Hecla Mining Company today announced record operating cash flow of $197.8 million, net income applicable to common shareholders of $35.4 million, or $0.14 per basic share, and adjusted net income applicable to common shareholders of $82.6 million1 or $0.33 per basic share for the year. Full year silver production was 10.6 million ounces at a total cash cost of negative $1.46 per ounce, net of by-products.2
FULL YEAR 2010 HIGHLIGHTS – RECORD FINANCIAL RESULTS
* Highest annual revenue and operating cash flow in Hecla’s 120-year history
* Revenue of $418.8 million, a $106.3 million increase over 2009
* Net income applicable to common shareholders of $35.4 million, or $0.14 per basic share
* Adjusted net income applicable to common shareholders of $82.6 million, or $0.33 per basic share
* Operating cash flow of $197.8 million, a 66% increase over 2009
* Silver production of 10.6 million ounces at a total cash cost of negative $1.46 per ounce, net of by-products
* Silver reserves and resources increased to 142 million ounces and 248 million ounces, respectively
* Significant advancement with the Lucky Friday #4 Shaft Project
* Cash and cash equivalents of $283.6 million at December 31, 2010 and no debt
FOURTH QUARTER 2010 HIGHLIGHTS
* Revenue of $134.5 million, a $46.4 million increase over the same period in 2009
* Net loss applicable to common shareholders of $13.1 million, or $0.05 per basic share, after giving effect to certain significant items:
o $193.2 million accrual on the Coeur d’Alene Basin litigation
o $133.6 million in tax benefit
* Adjusted net income applicable to common shareholders of $30.6 million, or $0.12 per basic share
* Operating cash flow of $85.8 million, a 34% increase over the same period in 2009
* Silver production of 2.7 million ounces at a total cash cost of negative $0.14 per ounce, net of by-products
“The fourth quarter and year-end results were record setting in a number of areas, reflecting increased throughput and low costs at our Greens Creek and Lucky Friday operations, and strong metals prices,” said Hecla’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Phillips S. Baker, Jr. “After considering all investing and financing activities, we generated $178.9 million in net cash flow last year. Our strong balance sheet and growing cash flow should be sufficient to meet our financial obligations of a potential Basin litigation settlement, as well as continuing to fund capital projects to expand our operations and explore our large land packages in the U.S. and Mexico.”
1) The adjusted income applicable to common shareholders represents a non-U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) measurement. A reconciliation of net income applicable to common shareholders (GAAP) to adjusted income can be found at the end of the release.
2) Total cash cost per ounce of silver represents a non-U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) measurement. A reconciliation of total cash cost to cost of sales and other direct production costs and depreciation, depletion and amortization (GAAP) can be found at the end of the release.
Hecla reported 2010 and fourth quarter record revenues and cash flow from operating activities, surpassing the previous 120-year record set in 2009, as a result of increased tonnage at Lucky Friday and Greens Creek, and higher metals prices. Net income applicable to common shareholders for the full year and net loss applicable to common shareholders for the fourth quarter were impacted by the following three items:
* An accrual of $193.2 million in the fourth quarter 2010 due to an increase in Hecla Limited’s estimated liability for environmental obligations in Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Basin caused by historic mining activity. The increased accrual is based on a potential settlement that includes all Basin claims in the litigation. Hecla Limited’s accrual now stands at $262 million (see Coeur d’Alene Basin Litigation below).
* A change in net income tax benefits, as a result of higher metals prices, increased profitability, and the recognition of the tax effect of the environmental liability accrual described above.
* A $20.8 million loss, primarily non-cash in 2010 related to long-term base metal hedging, which includes a loss of $9.6 million in the fourth quarter 2010 due to rising base-metals prices, and mark-to-market changes in the value of base metal derivative contracts. A summary of the quantities of base metals committed at December 31, 2010 is included at the end of this release.
Hecla’s cash position at December 31, 2010 was $284 million, compared to $105 million of cash on hand at December 31, 2009.
Capital expenditures at our operations totaled $72.7 million for the full year 2010 and $23.2 million for the fourth quarter. Full year expenditures incurred at Lucky Friday were $54.4 million, which included $15.8 million in the fourth quarter. The majority of the expenditures at Lucky Friday were on the #4 Shaft Project. Full year expenditures incurred at Greens Creek were $18.3 million, which included $7.4 million for the fourth quarter.
Exploration expenditures for the fourth quarter and full year 2010 were $5.4 million and $21.6 million, respectively. As detailed in the exploration news release issued on February 24th, 2011, Hecla achieved the highest level of silver reserves and resources in its history with 142 million ounces and 248 million ounces, respectively. Updated reserves and resources at December 31, 2010 also include gold reserves and resources of 757,000 ounces and 450,700 ounces, respectively; lead reserves and resources of 556,200 tons and 1.2 million tons, respectively; and zinc reserves and resources of 859,000 tons and 831,900 tons, respectively.
Coeur d’Alene Basin Litigation
The negotiators representing Hecla, the United States, the Coeur d’Alene Indian Tribe, and the State of Idaho with respect to the Coeur d’Alene Basin environmental litigation and related claims have reached an understanding on proposed financial terms to be incorporated into a comprehensive settlement that would contain additional terms yet to be negotiated.
“Determining the financial terms of any settlement of this longstanding litigation is an important step forward in finally resolving this dispute,” said Mr. Baker. “While the cost is significant, we believe the terms are consistent with both our current plans and adding opportunities that will allow Hecla to grow further. We hope a final settlement can be achieved by the end of the second quarter.”
On February 18, 2011, the Idaho Federal District Court issued an Order giving the parties to the litigation until April 15, 2011 to inform the Court of the status of settlement negotiations. During this time period, the negotiators will work towards finalizing and agreeing to the settlement terms, followed by a recommendation for approval to their respective parties. If the parties are able to complete terms of settlement, it is expected that a Consent Decree would be lodged, followed by a public comment period of 30 days and a period for responses to those public comments. The Consent Decree would also require approval by the Idaho Federal District Court. If the Consent Decree is entered, Hecla would make the following payments:
* $102 million of cash and $55.5 million of cash or stock 30 days after entry of the Consent Decree
* $25 million of cash 30 days after the first anniversary of entry of the Consent Decree
* $15 million of cash 30 days after the second anniversary of entry of the Consent Decree
* $65.9 million by August 2014, as quarterly payments of the proceeds from the exercise of any outstanding Series 1 and Series 3 warrants (which have an exercise price of between $2.45 and $2.50 per share) during the quarter, with the balance of the $65.9 million due in August 2014 (regardless of the amount of warrants that have been exercised)
While the negotiators have reached an understanding on proposed financial terms, no party has agreed to any of these terms as final, nor has any party represented that any of these terms are final or agreed to. There can be no assurance that a final settlement will be reached.
Realized metals prices increased significantly in 2010 compared to 2009. In the fourth quarter and full year, realized metals prices exceeded market prices primarily because of provisional price gains of $9.6 million in the fourth quarter and $16.6 million for the year due largely to increased precious metals prices in the time period between the shipment of concentrate and final settlement.
In spite of higher mine and mill throughput at both Greens Creek and Lucky Friday, silver production decreased slightly in 2010 due to lower silver ore grades at both operations, which was anticipated. However, production of lead and zinc, which are important by-products, increased to record levels in 2010 due to higher grades and ore volumes. Fourth quarter silver production was higher compared to a year ago mainly due to higher milled tonnage.
The key drivers for the reduction in total cash cost per ounce of silver year-over-year are higher metals prices and increased production of gold, lead and zinc. The increase in the fourth quarter total cash cost per ounce of silver, in comparison to the same period in 2009, is due to lower zinc and lead grades resulting in lower by-product credits.
Full year silver production at Greens Creek was 7.2 million ounces, which included 1.9 million ounces in the fourth quarter, in comparison to 7.5 million ounces and 1.5 million ounces, respectively, in the same periods in 2009. The decrease in silver production year-over-year is due to lower silver ore grade. The lower silver grade, along with the higher zinc and lead ore grades, were expected and are due to differences in the sequencing of production according to the mine plan. The increase in silver production in the fourth quarter over the same period in 2009 is attributable to higher silver, gold, lead and zinc grades and recoveries, and increased mill throughput. The Company is working to optimize mill capacity at Greens Creek and has successfully increased throughput by approximately 10% since 2008 to 2200 tons per day, and will work towards increasing throughput to 2250 tons per day in 2011.
Total cash cost at Greens Creek for the full year was negative $3.90 per ounce, net of by-products and was negative $1.93 per ounce for the fourth quarter, net of by-product credits, compared to $0.35 and negative $4.85 per ounce, respectively, for the same periods in 2009. The increase in total cash cost in the fourth quarter over the same period in 2009 is due in part to lower by-product credits. The total decrease in cash cost per ounce of silver produced year-over-year was primarily due to increased by-product production credits, partially offset by higher treatment and freight costs, production costs, and production taxes. The higher treatment and freight costs in 2010 are due to increased price participation charges by smelters.
Full year silver production at Lucky Friday was 3.4 million ounces and 819,317 ounces in the fourth quarter, compared to 3.5 million ounces and 865,595 ounces, in the respective periods in 2009. The overall decrease in production year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter is primarily due to lower silver ore grade, which was expected. The operation achieved record lead and zinc production in 2010 with 21,619 tons and 9,286 tons, respectively, which included 5,356 tons and 2,214 tons, respectively, in the fourth quarter.
Total cash cost at Lucky Friday for the full year was $3.76 per ounce, net of by-product credits and $4.06 per ounce in the fourth quarter, net of by-product credits, in comparison to $5.21 and $3.10 per ounce, respectively, for the same periods in 2009. The decrease in total cash cost per ounce year-over-year is due to higher by-product credits resulting from higher lead and zinc prices, partially offset by higher employee profit sharing, production costs, expensed site infrastructure, and treatment and freight costs. The increase in total cash cost per ounce over the fourth quarter in 2009 is attributable to lower silver grades.
Michael Dexter, until recently the Lucky Friday General Manager, retired after 25 years with Hecla. “We are grateful for Mike’s valuable contribution and leadership over more than two decades,” said Mr. Baker. “Not only has Lucky Friday been operating for 69 years, but with the current proposed development of the #4 Shaft, the mine is expected to produce beyond 2030. This would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Mike and his team. We wish him all the best in his retirement and look forward to working with him as our community relations representative in the Silver Valley. We would also like to congratulate John Jordan, who will be taking the helm as General Manager, and guiding Lucky Friday to continued success. John was previously the Mine Superintendent at Lucky Friday and has 30 years experience in the mining industry.”
#4 Shaft Project
The #4 Shaft Project at Lucky Friday is progressing well and Hecla believes that the project could increase Lucky Friday’s annual silver production by approximately 60% from current levels and extend the mine life beyond 2030. Total estimated capital expenditures are expected to be approximately $200 million, for an internal shaft descending from the 4900 level to the 8800 level, with expected completion in 2014. As of December 31, 2010, approximately $50 million in total capital expenditures has been spent since inception of the proposed project, which includes $37.7 million spent in 2010. Capital expenditures for the #4 Shaft Project in 2011 are expected to be approximately $45 million. Final approval of the total project by Hecla’s board of directors could come as early as mid-2011.
In the fourth quarter, basic engineering work for a centralized refrigeration system was completed. The scope of work for the project was revised to include additional shaft depth from the 7800 level to the 8800 level. As of December 31, 2010, off-shaft development and shaft development have advanced a total of 5,359 feet and 78 feet, respectively. Construction of the hoist is proceeding with all major mechanical components installed and operational.
Hecla expects silver production in 2011 to range between 9 and 10 million ounces. Silver production is expected to be slightly lower in 2011 compared to 2010, due to lower silver grades, along with higher zinc and lead ore grades, which are all linked to mine sequencing at Greens Creek and Lucky Friday. Silver production is expected to increase in 2012 as grades increase at both properties. Total cash cost is forecast to be approximately zero dollars per ounce of silver produced, net of by-product credits, at current metals prices ($1,350 per ounce of gold, and $1.05 per pound of lead and zinc).
Capital expenditures in 2011 are expected to be approximately $100 million. Hecla expects to spend approximately $27 million in exploration in 2011.
Mr. Baker said, “One of our key areas of focus in 2011 will be to work towards enhancing our production pipeline through our aggressive exploration program in the four districts we dominate, and to bring new assets into the company via mergers and acquisitions. In addition to the development of the #4 Shaft Project at our Lucky Friday operation, which is expected to provide production growth beyond 2015, we are working towards increasing near-term and future production.”
DIVIDEND ON SERIES B PREFERRED STOCK
Hecla’s board of directors has elected to declare the regular quarterly dividend of $0.875 per share on the outstanding Series B Cumulative Convertible Preferred Stock, on a total of 157,816 shares outstanding. This represents a total amount to be paid of approximately $138,000. The cash dividend is payable April 1, 2011, to shareholders of record on March 15, 2011.