The senate in the U.S. state of Michigan last week declared September 6 as “Michigan Mining Day”. And on Friday we got some news about an even-bigger endorsement of the ongoing U.S. mining renaissance.
That came from major silver producer Hecla Mining. Which said that it is betting millions on the future of projects in an unexpected place: the state of Montana.
Hecla announced that it is acquiring junior minerals developer Revett Mining. The latter firm being the owner of two significant projects in Montana.
The key target for the Hecla takeover is the Rock Creek project in northwest Montana. Considered to be one of the largest undeveloped silver deposits in North America — holding a mineral resource of 229 million ounces of silver, plus 2 billion pounds of copper.
To buy Revett and the project, Hecla will pay $20 million in stock — representing a 30% premium to the company’s recent average trading price.
The move is an interesting one, given the significant issues that have presented in developing Rock Creek. Revett Mining has been trying to advance the project for 10 years, much of that period being mired in legal battles over mine-building in Montana.
But a key court of appeals victory in 2011 paved the way for advances in permitting over the last three years. With an environmental impact statement expected to be issued for public comment by the U.S. Forest Service in the first half of 2015.
Hecla apparently feels this progress has opened up some light for mining in Montana. With the major producer noting that its experience of “operating in a National Monument in Alaska since 1997” may further help in moving Rock Creek along toward production.
In turning toward the proven geology — but challenging politics — of Montana, Hecla isn’t alone. With Rio Tinto subsidiary Kennecott saying last month that it plans to re-start exploration for copper near Missoula in western Montana.
All of which represents another round of data points suggesting that we should be considering America’s proven mineral fields for new projects. Watch for further progress on the Rock Creek permitting as Hecla takes over the project.