Great Panther Silver Ltd. has released first quarter production results at its two wholly owned Mexican silver mining operations, Guanajuato and Topia.
First Quarter 2014 Operations Highlights (Compared to First Quarter 2013)
-- Ore processed grew 4% to 72,631 tonnes; -- Metal production increased 10% to 667,349 silver equivalent ounces ("Ag eq oz"); -- Silver production was consistent at 370,668 silver ounces ("Ag oz"); -- Gold production rose 17% to 3,666 gold ounces ("Au oz"); and -- Topia metal production increased 24% to a record 258,407 Ag eq oz.
"While we generated a 10% increase in overall metal production over the first quarter 2013, disruptions at Guanajuato had a negative impact on our overall production results," stated Robert Archer, President and CEO. "As noted in our 2013 earnings release in March, it was anticipated that the first quarter of 2014 would see lower metal production and higher cash costs than in the fourth quarter of 2013, due to mining from lower grade zones, periodic illegal mining activities and the illegal occupation of our facilities in early March."
"The impact of the illegal occupation was not as disruptive as it could have been thanks to the involvement of the authorties and the exceptional support of our employees to quickly restore operations to a normal level," added Mr. Archer. "We have subsequently increased our underground development programs at Guanajuato to make up for the delay, and San Ignacio development remains on track for the start of commercial production this quarter, such that our overall production guidance for the year remains unchanged."
Guanajuato Mine Complex
For the first quarter, the Guanajuato operation processed 55,280 tonnes, up 5% compared to the same period in 2013. Ore grades were 128 grams/tonne ("g/t") Ag and 2.19g/t Au. Metal production included 199,059 Ag oz and 3,498 Au oz, or 408,942 Ag eq oz, which represented an increase of 2% over the same period in 2013.
The first quarter of 2014 saw lower metal production at Guanajuato compared to the fourth quarter of 2013 as production was generated from lower silver grade ore. In addition, disruptions from illegal mining activities and the temporary shutdown of the operations impacted production.
Metal production at Guanajuato originated mainly from the gold-rich Santa Margarita mine followed by Cata and Los Pozos. Pre-production mill feed from San Ignacio development ore contributed somewhat to overall production.
For the quarter, plant metallurgical performance recorded a slight decline from both the first and fourth quarters of 2013 with metal recoveries of 87.3% for silver and 90.1% for gold, primarily due to processing lower grade ore.
Underground development at Guanajuato was consistent compared to the same period in 2013 but was 20% higher than in the fourth quarter of 2013. Underground development was increased in order to maintain the Company's ability to meet annual production targets. Successful exploration development was conducted on the 465 level of the Cata mine with encouraging high grade values on the Alto 4 vein.
Exploration drilling at Guanajuato increased 113% over the fourth quarter of 2013 to 3,532 metres. Two thirds of the diamond drilling was at Valenciana, targeting the main Veta Madre vein and both the hanging wall and footwall vein systems. In addition, infill drilling was conducted at Guanajuatito between the 245 and 265 metre levels. This drilling is being conducted to upgrade the resource and guide mine planning by increasing confidence in the ore grade distribution.
The Cata shaft rehabilitation program is progressing as planned and has no effect on ore hoisting operations.
For the first quarter, ore processed at Topia increased 2% to a record 17,351 tonnes compared to the same period in 2013. Ore grades were 344g/t Ag, 0.56g/t Au, 1.90% lead ("Pb") and 2.70% zinc ("Zn"). Metal production included 171,609 Ag oz, 168 Au oz, 308 Pb tonnes and 431 Zn tonnes. Total metal production was a record 258,407 Ag eq oz which is 24% higher than the same period in 2013. The increase was primarily a function of improved grades over the first quarter of 2013. Silver grades alone improved 15%.
Plant metallurgical performance was 89.4% for silver, 53.8% for gold, 93.4% for lead and 91.9% for zinc.
The Argentina, El Rosario and San Gregorio mines were the primary sources of improved silver grades and the increase in silver ounce production. Mining continues to be focused in areas with consistently higher grade and better vein widths.
Various process optimization measures have been implemented at the processing plant and others are underway. Crushing capacity increased 48% as a result of the new cone crusher installed late last year. It is expected that the reduction of ore feed size at the mill will improve recoveries and decrease milling costs.
San Ignacio Project
For the first quarter, pre-production development at San Ignacio delivered 8,037 tonnes that were milled at the Guanajuato plant at ore grades of 103g/t Ag and 2.47g/t Au. Metal production included 20,674 Ag oz and 530 Au oz, or 52,447 Ag eq oz.
Pre-production exploration crosscuts and development on the Intermediate vein and, to a lesser degree on the Melladito vein, are ongoing. The ramp has reached the 2300 metre level (above mean sea level)) where initial production will commence following the development of the access drift and stopes. Anticipated production of 100 tonnes per day by the end of June is on schedule.
Ancillary surface infrastructure at San Ignacio was further upgraded by finalizing the electrical substation. This has improved the underground air and power supply resulting in higher efficiency for the drilling equipment. In addition, the waste dump was completed and a mechanical services workshop is under construction.
At this time, plans for El Horcon are limited to applying for the necessary government permits to allow further exploration and development. This project has the potential to be another satellite mine to the Company's Guanajuato operation, leveraging excess capacity at its Cata processing plant.
The Company is maintaining its guidance of approximately 10% growth in production in 2014 to 3.1 to 3.2 million Ag eq oz. The Company is also maintaining its 2014 cost guidance.
The Company anticipates the start of commercial production at San Ignacio before the end of the second quarter at a rate of approximately 100 tonnes per day. As development increases, output will be gradually ramped up to approximately 250 tonnes per day by year end.
With silver and gold prices remaining at relatively low levels, management will continue to look for ways to reduce costs and improve operational efficiencies and grade control. However, both Guanajuato and Topia have complex geology and the measures taken to mitigate this grade variability cannot serve to completely eliminate this factor.
Exploration drilling at Guanajuato will focus on upgrading mineral resource estimates at Valenciana, Cata, San Cayetano, Guanajuatito and Los Pozos before the end of the year.
Exploration drilling at San Ignacio will focus on expanding and upgrading the mineral resource at the Intermediate, Melladito and Nombre de Dios zones in areas adjacent to the ramp development in the second and third quarters.
Great Panther Silver Announces Resignation of Director
Geoff Chater has resigned from his position as a director of Great Panther Silver Ltd. as a result of his recent acceptance of the president and chief executive officer position at Luna Gold.
"I have sincerely enjoyed serving on the board of Great Panther and was looking forward to further contributing; however, my recent appointment with Luna Gold precludes me from continuing in this position. I wish Great Panther, its directors and employees all the best going forward," stated Mr. Chater.
Bob Garnett, chairman of Great Panther, responded: "It has been a pleasure to work with Geoff. I wish to thank him for his contributions to Great Panther and congratulate him on his new role."
The company has commenced a search for a new director to replace Mr. Chater.