Coeur Wharf production up in 2019 at 84M ounces

Millions of tons of ore were mined to arrive at thousands of ounces of gold and silver production for the Wharf mine in 2019. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

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LEAD — Both gold and silver production rebounded at the Coeur Wharf mine in 2019, compared to 2018 figures.

Matt Zietlow, Environmental Manager for Coeur Wharf was present at the June 23 Lawrence County Commission meeting for the mine’s annual review of Conditional Use Permit #398, presenting the 2020 annual update of 2019 numbers.

“Pretty good year. We were just under 85,000 ounces for the year,” Zietlow said. “We didn’t really get into any new areas, and we’re up above almost 10,000 ounces over last year, so that was positive. Still the same five leach pads. Green Mountain Pit was still the main mining area. We’re just about done there.”

The company employs 218 people.  

In 2019, production figures provided indicate that 4,613,360 tons of ore was mined; 8,461,270 tons of waste, or barren rock, was mined; 1,091,615 tons of re-handle; 84,172 ounces of gold was produced; and 63,483 ounces of silver was produced.

“Good, solid year,” Zietlow said. “It’s nice to be back up a little bit on the ounces.”

At the end of 2019, final reclamation had been completed on approximately 289.94 acres, of which 135.23 acres met the final land use of woodland grazing.

Two reportable spills occurred at the mine in 2019. One involved saturated carbon and one involved saturated ore. Both occurred on and were contained on compacted gravel roadways or parking areas within the mine.

“A couple of things that were new for 2019, functionally, we’re doing everything the same way,” Zietlow said. “We’ve still got the same five leach pads, run the same crusher. But as you are well aware, it was a pretty wet spring last year, all the flash flooding, so we did bring in a temporary crusher to help out, just to keep our normal production rates up, as the wet ore tends to slow down crusher throughput.”

The Coeur mine is comprised of both Wharf and Golden Reward properties, with production wrapped up in the Golden Reward Harmony and Liberty pits in 2017.

The plan is to wrap up reclamation in the Harmony and Liberty pits in 2020.

“We might not get it sloped and seeded this year, but our plan is to get the actual backfilling completed,” Zietlow said. “The folks at Terry Peak are excited because eventually this will extend a run for them.”

Wharf mining in 2019 continued in the Green Mountain pit.

“The Green Mountain area was the predominant area in 2019, we’re just about to the bottom of that,” Zietlow said. “We’re still backfilling, placing waste up at American Eagle, but we are starting to come across Portland Ridge Line. The far west side is called the Flossie area. Almost all of this was mined before, so a lot of the material that we have to take out first is rehandle material that was partially backfilled back in the late 90s. Same thing goes on the far west end. Late 2019 to the beginning of this year, we went to this ridge line here. The A-frame is gone now and we’re mining up in this area with a little bit at the bottom of Green Mountain. But again, no change in how we’re approaching it.”

Zietlow said coming up, the access road will be temporarily moved until they get the area backfilled.

“Right now, we’ve got mining up to 2027,” Zietlow said. “It won’t physically look much different, other than we’ll be moving it back across this ridge line.”

The overall estimated remaining permitted mine life is seven years. Mining started at the Wharf mine in 1982 and is slated to go to the end of 2027.

The Wharf Mine uses heap leaching, which is an industrial mining process to extract precious metals from ore via a series of chemical reactions. The ore is placed on a liner to complete the process.

In regard to the leach pad cycles, all five leach pads operated under normal conditions in 2019. Pads two and three completed denitrification treatment and were offloaded.

“More of the same is the best way to phrase that,” Zietlow said. “The new denitrification plant that we’ve got up there is working really, really well. Allows us to keep the temperatures up all the way through the winter and we’re doing almost three times the amount of treatment at about the same cost for the rinsing and denitrification of those pads prior to the new plant, so it’s working out really good.”

Wharf payroll in 2019 was just over $21 million with benefits.

Taxes paid by Coeur Wharf in 2019 total $3,525,637, with $2,748,083 of that paid in state severance tax; $152,244 paid in state sales and use tax and $625,310 paid in total local tax.

Total purchases made by Wharf in 2019 were more than $57 million, with $39,170,540 purchased from non-South Dakota companies; $5,949,919 spent in Rapid City; $10,318,982 in other South Dakota expenditures; and $1,578,313 spent in Lawrence County.

Wharf donated more than $150,000 to community groups, schools, and other local charities in 2019.

“This number goes up every year, which is pretty positive,” Zietlow said “Last year we were at $130,000. The Wharf Fund has continued to be a great thing and we’ve got over $2 million in that.”

Wharf Resources did not receive any Notices of Violation from the DENR in 2019.

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