Hecla’s greatest resource is its people; their safety and health is our top priority. Management is responsible for ensuring a safe workplace by minimizing hazards, conducting routine training, providing appropriate personal protective equipment for specific work tasks, and acquiring safe equipment. Each property has its own challenges and solutions, but all have the same goal: to send employees and contractors home to their families safe and sound – every day. In addition to over 1,700 employees, more than one indirect job is created by each Hecla job, leading to over 3,300 workers in the local communities – all from our mining operations.
- Safety Policy
At Hecla, our dedication to safety and health is the basic value that underlines everything we do. We achieve success only if all of our employees, contractors, and visitors return from our properties safe and healthy. We will:
- continue to identify hazards and mitigate risks at our properties in order to achieve zero occupational injuries and illnesses
- take a proactive approach toward creating a safe work environment
- be accountable for promoting continued safety and health education and training for all employees
- create, maintain, and assign responsibility for the Safety and Health Management System
- review the Safety and Health Management System to identify potential areas of improvement
- ensure a thorough evaluation of all incidents
All employees and contractors should be familiar with and follow Hecla’s Safety and Health Policy guidelines. Adherence to safety and health practices and standards is a condition of employment and of contractor continuance. This policy and the Safety and Health Management System provide guidelines for responsibility, accountability, training, communication resources, engineering design, performance measurement, and sustainable improvement.
Greens Creek’s average annual salary, $122,800, is more than two times the average non-mining private sector salary in Juneau, Alaska’s capital. When operating, Lucky Friday wages were nearly triple the average annual wage in Shoshone County, Idaho. The nearly $22 million payroll supports 253 direct jobs for an annual average salary of $84,000. (The local average non-Hecla salary is just over $30,000.) The mine’s aggregate payroll is more than $50.9 million for 414 direct jobs. The Lucky Friday Mine is the only Hecla facility covered by a collective bargaining agreement and represents about 15% of the total Hecla work force. The local union (USW 5114) has been on strike since March 2017. The main unresolved issue is who assigns where, and with whom, employees will work (senior tenured miners or management) – what’s known as the Lucky Friday Bidding System. Lucky Friday has offered to the union the same bidding system as the nearby Galena and Stillwater mines, which are also represented by the same USW. The Galena workers have overwhelmingly accepted a recent collective bargaining agreement at that site.
In 2012, Hecla joined with the National Mining Association (NMA) as one of the participating companies in the new CORESafety mining program, a voluntary, scalable, mining-specific safety and health management system whose goal is to eliminate fatalities and reduce the rate of mining injuries by 50 percent nationwide over the next five years. In 2016, the NMA recognized Hecla as the first hardrock mining company to receive an independent certification under the CORESafety system. And in 2018, the Casa Berardi Mine was the the first international mine to receive certification under the CORESafety system. Company-wide, our All Injury Frequency Rate (AIFR) dropped 55% from 2012 to 2017. And Casa Berardi is operating at the lowest AIFR since Hecla acquired the mine.
Hecla is a leader among companies our size in adopting new technologies that will have a significant impact in lowering the health and safety risk for our employees – as well as improving our environmental performance and mine-operating efficiency. Our early adoption of tele-remote and battery-powered load, haul, and dump (LHD) equipment has reduced ventilation requirements, cut heat output, generated significantly lower levels of noise, and improved worker safety. Autonomous haulage at Casa Berardi increased payloads by 8% and decreased energy use 17% per vehicle. Across all of our operations, we’ve upgraded underground ventilation, converted to biodiesel use, implemented cleaner engine technology and exhaust filtration, introduced enclosed and environmentally controlled cabs, and required respirators in high-exposure tasks and work areas. Reducing lead exposure in our mill operations at both Lucky Friday and Greens Creek where lead concentrates are produced is a priority. Annual blood tests measure employee exposure, which is minimized through personal hygiene training and the use of state-of-the-art respirators.
Our employees benefit from a variety of company-sponsored health and wellness programs that cover education, health interventions, and disease management. Our responsibility to ensure a safe workplace extends to providing opportunities for employee wellness.
Our workers have received a minimum of 53,000 hours, company-wide, of safety and health training in 2017 to comply with Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regulations in the United States, Occupational Health and Safety in Mines regulations in Canada, and federal regulations for Occupational Health, Safety and Work Environment in Mexico.
We are striving to take workers’ hands completely “off the steel” through the use of autonomous mechanical mining. For the Lucky Friday Mine, we are planning to apply tunnel boring technology to stope mining, with the aim of developing a prototype remote vein miner that will eliminate drill and blast. If successful, we’ll make the mine even safer and more productive by releasing rock stress and moving miners away from the face of the rock.
The Lucky Friday Mine Rescue Team earned first place in the 2018 Central Mine Rescue Competition, with Greens Creek’s Mine Rescue Team taking second. The teams placed seventh and tenth overall, respectively, at the 2018 National Metal/Non-Metal Mine Rescue Competition.
Our Casa Berardi Mine in Quebec received a Certificate of Recognition from the Commission for Health and Safety of the Work of Quebec in both 2013 and 2015.