NYSE-listed Hecla Mining produced 13.5-million ounces of silver in 2020 – an increase of 7% and the second highest production in the company’s history, with the highest production being in 2016.
Gold production fell by 23% to 208 962 oz from the 2019 record, owing to lower output at the Nevada operations.
Zinc and lead production increased 7% and 41%, respectively, owing to the ramp-up of the Lucky Friday mine, in Idaho.
Silver-equivalent production of 40.7-million ounces and gold-equivalent production of 471 413 oz were reported.
“Despite the challenges of operating during the pandemic, 2020 marked a year of very strong operational performance with silver production significantly exceeding guidance,” said Hecla president and CEO Phillips S. Baker, Jr.
“Our US silver production was 15% higher than the year before and more than 50% higher than 2018, strengthening our position as the United States’ largest silver producer. The strong performance allowed Hecla to reduce net debt, increase dividends, and double exploration expenditures while more than doubling last year’s cash position. At current prices, we could repeat these results in 2021.”
At the Greens Creek mine, in Alaska, in 2020, 10.5-million ounces of silver and 48 490 oz of gold were produced. For the fourth quarter, 2.3-million ounces of silver and 10 276 oz of gold were produced.
The mill operated at an average of 2 236 t/d in 2020, and fourth-quarter production was affected by a significant weather event in December when south-east Alaska was impacted by historically high winds and heavy rains that caused heavy damage in the area and communities.
At the Casa Berardi mine, in Quebec, 121 493 oz and 37 580 oz of gold were produced in 2020 and the fourth quarter, respectively. The latter represents an increase of 11 175 oz over the third quarter owing to more tons milled and higher grades.
The mill operated at an average of 3 699 t/d in 2020.
Overall, 2020 gold production decreased by 10%, or 12 916 oz, compared to 2019, primarily owing to the three-week suspension of operations at the mine to comply with Quebec’s Covid‑19 order in April, and downtime for planned major mill repairs in the third quarter.
At the Lucky Friday mine, two-million and 800 000 oz of silver were produced in 2020 and the fourth quarter, respectively. Lucky Friday achieved full production in the fourth quarter with estimated yearly production in excess of three-million ounces of silver in 2021.
At the San Sebastian mine, in Durango, one-million ounces of silver and 7 223 oz of gold were produced in 2020. For the fourth quarter, 200 000 oz of silver and 1 159 oz of gold were produced.
Mining was completed in the third quarter and milling completed in the fourth quarter of 2020. The mill operated at an average of 474 t/d when in production.
Further, at the Nevada operations in 2020, 31 756 oz of gold and 37 443 oz of silver were produced. Ore mined during the third and fourth quarters was stockpiled for expected processing in early 2021, and the mining of non-refractory ore is substantially complete.
Mining of refractory ore for the bulk sample test continued through the fourth quarter of 2020, and production from this test is expected to be in the range of 5 000 oz of gold in the first half of 2021.
Cash and cash equivalents stood at $131-million on December 31, 2020, with the revolving line of credit undrawn. The company also received the final tranche from Investissment Quebec of C$12.5-million in October.