Waste & Tailings Management

Hecla’s management of tailings follows international tailings standards and policies, while continually innovating to find feasible solutions.

We also strive to reduce waste output on all fronts specific to each operation, and we continuously explore the environmentally responsible use of resources, products, and materials. All sites have active programs for reuse, recycling, and recovery of hazardous and non-hazardous materials such as scrap metal, batteries, antifreeze, used oil, and paints/solvents.

Tailings Management

Hecla’s formalized Tailings Stewardship Program was launched in 2014 and is designed to ensure all our operations implement best practices and risk-based approaches to manage mining waste. Comprehensive procedures and protocols are in place that focus on the safe and environmentally responsible design, construction, operation, and closure of our tailings storage facilities.

Benchmark Against Industry-Leading

The Hecla Tailings Management Standard is benchmarked against industry leading tailings management frameworks of the Canadian Dam Association, Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM), and the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management. These frameworks include robust site characterization, engineering and design requirements, development and communication of emergency response plans, and periodic third-party review. At least annually, our company-wide tailings management standard is subject to either an internal or third-party audit for quality assurance.

Early Adopter of the Dry-Stack Method

Hecla was an early adopter of the dry stack method of tailings management at our Greens Creek operation; this method is also used at our Keno Hill site. In this method, tailings are filtered to a low moisture content and then trucked and placed into a “dry stack” that does not dam or impound water. This method minimizes the tailings surface footprint, lessening the impact on nearby wildlife habitat, while also eliminating the storage of free-standing water with tailings and significantly reducing the possibility of failures and any potential consequences.

Waste Management

In 2022, we generated approximately 3,269 metric tonnes of non-hazardous and hazardous waste, and recycled 56% (1,825 metric tonnes) of that which otherwise would have been disposed of as waste.

A High Percentage of Tailings are Reused

Returning tailings to mines as structural fill increases stability, improves safety, and reduces surface storage requirements.
  • In 2022, the total tailings produced company-wide that were returned to the mines as backfill equaled 21%.
  • At our Lucky Friday Mine in Idaho, the volume of tailings produced in the milling process that was returned to the underground mine as structural fill was 37%, and at Greens Creek in Alaska it was 41%.