North American silver producer Hecla Mining remains firmly on course to meet its silver target for the year, while its gold output guidance at the Casa Berardi mine, in Canada, will be updated at a later stage, owing to wildfire-related production interruptions
The company, which mines precious metals in the US and Canada, reports that it is poised to achieve its guidance of producing 17-million ounces of silver this year, followed by a projected increase to 20-million ounces by 2025.
In the first six months of the year, silver output increased by 13% to 6.97-million ounces, while gold output reduced by 14% to 87 360 oz.
Hecla’s growing silver production was driven by a 21% increase in output at Lucky Friday, in Idaho, compared to the first half of 2022 and a 6% increase at Greens Creek, Alaska, reports president and CEO Philips Baker.
He also notes that Yukon Territory’s Keno Hill, while still testing the mill, operated in its first month at 75% of the targeted 440 t/d throughput using “low-grade” ore to generate almost 200 000 oz of silver. Throughput in June was 330 t/d using lower-grade stockpiled ore. The mill is expected to ramp up to 440 t/d by the end of the year, with silver production forecasted at more than 2.5-million ounces a year.
“Greens Creek’s quarterly production was in line with the plan, and Lucky Friday’s silver production was the highest since I started at Hecla more than 20 years ago,” Baker adds.
Lucky Friday produced 1.29-million ounces of silver in the second quarter, an increase of 2% over the first quarter. The increase in silver production was primarily attributable to 3% higher grades, partially offset by lower mill throughput. Mill throughput was 1 033 t/d, 2% lower than in the first quarter, driven by the local utility’s unplanned replacement of the main electrical transformer. The mine remains on track to produce 4.5-million to 5-million ounces of silver this year, as throughput is expected to increase to 1 160 t/d in the fourth quarter.
The Greens Creek mine produced 2.4-million ounces of silver and 16 351 oz of gold in the second quarter. Throughput for the quarter was 2 555 t/d, in line with the first quarter, with the mine expected to achieve 2 600 t/d by the fourth quarter of 2023. Silver production declined compared with the first quarter, owing primarily to expected lower grades, with a 10% increase in gold production attributable to higher grades. The mine remains on track to achieve its production guidance of 9-million to 9.5-million ounces of silver this year.
The Casa Berardi mine produced 18 901 oz of gold in the second quarter, a decline of 23% compared with the first quarter’s production of 24 686 oz. Gold production declined over the prior quarter primarily owing to wildfire-related road closures. The mill operated at an average of 4 600 t/d during the first two months of the quarter.
Casa Berardi’s production and cost guidance is suspended and is expected to be updated in the second quarter earnings release.
Hecla is on track to achieve its guidance of 17-million ounces of silver this year, increasing to about 20-million ounces by 2025.