Founded by Amasa Campbell, Patsy Clark and John Finch, Hecla Mining Company is incorporated in the state of Idaho on October 14, 1891. Over the years, Hecla becomes a leading domestic producer of silver and lead, and, more recently, a major supplier of gold and industrial minerals.
Hecla Mining Company is incorporated in Washington State on July 12, 1898. Amasa B. Campbell is voted president. Capitalized for one million shares with a par value of 25¢, Hecla’s stock rises within three months to 45¢ per share. Hecla’s management begins to buy up the claims adjacent to the Hecla lead mine, and Campbell exults, “The Hecla is developing into a wonderful mine.”
On July 5, 1900, just as Amasa Campbell had forecast, Hecla pays its first dividend of 2¢ per share. By the end of the year, Hecla sells $229,550 worth of ore and pays $100,000 in dividends.
James F. McCarthy takes over Hecla's daily operations in 1903 and James R. Smith is voted president. Just 36 years old, McCarthy becomes the heart and soul of Hecla over the next 38 years.
Hecla transfers its records from the offices of Finch and Campbell in Spokane, Washington, to Wallace, Idaho – where it would stay for more than 80 years – on October 14, 1904.
Frank Upman is named president in 1908.
General manager James F. McCarthy is voted in as president in 1911, the first time the office is not held by one of Hecla's major shareholders.
Hecla stock begins trading on the New York Curb Exchange – later the American Stock Exchange – on September 23, 1915. With the listing, Hecla begins printing an annual report, which previously had been a typewritten statement from James McCarthy's handwritten draft.
Hecla's last dozen mules – from a much larger team once used underground to haul ore cars and supplies – are retired, thanks to the availability of electrical power.
Fire sweeps through Burke, Idaho on July 13, 1923 – a Friday – destroying the Hecla mine buildings, damaging the hoist, and decimating the Burke business district along with 50 homes. Miraculously, no one is injured: men working underground as far down as the 1600 level are hoisted out of the mine before flames cut off the electricity. The rest climb hand-over-hand 2,000 feet to the surface.
The 1923 Burke fire puts Hecla out of commission five months and 18 days; ore is hoisted again on January 27, 1924. The new Hecla plant, fireproof and twice as large as the old one, processes ore from both the Hecla and Star mines. An 8,203-foot crosscut from the bottom of the Hecla shaft to the 4000 level of the Star mine is completed after 32 months of round-the-clock digging at a pace of 300 feet per month. The longest tunnel in the world at the time, the venture costs $531,887.
Hecla acquires the Polaris in 1930. Staked in 1884, it’s one of the oldest claims in the district. Though some are initially skeptical of Hecla’s first real silver venture, a spectacular ore intercept of 24% lead and 125 ounces of silver per ton is discovered in 1944. The Polaris pays Hecla’s dividends through the rest of the 1940s.
With lead at its lowest price since 1914 and silver lower than anyone can remember, the 1932 annual report of the Idaho state mine inspector notes that the year was “the leanest…in 40 years.” Net operating profits from the Coeur d’Alene District’s mines plummet to $437,013 from $4.2 million just two years earlier.
While Hecla uses the lean Depression years to look for new mines and to develop those it owns within its means, a reviving market in 1935 enables the company to reopen the Star mine in October.
The metals market continues its erratic behavior toward the end of the decade, causing investors to dump shares. And by 1938, 18.85 percent of Hecla’s profits are claimed by state and federal governments as taxes. Only 50 to 60 percent of the lead output is being sold, while the zinc plant holds 7,700 tons unsold.
Lewis E. Hanley is named president in 1940.
After four decades of production, the last tonnage is hoisted from the original Hecla shaft in 1944. Bottoming out at 3,600 feet, the company’s namesake yields more than nine million tons of ore during its lifetime.
In 1945, using a clamshell muckraking machine, Hecla-Polaris crews began driving down the Silver Summit shaft, their intent to explore deeper in the silver belt. They sank 1,596 feet in eleven months and eight days (averaging 160 feet a month) —said to be a record speed.
In 1946, Hecla acquires 131 claims and takes options on others in the Rock Creek drainage southwest of Wallace. The Wallace Miner calls it “one of the biggest deals in recent years.” But by the end of the decade, Hecla sinks more than $408,000 into the project — with no commercial ore present. The property is sold five years later at a loss.
Archibald Witherspoon is voted in as president in early 1951; Lester J. Randall follows in December.
Hecla signs a deal in 1954 to acquire an interest in the rich Radon and Hot Rock uranium deposits in Utah. Over a nine-year life, the two mines yield a net income of $9.3 million.
On December 12, 1958, Hecla purchases 184,000 shares in the Lucky Friday Silver-Lead Mines Company, and with an additional acquisition of 644,058 shares becomes the largest shareholder in the Lucky Friday silver-lead mine in Mullan, Idaho. The mine still operates today. “None of us ever dreamed,” Hecla President Les Randall later reflects, “that it would become the great mine it is.”
A merger between Hecla and Lucky Friday Silver-Lead Mines Company is consummated April 1, 1964. After 49 years on the American Stock Exchange, Hecla is listed on the prestigious New York Stock Exchange.
William H. Love is named president in 1966. ASARCO sells the Morning mine (adjacent to the Star mine in Burke, Idaho) to Hecla for $750,000. Hecla immediately begins sinking a shaft to mine the deep regions of the Star mine. Shut down in 1982, the Star eventually reaches a depth of 8,100 feet – the deepest mine in North America.
In 1967, Hecla makes what becomes the most costly move in its history: an agreement to develop the Lakeshore copper mine in Arizona in 1967. By 1977, with falling copper prices, 1,500 employees are let go at Lakeshore and the mine is closed. Lakeshore costs Hecla $96 million.
The Hunt brothers' move to corner the silver market in 1979 drives the price to over $50 per ounce. As a result, Hecla's stock price shoots up from $5.25 in January of 1979 to a high of $53.50 12 months later, making it the year's best performer on the New York Stock Exchange. The huge upsurge in price enables Hecla to get out of the debt caused by the Lakeshore venture within 18 months.
Also in 1979, William A. Griffith is named president, and work begins on the Lucky Friday Silver Shaft – a 6,200-foot-deep, concrete-lined, circular shaft. It's the first of its type in the Coeur d'Alene Mining District, with a hoisting speed of 2,250 feet per minute. The Silver Shaft is completed in 1984.
In 1981, Hecla turns to gold mining with the merger of Day Mines, Inc. into Hecla. After the merger, operations begin on the rich Republic gold mine, located in northeast Washington State.
The Star mine – the deepest in North America at 8,100 feet – is shut down in 1982.
To take advantage of Delaware's comprehensive and modern corporation laws, Hecla reincorporates as the new Hecla Mining Company of Delaware in 1983.
More growth for Hecla comes in 1984 in the form of a merger with Ranchers Exploration and Development Corporation, owned by the flamboyant Maxie Anderson. This brings Hecla into the industrial minerals business and launches the company into ball clay and volcanic scoria mining. On July 10, Hecla president Bill Griffith announces the company's intentions to move its headquarters from Wallace, where it had been since 1904, to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. 1984 also marks the discovery of the Golden Promise vein at the Republic gold mine.
On May 9, 1986, the day of the dedication of Hecla's new headquarters, Arthur Brown is named president and chief operating officer. He takes over the reins of the company as chairman and chief executive officer three weeks later, upon Bill Griffith's retirement.
In 1987, Hecla purchases a 29.73% interest in the massive Greens Creek silver-gold-zinc-lead mine on Admiralty Island near Juneau, Alaska. Construction of the mine is a testament to the mining industry's ability to minimize its impact on the environment.
The industrial minerals segment of Hecla's business expands in 1989 with the acquisition of the kaolin division of Cyprus Minerals; and, in 1990, one feldspar processing plant and two mines are added to the company.
Hecla celebrates 100 years of mineral production in 1991 – and completes a merger with CoCa Mines, Inc., which brings with it the undeveloped Grouse Creek gold property in central Idaho. Idaho governor Cecil Andrus honors Hecla with the state’s top award for mining reclamation for work completed at the Yellow Pine unit in central Idaho.
Hecla’s board of directors approves the purchase and development of the La Choya gold property in Sonora, Mexico in 1992. The purchase marks the company’s first move into the Mexican mining industry. After nearly 100,000 ounces of gold production and four years of operations, Hecla’s Yellow Pine unit is closed.
In 1993, Hecla issues 2.3 million shares of Series B Cumulative Convertible Preferred stock, raising $100 million to be used to develop the La Choya and Grouse Creek properties. Hecla receives Idaho’s top environmental award for “Excellence in Annual Operations of Large Hard Rock Mines,” presented for reclamation work at the Yellow Pine unit.
Hecla begins operations at the La Choya gold mine, the company’s first operation in Mexico in 1994. The open-pit, heap leach mine in the state of Sonora is the largest gold mine in Mexico at the time (as measured by tons of ore mined per day). Hecla completes the acquisition of Equinox Resources Ltd., which brings with it the Rosebud gold property in Nevada. Kentucky-Tennessee Clay Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hecla, opens its first foreign clay processing plant in Monterrey, Mexico. Hecla’s Lucky Friday unit celebrates mining its 100 millionth ounce of silver. A decision is made to proceed with underground development of the Gold Hunter expansion area about a mile northwest of the existing Lucky Friday workings. And, on December 20, the first gold pour takes place at the Grouse Creek property.
Hecla Mining Company is awarded two of Idaho’s top reclamation awards in 1994, based on performance at the company’s Grouse Creek property. In October, Hecla reports disappointing results at the Grouse Creek mine because of lower-than-anticipated gold grades. A reevaluation of ore reserves commences.
In 1996, Hecla announces that mining will continue at the Grouse Creek property for one more year while the Sunbeam deposit is mined out.
The Rosebud gold mine in Nevada successfully begins commercial production in 1997. The underground, high-grade gold operation is a 50/50 joint venture between Hecla and Santa Fe Pacific Gold Corporation (later to become part of Newmont). Hecla’s board of directors approves final development plans to double silver production at the Lucky Friday mine in northern Idaho by expanding into the area known as the Gold Hunter expansion area. In April, mining is suspended at the Grouse Creek property, and the facility is mothballed.
In 1998, Lucky Friday begins production out of the new expansion area and doubles annual production to 4.1 million ounces of silver. The La Choya gold reserves are mined out in December after five years of operation at the northern Mexico mine.
Hecla Mining Company acquires the assets of Monarch Resources Limited in 1999, bringing the La Camorra gold mine in Venezuela and Mexico’s Saladillo silver / gold exploration property into the Hecla fold.
After four years of operation and a total production of about 375,000 ounces of gold, the Rosebud gold mine in Nevada is mined out and closed down in 2000.
In 2001, Hecla completes the sale of its industrial minerals operations, K-T Group, which includes Kentucky-Tennessee Clay Company, K-T Feldspar, and K-T Mexico. Hecla's board of directors appoints Phillips S. Baker, Jr. president; Arthur Brown remains CEO and chairman of the board.
Hecla is the best percentage performer on the New York Stock Exchange in 2002 – the second time in the company's history. Hecla produces the most gold (240,000 ounces) and silver (8.7 million ounces) ever.
In 2003, Arthur Brown steps down as CEO of Hecla after 36 years with the company. He retains his position as chairman of the board. Phillips S. Baker, Jr., is appointed CEO.
In October 2004, Hecla celebrates 40 years of listing on the NYSE. Incorporated in 1891, Hecla is the oldest precious metals company in North America.
In 2005, after four years of operation and a total production of about 11.2 million ounces of silver and 155,937 ounces of gold, the San Sebastian mine in Mexico is mined out and closed down. Hecla continues exploration on its San Sebastian property (approximately 325 square miles).
In 2006, Hecla reports the highest earnings and the lowest reported cash cost for silver in its 116-year history – and increases silver reserves and resources by 25%. Arthur Brown retires after serving 23 years as a director; Ted Crumley, director since 1995, is appointed chairman of the board.
In March 2007, Hecla Mining Company's market capitalization reaches $1 billion. Hecla begins the Silver Valley exploration project and starts digitizing over 100 years of historical geological data, maps, etc.
In 2008, Hecla Mining Company completes the transaction to acquire Rio Tinto subsidiaries which held a 70.27% interest in the Greens Creek silver mine and joint venture located near Juneau, Alaska. (Hecla had held a 29.73% interest in Greens Creek from 1987 – 2008.) As a result of the transaction, Hecla subsidiaries now hold 100% of the Greens Creek joint venture. Hecla completes the transaction to sell its subsidiaries engaged in mining and exploring for gold in Venezuela to Rusoro Mining Ltd.
For the year 2009, Hecla reports record silver production of 10.9 million ounces and a record cash flow from operating activities of $115 million for the year.
In 2010, Hecla reports the highest annual revenue ($418.8 million) and operating cash flow ($197.8 million) in the company’s history.
Lucky Friday mine in Mullan, Idaho, which began operating in 1942, produced its ten millionth ton of ore in 2010.
Hecla achieved its highest level of silver reserves and resources in the company’s history in 2010 with 142 million ounces and 248 million ounces, respectively.
In August 2011, Hecla received final approval from its Board of Directors for completion of the #4 Shaft Project at the Lucky Friday mine.
In September 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho approved and entered Hecla’s Consent Decree, which resolved all claims of the United States, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, and the State of Idaho against Hecla Limited for historic environmental liability in the Coeur d’Alene Basin Superfund Site.
In December 2011, Hecla Mining Company completes the transaction to acquire the remaining 30% interest in the San Juan Silver project at Creede, Colorado. As a result of the transaction, Hecla's wholly owned subsidiary, Rio Grande Silver, Inc., now hold 100% of the San Juan Silver project.
In 2011, Hecla reports record annual revenue ($477.6 million); the highest in the company's history surpassing 2010 annual revenue ($418.8 million).
In 2011, for the 6th consecutive year, Hecla increased its silver reserves and resources to 148 million ounces and 281 million ounces, respectively, setting a record in both categories.