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Hecla's Q1 silver production jumps 43%

North of 60 Mining News - April 9, 2024

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Solar panels are the primary driver of clean energy demand for the silver being produced by Hecla.

Company tracks toward 17 million oz of silver in 2024 as the clean energy transition powers large increases in demand for precious industrial metal.

With increased output at its mines in Alaska, Idaho, and Yukon, Hecla Mining Company produced 4.2 million ounces of silver during the first three months of 2024, a 43% jump over the 3.3 million oz produced during the previous quarter.

"The 43% increase in silver production reflects the consistent, strong performance from Greens Creek, Lucky Friday's reaching full production in March, and Keno Hill continuing its ramp-up," said Hecla Mining President and CEO Phillips Baker, Jr.

With Lucky Friday now back to commercial capacity and Keno Hill mine in the Yukon expected to continue adding additional ounces as the ramp-up there continues, Hecla expects to produce 17 million oz of silver during 2024.

This strong silver output comes at a time when the energy transition is powering strong demand for this precious and industrial metal.

While silver's exceptional electrical conductivity makes it an important metal to electric vehicles and other clean energy technologies, it is the solar sector that is driving a surge in demand.

Aside from being the most electrically conductive metal, silver has great thermal conductivity and is highly reflective – all of which play a vital role in enhancing the efficiency and performance of solar panels.

The increased dependence on solar energy as a clean source of electricity is a key driver of industrial demand for the silver produced by Hecla.

"Silver is necessary for the energy transition – in 2023, silver used in solar increased about 35% to 190 million ounces with more growth expected," said Baker.

At the same time, Hecla expects its silver output to continue to grow to roughly 20 million oz by 2026.

"Hecla's increasing production in safe jurisdictions well-positions our shareholders to benefit from the continuing deficit in silver supply," Baker added.

In addition to silver, Hecla's Greens Creek and Lucky Friday mines produced a combined 16,211 tons (32.4 million pounds) of zinc and 12,100 tons (24.2 million lb) of lead during the first quarter; and its Greens Creek and Casa Berardi mine in Quebec produced a combined 36,592 oz of gold during the first quarter.

Steadfast Greens Creek

Steadily producing around 10 million oz per year, Hecla's Greens Creek mine in Southeast Alaska has provided a steadfast foundation for Hecla's silver production. This stable output continues into 2024.

Hecla Mining Company

Hecla's Greens Creek mine in Alaska produces nearly 10 million oz of silver, along with significant gold, zinc, and lead byproducts per year.

During the first quarter of this year, Greens Creek produced 2.5 million oz of silver, which is roughly 10% higher than the prior quarter and about 4% higher than the first three months of 2023.

Hecla attributes the quarter-over-quarter increase to higher mill throughput and a 4% increase in ore grades.

During the first quarter of this year, an average of 2,552 tons of ore per day was fed through the mill.

In addition to silver, Greens Creek produced 14,588 oz of gold during the first quarter, which is roughly equivalent to the 14,651 oz produced during the previous quarter.

Greens Creek is forecast to produce 8.8 million to 9.2 million oz of silver and 46,000 and 51,000 oz of gold during 2024, according to Hecla's guidance going into the year.

The Southeast Alaska operation's first quarter output for both precious metals outpaced the quarterly average outlined in the guidance.

Lucky Friday back online

Hecla's Luck Friday mine in Idaho has ramped back up to full production following an August fire that knocked the underground operation out of commission for much of the second half of last year.

To get the mine back into operation, Hecla developed a new secondary egress consisting of a 1,600-foot ramp and a 290-foot vertical escapeway.

With this new development complete, Lucky Friday reopened on Jan. 9 and was ramped back up to full production in March.

With mill throughput averaging 948 tonnes per day, Lucky Friday produced 1.1 million oz of silver, along with significant lead and zinc byproducts during the second quarter.

The ramp-up of production at Lucky Friday boosted Hecla's first-quarter lead and zinc output by 129% and 28%, respectively, compared to the prior three-month period.

Lucky Friday is forecast to produce 5 million to 5.3 million oz of silver during 2024, according to Hecla's guidance going into the year.

Keno Hill ramp-up continues

Hecla's newest operation, the Keno Hill mine in the Yukon, continues its ramp-up to full production.

Hecla Mining Company

An aerial view of the mill and other surface infrastructure at the Keno Hill silver mine in 2019.

Since gaining ownership of Keno Hill through the acquisition of Alexco Resource toward the end of 2022, Hecla has steadily been working toward bringing this high-grade silver mine online.

The ramp-up to commercial production began during the second quarter of 2023, with the Yukon mine contributing 184,264 oz of silver during the period. This continued into the second half of the year, with the operation producing 710,012 oz of silver during the third quarter and 608,301 oz during the final three months of the year.

Reaching the Yukon operation's full potential, however, has gone slower than Hecla anticipated as it was discovered that a safety action plan needed to be implemented to elevate the Keno Hill mine to Hecla's injury-free standard.

While meeting the company's safety and environmental standards will drive the pace at Keno Hill, the company expects the Yukon mine to reach commercial production later this year.

Keno Hill produced 646,312 oz of silver during the first three months of this year, an increase of 6% over the prior quarter.

The increase in production was attributable to higher mill throughput, which averaged 277 tpd, partially offset by lower silver grades of 26.3 oz per ton.

Keno Hill is forecast to produce 2.7 million to 3 million oz of silver during 2024, according to Hecla's guidance going into the year.

Casa Berardi transition

In addition to its three silver-forward operations, Hecla owns and operates the Casa Berardi gold mine in Quebec.

The company is currently in the midst of transitioning Casa Berardi from underground to surface mining, which has lowered gold output but increased profit margins at the operation.

"Casa Berardi continues to execute on its plan as it transitions to a fully surface operation," said Baker.

During the first quarter of this year, Casa Berardi produced 22,004 oz of gold, which is slightly lower than the 22,517 oz produced during the previous quarter.

The 4,194 tpd mill throughput at Casa Berardi during the first three months of this year is about 5% higher than the previous quarter. The higher mill production, however, was offset by slightly lower grades.

Author Bio

Shane Lasley, Publisher

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Over his more than 16 years of covering mining and mineral exploration, Shane has become renowned for his ability to report on the sector in a way that is technically sound enough to inform industry insiders while being easy to understand by a wider audience.


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