Production jumps higher at Black Hills gold mine

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Production jumps higher at Black Hills gold mine

Date: 05/16/2024     Category: News & Media     Author: Seth Tupper     Publication: South Dakota Searchlight    

Original Post ➡️

 A partial aerial view of the Wharf Mine near Lead in May 2023. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight, via EcoFlight)

Gold production was up and silver production was way up last year at South Dakota’s only active large-scale gold mine, according to new numbers reviewed Thursday by a state board.

Chicago-based Coeur Mining owns the Wharf Mine, near Terry Peak and the city of Lead in the northern Black Hills. Gold production at the mine increased by 17% to 93,502 ounces last year, and silver production increased by 481% to 267,786 ounces.

Matt Zietlow is Coeur’s environmental manager at Wharf. He told South Dakota Searchlight there was no intentional reason for the silver production spike.

“It’s really just random,” he said. “It’s the metallurgy of the ore.”

Silver is a “nice co-product” of gold, he added, but “you can actually get too much of a good thing where the silver can outcompete the gold sometimes.”

The increased gold production helped the mine generate $82 million in annual free cash flow, defined by the company as cash from operating activities minus capital expenditures. It was the mine’s highest-ever amount in that category, according to Coeur’s annual report. The company’s sales of minerals mined at Wharf totaled $189.5 million in 2023.

The mine began operations in 1982 and has produced more than 3 million total ounces of gold. It has disturbed about 1,300 acres, including 11 new acres last year. About 350 acres have been fully or partially restored to a natural-looking state, in a process known as reclamation.

Wharf is an open-pit mine that uses the heap-leach method of mineral extraction. Ore is crushed, piled on giant pads and treated with a cyanide solution to leach out the precious metals. 

Coeur stripped away 9.4 million tons of earth last year at Wharf to uncover 4.9 million tons of ore, yielding the combined 361,288 ounces of gold and silver.

The mine paid $6.3 million in gold severance taxes to the state last year, employed 245 people and had a payroll of $32 million. It gave $212,000 to local community groups, schools, athletic programs and charities.

Zietlow presented the figures Thursday during an annual report to the state’s Board of Minerals and Environment.

“A good, solid, safe year for us overall at Wharf,” Zietlow told the board. “Very proud of that.”

Coeur operates additional mines in Nevada, Alaska and Mexico.