Hecla Mining Co. reported a net loss to common shareholders of $1.1 million, or 2 cents per share, for the third quarter, compared with net income of $15.1 million, or 2.9 cents per share in the 2020 quarter.
The company reported that gold production by a third party continued in Nevada.
The Coeur d’Alene, Idaho-based Hecla also stated in its Nov. 4 earnings report that an exploration drift from the Hollister underground mine in Elko County to access the Hatter Graben deposit is ongoing, and drilling began in the fourth quarter.
Drilling also continues at the Midas Mine in Elko County, according to the earnings report.
Hecla stated that the company spent a record amount of $13.7 million on exploration in the third quarter, and free cash flow totaled $15.8 million in the quarter,
Hecla’s president and chief executive officer, Phillips S. Baker Jr. stated that the third-quarter results "reflect our commitment to improve and innovate our operations while delivering free cash flow.”
The company stated that the lower gross profit in the 2021 quarter was due to lower realized silver and gold prices and lower grades at the Greens Creek Mine in Alaska based on mine sequencing impacted by staff shortages.
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The average realized gold price was $1,789 per ounce, compared with $1,911 per ounce in the 2020 quarter, and the average realized silver price was $24.36 per ounce, down slightly from $24.40 in last year’s quarter.
Hecla also said that suspension costs increased in the quarter by $5.4 million due to the Fire Creek Mine in Nevada and the Midas mill being placed on care and maintenance in the second quarter. Also, the company spent $6.5 million to settle a lawsuit related to a 1989 agreement for indemnification of certain environmental costs.
The company produced nearly 2.68 million ounces of silver in the third quarter, down from 3.54 million ounces in the 2020 quarter, and 42,207 ounces of gold, up from 41,174 ounces in the third quarter of last year.
In Nevada, 2,751 ounces of gold were produced from stockpiled refractory material at an autoclave facility that provided the toll milling. All-in sustaining costs were $1,167 per ounce, and Hecla wrote that it expects production from the remaining roughly 2,200 tons of material processed by the third-party will be recognized this quarter.
Nevada’s production also included 270 ounces of silver.
Baker said that Casa Berardi in Quebec “achieved record quarterly throughput as our optimization programs in the mill increase recovery and ounce production. At Lucky Friday, we continue to test our new drill and blast method, called Underhand Closed Bench, that allows improved management of seismicity, which should increase safety and could possibly increase throughput.”
Lauren Roberts, senior vice president and chief operating officer, said in the earnings call that “we are very excited about the UCB mining method, which is showing significant improvements in managing seismicity, a key operating parameter for us. Think of UCB as the short, long-hole stope with no undercut found down dip under engineered fill.”
Baker said Greens Creek “continued to lead the way because of its very low costs and despite staff shortages forcing a change in mine sequencing.”
Greens Creek produced 1.84 million ounces of silver and 9,734 ounces of gold in the quarter; Lucky Friday, 831,532 ounces of silver; and Casa Berardi, 29,722 ounces of gold and 7,012 ounces of silver. The Lucky Friday Mine is an underground operation in Idaho.
Companywide, Hecla also produced 9,904 tons of lead, down slightly from 7,792 tons in the 2020 quarterly, and 15,546 ounces of zinc, down from 17,997 tons last year.
Baker also reported that the company’s operational performance in the quarter “allowed us to enhance our silver-linked dividend for the second time this year and return about 20% of our free cash flow to shareholders while having our largest exploration program in the company’s history."
Additionally, he said that while Hecla has one of the industry’s lowest carbon footprints, the company has taken the next step by investing in carbon credits.