Sierra records 36% y/y increase in first-quarter copper production

19th April 2024 By: Darren Parker - Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

Sierra records 36% y/y increase in first-quarter copper production

For the first quarter of this year, TSX-listed copper producer Sierra Metals has recorded a 36% year-on-year increase in consolidated copper production of 11.2-million pounds from its two underground mines in South America, the Yauricocha polymetallic mine, in Peru, and the copper-producing Bolivar mine, in Mexico.

Silver production was also up 10% year-on-year, while gold production increased by 19% and lead production by 10%.

The company said on April 19 that its first-quarter consolidated production results reaffirmed its full-year guidance targets for all metals.

Sierra noted the Bolivar mine’s continued quarter-on-quarter production increases.

Meanwhile, underground development below the 1 120 level at Yauricocha is progressing as planned.

“After receipt of the permit to mine below the 1 120 level on February 21, we have already initiated the development activities. We expect to reach full capacity at Yauricocha by the fourth quarter, while continuing to manage every aspect of the mine to maximise production levels above the 1 120 level.

"We are on track to meet our annual guidance. Overall, for both operations, 2024 has gotten off to a good start with expectations of further operational improvements as the year progresses,” Sierra CEO Ernesto Balarezo said.

Consolidated quarterly throughput during the first quarter amounted to 638 916 t, which is a 23% increase from the same quarter a year prior, as both mines registered year-on-year increases in throughput. However, when compared with the fourth quarter of last year, consolidated throughput was 5% lower.

Grades from the Bolivar mine during the first quarter were higher than the first and fourth quarters of last year, while Yauricocha experienced declines in copper grades quarter-on-quarter, as well as decreases in grades for precious metals. These lower grades from the Yauricocha mine were primarily a result of the limited available ore above the 1 120 level.

Consolidated production for all metals, except zinc, increased in the first quarter year-on-year. When compared with the fourth quarter of last year, however, consolidated production for copper, silver and gold were lower by 7%, 9% and 4%, respectively.

Throughput from the Yauricocha mine during the first quarter was 240 686 t, a 10% year-on-year increase attributed to increased access to mining areas. Mine throughput was lower quarter-on-quarter, given the natural depletion of ore zones in the upper part of the mine. These volumes are expected to improve as the development below 1 120 level progresses.

For the first quarter, copper and lead grades remained aligned with the first quarter of last year, but gold, silver and zinc grades were lower. Compared with the fourth quarter of last year, zinc grades were higher but copper grades decreased, attributable to the reduced output from the high-grade Pamela and Kimberly orebodies.

Mining activities for the quarter primarily focused on the lower-grade orebodies, such as Fortuna and Esperanza Distal, which were originally contemplated in the mine plan for the quarter.

Copper-equivalent production of 8.6-million pounds for the first quarter was a 20% decrease from the fourth quarter of last year as the drop in the throughput rates and lower copper, silver and gold grades impacted metal production. When compared with the same quarter last year, copper equivalent production remained in line as increased copper and lead production were offset by the decline in zinc, gold and silver production.

Throughput from the Bolivar mine during the first quarter was 398 230 t, a 33% increase over the first quarter of 2023 but a 3% quarter-on-quarter decrease. The increase over the same quarter of the prior year was driven by advancement in the mine’s development, which allowed for improved access to mineralised zones.

The improved access and mining activities in the high-grade Dulce zone drove grades higher for all metals when compared with both the first and fourth quarters of last year.

Production for copper, silver and gold was 48%, 46% and 32% higher respectively year-on-year, and 13%, 14% and 7% respectively quarter-on-quarter.

Sierra said it remained dedicated to continued exploration efforts aimed at further understanding the continuation of Dulce, and that exploration had yielded promising results so far.

Copper-equivalent production of 11.4-million pounds was achieved at Bolivar during the first quarter, representing a 44% increase over the first quarter of 2023 and 12% increase over the fourth quarter.