Mining Exec: “Bad Actor” Label is Bid to Delay Montana Mines

State regulators say Hecla could have to reimburse Montana more than $30 million before it proceeds with new mines

By Justin Franz
Wes “Skip” Leedy, Hecla Mining Company's reclamation and compliance manager at the Troy Mine, holds a handful of sand-like material on the reclamation field on June 13, 2017. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

BILLINGS — The head of an Idaho mining company says Montana officials appear to be trying to delay two mines proposed beneath a wilderness area, designating him a “bad actor” because of past pollution.

Hecla Mining President Phillips S. Baker, Jr. told The Associated Press Friday the designation was unwarranted during his first public interview since accusations last week that he violated state mining laws.

Baker is a former vice president for Pegasus Mining. Its bankruptcy left taxpayers on the hook for costly pollution cleanups including at the Zortman-Landusky gold mine.

State regulators say Hecla could have to reimburse Montana more than $30 million before it proceeds with new mines.

Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Jenifer Garcin says officials expect work on the mines to proceed once the company comes into compliance.

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