ARGENTINA The recent silver price surge has led Vancouver-based SILVER STANDARD RESOURCES to "expedite" scoping and pre-feasibility studies at its nearer-term projects, a company spokesperson said a few days ago. "By the end of the year, we aim to have established a ranking order to develop the projects," said IR director Paul LaFontaine, adding that a minimum of US$5 million had been allocated to advance properties this year.
Silver Standard's Manantial Espejo silver-gold joint venture project in southern Argentina's Santa Cruz province is likely to lead the ranking with a feasibility study due for completion at the end of this year or early 2005, said LaFontaine. "Production start-up is forecast in 2006 at Manantial Espejo with full production commencing in 2007, subject to permitting," he said.
Fellow Vancouverite PAN AMERICAN SILVER holds 50% of Manantial Espejo, and Silver Standard holds 50%. Expectations are that the open pit will have annual output of about 3 million oz Ag and 75,000 oz Au.
Elsewhere in Argentina, Silver Standard has "presented a plan for nearer-term work" to regional authorities at its 43.4%-owned Pirquitas silver project in Jujuy province, said LaFontaine, declining to elaborate but saying there would be more news in a month.
Across the border in northern Chile's Region I, the company plans to complete a scoping study at its Challacollo silver project this year, he said. Challacollo has a current reported measured and indicated resource of 2.2 million tonnes grading 202 g/t Ag and inferred resources of 4.1 million tonnes grading 182 g/t Ag.
And in Mexico's Durango state, a preliminary block model resource calculation is planned for release in early May at Silver Standard's La Pitarilla discovery, where some pre-feasibility work is also being conducted, according to LaFontaine. The limits of mineralization have not yet been defined at La Pitarilla and early indications suggest the potential for an open-pit bulk tonnage operation, he said.
Outside of Latin America, Silver Standard is also conducting feasibility work at its Bowens project in Australia.
The price of silver reached a 16-year high of US$8.45/oz in trading last Friday on the London Metal Exchange (LME) before closing at US$7.94/oz. Silver prices have risen over 80% in the last 12 months and by 27% since the beginning of the year.