Tahoe Resources reported on July 10, that Guatemala President Otto Perez Molina, in an effort to promote consensus in Guatemala’s Congress and advance support for mining in Guatemala, asked the Congress to approve a two-year temporary moratorium on the granting of new mining and exploration licenses in Guatemala. Tahoe received the final permit for its high-grade, underground Escobal silver project in southeast Guatemala in April, and the company reported that the proposed government action will not affect the permit.
Surface plant construction and underground development of the Escobal project are continuing on schedule. Tahoe is targeting commercial production of 3,500 mt/d from the mine and 20 million mt/y of silver in concentrates in early 2014. Escobal hosts an indicated silver resource of 367.5 million oz at an average grade of 422 g/mt, and an inferred silver resource of 36.7 million oz at an average grade of 254 g/mt.
As of June 30, engineering, procurement and construction management for the Escobal project was 85% complete, and underground development was sufficiently advanced to allow the start of production. Commissioning will continue to advance throughout the process plant circuits as construction is completed over the second half of 2013.
Escobal production is expected to gradually ramp up through the fourth quarter of 2013 as commissioning of the plant is completed and issues commonly associated with start-up of a metallurgical plant and underground mine are resolved. Project completion is estimated to be on budget at the original capital forecast of $326.6 million.
The Tahoe announcement stated that based on discussions with government officials, Tahoe believes the planned pause in permitting will allow Guatemala’s Energy and Mines Ministry and Congress to focus on revisions to the mining law that were proposed earlier this year. Tahoe holds licenses on 158 km2, including 20 km2 on the Escobal project. None of these licenses will be affected by the proposed government action. A number of reconnaissance and exploration licenses remain pending, and the government action is not expected to impact the company’s priority rights to these licenses in the future.
Tahoe President and CEO Kevin McArthur said, “While we are disappointed with the potential effects to our regional exploration programs, Tahoe will continue to work with the Guatemalan government to amend the mining law, ensuring a profitable mining industry and continued economic prosperity in the country. While most of our prospective ground is in areas where we hold approved licenses, we will have to pull back on some of our regional work for a period of time.”
Since receiving the final permit for the Escobal project in April, Tahoe has committed to enhance and strengthen its corporate social responsibility programs. A new voluntary royalty (now totaling 5% NSR) was implemented in April, so that outlying communities seeing socioeconomic impacts from the operation will receive funds to manage local issues.