Greens Creek silver output rebounds
Q4 output up 23%, SE Alaska mine recovers 9.2M oz in 2021 North of 60 Mining News – January 14, 2022
Last updated 1/13/2022 at 12:45pm
Hecla Mining Company Jan. 13 reported that its Greens Creek Mine in Southeast Alaska produced 9.2 million ounces of silver during 2021, a 12% drop from the 10.5 million oz produced the prior year. This drop was largely due to mining easier to access but lower-grade ore because of manpower challenges around mid-year.
Despite the challenges and major jump in production at Hecla's Lucky Friday Mine in Idaho, Greens Creek accounted for 71% of the company's silver production during 2021.
Overall, Hecla's four operating mines – Greens Creek, Lucky Friday, Casa Berardi in Quebec, and Nevada Operations – produced 12.9 million oz of silver, 201,326 oz of gold, 63,617 pounds of zinc, and 43,011 lb of lead during 2021.
While the company's gold and silver production were down due to the lower contributions of both precious metals from Greens Creek, the zinc and lead output increased with the ramping up of operations at Lucky Friday.
"Lucky Friday increased production by 75% over the prior year primarily because in 2021 the mine was in full production for the entire year. In the fourth quarter, the expected higher silver grades and benefits of the new mining method delivered a 15% increase over the third quarter," said Hecla Mining President and CEO Phillips Baker, Jr. "The 2020 and 2021 investments helped Casa Berardi produce 11% more gold ounces than in 2020 and 25% more than in the third quarter. At Greens Creek, silver grades improved after resolving the third quarter mine sequencing issues, as a result fourth quarter production was 2.3 million ounces of silver and over 9 million ounces for the year."
In addition to the 9.2 million oz of silver, the Greens Creek Mine produced 46,089 oz of gold during 2021, which is a 5% drop from the 48,491 oz produced at the Southeast Alaska operation during 2020. Greens Creek also produces byproduct zinc and lead, but Hecla does not report its base metals production per operation.
Having resolved the manpower issues that slowed production during the third quarter, Greens Creek produced 2.3 million oz of silver and 10,229 oz during the final three months of 2021. This is a 23% increase for silver and a 5% increase for gold over third-quarter output.
Thanks to solid mine production and metals prices, Hecla increased its cash position to US$210 million and did not draw on its revolving line of credit.
"Even with doubling our exploration expenditures from 2020 and further enhancing our silver-linked dividend, our strong operational performance in 2021 delivered an increase of $80 million to our cash balance," said Baker. "With a strong operational and financial year behind us, we expect to continue to build on these achievements in 2022."