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2010 Mining Explorers: Hecla Mining Co.

 

Last updated 10/31/2010 at Noon



HL: NYSE

President and CEO: Phillips Baker Jr.

Senior Vice President and General Counsel: David Sienko

Vice President, Exploration: Dean McDonald

The US$750 million purchase of Rio Tinto's 70.27 percent ownership stake in Greens Creek Mine near Juneau, Alaska, nearly proved to be the undoing of Hecla Mining Co. Instead, the audacious move catapulted Hecla to rank as the No. 1 silver producer in the United States.

Surviving the tumultuous financial markets and low metals prices of the latter half of 2008 and the first half of 2009, Hecla not only repaid US$380 million it borrowed to become sole owner of Greens Creek, the miner also positioned itself to take advantage of improved metals markets.

With its loans paid off, cash in the bank and strong results from both of its producing mines, the 119-year-old mining company boosted the 2010 exploration budget for its properties in Alaska, Idaho, Colorado and Mexico to US$20 million, around US$5 million of which was spent on surface and underground exploration at Greens Creek.

Underground drilling at Greens Creek in 2010 focused on refining and expanding the resource in the Northwest Zone and extending resources in the 200 South, 5250 South and Deep 200 South.

Definition and exploration drilling of the Northwest zone defined and extended two distinct limbs of a major folded orebody for more than 200 feet down dip.

The drills cut higher-than-expected grades of precious metals such as: 0.72 ounces per ton gold and 75.6 ounces per ton silver along with base metals over 2.6 feet.

Initial holes drilled into the 5250 zone cut a 1.3-meter intersection grading 37.6 ounces of silver per ton.

A 4.3-meter interval of massive sulfide along the southwestern extent of the 200 South Zone that further extends the resource.

The company also is developing an exploration drift called the 1147 to provide a staging platform for expanding the 5250 South and 200 South ore zones to the south.

The Northeast contact zone, which is related to the same sequence of rocks as the ore bodies currently being mined, is a priority exploration target at Greens Creek.

Hecla has both underground and surface drills seeking production grade ore in this new area the company believes will relinquish the next orebody for Greens Creek.

Though ore grade mineralization has yet to be discovered at the Northeast contact, underground drilling has intersected promising quantities of sulfide mineralization in this zone near the current development.

Drilling along the southern extent of this region at depth indicates that better mineralization lies above the tested sections, and this shallower region is a priority for this year's surface drill program.

At the Lucky Friday mine in Idaho, two underground drills continue to test potential to expand the resource.

Hecla estimates the deep development could boost annual silver production at the mine by as much as 5 million ounces, nearly a 60 percent increase over recent years.

In addition to near-mine exploration, Hecla is investigating district-scale targets in the vicinity of both of its operating mines.

The silver miner also has two drills turning at its San Juan joint venture property in Colorado and is continuing a systematic district-scale drill program at its more than 300-square-mile, or 777-square-kilometer, San Sebastian project in Mexico.

Cash and short-term deposits: US$197 million (at June 30, 2010)

Working capital: US$197 million (at June 30, 2010)

Market capitalization: US$1.5 billion (at Sept. 7, 2010)

6500 N. Mineral Drive, Suite 200 Coeur d'Alene, Idaho 83815

Tel: 208-769-4100 • Fax: 208-769-7612

http://www.hecla-mining.com

 

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