COVID-19 hits Hochschild production

Hochschild’s unavoidable decision to shut down operations at its three producing mines mid-March saw output of gold equivalent fall by 12.8% in the March quarter to 94,120oz.

Hochschild's Inmaculada mine in Southern Peru

Hochschild's Inmaculada mine in Southern Peru

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Hochschild's two mines in Peru - Pallancata and Inmaculada - remain shut down but the company says it has begun to restart operations at its San Jose asset in Argentina.

Like all miners with operations affected by the pandemic, the market is eager to know how long it will take for normal service to resume. Hochschild has already withdrawn full year production guidance, saying it will be revised once production resumes in Peru.

RBC Capital James Bell said with San Jose now restarted and the potential for Peru's state of emergency to be lifted soon, "we now expect full production only by early June".

"However, getting there may be a gradual process with a need for restriction free movement of workers, consumables and supplies," said Bell.

In addition to the fall in production, Bell pointed to the lack of progress Hochschild has been able to make on its exploration programme.

"One of the pillars of our investment case is Hochschild's potential to deliver ounces via the drill bit at its mines and projects.

"The current COVID-19 related shut downs have also halted this work," said Bell, a state of affairs he said means there is little prospect of new drilling results before the December quarter, with updated resources unlikely to be presented until early 2021.

In a statement on Wednesday, Hochschild CEO Ignacio Bustamente sought to underline Hochschild's ability to weather the storm.

"Hochschild is in a strong financial position with low net debt, significant liquidity and we expect to be firmly back on track once this temporary period of disruption is resolved," said Bustamente.

Hochschild held approximately US$178 million of cash at the end of March, with net debt of approximately US$36 million.

Shares in the company were trading on Wednesday morning at just over 123p, down 30% since the beginning of the year.

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A growing series of reports, each focused on a key discussion point for the farming sector, brought to you by the Kondinin team.


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