Hecla’s ongoing reserve replacement program this past year succeeded in replacing mined silver production and added additional reserves and indicated and inferred silver resources in 2012. The company has made significant progress in its exploration efforts at its four large silver districts, three of which are in the U.S.; Greens Creek, Lucky Friday/Silver Valley, San Juan Silver, and San Sebastian in Durango, Mexico, increasing silver reserve levels for seven consecutive years and beginning 2013 with 150 million ounces of proven and probable silver reserves, the highest in company history. The newly acquired Casa Berardi mine in Quebec contains 1.46 million ounces of gold reserves.
Last year’s exploration program included the following highlights:
- Silver proven and probable reserves were up 2% to a company record 150 million ounces. In addition, total indicated silver resources total 126.6 million ounces, and total inferred silver resources total 172.0 million ounces. Lead and zinc resources increased 6% and 14%, respectively.
- 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.
- Underground drilling in the Equity Vein system at the San Juan Silver property in Colorado has outlined multiple zones of high-grade, gold/silver-bearing veins. Construction of the Bulldog decline was initiated with completion expected in the fourth quarter of 2013.
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.
The 2013 exploration budget for Hecla’s US and Mexico properties is expected to be approximately $21.0 million.