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A mining truck hauls ore up a road at the Wharf Mine outside Lead in 2017.

Production and sales were down about 20 percent last year at the only active, large-scale gold mine in the Black Hills, according to reports filed with state regulators.

An annual report by Coeur Mining that was reviewed recently by the state Board of Minerals and Environment shows that Coeur’s Wharf Mine near Lead produced 76,840 ounces of gold last year. That was down 19.4 percent from 2017.

The mine also produced 50,575 ounces of silver last year, which was down 20.4 percent from the previous year.

Matt Zietlow, environmental manager at the Wharf Mine, said difficult conditions at the mine caused by a wet summer and snowy winter influenced production.

“If you have to put a lot of resources into making the mine safe again and making roads passable again, you’re taking people away from their regular jobs,” Zietlow said, “and that will impact things for a little while.”

Coeur’s annual report to investors for 2018 said combined sales of gold and silver from the Wharf Mine were $96.5 million in 2018, which was down 23 percent from $125.9 million the previous year.

Zietlow said the company paid $4.5 million in severance taxes to the state of South Dakota in 2018, plus $588,742 in sales and use taxes to state and local governments and $203,424 in other local taxes, including property taxes paid to Lawrence County.

Coeur made $20.77 million worth of purchases within South Dakota in 2018, Zietlow said, and the company paid $19.33 million in wages, salaries and benefits to 208 employees at the Wharf Mine. The company also gave $130,000 to community groups, schools and charities in the Black Hills area in 2018.

Coeur is a publicly traded company with a corporate office in Chicago. Besides South Dakota, the company owns mines in Alaska, Nevada, Canada and Mexico.

At the Wharf Mine, which is visible from Terry Peak, Coeur uses the heap-leach method of mining. That includes mining ore, crushing it, piling it on giant leach pads, and applying a cyanide solution to leach the precious metals from the crushed ore.

In 2018 at the Wharf Mine, Coeur removed 10.62 million tons of earth and waste rock (“overburden” in mining parlance), mined 4.76 million tons of ore and processed 4.52 million tons of it, and used 2.04 million pounds of cyanide. The cyanide and water used at the site is retained in a closed-loop system.

Coeur’s gold and silver is refined into bullion and sold to multinational banks, bullion trading houses and refiners around the world. The company’s total revenue in 2018 was $625.9 million.

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Contact Seth Tupper at seth.tupper@rapidcityjournal.com

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