Hecla mine clean-up settlement could also be mini-stimulus

Sep 12, 2011

An environmental clean-up settlement could also be a mini-stimulus for the Inland Northwest economy. A federal judge has approved the Hecla Mining company's $263 million settlement in one of the largest superfund clean-up projects in the country.

Lead, zinc, arsenic and other contaminants continue to show up at high levels in the soil and water of north Idaho and eastern Washington. The metals are left over from the early days of mining in Idaho's Silver Valley, when mine tailings went straight through pipes into the Coeur d'Alene River.

Now the largest mining company in the region will write a series of checks to pay for a portion of the clean-up. Those payments will begin next month in the settlement between Hecla and the federal government, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and the state of Idaho.

That's good news for contractors and landscapers. The government hires those local companies to remove contaminated dirt from yards and playgrounds. And habitat restoration for birds, fish and wildlife is expected to take decades.

Hecla says it has enough cash on hand to cover the settlement, to be made in three payments over the next two years.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network