Silver Mining Production Plummets 27% At Top Four Silver Miners

by SRSRocco Report

In an interesting change of events, production at four of the top primary silver miners plummeted during the second quarter of 2017.

This goes well beyond normal fluctuations in mining companies production figures during different quarterly reporting periods. The company with the least percentage decline in silver production still suffered a 20% reduction of mine supply in the second quarter.

According to recently released company data, silver production declined between 20-34% from these four primary silver miners during the second quarter. The company that suffered the biggest decline in silver production was Hecla at -34%, followed by Endeavour Silver at -26%, Silver Standard at -24% and First Majestic with a decrease of 20% (see table above).

Total silver production from these four primary silver miners fell 27%, from 11 million oz (Moz) during Q2 2016, to 8 Moz Q2 2017. We can see the breakdown in the chart below:

The second largest percentage decline in silver production was from Endeavour Silver. Production at Endeavour Silver fell from 1.6 Moz in the second quarter of 2016 to 1.1 Moz in Q2 2017. This 26% decline in silver mine supply was blamed on several factors:

Reduction in capital and exploration expenditures in the beginning of 2016 due to lower silver prices, but the company has increased spending once again in the second half of 2016

narrowing veins, falling ore grades and less ore processing due to a reduced capital expenditures in the beginning of 2016

less access to mine areas as pump failures due to power overloading caused flooding in some portions of the mines

This huge decline in silver production at Endeavour Silver, plus falling earnings, impacted its stock price which fell 16% in one day after the news.

Silver Standard (renamed SSR Mining) which suffered a 24% decrease in silver production saw its mine supply fall to 1.9 Moz in Q2 2017 versus 2.5 Moz during the same period last year. This steep reduction in the company’s silver mine supply was due to the closure of their Pirquitas open-pit mine. SSR Mining’s mine plan for Pirquitas was to move from open-pit operations to underground mining. Silver production at Pirquitas for the remainder of 2017 will be from processing of open-pit stockpiled ore.

Furthermore, SSR Mining will be supplementing silver production from its Pirquitas underground mine from new venture called Chinchillas project located 45 km from Pirquitas. However, production from the Chinchillas project is not expected to begin until the second half of 2018.

The company that experienced the least percentage decline of silver production in the group was First Majestic. Silver production at First Majestic fell 20% from 2.8 Moz during Q2 2016 compared to 2.3 Moz Q2 2017. Production declines at First Majestic were due to mine stoppages at several projects due to unionized worker disputes and labor issues. In addition, declining silver yields of approximately 8% also attributed the decline in Q2 2017 silver production versus the same period last year.

So, we can see how labor disputes, falling ore grades and power outages have negatively impacted many of the top primary silver miners in the industry. Of course, not all primary silver miners experienced declines in production.

For example, Couer Mining reported the same silver production of 4.0 Moz in Q2 2017 as well as in the same period last year. Fortuna actually saw its production increase 36% from 1.6 Moz Q2 2016 to 2.1 Moz Q2 2017. We are still awaiting release of Pan American Silver and Tahoe Resources results next week. However, Tahoe’s Flagship Escobal Silver Mine was shut down by the Guatemalan Supreme Court on July 6th due to suspension of its license based on allegations of human rights violations and the failure of local support for the mine.

Now, this didn’t impact Tahoe’s silver production at its Escobal Mine during the second quarter of 2017, but it will for the second half, if the Guatemalan Supreme Court does not allow operations to return for the remainder of the year. I wrote about this in my recent article, WORLD’S SECOND LARGEST SILVER MINE SHUT DOWN: Implications For Company & Market.

Investors in silver mining companies are dealing with issues that are out of their hands. While I believe that some of these mining share prices will explode higher when the silver price finally takes off, it takes a great deal of patience and fortitude to continue investing as mining companies deal with all these issues that impact not only production, but their profitability as well.

Here is a breakdown of either Adjusted or Net Incomes of these Top Primary Silver Companies:

Hecla = $15.5 million Adjusted Income Loss

First Majestic = $3.6 million Adjusted Income Loss