Troy Mine Caps Record Year

By Beacon Staff

Revett Minerals officials say exploration at the Troy Mine shows that copper and silver could be extracted from the site for at least the next seven years, and possibly even longer. The news came as the Spokane Valley, Wash.-based company announced record production and safety numbers for 2011.

President and CEO John Shanahan credited the almost 200 mine employees for making last year the best in the company’s history. In 2011, the mine processed 1.4 million tons of ore, made almost $30 million in net cash and employees worked 300,000 hours without a lost-time accident, significant progress following a fatal accident in 2007.

The mine first opened in 1981 with an expected 15-year lifespan. The mine was shuttered in 1993 until Revett decided to reopen it in 2005. At the time, the company expected to mine the site for another five years. But seven years later, Revett now expects to work the site even longer.

“It is really that willingness to reinvest in the Troy Mine that has led to the mine’s longevity,” he said, adding that higher mineral prices have made it more profitable to mine lower grade, and more abundant, ore.

The company is also working to develop the Rock Creek Mine in nearby Sanders County, south of the Troy Mine. It is anticipated that the Rock Creek Mine would employ almost 300 people and produce twice the amount of copper and silver than the Troy Mine. The proposal has met stiff resistance from environmentalists over the years and remains in limbo.

Chief Operating Officer Carson Rife said exploration has shown that there are more than 2 billion pounds of copper and 230 million ounces of silver at the Rock Creek site, enough to supply the company for 25 years. Rife said it would take five years for the company to fully evaluate and develop the site before obtaining a sellable product. Shanahan said the Rock Creek operation could produce 10,000 tons of ore everyday. Currently, the Troy Mine can produce up to 4,000 tons everyday.

Shanahan said one of the primary reasons the company has had so much success at the Troy site, and why it’s hopeful for the Rock Creek Mine, is because the Revett Formation provides some of the purest ore available.

“The Troy Mine is one of the cleanest sources of silver and copper in North America,” he said. “I like to say that this is a showcase of good environmentally responsible mining.”

On July 30, 2007, a miner was killed when part of the Troy Mine’s roof collapsed. A report conducted by the United States Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) stated that management failed to ensure that the ground above the mine was properly supported.

Shanahan said the company has worked hard to increase safety at the mine since and has established an employee lead safety committee.

“Mining, no matter what you do, is a dangerous occupation and we have to work hard to make sure that (a fatality) never happens again,” he said. “When we talk about what we do, safety comes before profit and production.”

Shanahan said the mine’s safety has improved since 2007. In 2011, the mine’s calculated incidence rate, how MSHA measures mine safety, was 0.68, while the national average was 2.21. Shanahan said the safety and production numbers from 2011 show that both the Troy Mine and Rock Creek Mine have a bright future that will only help the economically depressed area.

“What you’re seeing now is the fruits of our training,” he said. “We have the right personnel and the right resources.”