Recent Experience in Mine Innovation at Hecla Mining Company


Jeff Rosser, Hecla Mining Company; Mark Board, Hecla Mining Company

Hecla Mining Company, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, operates six underground and open pit precious metals mines in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.  In 2014, Hecla initiated a program investigating innovative technologies being employed within the mining industry.  The objectives of this project were defining and implementing those proven or emerging technologies that could add value to the company from safety, economic and environmental standpoints.  The approach was largely that of the “early adopter” – i.e., to adapt appropriate technologies or processes that were in use within the industry to Hecla’s operations.  Some of the technologies implemented by Hecla since that time include:  extensive Wifi coverage underground, wireless monitoring of personnel and equipment via central mine monitoring and surface control centers, autonomous trucking, tele-remote loaders, ventilation-on-demand, battery loaders and automated jumbos for face drilling.  One “home-grown” innovation currently under development and testing (in cooperation with Epiroc) is a hard-rock, narrow vein mobile continuous mechanical miner.  This paper describes the basic approach used by Hecla, the technologies that have been implemented and results obtained to date.
Keywords: wireless underground, autonomous trucking, loading, remote vein miner, ventilation, battery equipment, health safety and environment