Earlier this year, I discussed the dual nature of silver legend Hecla Mining's (NYSE: HL ) phenomenal long-term growth potential. In addition to the miner's awe-inspiring portfolio of existing assets to support generations of organic production growth, the company's cozy cash hoard (presently $279 million) appeared destined to support an acquisition.
This week, Hecla launched a hostile bid for junior producer US Silver that, if successful, will meaningfully reinforce Hecla's untouchable dominance within the world-class Silver Valley district of northern Idaho. Hecla offered $1.79 ($1.80 Canadian) in cash for shares of US Silver, representing a 30% premium to the stock's 20-day trailing average, and a 28% premium "to the imputed offer price of CDN$1.41 under the proposed merger with RX Gold & Silver."
Frankly, there's no contest as to which proposal represents the better deal for US Silver shareholders, since Hecla brings expertise and existing resources to the table that no other suitor can match. US Silver's Galena and Coeur mines are located roughly 10 miles down the road on Interstate 90 from Hecla's Lucky Friday mine, and I expect substantial synergies to emerge. US Silver expects to produce 2.4 million ounces of silver in 2012, and its addition to Hecla's fold could permit Hecla to target nearly 13 million ounces for 2013!
US Silver has struggled with elevated production costs at the Galena mine while it took on the simultaneous tasks of restarting production and rehabilitating the historical mine workings previously owned by Coeur d'Alene Mines (NYSE: CDE ) . In the first quarter of 2012, US Silver's cost of $21.06 per ounce (after byproduct credits) underscores the opportunity for a larger-scale operator with adequate resources to come in and fast-track mine rehabilitation and get those operating costs under control. I own shares in both companies, and intend to vote my US Silver shares in favor of Hecla's cash offer.
Now, let's have some fun with numbers. Idaho's Silver Valley has yielded 1.2 billion ounces of historical silver production, which today would equate to a market value of $33 billion! Nearly 27% of that haul originated from mines located within Hecla's enormous 25-square-mile land package that includes the Lucky Friday and Star Morning mines. US Silver's assets accounted for 217 million ounces of historical production. Combined, these assets cover 45% of the historical output from one of the world's premier silver districts.
And lest one conclude that most of the silver has already been unearthed, I encourage Fools to review Hecla's brief video presentation (opens mp4 file) of ongoing exploration and development activities near Lucky Friday. Hecla is currently assessing whether the Lucky Friday and Star Morning mines may be linked by continuous silver mineralization, which would represent a game-changing discovery by the company if confirmed. Already, more than 72 million ounces of proven and probable silver reserves have been recorded collectively by Hecla and US Silver within their Silver Valley properties, and the likelihood of meaningful discoveries to come forms a core aspect of Hecla's exciting blue-sky potential. Alongside my silvery core holdings in Aurcana (OTC: AUNFF), First Majestic Silver (NYSE: AG ) , and Endeavour Silver (NYSE: EXK ) , I consider Hecla a glaring no-brainer for long-term investment here beneath $5 per share.