KELLOGG — 2024 looks bright for Bunker Hill Mine, as the company turns another page from the historic mine’s tumultuous past and moves toward a promising future.
With plans to be in production and employ 220 people by the end of the new year, it’s safe to say that Bunker Hill is back.
“I think the biggest news for us is that we’re fully funded for the restart of the mine,” Bunker Hill CEO Sam Ash said. “We’re ramping up and over the next year, people will see us constructing our mill, which will probably take most of the next year to be built. It will be a lot of construction activity.”
The Bunker Hill Mining Corp. purchased the 137-year-old mine in 2020. Once the purchase was completed, the wheels were set in motion to restart the mine and return to full production.
Most of the recent developments have taken place on the Wardner side of the mine, where a new shop has been constructed, the historic Russell Portal has been expanded to allow for larger equipment to pass in and out of the mine, as well as filling out the mine’s equipment fleet.
Ash said last month that the mine has access to the first two to three years of mining, but a few pieces of underground development had to be completed, including the installation of an underground compressor, as well as getting power to the area.
“We may be able to start mining a little bit early, just to get our feet under us and build up, but we’re not there yet,” Ash said. “It’s really full focus right now on getting the mine built and running.”
The mill that Ash discussed previously was purchased in February 2022, from Teck Resources Limited. The mill had been operational at the Pend Oreille Mine near Metaline Falls, Wash., but was disassembled and the 10,000 pieces of equipment were shipped 145 miles to Kellogg.
“The great part about the Silver Valley and North Idaho is that we’re not having to bring contractors in from other places, they’re either local and from the valley, or they’re coming from Coeur d’Alene or the Spokane Valley,” Ash said. “During the construction phase, there will be a lot of contractor activity. It’s pretty exciting for us, it’s been a long road for us to this point.”
This is where things become exciting from a community standpoint.
As the different components of the mine come together, Ash and his staff will be able to begin hiring the 220 employees they anticipate needing to hit their full-production goals.
These positions will range from entry-level to experienced miners, as well as management and administrative personnel staff — with wages being competitive with the industry standard, including safety and production incentives.
The mine will focus on zinc, silver and lead, and at full production, they plan to steadily produce 1,800 tons per day, which would sustain the mine. They do plan to potentially upgrade the mine’s capabilities further and produce 2,500 tons per day.
Drill samples show the mine has generations of minerals in the ground that have sat since the mine closed for good in 1991. At one point in the 1960s, Bunker Hill had a market valuation of $1 billion, based upon both known and estimated mineral reserves.
Bunker Hill Mining Corp. board chairman Richard Williams reiterated this at a ceremony in September attended by Idaho Gov. Brad Little.
“The resources under the ground right here are multi-decades,” Williams said. “We have the potential of building a very large, sustainable, valuable business here for this community, this state, this country, that we think could last for the grandchildren of those currently working here to be back on site.”
The mine’s closure sent the local economy into a spiral that it never really recovered from, but simply just stabilized. In the wake of government sanctions and the price of reversing hundreds of millions of dollars of environmental damage, it was no longer feasible or responsible for the mine to operate.
Long-time residents still speak fondly of the days when ‘Uncle Bunker’ made sure that no one went without and the community at large enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle.
Since that time, several groups have attempted to reopen the mine, but each time the hurdles were too much to overcome, and the hopes of Bunker Hill’s resurrection grew smaller. When the initial announcement came that Bunker Hill had, once again, changed hands, it was met with the same skepticism that had come to be Bunker Hill’s new normal.
Ash wasn’t deaf to these discussions and hopes that people will see the strides that have been made to get Bunker Hill to where it is now — mere months from once again being a producing mine.
“I can understand their concerns completely. If you can think back to when we got started here as a management team in 2020, we were pretty quiet. We didn’t come in and make a big splash or make huge promises all over the place,” Ash said. “That was intentional. Trust is something that’s developed over time and based on results. We’re focused on showing results and delivering results while becoming part of the community.”
Ash and his team believe that Bunker Hill could be the cornerstone of a larger mining company, but before they set their sights on expanding the Bunker Hill Mining Corp., they plan to make sure the promises they’ve made with Bunker Hill and the community come to fruition.
“We have strong relationships with the regulatory agencies, the state of Idaho, the cities of Kellogg and Wardner, Shoshone County. We’re really focusing on building that trust,” Ash said. “We take our role and that responsibility very seriously and we’re excited to be here.”
For more information on the Bunker Hill Mining Corp. or the restart of the historic Bunker Hill Mine, visit www.bunkerhillmining.com.
Bunker Hill Mine's Kellogg Tunnel.
Bunker Hill Mine's CEO Sam Ash, right, and Gov. Brad Little appear together at a groundbreaking ceremony at the mine in September.