Greens Creek silver output pace slows
Hecla mines easier, lower-grade ore due to staffing challenges North of 60 Mining News – October 15, 2021
Last updated 10/14/2021 at 1:58pm
Hecla Mining Company Oct. 12 reported that its Greens Creek Mine produced 1.8 million ounces of silver and 9,735 oz of gold during the third quarter of 2021, easing off the 10-million-oz-per-year pace set at the Southeast Alaska operation during the first half of 2021.
Greens Creek's third-quarter silver output is down about 30% from the 2.6 million oz produced during the same period last year. The quarterly gold production was down by 24% from the 12,833 oz produced during the third quarter of 2020.
Hecla says this drop-off in precious metals production was primarily due to mining lower grades in more easily accessible areas. Deeper, higher-grade material at Greens Creek is slated for future mining.
The Greens Creek mill operated at an average of 2,295 tons per day during the third quarter of this year, down only about 2% from the 2,340 tpd during the third quarter of 2020.
"Greens Creek had a good quarter but was down compared to an exceptional 2020 third quarter. The mine experienced lower grades due to the mine sequence, which was driven by manpower challenges that are being addressed through schedule changes and other means," said Hecla Mining President and CEO Phillips Baker, Jr.
Hecla's four mines – Greens Creek, Lucky Friday in Idaho, Casa Berardi in Quebec, and Nevada Operations – produced 2.7 million oz of silver and 42,206 oz of gold during the third quarter of this year.
With increased output from the Lucky Friday Mine in Idaho offsetting some of Greens Creek's deficits, Hecla's companywide silver production dropped roughly 24% from the 3.5 oz produced during the same period last year, while gold production increased by 3% due to a strong quarter at the company's Casa Berardi mine in Quebec.
The company said the increased silver output is due to increasing production at the restarted Lucky Friday Mine and the drop in gold output is due to reduction in less profitable production of the precious metal.
"Lucky Friday and Casa Berardi both delivered strong operational quarters, with Casa Berardi increasing gold production by 13% and Lucky Friday increasing silver production by 31% over last year," said Baker.
Hecla reports that it ended the third quarter with more than $190 million in cash, up about $9 million from the second quarter, and nearly double the $97 million of cash and cash-equivalents at the end of the same period of 2020.
"Hecla is the United States' largest silver miner producing 40% of all the silver mined in the U.S. With this quarter's performance, we are not only the largest but also demonstrate the strength of our operations in this lower silver price environment with approximately $10 million added to our cash balance, despite the semi-annual interest payment made this quarter and some one-time cash transactions," Baker said. "Since the beginning of 2019, we've added over $160 million of cash to our balance sheet while returning approximately $30 million to common shareholders in the form of dividend payments, in addition to increasing our investment in operations and exploration."