Earlier this year, Hecla Mining resumed operations at its Lucky Friday facility in North Idaho. The company had shut down the mine for a time to overhaul safety operations and make improvements to the site.
Resumption of operations was good news for the North Idaho economy, but it was good news for America, too. In addition to the good-paying jobs provided by the Lucky Friday operation, our state and our nation benefit from the raw materials the men and women of Hecla produce. While we commonly think of silver as an element used for jewelry or for developing old photos, silver is used for much more in this modern technological age.
“You’ll find silver in many of the electronic devices we use today, including cell phones, plasma- display panel televisions, personal computers and laptops,” according to the Silver Institute website. “Silver is also incorporated into button batteries, water-purification systems, automobiles, and it is a component of the growing photo-voltaic industry, to name just a few of its applications.
According to the website Geology.com, the most common use of silver is actually electronics. It conducts electricity and heat exceptionally well, which makes it an ideal material to use for the many tiny connections needed in modern technological devices.
“Printed electronics work by using nanosilver conductive inks,” the website says. “One example of a printed electronic is the electrode in a supercapacitor, which can charge and discharge repeatedly and quickly. Regenerative breaking is an automotive innovation that allows the kinetic energy of a slowing vehicle to be stored in a supercapacitor for reuse. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags offer another powerful application of printed electronics. These tags are better than bar codes for tracking inventory because they store more information and can be read from a greater distance, even without a direct line of sight.”
Silver is also transformed into raw materials used by the burgeoning solar electricity industry, and is used extensively by the automobile industry as they manufacture more and more cars with a wider array of electonic technology. It’s also helping keep our nation safe.
“Did you know that NASA’s Magellan spacecraft relied on silver-coated quartz tiles to protect it from solar radiation during a four-year scientific mission?” the Silver Institute says. “Or that the world’s strongest alloy, made of silver and aluminum, is an essential component of the Air Force C17 transport and the Army’s Apache helicopter? From flight to space travel, silver is one substance that helps us continue to raise the bar on our capabilities.”
It’s a material produced right here in Idaho thanks to hundreds of men and women who work in the mining industry. Hecla has owned and operated the Lucky Friday silver mine since 1958, and investment in the site means that they are now capable of producing a large volume of the raw materials, helping make the U.S. one of the top nations in the world for silver production. In fact, the Lucky Friday operation includes a mill capable of processing 1,000 tons of ore every day.
Silver is critical to our nation’s security and to the way we live every day. But the conveniences it provides don’t require a trade-off. In fact, silver is mined in a safe, responsible way with minimal impact on Idaho’s environment.
The people who work at Lucky Friday strive to protect water quality and to conserve usage through efficient operations, engineering, and training. The mine must meet rigorous federal and state water quality standards, which are monitored through meticulous water quality analysis and in-stream biodiversity sampling. Learn more at Hecla.com.