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Mining in the U.S. is going to get 'significantly better' - Hecla Mining

Kitco News

A switch in the way Hecla Mining operates its Good Friday Mine is substantially growing production, said CEO Phillips S. Baker.

In June Baker spoke to Kitco at the Mining Investment Event of the North in Quebec City.

Hecla (NYSE:HL) is the top U.S. silver producer, generating 40% of all the silver produced in the U.S. Last year the company produced 12.9 million silver ounces and 201,327 gold ounces. Sales were $807.5 million with net income of $35.1 million.

Baker said a top achievement was implementing a new mining method at Good Friday, the underhand closed bench (UCB) mining method , which contributed to the 75% increase in silver production and showed improvements in managing seismicity.

"Lucky Friday's been operational 80 years, and you would think there wouldn't be anything new that you could do, but we've actually developed in the last two years a new mining method," said Baker.

"This mine is two miles below the surface, and as a result of that the biggest issue that you have is seismicity. We were only able to mine 75% of the time the other 25% of the time that the mine had to be shut down. Stopes had to be shut down. Well, we're now going to be able to operate and have been operating for the last two years 100% of the time with this new mining method method. It's safer and more productive," said Baker estimating that the mine will be up to 6 million ounces of production mid-decade compared to 3.5 million ounces produced last year.

Baker was asked if the U.S. is hard place to mine with regulators holding up Hudbay's Rosemont and Trilogy Metals' Ambler road access.

"It is a difficult place to operate, but once you're operating, it's very, very stable," said Baker. "You know what the rules of the road are. However I think it's actually going to get better—significantly better—because there's finally a recognition that if we're going to decarbonize, we're not going to rely upon countries that are not necessarily allies of the United States. We have to mine here."

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