Hecla mine reports contract employee killed in fatal bear mauling

Hecla Greens Creek Mine. (Photo courtesy Hecla Mining Company)

Hecla Greens Creek Mine says bears fatally mauled a contract employee at their mine today.

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Alaska State Troopers have identified the victim as 18-year-old Anthony David Montoya of Hollis, Oklahoma. In a news release, Hecla said he worked for Timberline Drilling based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Montoya’s body will be sent to the State Medical Examiner in Anchorage.

Troopers also noted more specifics about the bears involved — a sow and two cubs. All three bears were killed before troopers arrived.

This is the second fatal bear incident involving an Alaska mine employee in as many years. Twenty-seven-year-old contractor Erin Johnson of Anchorage was killed in June 2017 by a black bear at the Pogo Mine in Interior Alaska.

Hecla said authorities will investigate. Around 11:45 a.m. today, company spokesman Mike Satre said state troopers were en route. Satre said the company is investigating and still learning details about what happened.

“We have never had any injury incident related to bears since we have been in operation,” Satre noted.

The mine opened in 1989.

Satre said bear safety is a standard part of employee training.

“In general, every single one of our employees and our contracted workforce receive bear hazard training during their site specific training that is required before they work on a mine site,” Satre said. “And then we do everything we can to make sure anything that we do, any of materials, do not become attractive to bears and have them on our mine site.”

Mine officials expressed condolences to the victim’s friends, family and colleagues.

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Jeremy Hsieh is the deputy managing editor of the KTOO newsroom in Juneau. He’s a podcast fiend who’s worked in journalism since high school as a reporter, editor and television producer. He ran Gavel Alaska for 360 North from 2011 to 2016, and is big on experimenting with novel tools and mediums (including the occasional animated gif) to tell stories and demystify the news. Jeremy’s an East Coast transplant who moved to Juneau in 2008.