what Hecla intends to spend extending the life of the Lucky Friday by some 30 years.)
Or was it just last week, when the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration shuttered the Lucky Friday mine for up to a year on an utterly vacuous claim that is main vertical access way, the Silver Shaft, had miraculously become unsafe – overnight?
This is the same MSHA that inspects the shaft every three months, most recently a month ago. What changed in 30 days to render the Silver Shaft unserviceable? According to MSHA, 30 years' accumulation of crud leaking from sand lines that have built up along the mile-deep, 18-foot cylindrical shaft's concrete liner.
This is federal government arrogance at its height. It is brazen and it reeks of ass-covering. It is also ineptitude at its height, to the detriment of some 200 Hecla Mining Co. employees and a like number of Cementation Corp. contract workers who were at work sinking the new No. 4 Shaft internal winze. As of late last week, Hecla miners were barred by MSHA even from maintaining the critical pumps to keep water out of the lower workings of the Lucky Friday, where most of the machinery is. The 4 Shaft is collared on the 4,900-foot level and most of the current ore hauling was being done on the 5,900-level to the Silver Shaft.
Miners tell this reporter that scaling-off accumulations of sand-line leaks has been an ongoing maintenance procedure since the Silver Shaft – unique to a district where wood-lined, rectangular (and infinitely more maintenance-intensive) shafts are the norm – was commissioned in 1983. Hecla, treading lightly, says it doesn't consider the MSHA closure order politically motivated. We beg to differ. It is all about politics. In the wake of the April, 2011 death of drift-miner Pete Merek on the 5900-level, MSHA directed Hecla to re-route that heading into uncharted territory. Following MSHA's orders led to a pair of rock-bursts in November and December last year, the latter of which injured seven men.