Hecla Mining reported on February 18, 2013, that its Lucky Friday mine in northern Idaho’s Silver Valley has resumed operations and is expected to produce approximately 2 million oz of silver in 2013. Lucky Friday had been shut down since January 2012, when the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) ordered the Silver Shaft at the mine closed for removal of built-up material in the shaft.

“Hecla is pleased to report that with rehabilitation work complete on the Silver Shaft at the Lucky Friday mine, and with necessary clearance from MSHA, the mine has resumed operations, with initial production of silver concentrates expected in February,” Hecla president and CEO Phillips S. Baker Jr. said. “Production levels are expected to ramp up during the first half of the year, and we expect to reach normal production levels by mid-year.

“The 12 months of down time at Lucky Friday allowed work crews to improve many aspects of the mine’s operations. Besides cleaning and improving the efficiency of the main Silver Shaft, we upgraded mining methods; conducted supplementary training; hired additional safety experts, mine management, and engineering staff; and purchased $2.3 million in new equipment, including mechanized rock bolters, which will be used to implement new ground control measures.”

Hecla has recalled all employees necessary for Lucky Friday to reach full production. All employees, both returning and new, have received supplemental safety training, with enhanced procedures for risk assessment and accident prevention designed to improve existing safework practices.

Work crews have completed a bypass drift at the 5,900-ft level, around an area impacted by a rock burst in December 2011. Ground support has been upgraded for over 7.5 miles of underground workings.

Hecla has spent a total of $29.8 million on the rehabilitation of the Silver Shaft and an additional $26.2 million on other Lucky Friday capital projects unrelated to the shaft renovation.

Crews have resumed work on the Lucky Friday No.4 Shaft project, designed to access extensions to reserves, resources, and additional exploration targets, with a goal to increase annual silver production from the mine to approximately 5 million oz. To date, $90 million has been invested on the estimated $200-million project, with completion estimated in early 2016.