MATTHEW BROWN Associated Press
An Idaho mining company went to court Thursday to overturn its designation by Montana officials as a “bad player” in the industry because of pollution linked to its CEO.
Hecla Mining Co. has asked a judge to prevent the Montana Department of Environmental Quality from suspending permits for two new silver and copper mines the company has proposed under Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, an expanse secluded 147 square miles of glacial peaks near the Idaho border. .
Judge Matthew Cuffe did not immediately rule after the Montana District Court hearing in the small town of Libby, near the Wilderness Area.
Coeur d’Alene-based Hecla and its President and CEO, Phillips S. Baker, Jr., received letters of violation last month due to continued pollution at mines operated by the former employer by Baker.
Baker was CFO of Pegasus Mining, which declared bankruptcy in 1998 with insufficient obligations to cover its cleanup obligations. This has imposed more than $ 35 million in cleanup costs on the state, including at the Zortman-Landusky mine near the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, state officials say.
Baker, who is also president of the National Mining Association, told The Associated Press in a recent interview that he had never controlled Pegasus, where he worked for four years. He said there was no connection between Pegasus and Hecla – and argued that the naming of the wrong actor appears to be an attempt to stop the two new mines which are said to employ around 300 people each.