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 nearly 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.
Hecla is often among the largest private-sector employers in the rural areas where are our mines are located. We know we have more than an economic impact in these communities: the relationships we share necessitate responsibility, trust and transparency. Over a 5-year period, a mine such as Greens Creek or Casa Berardi has an economic impact averaging over $800 million in wages, benefits, taxes, good and services, local donations and contributions.
Hecla employs nearly 1,700 people world-wide with a total compensation of more than 190 million in 2018. Women comprise 19% of our management team and 4.5% of our entire workforce.
We’re the largest private-sector employer in Juneau, Alaska. Greens Creek’s average employee’s annual total compensation of $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 17% of Hecla’s total hourly 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. Learn more about the current Lucky Friday Labor Negotiations.
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.
Hecla is currently preparing the Lucky Friday Mine for delivery of the Remote Vein Miner which is expected in 2020. This state-of-the-art technology will take the worker’s hands completely “off the steel” through the use of autonomous mechanical mining. This innovation could revolutionize narrow vein mining by replacing the drilling and blasting technique of excavating rock with continuous mechanical cutting. If successful, mines will be even safer and more productive by releasing rock stress, mining at greater depths and moving miners away from the working face of the rock.
Our employees worked more than 5.9 million man-hours in 2018 and received more than 65,000 hours of health and safety training. All employees receive training that complies with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regulations in the United States; Occupational Health and Safety in Mines regulations in Québec, Canada; and the Federal regulations for Occupational Health, Safety and Work Environment in Mexico. Employees also participate in ongoing training designed to develop skills in performing their assigned tasks in a safe, healthy and environmentally responsible manner.
The Hecla Take 5 Safety Focus continuous improvement initiative is designed to improve job site awareness and decrease exposures to high and critical risks at each site. As a result of this initiative, there has been more than a 60 percent reduction in safety incidents over the past six years.
Company-wide, our All Injury Frequency Rate (AIFR) dropped 63% from 2012 to 2018. And Casa Berardi is operating at the lowest AIFR since Hecla acquired the mine. Our 2018 incident rate of 2.0 was 15% lower than the national average.
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 first international mine to receive certification under the CORESafety system.
Our philosophy of developing long life mines is helping to make Hecla a leader among companies our size in adopting new technologies that have a significant impact in improving the health and safety of our employees, improving environmental performance, and increasing mine-operating efficiency and
productivity. In particular, we are looking to automate repetitive tasks and use remote control where feasible to get the miners “hands off the steel.”
- Our early adoption of Teleremote battery-operated load, haul and dump (LHD) equipment, which is remotely administered, is reducing energy use and heat output. This has resulted in significantly lower levels of noise and improved worker safety by moving employees away from the mine face. The Teleremote LHD allows one operator to run up to three machines from the same station.
- Our autonomous 24-hour truck operation at our Casa Berardi Mine has increased safety, increased payloads by 8 percent and decreased energy use by 17 percent per vehicle. The expected cost savings from just two trucks is around $3 million per year.
- Clean air quality underground is of utmost importance to the safety of our workers. For this reason, Hecla was an early adopter of Ventilation On Demand, an optimization approach that targets the vital process of supplying fresh air to underground miners in their scattered workplaces while exhausting the used air that has acquired excess heat, noxious gases, and dust.
- The automated Jumbo-Stope drill allows drilling during shift changes and improves drill accuracy while increasing productivity and efficiency.
- We are working with North Idaho College’s Career Training Center to develop training programs to update worker skill sets to meet the changing work force dynamic.
For the second year in a row, the Lucky Friday Mine Rescue Team earned first place in the Central Mine Rescue Competition, with Greens Creek’s Mine Rescue Team taking second. In 2018, 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.