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SilverCrest shifts to underground mining at Santa Elena

Bnamericas Published: Monday, April 07, 2014

SilverCrest Mines (TSX: SVL, NYSE MKT: SVLC) has ceased open pit operations at its Santa Elena silver-gold mine in Mexico earlier than planned.

The Vancouver-based company halted open pit mining on Friday (Apr 4), about three months ahead of the original schedule, triggered by "operational constraints presented by the mine contractor," among other factors, it said in a statement.

SilverCrest is nearing completion of an expansion of the Santa Elena mill to 3,000t/d throughput, which is expected to begin operations in April.

In response to the early shutdown of open pit operations at the mine, SilverCrest has accelerated underground mining and development to provide high grade ore to replace that from the open pit.

From May to July, the amount of ore from underground operations will be increased to 20,000-25,000t per month, from 5,000t previously anticipated.

Underground ore will be blended with leach pad ore to achieve the nameplate mill capacity of 3,000t/d by July, the company added.

The changes may impact the company's Q2 production but will not affect production guidance for 2014, which remains at 3.3-3.6Moz silver equivalent.

Total reserves are also unaffected, SilverCrest added.

EXPANSION UPDATE

The expansion remains on budget, plus or minus 5%, the company said, despite a slight delay in the startup from Q1 as previously expected to April caused by the late delivery of the ball mill.

The processing plant is 96% complete, with final electrical and piping work being completed and tested over the coming two weeks.

In addition to Santa Elena, in Sonora state, SilverCrest has the La Joya silver-copper-gold project in Mexico's Durango state.

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