SilverCrest Mines (TSE:SVL) (NYSE MKT:SVLC) said that a contractor employee died in an accident at its Santa Elena mine in Mexico last Friday. 

The company, in a statement released late Monday, said the employee was operating a haul truck on the lower access ramp of the pit, when it is “believed he may have suffered a medical condition causing him to lose control of the vehicle.”

The vehicle then rolled off the ramp into the lower part of the pit, with several witnesses “powerless to intervene in what appeared to be an unavoidable accident given the circumstances”, SilverCrest said. 

The open pit was shut down immediately after the accident, with the area remaining closed while the company works with Mexican authorities to conduct a full investigation. SilverCrest said that it has since received permission from authorities to restart pit operations.

All other operations at the mine, including stockpile ore crushing, pad leaching, underground work, and mill expansion start up continued.

 “We extend our sincere condolences to the family of the deceased, and we are working with the contractor to ensure the family is well cared for,” said president and COO, N. Eric Fier. 

SilverCrest shares closed down at $2.03 on Monday, after the precious metal miner announced weaker-than-expected fourth quarter results, hit by a hefty tax charge tied to the Mexico tax reforms as well as lower revenues on account of the sharp drop in silver and gold prices. 

Despite the challenging precious metals environment, the company managed to beat its own guidance on cash costs for the year. All-in sustaining cash costs per silver equivalent ounce sold came in at $13.05, better than the $13.45 an ounce SilverCrest was guiding for. Revenue from silver and gold sales fell to $54.89 million last year, down from $70.5 million in 2012, despite selling 28% more ounces of silver as silver prices fell 27% year-over-year. 

The Vancouver-based company, which is focused on expanding production at its Santa Elena mine, is transitioning from its current open pit heap leach operation at Santa Elena to underground mining, with a 3,000 tonnes per day conventional mill targeted for the second half of 2014.  Once commissioned, the mill will help improve silver recoveries and increase production as the company begins processing higher grade underground ore later this year.

Its aim is to increase production to a range of 3.3 million to 3.6 million silver equivalent ounces this year, compared to 2.66 million ounces in 2013.



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