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Harte Gold sees a high-grade future at White River

Gold miner posts record production in fourth quarter at Sugar Zone Mine
Harte Gold mill and portal (aerial)
Harte Gold mine and mill, north of White River (Company photo)

Harte Gold is projecting a year of growth in 2021 at its Sugar Zone Mine, north of White River.

The Toronto-based miner released its gold production numbers for the fourth quarter and the 2020 fiscal year on Jan. 7, and provided new production targets - known as guidance - for 2021.

The 10,835 ounces produced in the fourth quarter were the highest recorded in the short history of the mine - which went into commercial production in early 2019 - with an average head grade of 7.7 grams per tonne.

Although hampered by a lengthy COVID-19-related shutdown in the spring and early summer, the mine produced 25,640 ounces of gold in 2020, reaching past the top bar of last year's guidance of 24,000 ounces.

This year's production guidance is being set at 60,000 to 65,000 ounces.

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The mine shut down in March due to the spread of the COVID-19 before a phased restart began in mid-July.

Cash strapped from the pandemic, Harte needed a $40.8-million injection to restart Sugar Zone, and fund plans to increase gold production and keep up exploration efforts to expand gold reserves on the massive, and relatively unexplored, 79,000-hectare property, 30 kilometres north of White River.

The company also began the transition from contract mining to managing its own in-house workforce and its own fleet of vehicles.

Company president-CEO Frazer Bourchier called 2020 a "transitional year" marked by improvements in production and mine planning.

"Since restarting operations, we have made steady improvements across a number of key metrics – including mine ore production, development metres, and processed grades. These changes have resulted in record quarterly production for Harte Gold and exceeding our revised production guidance for 2020.”

Bourchier expressed confidence that the foundation is established for consistent growth for this year and beyond.

"We expect to lift our production from 25,649 ounces of gold in 2020 to between 60,000 – 65,000 ounces of gold recovered in 2021, with cash costs between US$800 to US$850 per ounce, due in large part to achieving and maintaining an average daily throughput rate of 800 tonnes per day (tpd) at near mineral reserve grade.”

In the release, Harte said higher-grade zones of the mine were tapped into during the fourth quarter with plans to do more of the same heading into 2021 with the average grade to remain consistently at and around 7.1 grams per tonne.

A feasibility study is due out at market close on Jan.20, outlining new mining opportunities at Sugar Zone and revealing plans to eventually increase the mining and mill run rate from 800 tonnes per day to 1,200 tonnes.

The cost of mine development at Sugar Zone this year is pegged at $26 million, plus an additional $13 million to be spent on camp upgrades and construction of a heavy equipment shop.

With three undeveloped gold zones on the property, the company has budgeted $5 million for exploration over the next 18 months.