Greens Creek Mine production soars in Q1

Report released on first ever "Alaska Mining Day"

Hecla Mining Company (NYSE: HL), the owner and operator of Greens Creek Mine, released its first quarter 2013 earnings report on Friday, coinciding with the celebration of Alaska’s first ever Alaska Mining Day.

First quarter 2013 sales for the company were at $76.5 million.

Silver production at Greens Creek was 1.8 million ounces compared to 1.3 million ounces in the first quarter of last year, a 34 percent increase. The increase comes with a 20 percent increase in overall tonnage and 15 percent increase in higher-grade silver.

The cash cost per ounce of silver increased to $5.02 per ounce, compared to $2.24 per ounce in the first quarter of last year.

About $12 million in gross profits for the mine were shifted into the second quarter due to a delayed shipment in April.

Mike Westerlund, vice president of investor relations at Hecla, called Greens Creek a “fantastic asset.”

“It’s a very good long term, high value mine,” Westerlund said. “It’s been a very good mine.”

Last year a marked decline in value of silver, gold and other base metals was seen throughout the global market. But there’s still a lot of physical demand for gold, according to Westerlund.

Overall production at Greens Creek has been good, Westerlund said, calling the mine “a steady, solid producer.”

“It’s one of the lowest cost silver mines in the world,” he said. “Also one of the highest grade silver mines in the world.”

The company is also acquiring a gold mine in Quebec, Canada via Aurizon. The mine, Casa Berardi, is expected to yield an estimated 125,000 to 130,000 ounces of gold according to Aurizon, the company that owns the mine. Next year they expect 150,000 ounces.

“For our company that means it gives us a third operating mine in a mine friendly jurisdiction,” Westerlund said. “You’ll see growing revenues. We believe this is a mine that can cover its own capital costs and will produce a good cash flow for years. It’s got a long mine life.”

The acquisition is expected to be completed in the second quarter.

Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, designates May 10 as “Alaska Mining Day” and was passed through the State Legislature last session; the report published on the same day as the first Alaskan Mining Day on Friday.

• Contact reporter Kenneth Rosen at 523-2250 or at kenneth.rosen@juneauempire.com.

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