Hecla Mining and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced on Monday that the miner will pay a $600,000 penalty for water pollution violations near the headwaters of the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River caused by the Lucky Friday Mine.
The violations occurred between 2009 and 2014.
Hecla told the CDA Press it is settling with the EPA reluctantly.
“We don’t agree with the EPA on all of these allegations,” Luke Russell, vice president of external affairs for Hecla in Coeur d’Alene, said Monday following the announcement of the settlement. “But it’s in the best interests of the company to settle and move on.”
According to the EPA, Hecla’s tailings pond three was found seeping metals-laden water that discharged into Harris Creek. During construction of a tailings pond four, Hecla also failed to install adequate controls to ensure that storm water runoff was properly managed and soon turbid runoff destroyed a water intake at a downstream fish hatchery.
In both cases, the EPA charged that Hecla failed to properly report the event. In all, EPA inspections documented close to 500 combined (effluent limit, unpermitted, and reporting) violations.
“The last thing rivers like the South Fork Coeur d’Alene need are unpermitted discharges and permit violations,” said Ed Kowalski, Director of Compliance and Enforcement at EPA’s Seattle office.
“Compliance with wastewater discharge permits is critical to protecting Idaho’s waterways. By maintaining the integrity of its discharges and ponds, and reporting problems quickly, Hecla can help protect and restore the health of the South Fork and its tributaries.”