By Cameron Rasmussson
Hecla Mining Company is punching back after Montana Department of Environmental Quality hit it with bad actor violations last week.
The Spokesman-Review reports that the company sued the department on Friday, asking a Lincoln County judge to lift the violations. Montana DEQ leveled the violations against Hecla because of CEO Phillips Baker Jr.’s previous involvement with Pegasus Gold, a now-defunct company whose inability to clean up its gold mines left Montana with a mess that has cost taxpayers $74 million to date.
Montana DEQ argues that given Baker’s history with Pegasus makes him a bad actor, thus prohibiting him from any mining activities in Montana. They asked that Hecla either prove Baker has no part in any proposed Montana mines or repay the state for its expenses in reclaiming the gold mines.
Hecla, meanwhile, argues in its lawsuit that Baker had little involvement with the mines that have proven costly to Montana taxpayers.
“Mr. Baker neither directed nor controlled mining operations at any of the Pegasus entities’ mines,” wrote attorney William Mercer, arguing for Baker’s lack of liability. “If Pegasus failed to perform (cleanup obligations) pursuant to its permit with the department, Pegasus is exclusively liable.”
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