Hecla grabs Montana silver-copper deposit through $20 million merger

Hecla Mining (NYSE:HL) has expanded its operations in the western United States with the purchase on Friday of Revett Minerals (TSX:RVM) in an all-stock deal worth $20 million.

Hecla, the largest silver producer in the United States with the Greens Creek project in Alaska, the Lucky Friday Mine in Idaho and the Casa Berardi gold mine in Quebec, entered into a merger agreement with Revett, whereby each Revett common share will be exchanged for 0.1622 of a Hecla common share, the companies announced in a press release. The deal represents a 32 percent premium on Revett's 20-day volume-weighted average price up to March 25, 2015.

Revett investors approved of the arrangement, bidding up the stock price 10.91 percent to close at 61 cents a share on the Toronto main board on Friday. The Spokane Valley, WA-based company has a current market capitalization of 21.6 million.

Silver producers are clearly eyeing assets that can be purchased for attractive prices during the present down-cycle in precious metals. Silver on Friday closed at $16.97 an ounce on the spot market while gold ended the day at $1,198.40.

In Hecla's case, the prize is the Rock Creek project in northwestern Montana, which according to the companies, "is considered one of the largest undeveloped silver and copper deposits in North America." The project about 50 miles north of Hecla's Lucky Friday mine in Idaho has 22 million ounces of inferred silver resources and 2 billion pounds of copper.

"We are acquiring Revett with an eye to the future, as Rock Creek is a world-class silvercopper deposit that we see becoming another Greens Creek,” said Phillips S. Baker, Jr., Hecla’s President and CEO. “Our experience of Greens Creek operating in a National Monument in Alaska since 1997 will be invaluable as we take a patient and persistent approach to permitting and then responsibly operating the Rock Creek Mine."

Acknowledging the potential environmental concerns in developing the mine, Revett says on its website that it will use proven water-treatment technologies including primary sedimentation removal, a membrane bioreactor and a final-stage ion exchange polishing process for the treated effluent. It also plans to purchase 2,450 acres of grizzly bear habitat to be protected from future development and managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Hecla said market conditions do not allow it to restart Revett's other property, the Troy mine, which was placed on care and maintenance in January. The past-producing mine resumed working in 2004 and produced 8.4 million ounces of silver and 69.5 million pounds of copper, before operations were suspended in 2012 due to unstable ground conditions, Revett said.