Coeur Mining takes $1.5 billion charge in Q4

Coeur Mining (NYSE:CDE), the largest silver producer in the United States, took a non-cash impairment charge of $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter, which the company said reflects the lower pricing environment for silver and gold.

Reporting its full-year and fourth-quarter results, the Chicago-based silver miner said it realized average silver prices of $18.87 per ounce in 2014 – a decrease of 21 percent compared to 2013. The average realized gold price was $1,252 per ounce, a 6 percent decline from the previous year. Coeur's all-in sustaining cost per ounce, $19.27, was above the realized silver price, meaning that for every ounce produced, Coeur was effectively losing $0.40.

The fourth-quarter numbers were worse, with average realized silver prices of $16.40 per ounce versus all-in costs of $19.25. The Q4 realized gold price was also down, 16 percent from the year-ago quarter, at $1,186 an ounce.

The company's capital expenditures were down 36% compared to 2013 at $64.2 million. Coeur also slashed full-year exploration expenditures by 10%.

President and CEO Mitchell J. Krebs put a positive spin on the results, noting the company's cost-cutting efforts.

"In 2014 we set out to achieve improved operating consistency, to reduce our costs, improve the long-term certainty and visibility of our existing mines, and thereby enhance the quality of the Company's portfolio of assets," Krebs said in a statement.  "Despite the challenges confronted in 2014, we largely achieved these objectives."

On the production side, Coeur said it has remained within guidance targets. In 2014 the company produced 17.2 million ounces of silver and 249,384 ounces of gold from its mines, located in Nevada, Alaska, Bolivia and Mexico. Q4 silver production was 4.3 million ounces and gold production totalled 64,534 oz.

This year Coeur expects to produce between 14.8 and 16 million ounces of silver and 294,000 to 323,000 gold ounces, assuming the acquisition of the Wharf Mine from Goldcorp (NYSE:GG, TSX:G) closes later this month.

Coeur acquired Paramount Gold and Silver for $146 million in December, thus expanding its Mexican mining footprint. Paramount’s San Miguel mining project neighbours Coeur’s Palmarejo silver-gold mine complex in Northern Mexico.