Hecla Mining Co. reported the second highest silver reserves in its 130-year history and provided an update on its exploration programs during the fourth quarter of 2021 and plans for 2022.

Silver reserves increased to 200 million ounces (oz) with Greens Creek increasing 12%. Gold production was replaced, and reserves increased by 14%. Measured and indicated resources declined primarily due to conversion to reserves. Inferred resources increased 8% for silver and 2% for gold. The company also extended or maintained already long reserve mine lives.

“Hecla’s silver reserves are near our all-time high with Greens Creek reaching 125 million oz, that mine’s second highest since 2002, and Lucky Friday’s 75 million oz giving it a reserve mine life in excess of 15 years,” President and CEO Phil Baker said. “Since 2008, Hecla has, through exploration, added 239 million silver oz in reserves, replacing production while also growing resources.”

The company replaced silver production (15.2 million silver oz contained), and increased proven and probable reserves by 6%, or 11.5 million oz over 2020. Gold production was also replaced (244,680 gold oz contained) and proven and probable reserves increased 14% to 2.7 million oz. Zinc production of 71,000 tons was replaced and reserves increased 2% to a total of 907,000 tons. Lead production of 49,000 tons was nearly replaced with a slight decrease of 1% to 735,000 tons. Reserve price assumptions for 2021 were $17/oz silver, $1,600/oz gold, $1.15/lb. zinc, and $0.90/lb. lead.

Measured and indicated silver ounces decreased 9% to 207 million ounces, from its record level in 2020, due to conversion to reserves at Greens Creek and Lucky Friday. Measured and indicated gold ounces decreased 6% to 3.5 million oz due to conversion to reserves at Casa Berardi and Greens Creek.

Inferred silver resources increased 8% to 491 million oz while inferred gold resources increased 2% to 5.6 million ounces due to increases at Greens Creek, Lucky Friday, San Sebastian in Mexico, and Midas in Nevada.

At Greens Creek, 2021 production across all four metals was replaced and silver, gold, zinc, and lead reserves increased by 12%, 14%, 11%, and 11%, respectively, over 2020 reserves.

Measured and indicated silver resources at year-end 2021 were 107 million oz, a 7% decrease over 2020 due to conversion to reserves. Inferred silver resources increased 18% given renewed exploration drilling and increased metal prices to a total of 27.5 million oz.

At Casa Berardi, 2021 mining depletion was replaced and gold reserves increased 16%, or an addition of 242,000 oz over 2020 to 1.8 million oz. The increase is mostly due to additions at the 160 Open Pit.

Measured and indicated gold resources decreased 16% overall from 2020 (-89% open pit and -4% underground) to 1.1 million oz due to conversion to reserves and higher cut-off grades given increased mining costs.

At the Lucky Friday, proven and probable reserves are currently 75 million oz of silver (3% lower from 2020), 452,440 tons of lead and 181,020 tons of zinc.

Measured and indicated silver resources decreased 8% to 80 million oz over 2020; lead and zinc measured and indicated resources decreased 6% and 4%, respectively. A decrease in measured and indicated resources is due to conversion to reserves.

Inferred resources significantly increased year-over-year and include 42 million oz of silver (+65%), 311,850 tons of lead (+62%) and 129,600 tons of zinc (+55%). An increase in inferred resources is mostly due to additions in the upper portions of the 30 Vein adjacent to reserve blocks; drilling plans are in place to better define these resources in order to convert them to reserve.

Exploration and predevelopment expenses totaled $12.9 million for the fourth quarter and $47.9 million for the full year, which was a record and an increase of $29.6 million compared to 2020.

Hecla has withdrawn the plan of operations for Rock Creek and Montanore from consideration by the United States Forest Service (USFS). These plans were prepared by each project’s prior owner and do not have the data necessary for Hecla to formulate a modern mine plan. The company said it intends to submit a new Plan of Operations for just the Montanore site that will be limited to geologic and environmental evaluation activities only.