Pan American Silver has commissioned a new sulphide ore processing plant at its La Colorada operations in Zacatecas, Mexico—a major milestone in the company’s project to increase La Colorado’s processing rate to 1,800 mt/d by the end of 2017. The new plant began processing sulphide ore on July 1, achieving throughput rates of more than 1,400 mt/d; however, these rates will be slightly reduced until a new mine shaft and additional underground development have been completed to provide a higher ore supply.

The new shaft has a targeted depth of 618 m. The company reported construction was progressing well as of mid-July, with commissioning expected to occur late in the third quarter. All surface work, including headframe and hoist, was fully functioning, and shaft construction was complete with the exception of the underground loading station.

Mining and processing rates are expected to increase following completion of the shaft, ramping up to full processing rates of 1,800 mt/d of ore by the end of 2017. La Colorada’s annual silver production is scheduled to reach approximately 7.7 million oz in 2018, up from 5.3 million oz in 2015.

The La Colorada expansion is on time and on budget and is being funded from internal company resources. Capital spending at La Colorado for 2014 to 2017 is planned at $163.8 million.

Pan American Silver also reported that the Cámara Minera de México has presented La Colorada with its prestigious “Casco de Plata” award for being the safest underground mine in Mexico in 2015.

Pan American Silver operates seven primary silver mines in Latin America: La Colorada, Dolores and Alamo Dorado in Mexico; Huaron and Morococha in Peru; San Vicente in Bolivia; and Manantial Espejo in Argentina. Consolidated silver production from the mines totaled 26.1 million oz in 2015.