Environment Featured Helena Montana Politics

“Bad Actor” Hecla and CEO Phillips Baker Called out by United Steelworkers in Full Page Ad

The United Steelworkers of America have taken out a full-page ad calling out Hecla mining and CEO Phillips Baker for their “bad actor” status.

The Montana Post recently delved into this issue

State Puts Hold on ‘Bad Actor’ Mining Company That Abandoned Polluted Mines:

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality recently notified Hecla Mining Company and its CEO, Phillips S. Baker, Jr., that they are in violation of the “bad actor” provision under the State’s mining laws. This decision by DEQ is a huge victory for Montanans, who frequently shoulder the financial burden of mine reclamation, cleanup, and perpetual treatment of water. It also suspends the permitting process, temporarily, for the Montanore and Rock Creek mines, which threaten the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness and bull trout and grizzly bears that reside there.

How did DEQ reach this decision?

Hecla CEO Phillips S. Baker served as a top official for Pegasus Gold when it declared bankruptcy in 1998. Pegasus left behind a toxic mess of contaminated soils and water at the company’s Zortman-Landustky, Beal Mountain, and Basin Creek gold mines.

The Missoula Independent reported on this issue:

Phillips S. Baker Jr.’s name rang bells when Hecla Mining’s CEO and president began applying for mining permits in the state.

The “bad actor” provision that says companies or executives of companies that fail to reclaim mining sites can’t begin new projects unless they reimburse the state for cleanup. At the time, Montana had been stuck with large cleanup bills after Pegasus Gold went bankrupt and abandoned reclamation of the Zortman-Landusky, Basin Creek and Beal Mountain mines.

“The Pegasus bankruptcy was the impetus behind the Legislature passing the bad actor legislation to make sure it had that type of impact, to make sure that companies could be held accountable for cleanup costs,” Gestring says. Pegasus’ CFO at the time? Baker. In October, a coalition of environmental groups sent a letter to the Department of Environmental Quality asking for enforcement of the provision against Hecla and Baker, and last week the DEQ notified both that they are in violation of the statute and can either repay the state more than $30 million or prove Baker won’t be involved in operations.

Here is the full page ad the United Steelworkers took out in the Spokane newspaper the Spokesman-Review:

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Nathan Kosted

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