A U.S. court has approved a proposed $263.4 million settlement by Hecla Mining Co. to resolve a 20-year-old dispute involving the silver mining company's liabilities for an environmental contamination in Idaho's Coeur d'Alene Basin.

Hecla said Friday that under terms approved by  the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho the company will pay $263.4 million, plus certain interest payments, over a period of three years, to the United States, the State of Idaho, and the Coeur d'Alene Tribe.

The initial payment of $167 million is payable by Oct. 8, 2011. The second and third payments of $25 million and $15 million will be payable one and two years later, respectively.

Hecla has a strong balance sheet with $377 million in cash and cash equivalents as of June 30, 2011 and no debt, low cash costs, and excellent silver margins, Hecla said in a statement.

During the first half of 2011 alone, we generated $127 million of operating cash flow. The company has sufficient cash on hand to fulfill our settlement obligations, meet all capital, pre-development, and exploration requirements for 2011; and adequate funding to pursue other value generating initiatives for our shareholders.

Shares of Hecla rose 2 cents to $7.99 in early trading.