Attached files

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EX-32.1 - EX-32.1 - Golden Minerals Coaumn-20191231ex3212c5272.htm
EX-31.2 - EX-31.2 - Golden Minerals Coaumn-20191231ex312edeee6.htm
EX-31.1 - EX-31.1 - Golden Minerals Coaumn-20191231ex311d42454.htm
EX-23.3 - EX-23.3 - Golden Minerals Coaumn-20191231ex23380c597.htm
EX-23.2 - EX-23.2 - Golden Minerals Coaumn-20191231ex232d21520.htm
EX-23.1 - EX-23.1 - Golden Minerals Coaumn-20191231ex231dca25c.htm
EX-21.1 - EX-21.1 - Golden Minerals Coaumn-20191231ex2113626ab.htm
EX-10.16 - EX-10.16 - Golden Minerals Coaumn-20191231ex1016bc2e8.htm
EX-4.5 - EX-4.5 - Golden Minerals Coaumn-20191231ex45f539c0d.htm

 

 

 

UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

 

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2019

 

OR

 

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

 

For the transition period from          to         

 

Commission file number 1-13627

 

GOLDEN MINERALS COMPANY

(Exact Name of Registrant as Specified in its Charter)

 

DELAWARE

    

26-4413382

(State of Incorporation or Organization)

 

(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)

 

 

 

350 Indiana Street, Suite 650

 

 

Golden, Colorado

 

80401

(Address of principal executive offices)

 

(Zip Code)

 

(303) 839-5060

(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

Trading Symbol

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, $0.01 par value

AUMN

NYSE American

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ☐    No ☒

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐    No ☒

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ☒  No ☐

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes ☒  No ☐

 

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

 

 

Large accelerated filer       Accelerated filer         Non accelerated filer           Smaller reporting company          Emerging growth company ☐

 

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. 

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act). Yes ☐  No ☒

 

 

The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates as of June 30, 2019 was approximately $15.4 million, based on the closing price of the registrant’s common stock of $0.28 per share on the NYSE American on June 28, 2019. For the purpose of this calculation, the registrant has assumed that its affiliates as of June 30, 2019 included all directors and officers and one shareholder that held approximately 42% of its outstanding common stock. The number of shares of common stock outstanding on February 25, 2020 was  108,104,001.

 

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

 

Portions of the registrant’s Definitive Proxy Statement to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to Regulation 14A in connection with the 2020 Annual Meeting of Stockholders are incorporated by reference in Part III of this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOLDEN MINERALS COMPANY

FORM 10-K

YEAR ENDED DECEMBER 31, 2019

 

INDEX

 

 

 

 

 

 

PAGE

PART I

 

ITEM 1 AND ITEM 2 

BUSINESS AND PROPERTIES

8

ITEM 1A 

RISK FACTORS

29

ITEM 1B 

UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

42

ITEM 3 

LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

42

ITEM 4 

MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES

42

 

PART II

 

ITEM 5 

MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES

43

ITEM 6 

SELECTED CONSOLIDATED FINANCIAL DATA

43

ITEM 7 

MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

43

ITEM 8 

FINANCIAL STATEMENTS AND SUPPLEMENTARY DATA

53

ITEM 9 

CHANGES IN AND DISAGREEMENTS WITH ACCOUNTANTS ON ACCOUNTING AND FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE

53

ITEM 9A 

CONTROLS AND PROCEDURES

53

ITEM 9B 

OTHER INFORMATION

54

 

PART III

 

ITEM 10 

DIRECTORS, EXECUTIVE OFFICERS AND CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

55

ITEM 11 

EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

55

ITEM 12 

SECURITY OWNERSHIP OF CERTAIN BENEFICIAL OWNERS AND MANAGEMENT AND RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS

55

ITEM 13 

CERTAIN RELATIONSHIPS AND RELATED TRANSACTIONS, AND DIRECTOR INDEPENDENCE

55

ITEM 14 

PRINCIPAL ACCOUNTING FEES AND SERVICES

55

 

PART IV

 

ITEM 15 

EXHIBITS, FINANCIAL STATEMENT SCHEDULES

56

ITEM 16 

PREPARATION OF STATEMENT OR REPORT

57

 

EXHIBITS

57

SIGNATURES 

61

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

References to “Golden Minerals, the “Company,” “our,” “we,” or “us” mean Golden Minerals Company, its predecessors and consolidated subsidiaries, or any one or more of them, as the context requires. Many of the terms used in our industry are technical in nature. We have included a glossary of some of these terms below.

 

FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

 

Some information contained in or incorporated by reference into this annual report on Form 10-K may contain forward-looking statements and forward-looking information (collectively, “forward-looking statements”) within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and other applicable securities laws. We use the words “anticipate,” “continue,” “likely,” “estimate,” “expect,” “may,” “could,” “will,” “project,” “should,” “believe” and similar expressions (including negative and grammatical variations) to identify forward-looking statements.  These statements include comments relating to our plans, expectations and assumptions concerning the Velardeña oxide plant lease, including the expected term, anticipated revenues, care and maintenance costs, and potential future tailings expansion; expectations regarding the updated Velardeña PEA; the El Quevar project, including assumptions and projections contained in the El Quevar PEA (including life of mine, grade and production expectations), the timing of results from the current drilling program and our plans regarding further advancement of the project; the Santa Maria property, including the assumptions and projections contained in the updated Santa Maria PEA (including life of mine, grade and production expectations)and other expectations regarding the project, and the proposed sale of 100% of our interest in the property; future evaluation and drilling plans and exploration activities at Sand Canyon, Yoquivo, Rodeo and other properties; our financial outlook in 2020, including anticipated income from the use of our ATM Program and LPC Program (each defined herein) and expenditures during the year; expected need for external financing and statements concerning our financial condition, business strategies and business and legal risks. Although we believe the expectations and assumptions reflected in those forward-looking statements are reasonable, we cannot assure you that these expectations and assumptions will prove to be correct. Our actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied in these forward-looking statements as a result of various factors described in this annual report on Form 10-K, including:

Lower revenue than anticipated from the oxide plant lease, which could result from delays or problems at Hecla’s San Sebastian mine or at the oxide plant, permitting problems at Hecla’s San Sebastian mine or the oxide plant, earlier than expected termination of the lease or other causes;

 

·

Higher than anticipated care and maintenance costs at El Quevar in Argentina or the Velardeña Properties in Mexico; 

·

The election by the purchaser of our Santa Maria property to terminate the purchase agreement without payment of the initial cash payment of $1.0 million;

Decreases in silver and gold prices;

 

Whether we are able to raise the necessary capital required to continue our business on terms acceptable to us or at all, and the likely negative effect of decreased silver and gold prices or unfavorable exploration results;  

 

Unfavorable results from exploration at the Sand Canyon, Rodeo, Yoquivo, Santa Maria or other exploration properties and whether we will be able to advance these or other exploration properties; 

 

Risks related to the El Quevar project in Argentina, including unfavorable results from our evaluation activities, the feasibility and economic viability and unexpected costs of maintaining the project, and whether we will be able to find a joint venture partner or secure adequate financing to further advance the project; 

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Variations in the nature, quality and quantity of any mineral deposits that are or may be located at the Velardeña Properties or our exploration properties, changes in interpretations of geological information, and unfavorable results of metallurgical and other tests; 

 

·

Whether we will be able to mine and sell minerals successfully or profitably at any of our current properties at current or future silver and gold prices and achieve our objective of becoming a mid-tier mining company; 

 

Potential delays in our exploration activities or other activities to advance properties towards mining resulting from environmental consents or permitting delays or problems, accidents, problems with contractors, disputes under agreements related to exploration properties, unanticipated costs and other unexpected events; 

 

Our ability to retain key management and mining personnel necessary to successfully operate and grow our business;

 

Economic and political events affecting the market prices for gold, silver, zinc, lead and other minerals that may be found on our exploration properties; 

 

Political and economic instability in Argentina, Mexico and other countries in which we conduct our business and future actions of any of these governments with respect to nationalization of natural resources or other changes in mining or taxation policies; 

 

·

Our ability to acquire additional concessions in Mexico based on the economic and environmental policies of Mexico’s current or future governmental authorities;

 

·

Volatility in the market price of our common stock; and

 

The factors set forth under “Risk Factors” in Item 1A of this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

Many of these factors are beyond our ability to control or predict. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in our forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, such expectations may prove to be materially incorrect due to known and unknown risks and uncertainties. You should not unduly rely on any of our forward-looking statements. These statements speak only as of the date of this annual report on Form 10-K. Except as required by law, we are not obligated to publicly release any revisions to these forward-looking statements to reflect future events or developments. All subsequent written and oral forward-looking statements attributable to us and persons acting on our behalf are qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements contained in this section and elsewhere in this annual report on Form 10-K.

 

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CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING MINERALIZED MATERIAL

“Mineralized material” as used in this annual report on Form 10-K, although permissible under the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) Industry Guide 7, does not indicate “reserves” by SEC standards. We cannot be certain that any deposits at the Velardeña Properties, the El Quevar, Santa Maria or Rodeo properties or any deposits at our other exploration properties, will ever be confirmed or converted into SEC Industry Guide 7 compliant “reserves”. Investors are cautioned not to assume that all or any part of the disclosed mineralized material estimates will ever be confirmed or converted into reserves or that mineralized material can be economically or legally extracted. In addition, in this annual report on Form 10-K we also modify our estimates made in compliance with National Instrument 43-101 to conform to SEC Industry Guide 7 for reporting in the United States. Mineralized material is substantially equivalent to measured and indicated mineral resources (exclusive of reserves) as disclosed for reporting purposes in Canada, except that the SEC only permits issuers to report “mineralized material” in tonnage and average grade without reference to contained ounces.

 

CONVERSION TABLE

 

In this annual report on Form 10-K, figures are presented in both United States standard and metric measurements. Conversion rates from United States standard measurement systems to metric and metric to United States standard measurement systems are provided in the table below. All currency references in this annual report on Form 10-K are to United States dollars, unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Unit

    

Metric Measure

    

Metric Unit

    

U.S. Measure

 

 

1 acre

 

0.4047 hectares

 

1 hectare

 

2.47 acres

 

 

1 foot

 

0.3048 meters

 

1 meter

 

3.28 feet

 

 

1 mile

 

1.609 kilometers

 

1 kilometer

 

0.62 miles

 

 

1 ounce (troy)

 

31.103 grams

 

1 gram

 

0.032 ounces (troy)

 

 

1 ton

 

0.907 tonnes

 

1 tonne

 

1.102 tons

 

 

 

GLOSSARY OF SELECTED MINING TERMS

 

Base Metal” means a classification of non-ferrous metals usually considered to be of low value and higher chemical activity when compared with the precious metals (gold, silver, platinum, etc.). This nonspecific term generally refers to the high-volume, low-value metals copper, lead, tin, and zinc.

 

Breccia” means rock consisting of fragments, more or less angular, in a matrix of finer-grained material or of cementing material.

 

Calcareous Clastic” means sedimentary rock composed of siliciclastic particles usually of conglomerate, sand, or silt-size and cemented by calcium carbonate in the form of calcite.

 

Claim” means a mining interest giving its holder the right to prospect, explore for and exploit minerals within a defined area.

 

Concentrates” means the clean product of ore or metal separated from its containing rock or earth by froth flotation or other methods of mineral separation.

 

Concession” means a grant or lease of a tract of land made by a government or other controlling authority in return for stipulated services or a promise that the land will be used for a specific purpose.

 

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Core Drill” means a rotary type of rock drill that cuts a core of rock and is recovered in long cylindrical sections, usually two centimeters or more in diameter.

 

Deposit” means an informal term for an accumulation of minerals.

 

Development Stage” means a project with an established resource, not in production, engaged in the process of additional studies preparing for completion of a feasibility study or for commercial extraction.

 

Diorite” means a grey to dark grey intermediate intrusive igneous rock composed principally of plagioclase feldspar, biotite, hornblende, and/or pyroxene.

 

Euhedral” means a well-developed degree of which mineral grains show external crystal faces.

 

Exploration Stage” means a project that is not yet in either the Development Stage or Production Stage.

 

Feasibility Study” means an engineering study designed to define the technical, economic, and legal viability of a mining project with a high degree of reliability.

 

Flotation” means the separating of finely crushed minerals from one another by causing some to float in a froth and others to remain in suspension in the pulp. Oils and various chemicals are used to activate, make floatable, or depress the minerals.

 

Formation” means a distinct layer of sedimentary or volcanic rock of similar composition.

 

Fracture System” means a set or group of contemporaneous fractures formed by a stress system.

 

Grade” means the metal content of ore, usually expressed in troy ounces per ton (2,000 pounds) or in grams per metric tonnes, which contain 2,204.6 pounds or 1,000 kilograms.

 

Laramide Orogeny” means a period of mountain building in western North America, which started in the Late Cretaceous age, 70 to 80 million years ago, and ended 35 to 55 million years ago.

 

Mineralization” means the concentration of metals within a body of rock.

 

Mineralized Material” means a mineralized body that has been defined by appropriate drilling and/or underground sampling to establish continuity and support an estimate of tonnage and an average grade of the selected metals.

 

Mining” means the process of extraction and beneficiation of mineral reserves or mineral deposits to produce a marketable metal or mineral product. Exploration continues during the mining process and, in many cases, mineral reserves or mineral deposits are expanded during the life of the mine activities as the exploration potential of the deposit is realized.

 

Monzodiorite” means coarse-grained igneous rock consisting of essential plagioclase feldspar, orthoclase feldspar, hornblende and biotite, with or without pyroxene, with plagioclase being the dominant feldspar making up 6% to 90% of the total feldspar and varying from oligoclase to andesine in composition. The presence of the orthoclase feldspar distinguishes this rock from a diorite.

 

National Instrument 43-101” or “NI 43-101” means the standards of disclosure for mineral projects prescribed by the Canadian Securities Administrators.

 

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Net Smelter Return Royalty” or “NSR Royalty” means a defined percentage of the gross revenue from a resource extraction operation, less a proportionate share of transportation, insurance, and processing costs.

 

Open Pit” means a mine working or excavation open to the surface.

 

Ore” means material containing minerals that can be economically extracted.

 

Outcrop” means that part of a geologic formation or structure that appears at the surface of the earth.

 

Oxide” means mineralized rock in which some of the original minerals have been oxidized (i.e., combined with oxygen).

 

Precious Metal” means any of several relatively scarce and valuable metals, such as gold and silver.

 

Preliminary Economic Assessment” or “PEA” means a study, other than a pre-Feasibility or Feasibility Study, that includes an economic analysis of the potential viability of mineral resources.

 

Probable Mineral Reserves” means mineral reserves for which quantity and grade and/or quality are computed from information similar to that used for Proven Mineral Reserves, but the sites for inspection, sampling and measurement are farther apart or are otherwise less adequately spaced. The degree of assurance, although lower than that for Proven Mineral Reserves, is high enough to assume continuity between points of observation.

 

Production Stage” means a project that is actively engaged in the process of extraction and beneficiation of mineral reserves or mineral deposits to produce a marketable metal or mineral product.

 

Proven Mineral Reserves” means mineral reserves for which (a) quantity is computed from dimensions revealed in outcrops, trenches, workings or drill holes; grade and/or quality are computed from the results of detailed sampling and (b) the sites for inspection, sampling and measurement are spaced so closely and the geologic character is so well defined that size, shape, depth and mineral content of reserves are well established.

 

Reclamation” means the process of returning land to another use after mining is completed.

 

Recovery” means that portion of the metal contained in the ore that is successfully extracted by processing, expressed as a percentage.

 

Mineral Reserves” means that part of a mineral deposit that could be economically and legally extracted or produced at the time of mineral reserve determination.

 

Sampling” means selecting a fractional part of a mineral deposit for analysis.

 

Sediment” means solid fragmental material that originates from weathering of rocks and is transported or deposited by air, water, or ice, or that accumulates by other natural agents, such as chemical precipitation from solution or secretion by organisms, and that forms in layers on the earth’s surface at ordinary temperatures in a loose, unconsolidated form.

 

Sedimentary” means formed by the deposition of Sediment.

 

Skarn” means a coarse-grained metamorphic rock formed by the metamorphism of carbonate rock often containing garnet, pyroxene epodite and wollastonnite.

 

Stock” means discordant igneous intrusion having a surface exposure of less than 40 square miles.

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Sulfide” means a compound of sulfur and some other metallic element or elements.

 

Tailings Pond” means a low-lying depression used to confine tailings, the prime function of which is to allow enough time for processed minerals to settle out or for cyanide to be destroyed before water is discharged into the local watershed.

 

Tertiary” means the first period of the Cenozoic Era (after the Cretaceous of the Mesozoic Era and before the Quaternary) thought to have covered the span of time between 2 to 3 million years ago and 65 million years ago.

 

Vein” means a fissure, fault or crack in a rock filled by minerals that have traveled upwards from some deep source.

 

“Waste” means rock lacking sufficient grade and/or other characteristics of ore.

 

ITEMS 1 AND 2:  BUSINESS AND PROPERTIES

 

Overview

 

We are a mining company holding a 100% interest in the Velardeña and Chicago precious metals mining properties and associated oxide and sulfide processing plants in the State of Durango, Mexico (the “Velardeña Properties”), a 100% interest in the El Quevar advanced exploration silver property in the province of Salta, Argentina, and a diversified portfolio of precious metals and other mineral exploration properties located primarily in or near historical precious metals producing regions of Mexico, Nevada and Argentina. The Velardeña Properties and the El Quevar advanced exploration property are our only material properties.

 

We remain focused on evaluating and searching for mining opportunities in North America with near term prospects of mining, and particularly for properties in Mexico within reasonable haulage distances of our Velardeña processing plants. We are also focused on evaluation activities at our El Quevar exploration property in Argentina and are continuing our exploration efforts on selected properties in our portfolio of approximately 12 exploration properties located primarily in Mexico.

 

Our management team is comprised of experienced mining professionals with extensive expertise in mineral exploration, mine construction and development, and mine operations. Our principal office is located in Golden, Colorado at 350 Indiana Street, Suite 650, Golden, CO 80401, and our registered office is the Corporation Trust Company, 1209 Orange Street, Wilmington, DE 19801. We also maintain an office at the Velardeña Properties in Mexico and exploration offices in Argentina and Mexico.

 

No Proven or Probable Mineral Reserves/Exploration Stage Company

 

We are considered an exploration stage company under the SEC criteria since we have not demonstrated the existence of proven or probable mineral reserves at any of our properties. In SEC Industry Guide 7, the SEC defines a “reserve” as that part of a mineral deposit which could be economically and legally extracted or produced at the time of the reserve determination. Proven or probable mineral reserves are those reserves for which (a) quantity is computed and (b) the sites for inspection, sampling, and measurement are spaced so closely that the geologic character is defined and size, shape and depth of mineral content can be established (proven) or the sites are farther apart or are otherwise less adequately spaced but high enough to assume continuity between observation points (probable). Mineral reserves cannot be considered proven or probable unless and until they are supported by a feasibility study, indicating that the mineral reserves have had the requisite geologic, technical and economic work performed and are economically and legally extractable.

 

8

 

Prior to suspending mining and processing at the Velardeña Properties in November 2015, we had revenues from the sale of silver, gold, lead and zinc products from the Velardeña and Chicago mines. We have not completed a feasibility study with regard to any of our properties to date. Any mineralized material discovered or extracted by us should not be considered proven or probable mineral reserves. As of December 31, 2019, none of our mineralized material met the definition of proven or probable mineral reserves. We expect to remain an exploration stage company for the foreseeable future. We will not exit the exploration stage until such time, if ever, that we demonstrate the existence of proven or probable mineral reserves that meet the guidelines under SEC Industry Guide 7.

 

Company History

 

We were incorporated in Delaware under the Delaware General Corporation Law in March 2009. From March 2009 through September 2011, we focused on the advancement of our El Quevar silver project in Argentina. On September 2, 2011, we completed a business combination transaction with ECU Silver Mining Inc. (“ECU”), resulting in our ownership of the Velardeña and Chicago silver, gold and base metals mines located in the Velardeña mining district in the State of Durango, Mexico as further described below under “—Velardeña Properties”.

 

Corporate Structure

 

Golden Minerals Company, headquartered in Golden, Colorado, is the operating entity through which we conduct our business.  We have a number of wholly-owned subsidiaries organized throughout the world, including in Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and Europe. We generally hold our exploration rights and properties through subsidiaries organized in the countries in which our rights and properties are located.

 

Our Competitive Strengths and Business Strategy

 

Our business strategy is to establish Golden Minerals as a mid-tier precious metals mining company focused in North America and Argentina. We also review strategic opportunities from time to time.

 

Velardeña Properties. Due to continuing net operating losses, we suspended mining and sulfide processing activities at the Velardeña Properties during the first half of November 2015 in order to conserve the future value of the asset. We have placed the mine and sulfide processing plant on care and maintenance to enable a re-start of either the mine or the mill when we are able to develop mining and processing plans that at then current prices for silver and gold indicate a sustainable positive operating margin (defined as revenues less costs of sales) or we are able to locate, acquire and develop alternative mineral sources that could be economically mined and transported to the Velardeña Properties for processing. The Velardeña Properties include a 300 tonne per day flotation sulfide mill, which includes three flotation circuits in which we can process sulfide material to make lead, zinc and pyrite concentrates. The properties also include a conventional 550 tonne per day cyanide leach oxide mill with a Merrill-Crowe precipitation circuit and flotation circuit located adjacent to our Chicago mine. In July 2015, we leased the oxide plant to Minera Hecla, S.A. de C.V. (“Hecla”), a Mexican corporation and wholly-owned subsidiary of Hecla Mining Company, to process its own material through the plant. The lease with Hecla has since been extended through December 31, 2020. We continue to evaluate and search for other oxide and sulfide feed sources, focusing on sources within haulage distance of our sulfide and oxide mills at the Velardeña Properties.

El Quevar Project. We continue to advance our El Quevar silver project in Salta Province, Argentina.  In September 2019, we released final results from the 2019 drilling program conducted at the El Quevar property, which began to outline a new shallow high-grade silver zone in the Vince area about 2 kilometers south west of the known Yaxtché deposit and suggested the potential to add to existing mineralized material estimates in the northeast sector of the Yaxtché deposit. We are continuing surface exploration in the district to identify further drill targets in the 57,000-hectare property area. Our property holdings contain two district-scale high sulfidation epithermal systems with potential to host additional precious metals deposits. We plan to continue to advance El Quevar as much as possible within the limits of our

9

 

current exploration budget and remain open to finding a partner to contribute to the funding of further exploration and development.

Exploration Focus. We are focused on evaluating and searching for mining opportunities in North America with high precious metal grades and low development costs with near term prospects of mining, and particularly properties within reasonable haulage distances of our Velardeña processing plants. We are also continuing our exploration efforts on selected properties in our portfolio of approximately [12] exploration properties located in Mexico, Nevada and Argentina.

 

Experienced Management Team. We are led by a team of mining professionals with approximately 60 years of combined experience in exploration, project development, and operations management, primarily in the Americas. Our executive officers have held senior positions at various large mining companies including, among others, Cyprus Amax Minerals Company, INCO Limited, Meridian Gold Company, Barrick Gold Exploration and Noranda Exploration.

 

Velardeña Properties

 

Location, Access and Facilities

 

The Velardeña Properties are comprised of two underground mines and two processing plants within the Velardeña mining district, which is located in the municipality of Cuencamé, in the northeast quadrant of the State of Durango, Mexico, approximately 65 kilometers southwest of the city of Torreón, Coahuila and approximately 140 kilometers northeast of the city of Durango, which is the capital of the State of Durango. The mines are reached by a seven kilometer road from the village of Velardeña which is reached by highway from Torreón and Durango. The Velardeña mining district is situated in a hot, semi-arid region.

 

Of the two underground mines comprising the Velardeña Properties, the Velardeña mine includes five different major vein systems including the Terneras, Roca Negra, San Mateo, Santa Juana and San Juanes systems. During 2015, we mined from the San Mateo, Terneras and Roca Negra vein systems as well as the Santa Juana vein system to augment grades as mining and processing rates ramped up.

 

We own a 300 tonne per day flotation sulfide mill situated near the town of Velardeña. The mill includes three flotation circuits in which we can process sulfide material to make lead, zinc and pyrite concentrates. We also own a conventional 550 tonne per day cyanide leach oxide mill with a Merrill-Crowe precipitation circuit and flotation circuit located adjacent to our Chicago mine. In July 2015, we leased the oxide plant to Hecla to process its own material through the plant. See “-Velardeña Properties Activities” below. The lease with Hecla has since been extended through December 31, 2020. We continue to evaluate and search for other oxide and sulfide feed sources, focusing on sources within haulage distance of our sulfide and oxide mills at the Velardeña Properties.

 

Prior to shutting down production at the Velardeña mines in 2015, we trucked material from the Velardeña mines to the sulfide plant. In January 2012 we completed a tailings pond expansion at the sulfide plant, which is fully permitted and has capacity to treat tailings for approximately four additional years at the average processing rate of 285 tonnes per day. At the oxide plant, Hecla is required to either leave unused at the end of the lease term an agreed amount of capacity in the tailings facility, or construct an additional expansion at its cost.

 

Power for all of the mines and plants is provided through substations connected to the national grid. Water is provided for all of the mines by wells located in the valley adjacent to the Velardeña Properties. We hold title to three wells located near the sulfide plant and hold certificates of registration to three wells located near the oxide plant. We are licensed to pump water from all six wells up to a permitted amount. We are currently pumping from the three wells associated with the oxide plant which is more than sufficient for Hecla’s processing operations.

 

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The following map shows the location of the Velardeña Properties.

Picture 2

Property History

 

Exploration and mining in the Velardeña district extends back to at least the late 1500s or early 1600s, with large scale mining beginning in 1888 with the Velardeña Mining and Smelter Company. In 1902, the mining properties were acquired by ASARCO, who mined the property until 1926 when the mines were closed. For the next 35 years, the mines were operated from time to time by small companies and local miners. The property was nationalized in 1961, and in 1968 the sulfide processing plant was built by the Mexican government. In 1994, William Resources acquired the concessions comprising the Velardeña Properties. In 1997, ECU Gold (the predecessor to ECU Silver Mining Inc.) purchased from William Resources the subsidiaries that owned the concessions and the oxide processing plant. The sulfide processing plant was acquired in 2004.

 

Title and Ownership Rights

 

We hold the concessions comprising the Velardeña Properties through our wholly-owned Mexican subsidiary Minera William S.A. de C.V. At present, a total of 28 mineral concessions comprise the Velardeña Properties. The Velardeña Properties encompass approximately 316 hectares. The mineral concessions vary in size, and the concessions comprising each mineral property are contiguous within each of the Velardeña and Chicago properties. We are required to pay annual concession holding fees to the Mexican government to maintain our rights to the Velardeña mining concessions. In 2019, we made such payments totaling approximately $78,000 and expect to pay approximately $23,000 in 2020. We also own the surface rights to 144 hectares that contains the oxide plant, tailings area and access to the Chicago mine, along with surface lands that may be required for potential plant expansions. 

 

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The Velardeña Properties are subject to the Mexican ejido system requiring us to contract with the local communities, or ejidos, surrounding our properties to obtain surface access rights needed in connection with our mining and exploration activities. We currently have contracts with two ejidos to secure surface rights for our Velardeña Properties with a total annual cost of approximately $35,000. We have a ten-year contract with the Velardeña ejido, which provides surface rights to certain roads and other infrastructure at the Velardeña Properties through 2021, and a 25-year contract with the Vista Hermosa ejido, which provides exploration access and access rights for roads and utilities for our Velardeña Properties until 2038.

 

The following Velardeña Properties exploitation concessions are identified below by name and number in the Federal government Public Registry of Mining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mine/Area

 

Name of Exploitation
Concession

 

Concession
Number

 

Velardeña

 

AMPL. DEL ÁGUILA MEXICANA

 

85580

 

 

 

ÁGUILA MEXICANA

 

168290

 

 

 

LA CUBANA

 

168291

 

 

 

TORNASOL

 

168292

 

 

 

SAN MATEO NUEVO

 

171981

 

 

 

SAN MATEO

 

171982

 

 

 

RECUERDO

 

171983

 

 

 

SAN LUIS

 

171984

 

 

 

LA NUEVA ESPERANZA

 

171985

 

 

 

LA PEQUEÑA

 

171988

 

 

 

BUEN RETIRO

 

172014

 

 

 

UNIFICACIÓN SAN JUAN EVANGELISTA

 

172737

 

 

 

UNIFICACIÓN VIBORILLAS

 

185900

 

 

 

BUENAVENTURA No. 3

 

188507

 

 

 

EL PÁJARO AZÚL

 

188508

 

 

 

BUENAVENTURA 2

 

191305

 

 

 

BUENAVENTURA

 

192126

 

 

 

LOS DOS AMIGOS

 

193481

 

 

 

VIBORILLAS NO. 2

 

211544

 

 

 

KELLY

 

218681

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago

 

SANTA TERESA

 

171326

 

 

 

SAN JUAN

 

171332

 

 

 

LOS MUERTOS

 

171986

 

 

 

EL GAMBUSINO

 

171987

 

 

 

AMPLIACIÓN SAN JUAN

 

183883

 

 

 

MUÑEQUITA

 

196313

 

 

 

SAN AGUSTÍN

 

210764

 

 

 

LA CRUZ

 

189474

 

 

We hold water concessions in wells that provide water for the Velardeña Properties. In Mexico, water concessions are granted by the National Commission of Water (“CNA”). Currently no new water concessions are being granted by the CNA; however, companies can acquire water concessions through purchase or lease from current concession holders. We hold title to three wells located near the sulfide plant and hold certificates of registration to three wells located near the

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oxide plant. We are licensed to pump water from all six wells up to a permitted amount. We are required to make annual payments to the CNA to maintain our rights to these wells. In 2019 we made such payments totaling approximately $25,000 and expect to pay approximately the same amount in 2020. We are required to pay a fine to the CNA each year if we use too much water from a particular well or alternatively if we do not use a minimum amount of water from a particular well.

 

Geology and Mineralization

 

The Velardeña district is located at the easternmost limit of the Sierra Madre Occidental on the boundary between the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Mesa Central sub-provinces. Both of these terrains are underlain by Paleozoic and possibly Precambrian basement rocks.

 

The regional geology is characterized by a thick sequence of limestone and minor calcareous clastic sediments of Cretaceous age, intruded by Tertiary plutons of acidic to intermediate composition. During the Laramide Orogeny, the sediments were folded into symmetrical anticlines and synclines that were modified into a series of asymmetrical overturned folds by a later stage of compression.

 

A series of younger Tertiary stocks have intruded the older Cretaceous limestone over a distance of approximately 15 kilometers along a northeast to southwest trend. The various mineral deposits of the Velardeña mining district occur along the northeast southwest axis and are spatially associated with the intrusions and their related alteration.

 

An important northwest-southeast fracture system is associated with these intrusions and, in many cases, acts as the main focus of mineralization. The Velardeña Properties are underlain by a thick sequence of limestone that corresponds to rocks of the Aurora and Cuesta del Cura formations of Lower Cretaceous age.

 

Several types of Tertiary intrusive rocks are present in the Velardeña district. The largest of these rocks outcrops on the western flank of the Sierra San Lorenzo and underlies a portion of the Velardeña Properties. It is referred to as the Terneras pluton and forms a northeast oriented, slightly elongated body, considered to represent a diorite or monzodiorite that outcrops over a distance of about 2.5 kilometers. The adjacent limestone has been altered by contact metamorphism (exoskarn), and locally the intrusive has been metamorphosed (endoskarn).

 

The following is a description of the individual geological characteristics and mineralization found on each of the properties comprising the Velardeña and Chicago mines.

 

Velardeña Mine

 

The Santa Juana, Terneras, San Juanes and San Mateo vein deposits on the Velardeña property are hosted by Aurora Formation limestone, the Terneras intrusion and related skarn. The limestone is intruded by a series of multiphase diorite or monzodiorite stocks (Terneras intrusion) and dikes of Tertiary age that outcrop over a strike length of approximately 2.5 kilometers.

 

Two main vein systems are present on the Velardeña property. The first is a northwest striking system as found in the Santa Juana deposit, while the second is east-west trending and is present in the Santa Juana, Terneras, San Juanes and San Mateo deposits.

 

In the Santa Juana deposit, vein trends are steeply northeast dipping and northwest trending. The Terneras, San Juanes and San Mateo veins all strike east-west and dip steeply north. The most extensive of these is the Terneras vein, which was mined in the past over a strike length of 1,100 meters. All of these veins are observed to have extensive strike lengths and vertical continuity for hundreds of meters. The mineralogy of the east west system is somewhat different in that it contains less arsenic than the northwest Santa Juana veins.

 

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Mineralization in the deposits located at the Velardeña mine belongs primarily to epithermal calcite quartz veins with associated lead, zinc, silver, gold and copper mineralization, typical of the polymetallic vein deposits of northern Mexico. The veins are usually thin, normally in the 0.2 meter to 0.5 meter range, but consistent along strike and down dip. Coxcomb and rhythmically banded textures are common.

 

2014 Technical Report

 

During the first quarter of 2015, the engineering firm of Tetra Tech, Inc. (“Tetra Tech”) completed an estimate of mineralized material at the Velardeña Properties, set forth in the following table:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver

 

Gold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Ag)

 

(Au)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grade

 

Grade

 

Lead

 

 

 

 

 

Tonnes

 

(Grams

 

(Grams

 

(Pb)

 

 

 

 

 

(in

 

per

 

per

 

Grade

 

Zinc (Zn)

 

Mineralized Material

 

thousands)

 

tonne)

 

tonne)

 

%

 

Grade %

 

Mineralized Material at December 31, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Velardeña Mine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxide and mixed

 

572

 

295

 

4.1

 

1.34

 

1.07

 

Sulfide

 

1,032

 

274

 

3.9

 

1.11

 

1.42

 

Chicago Mine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxide and mixed

 

91

 

208

 

3.2

 

3.77

 

2.8

 

Sulfide

 

98

 

165

 

2.8

 

2.97

 

3.49

 

Total Mineralized Material at December 31, 2014

 

1,793

 

272

 

3.8

 

1.42

 

1.49

 

 


Note: Results may not tie precisely due to rounding.

 

The Tetra Tech mineralized material estimate assumed a silver price of $25 per troy ounce, a gold price of $1,446 per troy ounce, and a cutoff grade of a net smelter return (“NSR”) of $100 per tonne.

 

The following table shows the commodity prices and metallurgical recoveries used to determine the cutoff grade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sulfide

 

Oxide

 

Mixed

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metallurgical

 

Metallurgical

 

Metallurgical

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recovery

 

Recovery

 

Recovery

 

Metal

 

Metal Prices*

 

%

 

%

 

%

 

Silver

 

$

25 (oz)

 

89

 

68

 

50

 

Gold

 

$

1,446 (oz)

 

68

 

71

 

29

 

Lead

 

$

0.96 (lb)

 

83

 

 —

 

25

 

Zinc

 

$

0.91 (lb)

 

83

 

 —

 

37

 

 


* Amounts represent three-year average prices.

 

The cutoff grade of $100 NSR per tonne of mineralized material was determined by adding the estimated average costs of mining ($53 per tonne), processing ($27 per tonne) and general and administration ($20 per tonne). The average cost estimates are the same for both the Velardeña and Chicago mines. The NSR value of mineralized material was determined for each type of mineralized material (sulfide, mixed, and oxide) by multiplying a fractional factor that represents an estimated combination of metallurgical recovery, treatment charges, penalties and payment terms by the unit value of each metal and then multiplying by the expected amount of that metal in each block of inventoried material.

 

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The following table shows the reduction in mineralized material reported in the Tetra Tech report that resulted from extraction and processing of mineralized material in 2015. As a result of the shutdown of mining and processing in November 2015, there are no results for 2016, 2017, 2018 or 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold

 

 

 

(Ag)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Au)

 

 

 

Grade

 

Contained

 

Lead

 

Contained

 

 

 

Contained

 

 

 

 

 

Grade

 

Contained

 

(Grams

 

Silver (Ag)

 

(Pb)

 

Lead (Pb)

 

Zinc

 

Zinc (Zn)

 

 

 

Tonnes

 

(Grams

 

Gold (Au)

 

per

 

oz.

 

Grade

 

lbs.

 

(Zn)

 

lbs.

 

Mineralized Material

 

(in thousands)

 

per tonne)

 

oz.

 

tonne)

 

(in thousands)

 

%

 

(in thousands)

 

Grade %

 

(in thousands)

 

Mineralized Material at December 31, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Velardeña Mine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxide and mixed

 

572

 

4.1

 

74,780

 

295

 

5,425

 

1.34

 

16,898

 

1.07

 

13,493

 

Sulfide

 

1,032

 

3.9

 

127,741

 

274

 

9,101

 

1.11

 

25,254

 

1.42

 

32.307

 

Chicago Mine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxide and mixed

 

91

 

3.2

 

9,362

 

208

 

609

 

3.77

 

7,563

 

2.8

 

5,617

 

Sulfide

 

98

 

2.8

 

8,822

 

165

 

520

 

2.97

 

6,417

 

3.49

 

7,540

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Mineralized Material at December 31, 2014

 

1,793

 

3.8

 

220,406

 

272

 

15,655

 

1.42

 

56,132

 

1.49

 

58,958

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015 Extraction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Velardeña Mine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxide and mixed

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

Sulfide

 

76

 

2.6

 

6,371

 

156

 

383

 

0.8

 

1,343

 

1.09

 

1,839

 

Chicago Mine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxide and mixed

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

Sulfide

 

 5

 

1.9

 

310

 

117

 

19

 

 2

 

220

 

2.82

 

311

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Tonnes Extracted in 2015

 

81

 

2.6

 

6,681

 

154

 

401

 

0.87

 

1,564

 

1.2

 

2,150

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Metal loss adjustments during 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Velardeña Mine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxide and mixed

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

Sulfide

 

 —

 

 —

 

(3,063)

 

 —

 

(290)

 

 —

 

(522)

 

 —

 

(547)

 

Chicago Mine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxide and mixed

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 —

 

 

Sulfide

 

 —

 

 —

 

(140)

 

 —

 

(8)

 

 —

 

(107)

 

 —

 

(74)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Tonnes Extracted in 2015

 

 —

 

 —

 

(3,203)

 

 —

 

(297)

 

 —

 

(629)

 

 —

 

(621)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mineralized Material at December 31, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Velardeña Mine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxide and mixed

 

572

 

4.1

 

74,780

 

295

 

5,425

 

1.34

 

16,898

 

1.07

 

13,493

 

Sulfide

 

956

 

3.9

 

118,308

 

274

 

8,429

 

1.11

 

23,389

 

1.42

 

29,921

 

Chicago Mine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oxide and mixed

 

91

 

3.2

 

9,362

 

208

 

609

 

3.77

 

7,563

 

2.8

 

5,617

 

Sulfide

 

93

 

2.8

 

8,372

 

165

 

493

 

2.97

 

6,089

 

3.49

 

7,155

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Mineralized Material at December 31, 2015

 

1,712

 

3.8

 

210,522

 

272

 

14,956

 

1.43

 

53,940

 

1.49

 

56,187

 


 

Note: Results may not tie precisely due to rounding. Additionally, silver ounces, zinc pounds and leads pounds are rounded to the nearest thousand and gold ounces are rounded to the nearest ounce and tonnes. The variance in rounding different commodities and units is for convenience and does not reflect any differences in the level of accuracy of the calculated mineralized material estimate.

 

For further detail regarding mineralized material, see “CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING MINERALIZED MATERIAL”.

 

Velardeña Properties Activities

 

In 2019 we received approximately $7.7 million in revenue from the lease of the oxide plant at Velardeña, comprised of approximately $5.3 million for direct plant charges and fixed fees and approximately $2.4 million for other

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net reimbursable costs related to the services we provide under the lease. The lease is described in detail below. We also incurred approximately $1.7 million in expenses related to shut down costs and maintenance at our Velardeña Properties as a result of the suspension of mining and processing activities in November 2015. We retained a core group of employees, most assigned to operate the oxide plant that is leased to a third party and not affected by the shutdown. The retained employees also include an exploration group and an operations and administrative group to continue to advance our plans in Mexico, oversee corporate compliance activities, and to maintain and safeguard the longer-term value of the Velardeña assets.

 

In July 2015 we entered into a leasing agreement with Hecla to lease our Velardeña oxide plant for an initial term of 18 months beginning July 1, 2015. The lease agreement contained several lease extension options, and in the third quarter 2016, the lease was extended through June 2017. The 2016 extension included an agreement under which Hecla would construct, at its cost, certain tailings expansion facilities to accommodate Hecla's increased use of tailings capacity in excess of an agreed amount, while preserving flexibility for future tailings expansions. The tailings expansion has since been completed. The parties agreed that Hecla would either leave unused at the end of the lease term an agreed amount of capacity in the expanded tailings facility or construct an additional expansion at its cost. In connection with their agreement regarding tailings impoundment expansions, the parties agreed that Hecla had the right to extend the lease for an additional 18 months following June 30, 2017, or until December 31, 2018. On March 24, 2017, Hecla exercised its right to extend the lease until December 31, 2018.

 

On August 2, 2017, we granted Hecla an option to extend the oxide plant lease for an additional period of up to two years ending no later than December 31, 2020. On October 1, 2018, Hecla exercised its option to extend the oxide plant lease until December 31, 2020. On December 2, 2019 we entered into an additional amendment of the lease agreement with Hecla to reduce the per tonne fee payable by Hecla for the duration of the lease term, commencing on January 1, 2020, from $22 per tonne to $11 per tonne, however, the per tonne fee reverts back to $22 per tonne for any month in which either of the following conditions are met: (1) the Comex daily silver spot closing average price for such month is $20 per ounce or greater, and (2) the mill head grade average from the metallurgical balance for such month is 1,000 grams per ton equivalent silver head grade or greater. If either condition is met in any month, Hecla will pay the higher fee of $22.00 per tonne on all amounts processed in the oxide plant during such month. The reduced fee only applies to the tonnage-based payments under the lease agreement; the monthly lease payment of $125,000 per month is not affected by the amendment. The latest amendment also extended notice period for Hecla’s right to terminate the lease for any reason from 120 days’ notice to 150 days. Hecla has a one-time right of first refusal to continue to lease the plant following a termination notice through December 31, 2020 if we decide to use the oxide plant for our own purposes before December 31, 2020.

 

Hecla is responsible for ongoing operation and maintenance of the oxide plant. During the year ended December 31, 2019, Hecla processed approximately 158,000 tonnes of material through the oxide plant, resulting in total revenues to us of approximately $7.7 million, comprised of approximately $5.3 million for direct plant charges and fixed fees and approximately $2.4 million for other net reimbursable costs related to the services we provide under the lease. The $2.4 million of reimbursable costs are also reported as plant lease costs, resulting in net operating margin of approximately $5.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2019. However, because Hecla has the right to terminate the lease on 150 days’ notice, there is no assurance that these amounts will be received.

 

Mining and Processing

 

Aside from some minor test mining and crushing activities, there were no mining or processing activities, other than the Hecla lease, at our Velardeña Properties in 2018 or 2019 as a result of the shutdown of the mining and sulfide processing activities in November 2015. We expect to incur approximately $0.4 million in quarterly holding costs for as long as mining and processing activities remain suspended.

 

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Environmental Matters and Permitting

 

We hold environmental licenses and environmental impact assessments that allow us to run our mines, plants and tailing facilities at our Velardeña Properties. We are required to update our environmental licenses and environmental impact assessments for expansion of or modification to any of the existing two processing plants. The construction of new infrastructure beyond the current plant facilities also would require additional permitting, which could include environmental impact assessments and land use permits.

 

Certain Laws Affecting Mining in Mexico

 

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a federal constitutional republic in North America and bordered by the United States of America, Belize and Guatemala. Mexico is a federal democratic republic with 31 states and Mexico City. Each state has its own constitution and its citizens elect a governor, as well as representatives, to their respective state congresses. The President of Mexico is the head of the executive federal government. Executive power is exercised by the President, while legislative power is vested in the two chambers of the Congress of the Union. The three constitutional powers are the Judiciary, the Executive and the Legislature which are independent of each other.

 

Legislation Affecting Mining

 

The Mining Law, originally published in 1992 and amended in 1996, 2005, 2006 and 2014, is the primary legislation governing mining activities in Mexico. Other significant legislation applicable to mining in Mexico includes the regulations to the Mining Law, the Federal Law of Waters, the Federal Labor Law, the Federal Law of Fire Arms and Explosives, the General Law on Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection and regulations, the Federal Law of Duties and the Federal Law on Metrology and Standards.

 

The Concession System

 

Under Mexican law, mineral deposits are property of the Mexican republic, and a mining concession, granted by the executive branch of the federal government, is required for the exploration, exploitation and processing of mineral deposits. Mining concessions may only be granted to Mexican individuals domiciled in Mexico or companies incorporated and validly existing under the laws of Mexico. Mexican companies that have foreign shareholders must register with the National Registry of Foreign Investments and renew their registration on an annual basis. Mining concessions grant rights to explore and exploit mineral deposits but do not grant surface rights over the land where the concession is located. Mining concession holders are required to negotiate surface access with the land owner or holder (e.g., agrarian communities) or, should such negotiations prove unsuccessful, file an application with the corresponding administrative authority (Ministry of Economy or Ministry of Agrarian-Territorial-Urban Development) to obtain an easement, temporary occupancy, or expropriation of the land, as the case may be. An application for a concession must be filed with the Mining Agency or Mining Delegation located closest to the area to which the application relates.

 

Mining concessions have a term of 50 years from the date on which title is recorded in the Public Registry of Mining. Holders of mining concessions are required to comply with various obligations, including the payment of certain mining duties based on the number of hectares of the concession and the number of years the concession has been in effect. Failure to pay the mining duties can lead to cancellation of the relevant concession. Holders of mining concessions are also obliged to carry out and prove assessment works in accordance with the terms and conditions set forth in the Mining Law and its regulations. The regulations to the Mining Law establish minimum amounts that must be spent or invested on mining activities. A report must be filed in May of each year regarding the assessment works carried out during the preceding year. The mining authorities may impose a fine on the mining concession holder if one or more proof of assessment work reports is not timely filed.

 

Pursuant to amendments to the federal corporate income tax law, effective January 2014, additional duties are imposed on mining concession holders; see “—Taxes in Mexico”.

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Environmental Legislation

 

Mining projects in Mexico are subject to Mexican federal, state and municipal environmental laws and regulations for the protection of the environment. The principal legislation applicable to mining projects in Mexico is the federal General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection, which is enforced by the Federal Bureau of Environmental Protection, commonly known as “PROFEPA”. PROFEPA is the federal entity in charge of carrying out environmental inspections and negotiating compliance agreements. Voluntary environmental audits, coordinated through PROFEPA, are encouraged under the federal General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection. PROFEPA monitors compliance with environmental legislation and enforces Mexican environmental laws, regulations and official standards. If warranted, PROFEPA may initiate administrative proceedings against companies that violate environmental laws, which proceedings may result in the temporary or permanent closure of non-complying facilities, the revocation of operating licenses and/or other sanctions or fines. According to the Federal Criminal Code, PROFEPA must inform the relevant governmental authorities of any environmental crimes that are committed by a mining company in Mexico.

 

Concession holders under the exploration stage may submit themselves to comply with the Mexican Official Norm: NOM-120-SEMARNAT-1997, which provides, among other things, that mining exploration activities to be carried out within certain areas must be conducted in accordance with the environmental standards set forth in NOM-120-SEMARNAT-1997; otherwise, concession holders are required to file a preventive report or an environmental impact study prior to the commencement of the exploration, exploitation and processing of mineral resources. An environmental impact study is required for exploitation and processing of mineral resources activities.

 

In 2014 Mexico developed an energy policy applicable to private investment companies whereby new mining concessions are now subject to prior approval from the Ministry of Energy. Current mining concessions forming the Velardeña Properties are not subject to or affected by this approval requirement, but any new mining concessions acquired will be subject to this additional approval.

 

Taxes in Mexico

 

Mexico has a federal corporate income tax rate of 30%, and there are no state taxes on corporate net income. In determining their corporate income tax, entities are allowed to subtract from gross income various deductions permitted by law, and they are allowed a ten-year carry-forward of net operating losses. Pursuant to amendments to the federal tax laws effective January 1, 2014, a 10% withholding tax is charged on dividends distributed to shareholders, regardless of the tax residence of the recipient, out of after tax profits. However, in the case of nonresident shareholders the limitations and tax rates provided in the treaties to avoid double taxation will prevail. A foreign resident company is subject to income tax if it has a permanent establishment in Mexico. In general, a permanent establishment is a place of business where the activities of an enterprise are totally or partially carried out and includes, among others, offices, branches and mining sites.

 

Under the 2014 amendments to the federal corporate income tax law, titleholders of mining concessions are required to pay an annual special duty of 7.5% of their mining related profits. Titleholders of mining concessions also are required to pay a 0.5% special mining duty, or royalty, on an annual basis, on revenues obtained from the sale of silver, gold and platinum. Both the 7.5% annual special duty and the 0.5% duty are due at the end of March each year. The special duty of 7.5% is generally applicable to earnings before income tax, depreciation, depletion, amortization, and interest. In calculating the special duty of 7.5%, there are no deductions related to depreciable costs from operational fixed assets, but exploration and prospecting depreciable costs are deductible when incurred. Both duties are tax deductible for income tax purposes.

 

Mexico has several taxes in addition to income tax that are relevant to most business operations, including (i) the Value Added Tax (“VAT”); (ii) import duties; (iii) various payroll taxes; and (iv) statutorily entitled employee profit sharing (“PTU”). In addition, annual mining concession fees are charged by the government.

18

 

 

VAT in Mexico is charged upon alienation of goods, performance of independent services, grant of temporary use or exploitation of goods, or import of goods or services that occur within Mexico’s borders, at a rate of 16%. There is no VAT in the case of export of goods or services or for the sale of gold, jewelry, and gold metalwork with a minimum gold content of 80%, excluding retail sale to the general public. The sale of mining concessions is subject to VAT as concessions are not considered to be land. VAT paid by a business enterprise on its purchases and expenses may usually be credited against its liability for VAT collected from customers on its own sales. This creditable VAT may also be directly refunded, but under new regulations beginning in January 2019, the creditable VAT can no longer offset other Mexican federal taxes.

 

Import duties apply for goods and services entering the country, unless specifically exempted due to a free trade agreement or registered under specific programs like IMMEX, under which we are currently registered. Payroll taxes are payable in most states including Durango and Coahuila, and social security, housing and pension contributions must be made to the federal government when paying salaries.

 

Employees of Mexico entities are statutorily entitled to a portion of the employer’s pre-tax profits, called PTU. The rate of profit sharing is currently 10% of the employer’s taxable income as defined by the Income Tax law. A taxpayer may reduce its income tax base by an amount equal to the PTU. Certain companies are exempt from paying PTU, which include companies in the extractive industry (principally the mining industry) during the period of exploration.

 

El Quevar

 

Location and Access

 

Our El Quevar silver project is located in the San Antonio de los Cobres municipality, Salta Province, in the altiplano region of northwestern Argentina, approximately 300 kilometers by road northwest of the city of Salta, the capital city of the province. The project is also accessible by a 300-kilometer dirt and gravel road from the city of Calama in northern Chile. The small village of Pocitos, located about 20 kilometers to the west of El Quevar, is the nearest settlement. We have established a camp approximately 10 kilometers west of the project to house project workers. A high-tension power line is located approximately 40 kilometers from the site, and a high-pressure gas line devoted to the mining industry and subsidized by the Salta government is located within four kilometers of the El Quevar camp.

 

The El Quevar project is located near Nevado Peak with altitudes at the concessions ranging from 3,800 to 6,130 meters above sea level. The climate of the area is high mountain desert, with some precipitation in summer (such as snow) and little snow in winter.

 

19

 

The following map shows the location of the El Quevar project.

 

Picture 3

Property History

 

Mining activity in and around the El Quevar project dates back at least 80 years. Between 1930 and 1950, there was lead and silver extraction of mineralized materials from small workings in the area, but we have no mining records from that period. The first organized exploration activities on the property occurred during the 1970s, although no data from that period remains. Over the last 30 years, several companies have carried out exploration activity in the area, including BHP Billiton, Industrias Peñoles, Mansfield Minerals and Hochschild Mining Group, consisting primarily of local sampling with some limited drilling programs.

 

Title and Ownership Rights

 

According to Argentine law, mineral resources are subject to regulation in the provinces where the resources are located. Each province has the authority to grant mining exploration permits and mining exploitation concession rights to applicants. The Federal Congress has enacted the National Mining Code and other substantive mining legislation, which is applicable throughout Argentina; however, each province has the authority to regulate the procedural aspects of the National Mining Code and to organize the enforcement authority within its own territory.

 

In the province of Salta, where the El Quevar project is located, all mining concessions are granted by a judge in the Salta Mining Court. The El Quevar project is comprised of exploitation concessions. Exploitation concessions are subject to a canon payment fee (maintenance fee) which is paid in advance twice a year (before June 30th and

20

 

December 31st of each calendar year). Each time a new mining concession is granted, concession holders are exempt from the canon payment fee for a period of three years from the concession grant date. However, this exemption does not apply to the grant of vacant exploitation concessions; only to the grant of new mining concessions.

 

The El Quevar project is currently comprised of 31 mining concessions that we hold directly. In total, the El Quevar project encompasses approximately 57,000 hectares. The area of most of our exploration activities at El Quevar is within the concessions that are owned by Silex Argentina S.A., our wholly-owned subsidiary.

 

We are required to pay a 1% net smelter return royalty on the value of all minerals extracted from the El Quevar II concession and a 1% net smelter return royalty on one-half of the minerals extracted from the Castor concession to the third party from whom we acquired these concessions. We can purchase one half of the royalty for $1 million in the first two years of production. The Yaxtché deposit is located primarily on the Castor concession. We may also be required to pay a 3% royalty to the Salta Province based on the net smelter value of minerals extracted from any of our concessions less costs of processing. To maintain all of the El Quevar concessions, we paid canon payment fees to the Argentine government of approximately $57,000 and $36,000 in 2018 and 2019, respectively. In 2020 we expect to pay approximately $30,000.

 

The following El Quevar mine concessions are identified below by name and file number in the Salta Province Registry of Mines.

 

 

 

 

 

21

 

Name of Mine Concession

 

Concession
File Number

 

Quevar II

 

17114

 

Quirincolo I

 

18036

 

Quirincolo II

 

18037

 

Castor

 

3902

 

Vince

 

1578

 

Armonia

 

1542

 

Quespejahuar

 

12222

 

Toro I

 

18332

 

Quevar Primera

 

19534

 

Quevar Novena

 

20215

 

Quevar Decimo Tercera

 

20501

 

Quevar Tercera

 

19557

 

Quevar Vigesimo Tercero

 

21043

 

Quevar 10

 

20219

 

Quevar Vigesimo Primera

 

20997

 

Quevar Vigesimo Septima

 

22403

 

Quevar IV

 

19558

 

Quevar Vigesimo Cuarto

 

21044

 

Quevar 11

 

20240

 

Quevar Quinta

 

19617

 

Quevar 12

 

20360

 

Quevar Decima Quinta

 

20445

 

Quevar Sexta

 

19992

 

Quevar 19

 

20706

 

Quevar Vigesimo Sexta

 

22087

 

Quevar Vigesimo Segundo

 

21042

 

Quevar Séptima

 

20319

 

Quevar Veinteava

 

20988

 

Mariana

 

15190

 

Arjona II

 

18080

 

Quevar Vigesimo Quinto

 

21054

 

 

The surface rights at El Quevar are controlled by the Salta Province. There are no private properties within the concession area. To date, no issues involving surface rights have impacted the project. Although we have unrestricted access to our facilities, we have been granted easements to further protect our access rights.

 

Geology and Mineralization

 

The geology of the El Quevar project is characterized by silver-rich veins and disseminations in Tertiary volcanic rocks that are part of an eroded stratovolcano. Silver mineralization at El Quevar is hosted within a broad, generally east-west-trending structural zone and occurs as a series of north-dipping parallel sheeted vein zones, breccias and mineralized faults situated within an envelope of pervasively silicified brecciated volcanic rocks. There are at least three sub-parallel structures that extend for an aggregate length of approximately 6.5 kilometers. Several volcanic domes (small intrusive bodies) have been identified and mineralization is also found in breccias associated with these domes, especially where

22

 

they are intersected by the structures. The silver mineralization at the Yaxtché zone is of epithermal origin. The cross-cutting nature of the mineralization, the assemblage of sulfide and alteration minerals, and the presence of open spaces with euhedral minerals, all point to an origin at shallow to moderate depths (a few hundred meters below surface) from hydrothermal solutions.

 

Mineralized Material Estimate

During 2012, we released an estimate of mineralized material at our El Quevar project. This estimate assumed mining of oxide material from an open pit on the east end of the Yaxtché deposit and sulfide material from both the open pit and an underground mine on the western portion of the Yaxtché deposit. The estimate was based on results from 270 core drill holes.

 

In 2017, Wood Group USA, Inc. (formerly known as Amec Foster Wheeler E&C Services, Inc.) (“Wood”) undertook an analysis and re-modeling of data utilized in a 2012 mineralized material estimate based on results from 270 core drill holes and assumed mining material from the Yaxtché deposit. The Wood estimate, which we announced in February 2018, used updated geologic controls and a modeling method that optimized silver grade assuming mining would occur solely underground.

 

In September 2018, we completed a PEA prepared pursuant to NI 43-101 that used the February 2018 revised estimate of mineralized material for the Yaxtché deposit as a basis. The PEA contemplates a six-year underground mining operation using pre-existing and new underground development at a mine production rate of 1,200 tonnes per day using a post-pillar cut-and-fill mining method that will deliver 2.45 million tonnes of diluted sulfide material at an average grade of 409 g/t silver. As contemplated in the PEA, the mined material would be processed using a conventional single product flotation mill that would produce a silver-rich bulk concentrate suitable for sale.

 

For further detail regarding mineralized material, see “CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING MINERALIZED MATERIAL”.

 

Exploration and Advancement of El Quevar

 

The Yaxtché deposit is the primary target currently identified at the El Quevar project. In the first quarter 2019, we initiated a 3,000 meter, approximately $0.6 million, drilling program to further define the potential for additional mineralized material in the Yaxtché deposit and surrounding area and completed that drill program in the second quarter 2019. In September 2019, we released final results from the drilling program.  See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – 2019 Highlights – El Quevar” for a discussion of the 2019 drill program.

 

We spent approximately $1.3 million and $2.0 million at our El Quevar project in 2018 and 2019, respectively. The increase in 2019 was primarily related to a drilling program conducted during the year. From the inception of our exploration activities in 2004 through December 31, 2019 we have spent approximately $82.0 million on exploration and related activities at El Quevar, including amounts spent by our predecessor, Apex Silver Mines Limited. In 2020, we expect to spend approximately $0.8 million at our El Quevar project to fund ongoing exploration and evaluation activities, care and maintenance and property holding costs.

 

We are continuing surface exploration in the district to identify further drill targets in the 57,000-hectare property area. Our property holdings contain two district-scale high sulfidation epithermal systems with potential to host additional precious metals deposits. We plan to continue to advance El Quevar as much as possible within the limits of our current exploration budget and remain open to finding a partner to contribute to the funding of further exploration and development.

23

 

Exploration Properties

 

In addition to Velardeña and El Quevar, we currently control a portfolio of approximately 12 exploration properties located primarily in certain traditional precious metals producing regions of Mexico, Nevada and Argentina. We do not consider any of our exploration properties to be individually material, including those noted below.

 

In 2020 we plan to focus our exploration efforts primarily on evaluating and searching for mining opportunities in North America with near term prospects of mining. We are also focused on continuing our exploration efforts on selected properties in our portfolio of approximately 12 exploration properties located in Mexico, Nevada, and Argentina. During 2020 we expect our expenditures for the exploration program to total approximately $3.0 million, with approximately $0.3 million in property holding costs in Mexico, $0.1 million in holding costs in Nevada and approximately $0.5 million in administrative and general reconnaissance costs in Mexico.

 

Sale of Mogotes and Pistachon Properties

 

On December 18, 2019, we sold the non-strategic Mogotes and Pistachon properties in Mexico to a subsidiary of Industrias Peñoles for $3.0 million. The Mogotes and Pistachon properties are comprised of a total of four mining concessions located near our Velardeña Properties in Durango State, Mexico and adjacent to mineral concessions controlled by subsidiaries of Industrias Peñoles. None of the claims in the properties contained any identified mineralized material estimates.

 

Rodeo

Our Rodeo claims are comprised of approximately 1,900-hectares located 80 kilometers west of the Velardeña Properties in Durango, Mexico. Previous exploration by other companies has identified a gold-bearing epithermal system exposed at the surface. During 2016, we completed a 2,080-meter core drilling program at the Rodeo property at a cost of approximately $0.4 million. The results from the program show a gold and silver bearing epithermal vein and breccia system with encouraging gold and silver values over an approximate 50 to 70-meter true width. The system is exposed at the top of a northwesterly striking ridge and dips steeply to the northeast over about one kilometer of strike length.

During January 2017, Tetra Tech completed an estimate of mineralized material at the Rodeo deposit, prepared pursuant to NI 43-101, based on two different operating scenarios. The first operating scenario reflects a smaller amount of higher-grade material and estimated mineralized material of 0.4 million tonnes containing 3.3 gpt gold and 11 gpt silver. This scenario provides a potentially shorter time to processing with lower capital costs since we already own the mill, located within trucking distance of the Rodeo property. The second operating scenario reflects a larger amount of lower grade material and estimated mineralized material of 3.6 million tonnes containing 0.8 gpt gold and 12 gpt silver. The second mineralized material estimate envisions a standalone heap leach operation, depending on leachability of the material and development and operating costs. We believe the Rodeo material, as currently identified, could provide additional mined material for our Velardeña oxide mill following the completion of the Hecla lease, which is currently set to expire on December 31, 2020.

In initial test work conducted in 2017, we received confirmation of good gold and silver metallurgical recoveries for milled material in initial test work. Bottle roll cyanide leach testing of the high-grade samples resulted in gold extractions of 80 to 86 percent. Silver extractions ranged from 72 to 76 percent for all tests. Test work also indicates that the material is not suitable for gold and silver recovery by heap leaching. 

 

We plan to initiate a small drilling program at Rodeo to provide greater resource definition for a mine plan and to provide samples for additional metallurgical testing. We have begun the process of obtaining the required mining and environmental permits for an open pit mining operation, a process that could take up to one year. Complementary to the permitting process, we have initiated an internal study to support the potential economic results of the planned operation.

 

24

 

Yoquivo

 

The Yoquivo property was acquired in 2017 and with the recent additional acquisition of a claim internal to the exterior boundary the project consists of 1,975 hectares in 7 claims that cover an epithermal vein district hosted in Tertiary andesitic volcanic rocks that is exposed in an erosional window through Oligocene rhyolite on the eastern margin of the Sierra Madre Occidental of northern Mexico. The property is 200 km SW of Chihuahua city in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Surface rock sampling done in 2018 demonstrated gold and silver values of potential economic interest in several of the veins in the district. We have an option to purchase the six concessions that comprise the Yoquivo property for payments totaling $0.75 million over four years subject to a 2% to 3% NSR royalty on production, capped at $2.8 million.

 

In October 2018 we announced high-grade silver-gold assays from the Yoquivo project. Multiple silver-gold bearing epithermal veins were mapped and sampled, with the two most important veins being the San Francisco and Pertenencia veins. A new vein, the La Nina vein, was discovered in the northwest of the property where it splits off from the main San Francisco vein. Two other veins, the Esperanza and El Dolar veins have been identified and sampled. Based on sampling and mapping we have identified the most attractive targets on the property and have permits in hand to initiate the drill program. Subject to the availability of capital, we intend to begin a drill program in the second or third quarter of 2020 to test the most promising portions of the veins.

 

Santa Maria

On October 16, 2019, we entered into an option agreement for the sale of our right to acquire a 100% interest in the Santa Maria and Las Marias exploration properties to Magellan Gold Corporation (“Magellan”). The agreement provides for a period of up to 150 days during which Magellan will complete its due diligence review and secure financing for the project. Prior to the end of such period, Magellan will have the right to exercise its option to acquire our interests in the project. Under the terms of the agreement, if Magellan exercises its option, it will make a cash payment of $1.0 million to us upon closing. We will retain a 6.5% NSR royalty from all production at Santa Maria until a total of $3.0 million has been paid to us under the royalty agreement. Thereafter, we will retain a 3.0% NSR royalty for the balance of the mine’s life. If Magellan fails to achieve commercial production from the project within one year following closing, we will not be obligated to convey our interests in the project to Magellan and we will retain our interest in the project with no obligation to return any payments to Magellan.

 

In August 2014, we entered into an option agreement giving us the right to acquire for $1.2 million the Santa Maria mine, a privately held property comprised of a single mining claim of 18 hectares west of Hidalgo de Parral, Chihuahua State, Mexico. Since 2015, we have completed test mining and processing of approximately 7,100 dry tonnes from the Santa Maria mine, with average grades of 338 gpt silver and 0.8 gpt gold. In March 2017, an updated PEA was completed on our behalf by the engineering firm Tetra Tech, prepared pursuant to NI 43-101, and presented a base case assessment of developing Santa Maria’s mineral deposit. In September 2018, Tetra Tech completed an updated PEA for the Santa Maria project that incorporates data accumulated since March 2017 as well as information from a 22-hole, 4,800-meter drilling program begun in August 2017 and completed in April 2018. In total, we have drilled 9,900 meters in 59 holes since acquiring the property. Since 2015, we have completed test mining and processing of 7,100 dry tonnes from the Santa Maria mine west of Hidalgo de Parral, Chihuahua, with average grades 338 g/t Ag and 0.8 g/t gold (“Au”).

 

We have the right to acquire 100% of the Santa Maria property under two separate option agreements representing the total concessions that comprise the property for additional payments of $0.6 million, payable through August 2021. The first option agreement covers concessions we acquired in August 2014 and requires an additional minimum payment of approximately $0.2 million in 2020. In addition, until the total due under the first option agreement has been paid, the property owners have the right to 50% of any net profits from mining activities from the concessions related to the option, after reimbursement of all costs incurred by us since April 2015, to the extent that such net profit payments exceed the minimum payments. The second option agreement covers concessions acquired in August 2017 and requires an additional approximately $0.4 million be paid by making additional payments of $0.1 million in 2020 and $0.3 million in 2021. Under

25

 

the terms of the agreement discussed above, Magellan will assume responsibility for making the additional payments if it elects to exercise the option.

 

Sand Canyon

 

During the second quarter 2019 we entered into an earn-in agreement with Golden Gryphon Explorations for the Sand Canyon project located in northwestern Nevada, where surface work has identified a large system of epithermal veins with potential for gold and silver deposits. We hold an option to earn a 60% interest in the Sand Canyon project by spending $2.5 million in exploration expenses over four years, with guaranteed minimum expenditures of $0.5 million in year one. To continue to earn interest in the project, we must spend at least $0.75 million in each of years two and three and $0.5 million in year four, and drill at least 5,000 feet of core or 10,000 feet of reverse circulation or a combination of the two, by the end of the second year. We paid $25,000 cash and $50,000 in reimbursed exploration expenditures to acquire the option and will make staged payments of a total additional $135,000 ($35,000 in 2020, $50,000 in 2021 and $50,000 in 2022) over the next three anniversaries of the agreement.

 

We have completed surface exploration activities on the project including mapping and geochemical sampling to identify drill targets. Based on this work we have obtained the necessary drill permits and have begun a drilling program, with initial results expected in the second quarter of 2020.

 

Executive Officers of Golden Minerals

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name

 

Age

 

Position

Warren M. Rehn

 

65

 

President and Chief Executive Officer

Robert P. Vogels

 

62

 

Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

 

Warren M. Rehn. Mr. Rehn was appointed President of our company in May 2015 and appointed Chief Executive Officer and director in September 2015. Mr. Rehn previously served as Senior Vice President, Exploration and Chief Geologist since December 2012 and served as Vice President, Exploration and Chief Geologist since February 2012. From 2007 until February 2012, Mr. Rehn held various positions at Barrick Gold Exploration, Inc., serving most recently as Chief Exploration Geologist for the Bald Mountain and Ruby Hill mining units. From 2005 until 2007, Mr. Rehn was a consulting geologist for Gerson Lehman Group, which provides consulting services to various industries, including geology and mining. Mr. Rehn served as a Consulting Senior Geologist at Placer Dome Exploration, Inc. in 2004 and as an independent consulting geologist throughout the Americas from 1994 until 2003. He served as a Senior Geologist at Noranda Exploration, Inc. from 1988 until 1994. Mr. Rehn holds an M.S. in Geology from the Colorado School of Mines and a B.S. in Geological Engineering from the University of Idaho.

 

Robert P. Vogels. Mr. Vogels was named Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in March 2009. Mr. Vogels served as Controller of Apex Silver from January 2005 to March 2009 and was named Vice President in January 2006. Prior to joining Apex Silver, Mr. Vogels served as corporate controller for Meridian Gold Company from January 2004 until December 2004. He served as the controller of INCO Limited’s Goro project in New Caledonia from October 2002 to January 2004. Prior to joining INCO, Mr. Vogels worked from 1985 through October 2002 for Cyprus Amax Minerals Company, which was acquired in 1999 by Phelps Dodge Corp. During that time, he served in several capacities, including as the controller for its El Abra copper mine in Chile from 1997 until March 2002. Mr. Vogels began his career in public accounting as a CPA. He holds a B.Sc. in accounting and an MBA degree from Colorado State University.

26

 

 

Board of Directors of Golden Minerals

 

 

 

 

 

 

Name

 

Age

 

Occupation

Jeffrey G. Clevenger (2)

 

70

 

Chairman

Warren M. Rehn

 

65

 

President and Chief Executive Officer, Company

W. Durand Eppler (1),(3)

 

66

 

Managing Director, Capstone Headwaters MB

Kevin R. Morano (2),(3)

 

66

 

Managing Principal, KEM Capital LLC

Terry M. Palmer (1),(3)

 

75

 

Retired Certified Public Accountant

Andrew N. Pullar

 

47

 

Managing Partner and Director, Sentient Equity Partners

David H. Watkins (1),(2)

 

75

 

Director, Commander Resources Ltd., Euro Resources S.A.


Committee Membership

(1)

Audit

(2)

Compensation

(3)

Corporate Governance and Nominating

 

Metals Market Overview

 

We are an emerging precious metals exploration company with silver and gold mining properties in Mexico and a large advanced exploration silver project in Argentina. Descriptions of the markets for these metals are provided below.

 

Silver Market

 

Silver has traditionally served as a medium of exchange, much like gold. Silver’s strength, malleability, ductility, thermal and electrical conductivity, sensitivity to light and ability to endure extreme changes in temperature combine to make it a widely used industrial metal. While silver continues to be used as a form of investment and a financial asset, the principal uses of silver are industrial, primarily in electrical and electronic components, photography, jewelry, silverware, batteries, computer chips, electrical contacts, and high technology printing. Silver’s anti-bacterial properties also make it valuable for use in medicine and in water purification. Additionally, the use of silver in the photovoltaic and solar panel industries is growing rapidly, and new uses of silver are being developed in connection with the use of superconductive wire and radio frequency identification devices.

 

Most silver product is obtained from mining in which silver is not the principal or primary product. The Silver Institute, an international silver industry association, noted that for 2018 only around 26% of output came from so-called primary silver mines, where silver is the main source of revenue.

 

The following table sets forth for the periods indicated on the London Fix high and low silver fixes in U.S. dollars per troy ounce. On February 25, 2020, the closing price of silver was $18.33 per troy ounce.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver

 

Year

    

High

    

Low

 

2012

 

$

37.23

 

$

26.67

 

2013

 

$

32.23

 

$

18.61

 

2014

 

$

22.05

 

$

15.28

 

2015

 

$

18.23

 

$

13.71

 

2016

 

$

20.71

 

$

13.58

 

2017

 

$

18.56

 

$

15.22

 

2018

 

$

17.52

 

$

14.13

 

2019

 

$

19.31

 

$

14.38

 

2020*

 

$

18.78

 

$

17.47

 

27

 

 


*Through February 25, 2020.

 

Gold Market

 

Gold has two main categories of use: fabrication and investment. Fabricated gold has a variety of end uses, including jewelry, electronics, dentistry, industrial and decorative uses, medals, medallions and official coins. Gold investors buy gold bullion, official coins and jewelry. The supply of gold consists of a combination of production from mining and the draw-down of existing stocks of gold held by governments, financial institutions, industrial organizations and private individuals.

 

The following table sets forth for the periods indicated on the London Fix PM high and low gold fixes in U.S. dollars per troy ounce. On February 25, 2020, the closing price of gold was $1,650 per troy ounce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gold

 

Year

    

High

    

Low

 

2012

 

$

1,792

 

$

1,540

 

2013

 

$

1,694

 

$

1,192

 

2014

 

$

1,385

 

$

1,142

 

2015

 

$

1,296

 

$

1,049

 

2016

 

$

1,366

 

$

1,077

 

2017

 

$

1,346

 

$

1,151

 

2018

 

$

1,355

 

$

1,178

 

2019

 

$

1,546

 

$

1,270

 

2020*

 

$

1,672

 

$

1,527

 

 


*  Through February 25, 2020.

 

Employees

 

We currently have 170 employees, including seven in Golden, approximately 152 in Mexico (including approximately 76 assigned to the oxide plant which is leased to a third party and 19 involved in exploration activities), and 11 in Argentina, primarily in connection with the El Quevar project.

 

Competition

 

There is aggressive competition within the mining industry for the acquisition of a limited number of mineral resource opportunities, and many of the mining companies with which we compete have greater financial and technical resources than we do. Accordingly, these competitors may be able to spend greater amounts on acquisitions of mineral properties of merit, as well as on exploration and advancement of their mineral properties. We also compete with other mining companies for the acquisition and retention of skilled mining engineers, mine and processing plant operators and mechanics, geologists, geophysicists and other experienced technical personnel. Our competitive position depends upon our ability to successfully and economically advance new and existing silver and gold properties. Failure to achieve and maintain a competitive position could adversely impact our ability to obtain the financing necessary for us to advance our mineral properties.

 

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Available Information

 

We make available, free of charge through our website at www.goldenminerals.com, our annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), as soon as reasonably practicable after such material is electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC. Information on our website is not incorporated into this annual report on Form 10-K and is not a part of this report. Additionally, the public may read and copy any materials we file with the SEC at the SEC’s Public Reference Room at 100 F Street, NE, Washington, DC 20549. The SEC also maintains an Internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC at http://www.sec.gov.

 

ITEM 1A:RISK FACTORS 

Investors in Golden Minerals should consider carefully, in addition to the other information contained in, or incorporated by reference into, this annual report on Form 10-K, the following risk factors:

We have historically incurred operating losses and operating cash flow deficits and we expect to incur operating losses and operating cash flow deficits through 2020; our potential profitability in the foreseeable future would depend on our ability to identify, acquire and mine properties to generate sufficient revenues to fund our continuing activities.

   We have a history of operating losses and we expect that we will continue to incur operating losses unless and until such time as our Velardeña Properties, our El Quevar project, or another of our exploration properties, generates sufficient revenue to fund our continuing business activities. Although we have leased the oxide plant at the Velardeña Properties to a subsidiary of Hecla Mining Company, the cash that we expect will be generated from that lease will not be sufficient to fund all of our continuing business activities as currently conducted. In addition, the oxide plant lease may terminate sooner or produce less revenue than we anticipate. There is no assurance that we will develop additional sources of revenue.

   In addition, the potential profitability of mining and processing at any of our properties would be based on a number of assumptions. For example, profitability would depend on metal prices, costs of materials and supplies, costs at the mines and processing plants and the amounts and timing of expenditures, including expenditures to maintain our Velardeña Properties, our El Quevar project and to continue exploration at other exploration properties, and potential strategic acquisitions or other transactions, in addition to other factors, many of which are and will be beyond our control. We cannot be certain we will be able to generate sufficient revenue from any source to achieve profitability and eliminate operating cash flow deficits, or to cease to require additional funding.

We will require additional external financing to fund our continuing business activities in the future. 

As of December 31, 2019, we had approximately $4.6 million in cash and cash equivalents. With anticipated costs during 2020, including exploration expenditures, care and maintenance costs at the Velardeña Properties, exploration and evaluation expenditures and property holding costs at the El Quevar project, and general and administrative expenses, offset by anticipated net operating margin from the lease of the oxide plant of $3.3 million, we expect our current cash and cash equivalent balance will be approximately zero by the end of 2020, unless we are successful in raising additional capital or selling certain exploration assets. Even with these anticipated revenues throughout 2020, our cash balance in 2020 will not be sufficient to provide adequate cash reserves in the event of an unexpected termination of the Hecla lease, variations from anticipated care and maintenance costs at the Velardeña Properties and costs for continued exploration, project assessment and development at our other exploration properties, requiring us to seek additional funding from equity or debt or from monetization of non-core assets.

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   We do not have a credit, off-take or other commercial financing arrangement in place that would finance our general and administrative costs and other working capital needs to fund our continuing business activities in the future, and we believe that securing credit for these purposes may be difficult given our limited history and the continuing volatility in global credit and commodity markets. In addition, commercial financing arrangements may not be available on favorable terms or on terms that would not further restrict our flexibility and ongoing ability to meet our cash requirements over a reasonable period of time. Access to public financing has been negatively impacted by the volatility in the credit markets and metals prices, which may affect our ability to obtain equity or debt financing in the future and, if obtained, to do so on favorable terms. We also may not be able to obtain funding by monetizing additional non-core exploration or other assets at an acceptable price. We cannot assure you that we will be able to obtain financing to fund our general and administrative costs and other working capital needs to fund our continuing business activities in the future on favorable terms or at all.

Although we may be able to access public equity markets, including through issuances under our At-the-Market program we entered into in December 2016 (the “ATM Program”) or the committed equity program with Lincoln Park Capital that we entered into in May 2018 (the “LPC Program”), significant issuances under those programs may be heavily dilutive to existing shareholders. 

Hecla may terminate the oxide plant lease.

 

   In July 2015 we entered into a leasing agreement with a wholly owned subsidiary of Hecla Mining Company to lease our Velardeña oxide plant for an initial term of 18 months beginning July 1, 2015. The lease agreement contained several lease extension options, which Hecla exercised, extending the current lease term through December 31, 2020. Hecla is responsible for ongoing operation and maintenance of the oxide plant and during the year ended December 31, 2019, Hecla's mining and processing activities resulted in a net margin of $5.3 million for us. The lease may terminate sooner than the end of 2020 if Hecla experiences mining problems or delays at its nearby mine, if there are disputes between Hecla and us, or for other reasons. Hecla has the right to terminate the lease on 150 days’ notice. Moreover, the lease payment from Hecla is based, in part, on the amount of ore processed at the plant, and we have no control over their production.

One of our stockholders owns a significant percentage of our common stock and could block decisions or transactions that could be beneficial to other stockholders.

   One of our stockholders, The Sentient Group, through the Sentient executive funds (“Sentient”), owns approximately 38% of our outstanding common stock. With this level of ownership, Sentient could exert significant control over us, including over the election of directors, changes in the size or the composition of the board of directors, and mergers and other business combinations involving us. Through greater control of the board of directors and increased voting power, including the potential to prevent a quorum at stockholders meetings, Sentient could control certain decisions, including decisions regarding qualification and appointment of officers, operations of the business including acquisition or disposition of our assets or purchases and sales of mining or exploration properties, dividend policy, and access to capital (including borrowing from third-party lenders and the issuance of equity or debt securities). Sentient’s large share ownership will also make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to enter into a change of control transaction that may otherwise be beneficial for our other shareholders.

If we commence mining in Mexico, we will likely enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a union that, together with labor and employment regulations, could adversely affect our mining activities and financial condition.

As is the case at our Velardeña Properties, mine employees in Mexico are typically represented by a union, and our relationship with our employees is, and we expect in the future will be, governed by collective bargaining agreements. Any collective bargaining agreement that we enter into with a union is likely to restrict our mining flexibility in and impose

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additional costs on our mining activities. In addition, relations between us and our employees in Mexico may be affected by changes in regulations or labor union requirements regarding labor relations that may be introduced by the Mexican authorities or by labor unions. Changes in legislation or in the relationship between us and our employees may have a material adverse effect on our mining activities and financial condition.

We may not mine the Velardeña Properties again.

 

In mid-November 2015, we shut down the mines and sulfide processing plant at our Velardeña Properties and placed them on care and maintenance. Commencing mining again is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, including:

·

whether we are able to create mine plans or gold recovery improvements that can achieve sustainable cash positive results at current and future metals prices;

·

unexpected events, including difficulties in maintaining the properties on a care and maintenance basis, potential sabotage or damage to the assets related to the suspension of mining, and variations in ore grade and relative amounts, grades and metallurgical characteristics of oxide and sulfide ores;

·

continued decreases or insufficient increases in gold and silver prices to permit us to achieve sustainable cash positive results;

·

actual holding and care and maintenance costs resulting from the shutdown exceeding current estimates or including unanticipated costs;

·

loss of and inability to adequately replace skilled mining and management personnel;

·

strikes or other labor problems; and

·

our ability to obtain additional funding for general and administrative costs and other working capital needs to fund our continuing business activities as currently conducted and possibly for a potential restart of our Velardeña Properties.

Based on these risks and uncertainties, there can be no assurance that we will restart mining activities at the Velardeña Properties.

Our ability to successfully conduct mining and processing activities resulting in long-term cash flow and profitability will be affected by changes in prices of silver, gold and other metals.

 

Our ability to successfully conduct mining and processing activities in Mexico, Argentina or other countries, to establish reserves and advance our exploration properties, and to become profitable in the future, as well as our long-term viability, depend, in large part, on the market prices of silver, gold, zinc, copper and other metals. The market prices for these metals are volatile and are affected by numerous factors beyond our control, including:

·

global or regional consumption patterns;

·

supply of, and demand for, silver, gold, zinc, lead, copper and other metals;

·

speculative activities and hedging activities;

·

expectations for inflation;

·

political and economic conditions; and

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·

supply of, and demand for, consumables required for extraction and processing of metals.

The declines in silver and gold prices in recent years have had a significant impact on our mining activities, resulting in a shutdown of mining at our Velardeña Properties in 2015, and negatively affect mining opportunities at our other properties. Additionally, future weakness in the global economy could increase volatility in metals prices or depress metals prices, which could also affect our mining and processing plans at our Velardeña Properties or make it uneconomic for us to engage in mining or exploration activities. Volatility or sustained price declines may also adversely affect our ability to build or continue our business.

If products are processed from our Velardeña Properties or other mines in the future, they could contain higher than expected contaminants, thereby negatively impacting our financial condition.

 

In 2015 we processed mined material to make gold and silver bearing lead, zinc and pyrite concentrates. Concentrate treatment charges paid to smelters and refineries include penalties for certain elements, including arsenic and antimony that exceed contract limits. In the future, if we process material from our Velardeña Properties or other mines, any such concentrates could include higher than expected contaminants, which would result in higher treatment expenses and penalty charges that could increase our costs and negatively impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. This could occur due to unexpected variations in the occurrence of these elements in the material mined, problems that occur during blending of material from various locations in the mine prior to processing and other unanticipated events.

 

The El Quevar project, the Velardeña Properties, and our other properties may not contain mineral reserves.

We are considered an exploration stage company under SEC Industry Guide 7, and none of the properties at the El Quevar project, our Velardeña Properties, or any of our other properties have been shown to contain proven or probable mineral reserves. Expenditures made in mining at the Velardeña Properties or the exploration and advancement of our El Quevar project or other properties may not result in positive cash flow or in discoveries of commercially recoverable quantities of ore. Most exploration projects do not result in the discovery of commercially mineable ore deposits, and we cannot assure you that any mineral deposit we identify will qualify as an orebody that can be legally and economically exploited or that any particular level of recovery from discovered mineralization will in fact be realized.

During 2012, we released an estimate of mineralized material at our El Quevar project and in 2018 Wood Group completed an analysis and re-modeling of the data utilized in the prior mineralized material estimate. Tetra Tech completed technical reports on our Velardeña Properties and our Santa Maria and Rodeo properties, which indicated the presence of mineralized material. Mineralized material figures based on estimates made by geologists are inherently imprecise and depend on geological interpretation and statistical inferences drawn from drilling and sampling that may prove to be unreliable or inaccurate. We cannot assure you that these estimates are accurate or that proven and probable mineral reserves will be identified at the El Quevar project, the Velardeña Properties, the Santa Maria and Rodeo properties, or any of our other properties. Even if the presence of reserves is established at a project, the economic viability of the project may not justify exploitation. We have spent significant amounts on the evaluation of El Quevar prior to establishing the economic viability of that project.

Estimates of reserves, mineral deposits and mining costs also can be affected by factors such as governmental regulations and requirements, fluctuations in metals prices or costs of essential materials or supplies, environmental factors, unforeseen technical difficulties and unusual or unexpected geological formations. In addition, the grades of ore or material ultimately mined may differ from that indicated by drilling results, sampling, feasibility studies or technical reports. Short-term factors relating to reserves, such as the need for orderly development of ore bodies or the processing of new or different grades, may also have an adverse effect on mining and on the results of operations. Silver, gold or other minerals recovered in small-scale laboratory tests may not be duplicated in large-scale tests under on-site processing conditions.

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The Velardeña Properties, the El Quevar project and our other properties are subject to foreign environmental laws and regulations which could materially adversely affect our business.

We have conducted mining activities in Mexico and conduct mineral exploration activities primarily in Mexico. Mexico and Argentina, where the El Quevar project is located, have laws and regulations that control the exploration and mining of mineral properties and their effects on the environment, including air and water quality, mine reclamation, waste generation, handling and disposal, the protection of different species of flora and fauna and the preservation of lands. These laws and regulations require us to acquire permits and other authorizations for conducting certain activities. In many countries, there is relatively new comprehensive environmental legislation, and the permitting and authorization process may not be established or predictable. We may not be able to acquire necessary permits or authorizations on a timely basis, if at all. Delays in acquiring any permit or authorization could increase the cost of our projects and could suspend or delay the commencement of extraction and processing of mineralized material.

Our Velardeña Properties are subject to regulation by SEMARNAT, the environmental protection agency of Mexico. In order to permit new facilities at or expand existing facilities, regulations require that an environmental impact statement, known in Mexico as a Manifestación de Impacto Ambiental (the “Manifestación”), be prepared by a third-party contractor for submission to SEMARNAT. Studies required to support the Manifestación include a detailed analysis of soil, water, vegetation, wildlife, cultural resources and socio-economic impacts. The Manifestación is then published on SEMARNAT’s web page and in its official gazette in a national and local newspaper. The Manifestación is discussed at various open hearings, including hearings in the local communities, at which third parties may voice their views. We would be required to provide proof of local community support of the Manifestación as a condition to final approval. We may not be able to obtain community support of future projects.

Environmental legislation in Mexico is evolving in a manner which will require stricter standards and enforcement, increased fines and penalties for non-compliance, more stringent environmental assessments of proposed projects, and a heightened degree of responsibility for companies and their officers, directors and employees. For example, in January 2011, Article 180 of the Mexican Federal General Law of Ecological Balance and Environmental Protection was amended. Among other things, this amendment extended the term during which an individual or entity having a legitimate interest may contest administrative acts, including environmental authorizations, permits or concessions granted, without the need to demonstrate the actual existence of harm to the environment, natural resources, flora, fauna or human health, making it sufficient to argue that harm may be caused. Further, the amendment permits the contesting party to challenge a Manifestación through a variety of administrative or court procedures. As a result of the amendment, more legal actions supported or sponsored by non-governmental groups interested in halting projects may be filed against companies operating in all industrial sectors, including the mining sector. Mexican operations are also subject to the environmental agreements entered into by Mexico, the United States and Canada in connection with the North American Free Trade Agreement. Further, in August 2011, certain amendments to the Civil Federal Procedures Code of Mexico (“CFPC”) were published in the Official Daily of the Federation. The amendments establish three categories of collective actions by which 30 or more people claiming injury resulting from, among other things, environmental harm, will be deemed to have a sufficient and legitimate interest in seeking, through a civil procedure, restitution, economic compensation or suspension of the activities from which the alleged injury derived. These amendments to the CFPC may result in more litigation by plaintiffs seeking remedies for alleged environmental harms, including suspension of the activities alleged to cause harm. Future changes in environmental regulation in the jurisdictions where the Velardeña Properties are located may adversely affect our business, make our business prohibitively expensive, or prohibit it altogether. 

Environmental legislation in many other countries, in addition to Mexico, is evolving in a manner that will likely require stricter standards and enforcement, increased fines and penalties for non-compliance, more stringent environmental assessments of proposed projects and a heightened degree of responsibility for companies and their officers, directors and employees. We cannot predict what environmental legislation or regulations will be enacted or adopted in the future or how future laws and regulations will be administered or interpreted. For example, in September 2010, the Argentine

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National Congress passed legislation which prohibits mining activity in glacial and surrounding areas. Although we do not currently anticipate that this legislation will impact the El Quevar project, the legislation provides an example of the evolving environmental legislation in the areas in which we operate. Compliance with more stringent laws and regulations, as well as potentially more vigorous enforcement policies or regulatory agencies or stricter interpretation of existing laws, may (i) necessitate significant capital outlays, (ii) cause us to delay, terminate or otherwise change our intended activities with respect to one or more projects, or (iii) materially adversely affect our future exploration activities.

The Velardeña Properties and many of our exploration properties are located in historic mining districts where prior owners, including ECU in the case of the Velardeña Properties, may have caused environmental damage that may not be known to us or to the regulators. At the Velardeña Properties and in most other cases, we have not sought complete environmental analyses of our mineral properties. We have not conducted comprehensive reviews of the environmental laws and regulations in every jurisdiction in which we own or control mineral properties. Insurance fully covering many environmental risks (including potential liability for pollution or other hazards as a result of disposal of waste products occurring from exploration and mining) is not generally available. To the extent environmental hazards may exist on the properties in which we currently hold interests, or may hold interests in the future, that are unknown to us at present and that have been caused by us, or previous owners or operators, or that may have occurred naturally, and to the extent we are subject to environmental requirements or liabilities, the cost of compliance with these requirements and satisfaction of these liabilities could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. If we are unable to fully fund the cost of remediation of any environmental condition, we may be required to suspend activities or enter into interim compliance measures pending completion of the required remediation.

In addition, U.S. or international legislative or regulatory action to address concerns about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions could negatively impact our business.

Title to the Velardeña Properties and our other properties and rights may be defective or may be challenged.

Our policy is to seek to confirm the validity of our rights to, title to, or contract rights with respect to, each mineral property in which we have a material interest. However, we cannot guarantee that title to our properties will not be challenged. Title insurance is not available for our mineral properties, and our ability to ensure that we have obtained secure rights to individual mineral properties or mining concessions may be severely constrained. Accordingly, the Velardeña Properties and our other mineral properties may be subject to prior unregistered agreements, transfers or claims, and title may be affected by, among other things, undetected defects. In addition, we may be unable to conduct activities on our properties as permitted or to enforce our rights with respect to our properties, and the title to our mineral properties may also be impacted by state action. We have not conducted surveys of all of the exploration properties in which we hold direct or indirect interests and, therefore, the precise area and location of these exploration properties may be in doubt.

In most of the countries in which we operate, failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations relating to mineral right applications and tenure could result in loss, reduction or expropriation of entitlements, or the imposition of additional local or foreign parties as joint venture partners. Any such loss, reduction or imposition of partners could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

Under the laws of Mexico, mineral resources belong to the state, and government concessions are required to explore for or exploit mineral reserves. Mineral rights derive from concessions granted, on a discretionary basis, by the Ministry of Economy, pursuant to the Mexican mining law and regulations thereunder. We hold title to the Velardeña Properties and our other properties in Mexico through these government concessions, but there is no assurance that title to the concessions comprising the Velardeña Properties and other properties will not be challenged or impaired. The Velardeña Properties and other properties may be subject to prior unregistered agreements, interests or native land claims, and title may be affected by undetected defects. There could be valid challenges to the title of any of the claims comprising the Velardeña Properties that, if successful, could impair mining with respect to such properties in the future. A defect

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could result in our losing all or a portion of our right, title, and interest in and to the properties to which the title defect relates.

Our Velardeña Properties mining concessions and our other mining concessions in Mexico may be terminated if our obligations to maintain the concessions in good standing are not satisfied, including obligations to explore or exploit the relevant concession, to pay any relevant fees, to comply with all environmental and safety standards, to provide information to the Ministry of Economy and to allow inspections by the Ministry of Economy. In addition to termination, failure to make timely concession maintenance payments and otherwise comply strictly with applicable laws, regulations and local practices relating to mineral right applications and tenure could result in reduction or expropriation of entitlements. Additionally, in 2014, new mining concessions became subject to additional review and approval by the Mexico Ministry of Energy, and in recent years the federal government has been reluctant to issue new mining concessions at all.

Mining concessions in Mexico give exclusive exploration and exploitation rights to the minerals located in the concessions but do not include surface rights to the real property, which requires that we negotiate the necessary agreements with surface landowners. Many of our mining properties are subject to the Mexican ejido system requiring us to contract with the local communities surrounding the properties in order to obtain surface rights to land needed in connection with our mining exploration activities. In connection with our Velardeña Properties, we have contracts with two ejidos to secure surface rights with a total annual cost of approximately $25,000. The first contract is a ten-year contract with the Velardeña ejido, which provides surface rights to certain roads and other infrastructure at the Velardeña Properties through 2021. The second contract is a 25-year contract with the Vista Hermosa ejido signed in March 2013, which provides exploration access and access rights for roads and utilities for our Velardeña Properties. Our inability to maintain and periodically renew or expand these surface rights on favorable terms or otherwise could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.

Mining and processing activities are dependent on the availability of sufficient water supplies to support our mining activities.

Mining and processing at the Velardeña Properties, as at most mines, requires significant amounts of water. At the Velardeña Properties, our ability to have sufficient water is dependent on our ability to maintain our water rights and claims. Water is provided for all of the mines comprising our Velardeña Properties by wells located in the valley adjacent to the Velardeña Properties. We hold title to three wells located near the sulfide plant and hold certificates of registration to three wells located near the oxide plant. We are licensed to pump water from all six wells up to a permitted amount. We are currently using water from the three wells associated with the oxide plant and from two of the three wells associated with the sulfide plant. We are required to make annual payments to the Mexican government to maintain our rights to these wells. We are required to pay a fine to the Mexican Government each year if we use too much water from a particular well or alternatively if we do not use a minimum amount of water from a particular well. In addition to these fines, the Mexican Government reserves the right to cancel our title to the wells for abuse of these rules.

We currently have a sufficient amount of water for the third-party processing activities at the oxide plant. However, if we began processing material from both the sulfide and oxide plants in the future, we may face shortages in our water supply, and therefore will need to obtain water from outside sources at higher costs. The loss of some or all water rights for any of our wells, in whole or in part, or shortages of water to which we have rights would require us to seek water from outside sources at higher costs and could require us to curtail or shut down mining and processing in the future. Laws and regulations may be introduced in the future which could limit our access to sufficient water resources in mining activities, thus adversely affecting our business.

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There are significant hazards involved in underground mining and processing activities at our Velardeña Properties, not all of which are fully covered by insurance. To the extent we must pay the costs associated with such risks, our business may be negatively affected.

The mining and processing of the underground mines at our Velardeña Properties, as well as the conduct of our exploration programs that frequently require rehabilitation of and drilling in underground mine workings, are subject to numerous risks and hazards, including, but not limited to, environmental hazards, industrial accidents, encountering unusual or unexpected geological formations, formation pressures, cave-ins, underground fires or floods, power outages, labor disruptions, seismic activity, rock bursts, accidents relating to historical workings, landslides and periodic interruptions due to inclement or hazardous weather conditions. These occurrences could result in damage to, or destruction of, mineral properties or processing facilities, personal injury or death, environmental damage, reduced extraction and processing and delays in mining, asset write-downs, monetary losses and possible legal liability. Although we maintain insurance against risks inherent in the conduct of our business in amounts that we consider reasonable, this insurance contains, as in the case of our Velardeña Properties, exclusions and limitations on coverage, and will not cover all potential risks associated with mining and exploration activities, and related liabilities might exceed policy limits. As a result of any or all of the forgoing, particularly if the facilities are older, we could incur significant liabilities and costs that could adversely affect our results of operation and financial condition.

Our Velardeña Properties and most of our exploration properties are located in Mexico and are subject to various levels of political, economic, legal, social and other risks.

Our Velardeña Properties are located in Mexico, and, as such, are exposed to various levels of political, economic, legal and other risks and uncertainties, including local acts of violence, such as violence from drug cartels; military repression; extreme fluctuations in currency exchange rates; high rates of inflation; labor unrest; the risks of war or civil unrest; expropriation and nationalization; renegotiation or nullification of existing concessions, licenses, permits and contracts; illegal mining; acts of political corruption; changes in taxation policies; restrictions on foreign exchange and repatriation; and changing political conditions (including potential instability if the United States withdraws from or renegotiates the North American Free Trade Agreement), currency controls and governmental regulations that favor or require the awarding of contracts to local contractors or require foreign contractors to employ citizens of, or purchase supplies from, a particular jurisdiction. Furthermore, given the uncertainties surrounding the policies of the current US Administration, the political relationship between the United States and Mexico may deteriorate, creating further political risk of doing business in Mexico.

In the past, Mexico has been subject to political instability, changes and uncertainties, which have resulted in changes to existing governmental regulations affecting mineral exploration and mining activities. Mexico’s status as a developing country may make it more difficult for us to obtain any required funding for our Velardeña Properties or other projects in Mexico in the future.

Our Mexican properties are subject to a variety of governmental regulations governing health and worker safety, employment standards, waste disposal, protection of historic and archaeological sites, mine development, protection of endangered and protected species, purchase, storage and use of explosives and other matters. Specifically, our activities related to the Velardeña Properties are subject to regulation by SEMARNAT, the Comisión Nacional del Agua, which regulates water rights, and Mexican mining laws. Mexican regulators have broad authority to shut down and levy fines against facilities that do not comply with regulations or standards.

Our Velardeña Properties and mineral exploration activities in Mexico may be adversely affected in varying degrees by changing government regulations relating to the mining industry or shifts in political conditions that increase the costs related to our mining and exploration activities or the maintenance of our properties. For example, in January 2014, amendments to the Mexico federal corporate income tax law require titleholders of mining concessions to pay

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annually a 7.5% duty of their mining related profits and a 0.5% duty on revenues obtained from the sale of gold, silver and platinum that were effective March 2015. These additional duties applicable to Mexico mining concession titleholders will have a significant impact on the annual costs applicable to the Velardeña Properties if we have mining-related profits or significant revenues in the future.

Changes, if any, in mining or investment policies, changes or increases in the legal rights of indigenous populations or in the difficulty or expense of obtaining rights from them that are necessary for our Velardeña Properties or shifts in political attitude may adversely affect our business and financial condition. Our mining and exploration activities may be affected in varying degrees by government regulations with respect to restrictions on extraction, price controls, export controls, currency remittance, income and other taxes, expropriation of property, foreign investment, maintenance of claims, environmental legislation, land use, land claims of local people, water use and mine safety. Restart of mining or use of both the oxide and sulfide plant may also require us to assure the availability of adequate supplies of water and power, which could be affected by government policy and competing businesses in the area. The occurrence of these various factors and uncertainties cannot be accurately predicted and could have an adverse effect on our mining and exploration activities and financial condition.

Future changes in applicable laws and regulations or changes in their enforcement or regulatory interpretation could negatively impact current or planned exploration or mining activities at our Velardeña Properties or in respect of any of our other projects in Mexico or projects with which we become involved in Mexico. Any failure to comply with applicable laws and regulations, even if inadvertent, could result in the interruption of mining and exploration or material fines, penalties or other liabilities.

Our El Quevar exploration property is located in Argentina and is subject to various levels of political, economic, legal, social and other risks.

Our El Quevar exploration property is located in Argentina and, as such, is exposed to various levels of political, economic, legal, social and other risks and uncertainties, including high interest rates; abrupt changes in currency values; high levels of inflation; stability and competitiveness of the Argentine peso against foreign currencies; wage and price controls; regulations to import equipment and other necessities relevant for operations; changes in governmental economic (including export duties and import regulations) or tax policies; and political and social tensions. 

The Argentine economy has experienced significant volatility in recent decades, characterized by periods of low or negative gross domestic product growth, high and variable levels of inflation and currency depreciation and devaluation. Financial and securities markets in Argentina, and the Argentine economy, are influenced by economic and market conditions in other markets worldwide. The Argentine government has often changed monetary, taxation, credit, tariff and other policies to influence the course of Argentina’s economy, and taken other actions which do, or may be perceived to weaken the nation’s economy especially as it relates to foreign investors and the overall investment climate.

 

The Argentine government has not only historically exercised significant influence over the country’s economy, but the country’s legal and regulatory frameworks have at times suffered radical changes due to political influence and significant political uncertainties as well. For example, in April 2014, there were nationwide strikes that paralyzed the Argentine economy, shutting down air, train and bus traffic, closing businesses and ports, emptying classrooms, shutting down non-emergency hospital attention and leaving trash uncollected. This is consistent with past periods of significant economic unrest and social and political turmoil. Future government policies to preempt, or in response to, social unrest may include expropriation, nationalization, forced renegotiation or modification of existing contracts, suspension of the enforcement of creditors’ rights, new taxation policies, including royalty and tax increases and retroactive tax claims, and changes in laws and policies affecting foreign trade and investment. Such policies could destabilize the country and adversely and materially affect the economy, and thereby our business.

 

 

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Most of our costs are subject to exchange control policies, the effects of inflation and currency fluctuations between the U.S. dollar and the Mexican