Hecla’s ongoing reserve replacement program this past year succeeded again with year-end 2013 proven and probable silver reserve levels reaching the highest level in Company history, increasing for the 8th consecutive year, up 13% over December 31, 2012, to 170 million silver ounces. In addition, measured and indicated silver resources increased by 18% over December 31, 2012, to 149 million ounces of silver while inferred resources decreased by 17% to 143 million ounces of silver. The newly acquired Casa Berardi mine in Quebec contains 1.39 million ounces of gold reserves.
Last year’s exploration program included the following highlights:
- Silver proven and probable reserves were up 13% to a company record 170 million ounces. In addition, total indicated silver resources total 149 million ounces, and total inferred silver resources total 143 million ounces.
- Proven and probable gold reserves increased by 190% to 2.1 million ounces, also a record level for the Company, principally due to the acquisition of Aurizon Mines Ltd. completed on June 1, 2013. Measured and indicated resources increased 3,610% to 4.7 million ounces of gold and inferred resources increased 148% to 1.8 million ounces of gold.
- At Lucky Friday, there was a 39% increase in proven and probable silver reserves from 55 million to 77 million ounces this year compared to last. Even with the significant increase in the silver reserve ounces, the total measured and indicated resources increased 7% to 116 million silver ounces, while inferred resources decreased 12% to 55 million silver ounces.
- Nearly 100% of the ore mined at Greens Creek was replaced, even with the silver price used to calculate reserves reduced 23% over 2012 to $20/oz. This consistent replacement of reserves at Greens Creek has been a trend that has continued for the last 10 years. The primary replacement came from the conversion of more than 700,000 tons of resource material to reserve in the Deep 200 South, 200 South and Southwest Bench. Greens Creek exploration made significant progress in growing the potential of the 200 South and NWW zones. 200 South had some of the widest and highest-grade intercepts in recent history at the mine.
- Re-examination of district potential near the past producing Francine Vein at San Sebastian led to the discovery of the Middle Vein during 2012. The Middle Vein has both precious-metal-rich and base-metal-rich sulfide mineralized zones. The higher-grade gold-silver mineralization forms other resources of 8.8 million ounces of silver and 45,011 ounces of gold that has been outlined through systematic drilling.
- Drilling of the Middle Vein at San Sebastian during the year defined a series of veins approximately 3,000 feet along strike and to a depth of 1,000 feet and the deposit appears open for extension along strike and to depth. The Middle and Francine veins have been truncated to the northeast by the San Ricardo Fault. Potential extensions to each of the Middle Vein and Hugh Zone structures to the northwest and southeast remain strong and the Middle Vein is open to depth. Exploration drilling in 2014 is planned to evaluate the strike extension of the Francine, Middle and North veins.
Discoveries on Hecla’s district-sized, high-quality land packages in the United States and Mexico are anticipated to generate resources, which we hope to convert into reserves and then production – all leading to valuable organic growth for the company.