MAC: Mines and Communities

Settling mining damages, the US way

Published by MAC on 2011-10-25
Source:, Reuters

Hecla Mining has paid the US government US$77 million, in final settlement of the reclamation costs, relating to its decades-long mining and smelting operations in Idaho.

The money will  be used for clean-up activities, "securing natural resources", and restoring critical habitats to fish and wildlife in the Coeur d'Alene River Basin.

Last June, the company agreed to pay $263.4 million, plus interest, to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, the United States and the state of Idaho, in order to resolve other claims. See: Settlement for $263 Million in favour of Idaho Tribes after 20 years lawsuit

Mexico's biggest mining conglomerate, Grupo Mexico, has also been ordered to pay nearly US1.3 billion to shareholders in Southern Copper Corp.

A US court has ruled that the Group over-valued a third mining company, which it owned and then merged with Southern Copper in 2005. See also: Mexico’s largest mining company ordered to pay Asarco $6 billion

Comment by Nostromo Research: It requires some delving into recent history to determine why Grupo Mexico must now fork out such a huge sum of money -  only for it to end up in the hands of those who control one of its own subsidiaries.

In contrast, the US$382 million (including damages paid to the Coeur d'Alene community), paid by Hecla in settlement of one of the worst examples of corporate destruction, seems paltry - to the point of being unjust.

Hecla Mining pays $77 million for Superfund clean up

Michael Allan McCrae

12 October 2011

Hecla Mining paid the U.S. Government $77 million to settle a suit involving the Bunker Hill Superfund site in the Coeur d'Alene Basin.

The United States Attorney Wendy J. Olson made the announcement on Tuesday. The money will be used to pay for clean-up activities, securing natural resources, and restoring critical habitats to fish and wildlife in the Coeur d'Alene River Basin.

Hecla Mining is also on the hook for an additional $42 million for clean up costs which will have to be paid by August 2014. Hecla has also paid damages to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and the State of Idaho.

"Hecla's payment marks the largest collection ever posted by the United States Attorney's Office in the District of Idaho," said United States Attorney Wendy J. Olson in a statement.

"This historic recovery to resolve one of the largest cases ever filed under the Superfund statute compensates the United States for more than three decades of clean-up efforts, and establishes a strong basis for future cooperation between Hecla Mining Company, the tribe, the state, and the federal government."

According to the EPA, the Bunker Hill site is one of the largest environmental and human health cleanup efforts in the U.S.A. Mining waste, amounting to an estimated 70 to 100 million tons, is spread throughout streams, rivers and lakes. The high levels of lead are a public health risk to pregnant women and young children.

The Bunker Hill lead smelter operated for over 60 years and closed in 1982. When the mine was shutdown, it employed close to 2,000 people.

Image of residential yard cleanup from the EPA. Soils above 1000 ppm lead are generally removed to a depth of one foot and replaced with clean soil and grass.

Grupo Mexico ordered to pay $1.26 billion damage award


17 October 2011

Grupo Mexico was ordered to pay $1.263 billion to Southern Copper Corp, which it controlled when Southern Copper overpaid for another Grupo Mexico company in 2004.

Grupo Mexico proposed in 2004 that Southern Peru Copper Corp, as it was then known, buy another Grupo Mexico mining company, Minerva Mexico. A deal was completed in 2005 for $3.75 billion, paid in Southern Copper stock.

Southern Copper shareholders sued, and Delaware's Chancery Court agreed that Minerva was vastly overvalued in the deal.

The court determined Minerva was worth $2.43 billion and ordered Grupo Mexico to return the overpayment.

The judge, Leo Strine, said Grupo Mexico could pay the award by returning the necessary amount of Southern Peru Copper shares it received for Minerva.

Grupo Mexico said it was studying the decision, which was published on Friday.

"This is not a definitive decision, we are studying the best course of action and the possibility of appeal is one option," said a company spokesman.

The spokesman said the ruling would not impact Grupo Mexico's plans to merge Southern Copper with its Asarco mining business.

Strine ordered the parties to present a plan in the next 15 days for implementing the award.

Strine's 106-page opinion blasted the work of Southern Copper's special committee, set up to evaluate the Minerva deal, calling the eventual agreement a work of "commercial charity" toward Grupo Mexico.

Shares of Southern Copper were down 1.9 percent at $27.76 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of Grupo Mexico were down 1.6 percent at 34.65 pesos on the Mexico City bourse.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware, and Mica Rosenberg in Mexico City; editing by John Wallace)

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