Tailings Disposal Facility North Extension Project

Hecla Greens Creek has filed an amendment to our General Plan of Operations to expand the Greens Creek Tailing Disposal Facility (TDF) by approximately 13.7 acres. The expansion is primarily inside the existing U.S. Forest Service lease area and will extend the mine’s operation by an estimated 10 years. This location minimizes direct new disturbance to environmental resources and sensitive habitats.

Hecla’s proposed plan:

  • Avoids new disturbance to the Admiralty Island National Monument outside the existing U.S. Forest Service-approved HGCMC Lease Boundary
  • Avoids direct disturbance to fish-bearing reaches of Tributary Creek
  • Avoids construction of a new “remote” TDF
  • Continues the same or similar dry-stack tailings disposal method, which has been previously reviewed and approved by the U.S. Forest Service
  • Extends the existing tailings stack in a manner that minimize disturbance. To the extent practical, locates the extended tailings stack and new, associated supporting infrastructure on areas already disturbed and/or on areas immediately adjacent to existing disturbance. Where possible, uses in-place infrastructure (roads, water treatment facilities, drainage control, etc.)
  • Minimizes direct, new disturbance to environmental resources and sensitive habitats, such as jurisdictional waters of the U.S.
  • Considers closure and reclamation as part of design and operations
  • Designs and constructs the TDF to be technically feasible and environmentally sound
  • Complies with applicable federal, state and local legal and regulatory standards.

Click here to read the entire North Extension proposal.

How the NEPA process works

The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires agencies (the U.S. Forest Service, in our case) to assess the environmental effects of their proposed actions prior to making decisions. Two major purposes of the environmental review process are to enable better-informed decisions and encourage citizen involvement.

The process is designed to identify all issues that need to be addressed on projects involving a federal agency (in our case, extension of the Tailings Storage Facility), determine alternatives that would address any problems identified during the scoping period, study potential environmental issues, ensure that our Plan of Operation complies with all environmental regulations and involve the pubic throughout the process.  

The next major step after scoping is issuance of a draft environmental-impact statement (EIS) for public comment. Publishing a notice of availability in the Federal Register kicks off a 45-day comment period. Typically, there would be one or more public meetings or hearings to solicit comments. The agency will also request comments from other federal, state, Tribal and local agencies that may have jurisdiction or interest in the matter.

When the public comment period is finished, the agency analyzes comments, conducts further analysis as necessary, and prepares the final EIS. In the final EIS, the agency must respond to substantive comments received from other government agencies and the public. The response can be in the form of changes in the final EIS, factual corrections, modifications to the analyses or the alternatives, new alternatives considered, or an explanation of why a comment does not require the agency’s response.

When it is ready, the agency will publish the final EIS. A notice of availability will be published in the Federal Register, which marks the start of a waiting period. A minimum of 30 days must pass before the agency can make a decision on its proposed action(s). This provides time for the agency decisionmakers to consider the purpose and need, weigh alternatives, balance objectives and make a decision.