Continued Operations Strength Producing 40% Of U.S. Silver
COEUR D'ALENE, ID - Hecla Mining Company, President and CEO, Phillips S. Baker, Jr., reported, “The Lucky Friday in Idaho, and Casa Berardi in Quebec, both delivered strong operational quarters, with Casa Berardi increasing gold production by 13% and Lucky Friday increasing silver production by 31% over last year. “Greens Creek in Alaska, 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.
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. 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.”
The Greens Creek Mine, 1.8 million ounces of silver and 9,735 ounces of gold were produced. The decrease in silver production compared to the third quarter of 2020, the 5th highest quarterly production in the mine’s history, was primarily due to mining lower grades in more easily accessible areas. The higher-grade material which is deeper will be mined in the future. The mill operated at an average of 2,295 tons per day (tpd). At Greens Creek, the 818,408 tons processed at the mill in 2020 contained 10.5 million ounces of silver, 48,491 ounces of gold, 56,814 tons of zinc, and 21,400 tons of lead.
The current mine plan accesses higher-grade ore in the earlier years of the mine plan from existing workings which reduces the required development investment. In addition, the mine life from only reserves is expected to be to 2031. Greens Creek is exploring a number of areas on the 23-square-mile land package which could potentially lead to additional reserves and resources, further extending the mine life or even leading us to find another deposit like Greens Creek. There are over 30 miles of mine horizon where mineralization has been identified and projected along surface on the property.
At the Casa Berardi Mine, 29,722 ounces of gold were produced. The increase in gold ounces compared to the third quarter of 2020 was due to higher mill throughput and recovery as the mill optimization investments deliver results, partially offset by lower grades. The mill operated at an average of 4,328 tpd.
Casa Berardi is an underground trackless mine accessed by declines and a shaft. The mining methods are longhole transversal stoping in 10 metres or more mineralization width, and longitudinal retreat stoping in narrower ore bodies. The mineralized zones put in reserves are of varying thickness, ranging from a few tens of meters to 3 meters, which is the minimum mining width. Most of the hanging walls are sub-vertical (55° to 85°), with typically the graphitic Casa Berardi fault at the footwall. In addition, ore in being produced from the East Mine Crown Pillar (EMCP) pit located near the East mine. The mine has produced approximately 2.0 million recovered gold ounces since commencing production in 1988, including about 1.0 million recovered ounces since production recommenced in November 2006.
Lucky Friday Mine produced 831,533 ounces of silver in the quarter, an increase of 31% compared to the third quarter of 2020 when the mine was still not at full production. The mill operated at an average of 850 tpd. At the Nevada operations, 2,750 ounces of gold were produced from approximately 12,000 tons of previously stockpiled refractory material processed at a third-party autoclave facility. Production from approximately 2,200 tons of previously stockpiled material processed at the third-party facility remains at quarter end. Hollister’s exploration drift to drill the Hatter Graben and surface drilling at Midas are ongoing.
At Lucky Friday in 2020, the 179,208 tons processed at the mill contained approximately 2.0 ounces of silver, 12,727 tons of lead, and 6,298 tons of zinc. Proven and probable reserves are currently 77.0 million ounces of silver, 485,380 tons of lead and 223,520 tons of zinc. Measured and indicated resources are 86.4 million ounces for silver, 551,340 tons for lead and 269,710 tons for zinc. Inferred resources include 25.4 million ounces of silver, 192,200 tons of lead, and 83,350 tons of zinc.
The Company’s goal is to access more resource to further extend the mine life at Lucky Friday. Currently, it is believed only one-third of the tons and one-half of the ounces that are contained underground at Lucky Friday are in the current mine life. Hecla sees great organic growth opportunities at Lucky Friday.
The #4 Shaft project, an internal shaft at the Lucky Friday mine, is now operational and expected to provide deeper access in order to increase the mine’s production and operational life. The #4 Shaft Project, a key growth project, reaches 9,600 feet below the surface, and is an important part of Lucky Friday’s future as it provides access to the highest-grade ore in the mine’s 75-year history and should extend the mine life for 20-30 more years.
Founded in 1891,Hecla Mining Company is the largest silver producer in the United States. In addition to operating mines in Alaska, Idaho, and Quebec, Canada, the Company owns a number of exploration and pre-development projects in world-class silver and gold mining districts throughout North America.
The company’s address is 6500 North Mineral Drive, Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83815, (208) 769-4100, [email protected].