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Greens Creek hits 9.9M oz silver in 2019

 

Last updated 1/7/2020 at 9:40am

Hecla Mining Company

Workers in Hecla Mining's Greens Creek Mine in Southeast Alaska. Silver production at this high-grade underground operation increased throughout 2019, culminating in 9.9 million oz of the precious metal for the year.

Hecla Mining Company Jan. 7 reported that its Greens Creek Mine in Southeast Alaska produced 9.9 million ounces of silver in 2019, a 24 percent jump over the 8 million oz produced the prior year and the highest annual production since the Idaho-based company bought full ownership of the operation in 2008.

Greens Creek also produced 56,624 oz of gold last year, a 10 percent increase compared to the 51,493 oz produced in 2018.

The Southeast Alaska mine also produces appreciable amounts of byproduct zinc and lead. Hecla's metals production report, however, does not attribute its base metals production to individual operations. Overall, Hecla produced 117.7 million pounds of zinc and 48.4 million lb of lead during 2019, most of which is from Greens Creek.

Greens Creek silver production increased as 2019 progressed – 2.2 million oz in the first quarter, 2.4 million oz in the second quarter, 2.5 million oz in the third quarter – culminating in 2.7 million oz during the final three months of the year.

The mill operated at an average of 2,318 tons per day in 2019. This is a slight increase over 2018 and marks the third straight year of record throughput for the Greens Creek mill. This increased production is largely due to high-tech innovations at the underground operation, including the use of a semi-autonomous long-haul loader operating during shift changes at Greens Creek.

Overall, Hecla's five mines – Greens Creek, San Sebastian (Mexico), Casa Berardi (Quebec), Lucky Friday (Idaho) and Nevada Operations – produced 12.6 million oz of silver and 272,873 oz of gold during 2019.

The 2019 gold production is a new annual record for Hecla.

As a result of the strong production, combined with strengthening precious metals prices, Hecla was able to reduce its net debt by US$136 million since mid-year and goes into 2020 with roughly US$62 million in cash and cash-equivalents.

"2019 marked a year of higher metal production and in the second half of the year, strong cash flow generation and an improved balance sheet," said Hecla Mining President and CEO Phillips Baker, Jr. "While gold and silver prices have increased, Greens Creek's record silver production combined with the most gold production in Hecla's history were the primary reasons for the cash flow strength."

Hecla Mining President and CEO

Phillips Baker, Jr.

And, with its Lucky Friday silver mine in Idaho ramping back up to full production, 2020 is shaping up to be another strong year for Hecla.

Since early in 2017, production at Lucky Friday has been minimal due to a labor strike. Lucky Friday union employees have now ratified a collective bargaining agreement, and many are expected to return to work.

During 2016, the last full year of commercial production at Lucky Friday, the Idaho mine produced 3.6 million oz of silver. This compares to 625,432 oz from limited production during 2019 and only 169,041 oz during 2018.

"While this has been a challenging time for the mine and the local community, we believe the return of the workforce will help it reach full production by year-end 2020 and help the Silver Valley community," said Baker.

–SHANE LASLEY

 

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