The Wallace Street Journal


By David Bond, Editor


Wallace, Idaho – It will go down in the annals of history as a special sort of hubris and stupidity if U.S. Silver turns down the offer from Hecla Mining Co. to join forces, and instead opts to jump into the feathers with a Canadian junior whose sole asset is a shite-hole in Montana where, some say, someday, there might be some gold. Someday.


What are US Silver's honchos thinking? Obviously, not much. Their recently re-configured board of directors kicked Tom Parker to the curb. Col. Parker was the best thing to happen to the Galena since Hecla crawled out of the Precambrian mud and hired Phil Baker after 25 years of ossified neglect by the likes of Bill Griffith, RIP, and Art Brown.


Are there risks? Sure. Hecla's batting average, since the 1970s, hasn't been good. Can anyone say Grouse Creek? Or Casa Grande? Or Ranchers Exploration?  And there was that petulant move of Hecla's headquarters from Wallace to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho (an icky little suburb of Huetter, Idaho) back in the 1980s during the Silver Drought.


But times change. Things change. People change. This is 2012, and the Hecla of this millennium has doubled down on the element that made the company great in its birthing years: Silver. They mopped up the Greens Creek, Alaska, silver mine and are prepping the Lucky Friday mine near Mullan, Idaho, for another generation's-worth of production. This means jobs for we working stiffs, and revenues and dividends for HL's shareholders. It means taxes for the local schools, college educations for the kids, and souped-up ATVs for the (not so) grown-ups.


What does a mail-drop office on King Street in Toronto have to offer the men and women of the Silver Valley? They haven't said.


* * *


Two weeks ago, in the Clearwater Range in Alaska, Denali to our west, up Valdez Creek, six hours out of Anchorage and four hours out of Fairbanks, we dropped in on two of our mentor's sons, Bob and Tom Hopper. The arctic sun was doing its dance, favouring us with 24-hour daylight, the weather a balmy 68 degrees, the grayling leaping to our flies.


Sons Hopper are building a gold mine up there. It is a grand, a magnificent thing to see, wrenching gold from the sub-arctic mud in search of the deep and ancient glacial stream beds where the mother lodes lurk. The folks at the man-camp cooked our fish while we watched barge-loads of heavy equipment move in. The Hoppers are permitted to build 11 benches this year. Even the surface mud has gold in it. Young Bobby Hopper gets a shower a week, weather and road-conditions permitting, at a “resort” 50 klicks away which also has a satellite phone. He's working against time. It will be winter on Oct. 1, and spring doesn't come early, either. Good luck to them.


This is mining and prospecting out of the old school. Only a nut-case or a miner would blunder on to a place this remote, and find something to pack home. It is also an affront to the current president of the United Snakes, who says, in effect: “You didn't do this without the government's help.” That's a bit of B.S. Not even the government can find chauffeurs that far north.




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