An exchange between the boss of Idaho’s Hecla Mining Company and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is ringing alarm bells in some circles.
The brief interaction between Hecla Mining CEO Phillips Baker Jr. and Interior Secretary Zinke happened in October.
“Hello, Mr. Secretary, good to see you again,” Baker says. “Here to tell you and others about the impediments to mining from the regulation regime we have.”
Zinke’s response, “On behalf of the United States government, we apologize,” drew chuckles from those present.
According to the Washington Post, conservationists are taking the exchange as a sign of the Trump Administration’s lax position on resource extraction. The Department of the Interior says Zinke was joking.
Montana recently dubbed Hecla a “bad actor” because Baker served as an executive of Pegasus Gold. The company’s 1998 bankruptcy stuck Montana and the federal government with $100 million in cleanup costs.
Hecla wants to open two new mines in Montana, but state law says due to Baker’s connection to a facility that went bust, he can’t operate a mine.
Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality has given the Idaho mining company 30 days to resolve its “bad actor” status. For their part, Hecla filed suit against Montana claiming it’s falsely equating Baker with the bygone Pegasus operation.
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