MISSOULA — The future owners of the Troy Mine confirmed its closure Monday, while committing to move forward on the nearby Rock Creek Mine in northwest Montana.
“We don’t want to give people unreasonable expectations,” Hecla Mining Co. vice president Luke Russell said during a visit to Missoula. “We are moving into the final reclamation phase. We considered the care-and-maintenance or reopening options, and neither was economically viable.”
Hecla announced it was acquiring Revett Mining Co.’s Troy Mine and its Rock Creek Mine last month in a $20 million merger. The deal is expected to close in midyear. Hecla is one of the 10 largest copper and silver mining companies in the United States.
Revett Mining Co. CEO and President John Shanahan said if metal prices had allowed the Troy Mine to remain profitable, it could have completed the permitting process for Rock Creek.
The mine needs prices of better than $20 an ounce for silver and $3 a pound for copper to be economical, Shanahan said.
The Troy Mine produced 159,121 pounds of copper and 27,053 ounces of silver since last November. It has an estimated 12 years worth of ore to mine in its deposits.
But Shanahan described it as a “marginal” deposit, with a profitability level that made it sensitive to low prices.
“If Revett were still operating the Troy Mine, you could do it,” Shanahan said. “Without Troy, it becomes far more difficult.”
Hecla intends to take on Revett’s $12.9 million reclamation bond and its existing plans for restoring the mine, Russell said.
Assuming the latest reclamation plan is accepted by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the company will cover about 350 acres of tailings with new vegetation and develop a system for treating contaminated mine water. It also will remove remaining surface mine buildings and facilities, and reclaim several roads on its roughly 1,150-acre property.
The Rock Creek Mine is expected to have its supplemental environmental impact statement for further exploratory shaft work done in mid-2015. The mine site is located between the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness and the proposed Scotchman Peaks wilderness area.
Some environmental groups in the region have challenged the Rock Creek proposal in court, arguing it could hurt water supplies for threatened bull trout and grizzly bears. However, other wilderness advocates have praised Revett’s track record of cooperation with environmental concerns.