A Lincoln County copper and silver mine will remain closed for at least another year following another setback.
Revett Minerals announced this week that the Troy Mine would stay closed until the end of 2014 as a new haulage route is built to the copper and silver ore body.
Underground rockslides closed the mine nearly a year ago, but officials were hopeful that production could resume this year. Recent inspections revealed that the current Lower Quartzite haulage route was unstable and unsafe, according to the company.
Revett President and CEO John Shanahan brushed off concerns that this latest delay could spell the end for the mine that opened in 1981, saying the company remains dedicated to reopening it.
“If we weren’t dedicated to opening the Troy Mine, there would be an easy option; we’d shut it down,” he said. “But we’re not going to do that. Out commitment has never charged.”
As recently as early September, company officials were optimistic that the mine would produce copper and silver ore by the end of the year. Miners found that the “D-drive,” a tunnel that reaches the ore, was structurally stable and would be safe to work in. However this month, as the company continued to dewater the tunnel, miners found more evidence of ground movement. Last week, Revett decided the tunnel was unsafe.
“I was hopeful that we could bring back people this fall, but that’s not going to happen,” Shanahan said. “We’re not going to budge on safety standards. We’re not going to budge at all.”
The mining company plans to spend $12 million and another 12 months building an entirely new access drive to the ore, Shanahan said. The new tunnel will split off less than a mile from the surface and would have the mine back in production during the forth quarter of 2014.
It will take another six months after that to get into full production, sometime in 2015. The company says it has the money to build the new haulage route and that it will continue to trim expenses in the coming weeks and months.
A year ago, when the mine was still running, it employed more than 200 people, but today only about 65 are still working. Shanahan said a few more workers would be let go in the coming days, but most will be kept to continue maintaining the crusher and processing plant.
The news of the delay sent Revett’s stock plummeting to its lowest level ever. On Oct. 15, its stock closed at $1.17, but on Oct. 18 it was worth 61 cents. A year ago, the stock was worth $3.43.
Lincoln County Commissioner Tony Berget said the announcement was another blow to Lincoln County’s fragile economy. In August, Lincoln County’s unemployment rate was 12.1 percent.
“It’s devastating to hear. We’d love to have people back to work there,” Berget said. “It seems every time we take a step forward, we take two steps back.”
But Troy Mayor Anthony Brown was more optimistic about the situation.
“They’re going to make it work,” he said. “They have some good people up there.”
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