Commodities Buzz: Hecla Mining sues Montana after told to clean up before starting new projects

Silver producer Hecla Mining is taking Montana environmental regulators to court for labelling the company and its top executive as "bad actors," while giving them 30 days to iron out a complaint that accuses them of violating the states mine clean-up laws. The Montana Department of Environmental (DEQ) notice to the company, which could require it to pay up to $ 30 million, focuses on some old operations in Central Montana. However, the consequences of this impasse with the states authorities could affect Heclas plans to build two new mines.

The Coeur dAlene, Idaho-based firm is pursuing development of two large silver and copper mines in northwest Montana, which would employ about 300 workers each. They would be constructed beneath the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, an area of remote, glaciated peaks and valleys that take their name from the areas box-like rock formations. Hecla could resume mining once it proves that Baker will not be involved in mining or exploration in the state. Hecla vice president for external affairs, Luke Russell, said the company had no direct relation with Pegasus. Two Hecla subsidiaries, not Baker, were the applicants for the Montana projects, he said.