SilverCrest Metals (TSX: SILV) said Thursday it has begun commissioning the processing plant at its Las Chispas gold-silver project in Sonora, Mexico, which is expected to reach commercial production in the fourth quarter of the year.
The Canadian precious metals exploration and development company said construction of the plant was completed ahead of the feasibility study schedule.
It added it expects a more measured ramp-up of underground mining and increased operational flexibility over the first few years of production due to a significant amount of stockpiled ore.
“I would like to thank the combined team of Ausenco and SilverCrest for their continued efforts over the past 17 months, SilverCrest COO Pierre Beaudoin said in the statement.
“Completing construction during the covid-19 pandemic has tested everyone’s resilience and it is with great satisfaction that I congratulate them for accomplishing an incredible trio of successes: No major accidents, below budget and ahead of schedule.”
The company highlighted it expects the capital cost of Las Chispas to be lower than the $137.7 million budgeted in the feasibility study but said final costs of the project remain to be settled.
Las Chispas is expected to produce 12.4 million ounces a year of silver equivalent between 2023-2029 from a 1,250 tonne per day operation with a first quartile all-in sustaining cost estimated at $7.07 per ounce.
Proven and probable reserves at Las Chispas, 180 km northeast of Hermosillo, are estimated at 3.4 million tonnes grading 461 g/t silver and 4.81 g/t gold (879 g/t silver equivalent) for 94.7 million silver-equivalent oz.
SilverCrest also has three drill rigs working at the high-grade, near-surface El Picacho deposit, 85 km away by road.