MINE: The human cost

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I have been reading articles that have statements from Phil Baker and Luke Russell, and I keep seeing them mentioning how the Lucky Friday Mine is Hecla’s “highest cost mine.” After reading this over and over again, it has got me thinking about the cost of running the Lucky Friday.

Looking at every aspect of the industry, I find myself completely agreeing with Mr. Baker and Mr. Russell. The Lucky Friday is by far Hecla’s “highest cost mine.” Maybe it is because I am working over a mile underground while these two are in their offices sitting in chairs designed to be as ergonomic as modern technology allows. We look at it from different perspectives. While Mr. Baker and Mr. Russell seem to see things in dollar signs, profit margins and bottom lines, I see a completely different cost.

If we want to talk about the cost of operating the Lucky Friday Mine, I think it would be foolish to not look at the whole picture. Let’s compare the working environment of Lucky Friday to Hecla’s other properties. We are not sitting in air conditioned/heated cabs with our air being filtered before entering our lungs. Instead we are in open cabs subjected to the heat, humidity and dust. If we want to filter the dust from the air we have to wear respirators. We do not have Rock Bolters allowing us to stay back far away from any unsupported ground. Instead we are installing ground support manually using Jack Legs. We don’t have the luxury of working on the surface, or in a mine that is not subject to rock bursts and other seismic activity, which continues to get worse the deeper we go.

With the environment we work in and the type of mining we do, the cost of production at the mine is outrageous. However, this cost does not come in dollars and cents. This cost comes in the form of bad backs, shoulders, knees, necks, hearing, vision, and as we know too well, occasionally lives. You can’t put a price on the quality of life that is lost by the miners at the Lucky Friday Mine. None of Hecla’s other properties are as high risk (COST) as the Lucky Friday Mine. Like comparing apples to oranges. Mr. Baker and Mr. Russell you are correct, the Lucky Friday is Hecla’s “highest cost mine.”

JOSEPH PLOHARZ

Mullan

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