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Hecla Mining silver, gold production up sharply over 2015

FILE – An unidentified man walks toward the covered staircase leading to the second level at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho, on April 24, 2011. (J. Bart Rayniak / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE – An unidentified man walks toward the covered staircase leading to the second level at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho, on April 24, 2011. (J. Bart Rayniak / The Spokesman-Review)

Silver and gold production surpassed expectations last year, Coeur d’Alene-based Hecla Mining Co. said Tuesday.

The company produced 17.2 million ounces of silver, a 48 percent increase over 2015, and 233,929 ounces of gold, up 24 percent over 2015. Lead production in 2016 was up 6 percent and zinc production decreased 2 percent, Hecla announced.

The company (NYSE:HL) reported that its year-end cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments totaled about $198 million, up about $43 million for the year.

It was the third straight year that the 126-year-old company broke its silver and gold production.

Hecla was the top performing local stock in 2016, with share prices that nearly quadrupled as global economic uncertainty increased investor’s demand for gold and silver.

Hecla produced 3.6 million ounces of silver last year at the Lucky Friday mine in Mullan, Idaho. That’s the most in 16 years, the company said.

The 19 percent increase in production in the Silver Valley was due to an increase in raw material processed there and greater recovery, Hecla said.

Hecla recently finished extending a new shaft 10,000 feet below the earth’s surface to access new ore bodies. The $225 million project, now operational, will keep the Lucky Friday running for at least another 20 years, the company has said.

“Through the down cycle we continued to build our production capacity” with the new shaft and other projects, said Phillips S. Baker, Jr., Hecla’s President and CEO. “The performance of these investments … allowed Hecla to generate substantial cash flows this year and we expect well into the future.”

Hecla employs 1,300 people in mining operations in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. It also operates silver mines in Alaska and Mexico, and is a growing gold producer with an operating mine in Quebec, Canada.

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