Lucky Friday Full Production To Reach Excess Of 3 Million Ounces Of Silver Annually
COEUR D'ALENE, ID - Hecla Mining Company, President and CEO, Phillips S. Baker, Jr., said, “The Lucky Friday Mine ramp-up remains ahead of schedule. At the Lucky Friday Mine, 636,389 ounces of silver were produced, compared to 115,682 ounces in the third quarter of 2019. The mine has continued normal operations during the pandemic, with the ramp-up ahead of schedule. Lucky Friday, starting in the fourth quarter, will achieve full production with estimated annual production in excess of 3 million ounces of silver in 2021. Underground testing and modification of the Remote Vein Miner (RVM) continued in Sweden, but with limitations due to COVID-19. In parallel, the Company is testing alternative mining methods to increase productivity at the mine.”
The Mine is a deep underground silver, lead, and zinc mine located in the Coeur d’Alene Mining District in northern Idaho. The mine is located approximately one mile east of Mullan, in Shoshone County, North Idaho, and 55 miles east of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, along Interstate 90 (I-90). The facility lies just north of the interstate near exit ramp 69. The Silver Shaft head frame can be easily observed from I-90 with the shaft collar approximately 70 feet above the valley floor. The Lucky Friday vein system is immediately adjacent to the Silver Shaft and the Gold Hunter deposit lies 5,000 feet northwest of the Silver Shaft.
The #4 Shaft Project, a key growth project, is now operational. Reaching 9,600 feet below the surface, the #4 Shaft 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. In 2017, the focus is on developing the 6500 level to connect the #4 Shaft to the orebody. The plant has a full surface facility complete with a 1,000 tons of ore per day mill, which produces lead and zinc concentrates. These concentrates are currently shipped for treatment via truck to Teck Cominco Metals Ltd. smelter in Trail, BC, Canada. All production is by underground methods, which include both underhand and overhand mining. The coarse mill tailing is mixed with cement and used as backfill. Production is via ramps and transfers, and substantially utilizes jumbo drills, mechanized mining, and truck haulage to the Silver Shaft. Access to the underground workings is via the 18-foot diameter, concrete lined, Silver Shaft.
At Lucky Friday in 2019, the 57,091 tons processed at the mill contained approximately 675,387 ounces of silver, 4,487 tons of lead, and 2,426 tons of zinc. Proven and probable reserves are currently 80.3 million ounces of silver, 505,740 tons of lead and 223,520 tons of zinc and are essentially unchanged from 2018. Measured and indicated resources have increased 10% to 82.4 million ounces for silver, 8% to 523,670 tons for lead and 7% to 276,660 tons for zinc. Inferred resources increased slightly year-over-year and include 26.2 million ounces of silver (+5%), 190,500 tons of lead (+5%) and 82,250 tons of zinc (+11%).
Hecla’s goal is to access more resource to further extend the mine life at Lucky Friday. Currently, we believe 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. The Company sees great organic growth opportunities at Lucky Friday.
Highlights from other operations:
1. The Greens Creek Mine, produced 2.6 million ounces of silver and 12,838 ounces of gold, compared to 2.5 million ounces and 13,684 ounces, respectively, in the third quarter of 2019. Higher silver production was a result of slightly higher ore production and grades. The mill operated at an average of 2,340 tons per day (tpd) in the third quarter, a similar throughput as the third quarter of 2019. At Greens Creek, one drill rig program was focused on the 200S Zone, approximately 750 feet south of existing mining. A second drill rig was mobilized to site in October to bring drilling at Greens Creek back to pre-pandemic levels. Strong definition drilling assay results confirmed and upgraded 200S Zone resources, including 20.2 oz/ton silver, 0.02 oz/ton gold, 6.3% zinc and 2.9% lead over 28.5 feet and 30.3 oz/ton silver, 0.03 oz/ton gold, 18.2% zinc and 9.7% lead over 8.0 feet on the upper bench structure. Drilling targeting the lower contact returned 31.6 oz/ton silver, 0.22 oz/ton gold, 1.2% zinc and 0.6% lead over 32.9 feet. In the fourth quarter of 2020 definition drilling is planned in the Upper Plate, 9a, East Ore, West, and Northwest West ore zones with lesser amounts of pre-production drilling in the 9a and 5250 ore zones. The two drilling rigs are currently active on the East Zone and the Upper Plate Zone.
2. At the Casa Berardi Mine, 26,405 ounces of gold were produced, including 6,800 ounces from the East Mine Crown Pillar (EMCP) pit compared to 36,547 ounces in the third quarter of 2019. The decrease is primarily due to lower mill throughput resulting from longer than planned down time of major mill maintenance activities, along with lower ore grades due to a delay in the availability of higher-grade underground stopes as a result of ground condition challenges. Hecla anticipates ore from these higher-grade stopes to be mined and processed in the fourth quarter. The mill operated at an average of 3,138 tpd in the third quarter, a decrease of 14% over the third quarter of 2019. Drilling in the East Mine focused on defining continuity and expanding mineralization in the 160 Zone Pit area and in the 148 Zone. Definition drilling in the 160 Zone targeted mineralization below the current 160 Pit shell to further define the continuity of the 160 lenses at depth. Intersections from this drilling included 0.07 oz/ton gold over 108.2 feet, 0.10 oz/ton gold over 59.7 feet, and 0.06 oz/ton gold over 138.4 feet including 0.11 oz/ton gold over 8.9 feet and expands mineralization in the 160-03 and 160-04 lenses at depth plunging to the east. Exploration drilling in the East Mine occurred in the 148 Zone from underground targeting the down-plunge trend of the known high-grade mineralization. Intersections include 0.67 oz/ton gold over 9.8 feet located 98 feet below the currently defined 148-01 lens limit at the contact of the Casa Berardi Fault. Exploration drilling in the 159 Zone located just south of the 160 Zone Pit area intersected a narrow high-grade vein containing 0.41 oz/ton gold over 5.6 feet including 0.84 oz/ton gold over 2.6 feet. This vein is open for expansion to the east and at depth.
In the West Mine area, definition and exploration drilling focused on defining and expanding mineralization in the Upper123 Zone from the 350 level, the Lower 123 Zone from the 1070 level, and the 128 Zone from the 490 level. Recent high-grade intersections from the Upper 123 Zone indicate the 123-01 lens is open for expansion up dip and include 0.91 oz/ton gold over 9.2 feet, 0.63 oz/t gold over 9.6 feet, and 0.51 oz/ton gold over 9.8 feet. Drilling in the 128 Zone identifies that two additional lenses, one to the north and one to the south of the 128-01 lens. Intersections include 0.91 oz/ton gold over 1.0 feet and 0.12 oz/ton gold over 17.7 feet including 0.23 oz/ton gold over 3.3 feet and 0.31 oz/ton gold over 3.9 feet. These initial results indicate mineralization is open at depth for expansion. In the fourth quarter of 2020, underground drilling will focus on refining and expanding resources in the 123, 124, and 128 zones in the West Mine and the 148, 159, and 160 zones in the East Mine.
3. San Sebastian Mine, produced 266,691 ounces of silver and 1,931 ounces of gold, compared to 541,636 ounces and 4,699 ounces, respectively, in the third quarter of 2019. The lower silver and gold production was expected and the result of lower ore grades. The mill operated at an average of 512 tpd, an increase of 4% over the third quarter of 2019. At San Sebastian two core rigs operated throughout the quarter, one at the newly discovered El Bronco Vein and one at the newly discovered El Tigre Vein. The El Bronco Vein was discovered late in the second quarter and the El Tigre Vein was discovered early in the third quarter of this year as a result of short vertical reverse circulation (SVRC) drilling in areas with thick soil cover. These two new blind vein discoveries represent strong new structures to explore for zones of high-grade mineralization and continue to demonstrate the excellent prospectivity of the San Sebastian District and the effectiveness of SVRC drilling to discover new veins under cover.
Early drilling at the El Bronco Vein produced positive results with a recent drillhole returning: 0.29 oz/ton gold, 20.7 oz/ton silver over 4.2 feet (true width). Follow-up offset drilling of this intercept is currently in progress. The El Tigre Vein is a strong vein structure with an average true width in the first seven holes of 12.8 feet. Step-out drilling at both the El Bronco and El Tigre veins on approximately 300-foot centers is in progress and scheduled to continue into the fourth quarter of 2020 and into 2021.
4. The Nevada operations, ore mined during the quarter has been stockpiled for the third-party processing expected in the fourth quarter. Gold production will not be realized until 2021. Mining of non-refractory ore is substantially complete. Mining of refractory ore is expected to continue through the remainder of 2020. Production from the processing of the refractory ore is expected to be about 5 thousand ounces of gold. At Midas, four core rigs operated in September and will continue drilling into late November testing high-priority targets. Detailed mapping and sampling, geology modeling, alteration mineral speciation, and CSAMT geophysics during the first two quarters of 2020 defined numerous high-priority drilling targets at Midas including the Green Racer Sinter, Elko Prince, North Block, Southern Cross, SV1, Jackknife Ridge, and G3 target areas. Targets were prioritized based on anomalous gold, silver, and pathfinder elements, strong alteration associated with a boiling hydrothermal system at depth, and structural preparation. Because they were outside the Plan of Operations, many of these targets have never been drill tested or limited previous drilling did not adequately test the target. Initial drill testing of these targets began late in the third quarter beginning with the Green Racer Sinter, North Block, Southern Cross, and SV1 targets. Assay results are pending for drilling completed to date.