SilverCrest Mines reported that its new 3,000-metric-ton-per-day (mt/d) mill and facilities (CCD-Merrill Crowe recovery) at its 100% owned Santa Elena mine has been successfully commissioned. The commissioning period began in early May, and planned for 3 months of ramp-up, which was completed as of August 1. The Santa Elena mine, located about 150 km northwest of Hermosillo, is currently transitioning from an open-pit heap leach operation to a conventional 3,000-t/d conventional mill facility and underground operation.

“Commissioning the new Santa Elena mill and facilities is another major milestone achieved as SilverCrest continues systematic and responsible growth,” said Eric Fier, president and COO, SilverCrest Mines. “Our dedicated construction, commissioning, and operating teams should be congratulated on their continued efforts toward achieving targets under strict schedules and cash control protocols. We will continue to adjust and optimize all the components of the facilities in efforts to achieve through-put tonnages at or above the nameplate capacity. Our near term focus now turns to achieving further milestones, including underground stope production.”

For 30 continuous days through to early August, the mill through-put ranged from 1,485 to 3,144 mt/d and achieved an average of 2,524 mt/d or 84% of the 3,000 mt/d nameplate capacity. In July, 1,516 oz of gold and 81,818 oz of silver (excluding residual leached ounces from pad production) were produced and which exceeded budgeted production of 1,255 oz of gold and 74,325 oz of silver. Startup recoveries of gold and silver in July were 82% and 65%, respectively, compared to budgeted start up recoveries of 83% and 62%.

As planned, the mill feed during the commissioning period came from the leach pad reserve (pad ore). Blending of higher grade underground ore is expected to commence during Q3 2014. Approximately, 69,000 mt of pad ore that was milled in July graded 0.84 g/mt gold and 56.80 g/mt silver, which are approximately 33% higher for gold and 58% higher for silver than budgeted grades of 0.63 g/mt gold and 36.0 g/mt silver.

Underground stope production is the next milestone in the transition plan at Santa Elena. Production from the first underground stope is planned for August. This initial stope will be mined using standard long hole stoping methods. As of July 31, approximately 32,225 mt of underground development ore have been stockpiled for mill processing in Q3 2014. The average stockpile grade is 1.63 g/mt gold and 118.91 g/mt silver, which is consistent with current reserve models.