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Coeur Mining, inc (CDE) Q3 2021 Earnings Call Transcript

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CDE earnings call for the period ending September 30, 2021.

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Coeur Mining, inc (CDE -1.38%)
Q3 2021 Earnings Call
Oct 28, 2021, 11:00 a.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Good day and welcome to the Coeur Mining Third Quarter 2021 Financial Results Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] Please note this event is being recorded.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Paul DePartout, Director of Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

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Paul DePartout -- Director, Investor Relations

Thank you and good morning. Welcome to Coeur Mining's third quarter earnings conference call. Our results were released after yesterday's market close and a copy of the press release and slides are available on our website.

I would like to remind everyone that our press release, slides and some of our comments today include forward-looking statements from which actual results may differ. Please review the cautionary statements included in our press release and presentation as well as the risk factors described in our recent 10-Qs and 2020 10-K.

Now, I'll turn it over to the team.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Thanks, Paul. And good morning, everyone. Overall, the third quarter reflected a continuation of our strategy of investing in our North American assets to further reposition the company with lower cost, sustainable free cash flow and solid returns over longer mine lives.

Starting off on Slide 3 in today's presentation, I'd like to highlight a few key points before turning the call over to the rest of the team. As you can see, it was a quarter with several significant developments and decisions. Results were in line with our internal forecast and we're set up to deliver a strong finish to the year and achieve our original production guidance. Mick will go through the operations in more detail shortly, but I'll quickly touch on a few main points.

Wharf led the pack and achieved its second highest operating cash flow and free cash flow since we acquired the operations 6.5 years ago. Palmarejo and Kensington were largely on plan and are on track to deliver strong fourth quarters and Rochester's results reflect steady progress despite devoting 38.5 days, or about 45% of the quarter, to crushing and hauling over-liner material to the new Stage VI leach pad before winter. It's worth pointing out that Rochester's year-to-date results reflect 2.5 months of essentially no stacking on the legacy Stage IV pad as they prioritize activities to support the POA 11 expansion.

On the exploration front, results continue to validate our ongoing commitment to these higher levels of investment. We invested $20 million in exploration during the quarter alone. This commitment to drilling has led to double-digit reserve and resource growth over the past few years and we look forward to hopefully delivering further growth again at the end of this year.

If you turn to Slide 7, you can see that exploration continues to be a real differentiator for Coeur. We anticipate investing $70 million in exploration in 2021, which is nearly 40% higher than the record we set last year and is one of the largest programs in our sector. We remain on track to achieve our full year drill footage targets, yet investing slightly less than originally anticipated, which reflects efficiencies we are realizing from these larger programs. We will plan to provide another exploration update before the end of the year that will focus on exciting new results at our assets in Nevada, both at Rochester and from the Crown district in Southern Nevada where there continues to be a lot of activity.

Switching over to our expansion projects, I want to walk through some updates starting with the Rochester POA 11 expansion. This project remains our top priority and is a transformative well-funded source of production and cash flow growth for the company. Things are moving right along. Overall progress stood at 42% complete at the end of the third quarter. In addition to completing the crushing of over-liner for the new Stage VI leach pad, the team also kicked off foundation work for the Merrill Crowe plant and the crusher corridor during the quarter. As we mentioned on our last conference call, we're experiencing the impact of inflation on remaining unawarded work, like most companies are reporting.

Overall, we're fortunate to have had the vast majority of our contracts locked in prior to the current spike in costs and supply and labor disruptions. We're trying to mitigate some of these impacts by rescoping and rebidding unawarded contracts, but we currently estimate that we're likely to see a 10% to 15% overall increase to the POA 11 construction costs.

Thanks to the ongoing test work and operating experience taking place at Rochester, our technical team has identified an opportunity to create additional operating flexibility by installing pre-screens into the new crushing circuit. We have kicked off detailed engineering and we'll be evaluating the merits of implementing this process improvement over the coming months.

Assuming we elect to pursue this opportunity, it could potentially extend the timetable for completion and commissioning of the crusher by three to six months. In the meantime, we plan to install pre-screens on the existing crusher during the first half of next year to give us some full scale run time and experience that we can potentially incorporate into the new crusher configuration.

Now switching over to Silvertip. Given the current inflationary environment and pandemic-driven supply and labor disruptions, it's not an ideal time to be kicking off a new capital project on an accelerated timetable despite multi-year high zinc and lead prices. Fortunately, Silvertip expansion and restart is still in the early innings, which gives us a lot of flexibility.

Despite the uncertain macro-environment, which contributed to higher-than-expected capital estimates for an accelerated expansion in restart, one thing we are certain of is the quality and prospectivity of the Silvertip deposit. The exploration results, along with the knowledge and new discoveries the team is generating, have led us in the direction of evaluating a larger Silvertip expansion and restart on a potentially slower timetable.

To take advantage of such a high-grade and significant resource, a 1,750 ton per day processing facility isn't likely large enough to maximize Silvertip's value. We're going to take some additional time to evaluate what a larger design and footprint could represent in terms of economics and overall flexibility. This approach will give us time to continue drilling and hopefully keep growing the resource, allow for the dust to settle on many of these current macroeconomic factors and allow us to focus on delivering POA 11 while not straining the balance sheet.

Finishing out the highlights. We're pleased to announce that we entered into an agreement with Avino Silver & Gold to sell them the La Preciosa project in Durango, Mexico. This transaction offers some real potential synergies to unlock value from that asset with their nearby Avino mine. Strategically, the transaction checks a lot of boxes for us with respect to further enhancing our geopolitical risk profile, our metals mix and the timing of our development pipeline. We can deploy some of the fixed cash consideration into the Rochester expansion and into our highly prospective exploration programs. The transaction provides a lot of upside to the asset through the equity ownership we will have, along with contingent payments and two royalties we will retain.

Shifting gears, I want to quickly bring your attention to a set of slides starting on Slide 17 that highlight the great culture and diversity efforts we have at Coeur. To be a high performing organization, a company's culture, strategy and capabilities need to be aligned, something that I believe we've achieved over the past few years. To that end, I want to recognize our Head of Human Resources, Emilie Schouten, for her efforts on DE&I and for recently winning the industry's Rising Star Award from S&P Global Platts. We continue to integrate our ESG efforts into our strategy and overall decision making.

Before having Mick provide an overview of our operations, I'd like Hans to follow-up on my Silvertip comment by providing a brief overview of the Silvertip exploration results and why we are so positive about its potential. Hans?

Hans Rasmussen -- Senior Vice President, Exploration

Thanks, Mitch. And good morning, everyone. We bought Silvertip in late 2017 with the recognition that the asset has excellent growth potential. We now have almost 3.5 kilometer of potential growth defined based on step-out drill holes or more than triple what we knew in 2017, as highlighted on Slide 8.

This year, we are completing the largest exploration program in the history of the project. Impressively, Silvertip accounts for roughly 25% of our $70 million overall budget at Coeur. The site team led by Ross Easterbrook has done an outstanding job managing the 1,000-meter drill program. Drilling from underground has given us the ability to conduct exploration year-round and test different parts of the ore body from different angles, which has been a crucial part of the Silvertip growth story.

Underground drilling in early 2021 has led to the discovery of the Southern Silver Zone vertical feeder structures and thick manto ore zones and, more recently, vertical feeder structures under the Discovery South Zone. These structures represent significant resource tonnage potential and demonstrate excellent upside.

We now have two rigs active underground with plans to add a third rig early next year. We also expect to continue with three surface rigs testing resource growth to the south in the 1.5-kilometer gap between Southern Silver and Tour Ridge zones. With the larger drill budget this year, we expect to continue significant growth at Silvertip, which will give our development team confidence to right-size the future operation to fit the potentially increased scale of the ore body.

One final note. The team reported last week they've cut the best hole ever with 11 mineralized manto horizons. The hole is located under Silvertip Mountain about 500 meters or 1,500 feet south of the Southern Silver and Camp Creek zones in an area with no resource shapes at this time. This new step-out hole is the significant indicator of the growth potential we expect for 2022 and beyond.

I'll now pass the call over to Mick. Mick?

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Thanks, Hans. Before diving into operational results, I want to recognize the team for continuing to prioritize health and safety and driving continuous improvement in this area.

Flipping to Slide 24, I'm proud to report that we recently received the NIOSH Mine Safety and Health Technology Innovation Award for our cross-functional COVID-19 response efforts. I'm truly honored to be part of such a great team that is relentless in its efforts to work together and look after the well-being of our people.

Now turning to Slide 5 to cover the operations and starting off with Palmarejo. The team did an excellent job maintaining higher throughput levels and maximizing recoveries to offset some of the lower grades that we've been experiencing with our resequenced mine plant. We've also continued advancing development while focusing on increasing rehabilitation rates across the mine, which helps ensure that we've appropriately prioritized the health and safety of our workforce.

Quarterly operating costs remain within guidance helping to counterbalance lower realized prices and generate $15 million of free cash flow. We expect a strong finish to the year at Palmarejo and we're excited to see how much production growth we can achieve here in this fourth quarter.

Switching over to Rochester. We crushed just under 1.3 million tons of over-liner for the new Stage VI leach pad during the quarter, completing the necessary requirements for POA 11. It's important to note, when we are generating over-liner, we were not crushing materials stacked on the legacy Stage IV leach pad, which had a knock-on effect for production during the third quarter. Despite the near-term production impact, all-time energy and resources used to finish crushing overlay now was an important step toward completing this highly anticipated expansion project.

Now turning to Kensington. Production was slightly higher during the quarter as better agreed [Phonetic] help to offset lower mill throughput caused by stope sequencing and drill parts availability. The good news is that we anticipate more high grade Jualin material over the coming months and have already received the necessary spare parts for stope drills, leaving us very well positioned for strong production growth in the fourth quarter. The Kensington team did an excellent job balancing multiple priorities and maintaining solid cost controls throughout the quarter, which helped generate nearly $15 million of free cash flow.

Finishing with Wharf, I want to start by acknowledging the tremendous achievement. On October 3, the team at Wharf celebrated one year without a recordable safety incident, truly an amazing accomplishment. From a results standpoint, Wharf put together yet another great quarter, which marks back to back periods of strong performance. Gold production was up 17% and cash flow figures was the second highest since Coeur's acquisition back in 2015.

With that, I'll pass the call over to Tom.

Thomas S. Whelan -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Mick. First, I wanted to add a bit of color on the non-cash adjustments that impacted our third quarter earnings. We wrote off $26 million of Mexican VAT refunds, to which we strongly believe we are entitled, but like many other multinational companies doing business in Mexico, we have experienced significant challenges from SAT in the Mexican courts in obtaining these payments. We also had a mark-to-market adjustment on our equity investments, primarily related to Victoria Gold. However, the carrying value of the investment remains above our original cost.

Turning over to Slide 4, I'll quickly run through our quarterly consolidated financial results. Revenue of $208 million was driven by relatively stable metal sales and a lower average realized silver price versus the second quarter. Operating cash flow totaled $22 million, which was lower than last quarter but also negatively impacted by changes in working capital. Removing working capital, operating cash flow improved by more than 10% quarter-over-quarter.

Like most companies, we've seen cost pressures related to consumables and labor across all of our operations. But thanks to our strong cost control focus, we have maintained our cash guidance at all sites, except for Rochester where we guided a modest increase. With stronger expected Q4 production, we anticipate operating cash flow levels to continue climbing as we finish out the year.

Turning over to Slide 12 and looking at the balance sheet, we ended the quarter with approximately $330 million of liquidity, including $85 million of cash and $245 million of availability under our revolving credit facility. Also, it's worth highlighting that these numbers do not include the $140 million of equity investments on our balance sheet. We did draw down modestly on the revolver. We ended the period with a net debt to EBITDA leverage ratio of 1.4 times.

We will continue adhering to our disciplined capital allocation framework and remain focused on our goal of keeping net leverage below 2 times and maintaining liquidity of at least $100 million throughout the entire Rochester construction period. The incremental capital costs at Rochester will put pressure on this call. However, we expect the revised timeline for Silvertip, along with the current robust metals price environment, will leave us well positioned to maintain a strong and flexible balance sheet.

I'll now pass the call back to Mitch.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Tom. Before moving to the Q&A, I want to quickly highlight Slide 13 that outlines our near-term priorities as we approach the end of the year. With production guidance reaffirmed and a strong expected fourth quarter underway, we're feeling confident about our 2021 results and in our ability to carry this momentum into next year. We'll continue pursuing a higher standard and execute at a high level to deliver consistent results and industry-leading organic growth from our balanced portfolio of North American-based precious metals assets.

With that, let's go ahead and open it up for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Mark Reichman with NOBLE Capital Markets. Please go ahead.

Mark Reichman -- NOBLE Capital Markets -- Analyst

Good morning. Well, this question maybe for [Indecipherable], I've been getting more questions about sustainability reports. And so I was just kind of hoping you might be able to elaborate on Coeur's framework for limiting GHG emissions. I mean, a lot of companies were saying, well, we're looking to improve on our current path. Others are aligning with the Paris Agreement. Others are putting out plans for an eventual path to net zero emissions by 2050. So just your general thoughts on your efforts and trade-offs would be helpful.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, sure. Very relevant question. Thanks for asking it. And I have Casey Nault here in the room with us, who's our General Counsel and leading our ESG efforts here. On the website, our Responsibility Report is available, which we've done now for the last two years. And that's a great place, I'd suggest for you to refer any inbounds that you get, as well as every quarter, I think, we do a really good job in these quarterly slide decks that accompany these calls of highlighting different elements of our ESG, priorities and efforts, where I'd consider us and I think third-parties consider us a real leader among our peers, and even I think we punch above our weight when it comes to our ESG priorities.

We just are now into the first year of having a GHG emissions intensity target that we've gone out with, which we're proud of and I think is a good indication of just how serious we are about doing our part. And it's consistent with our overall kind of strategy and priority that we place on our ESG initiative here. So, we'd be happy, Mark, to set up any detailed call with you one-on-one with any of your interested people to go deeper in the ESG, if there is any interest.

Mark Reichman -- NOBLE Capital Markets -- Analyst

Yeah, that would be helpful. I think the focus is really focused on the climate change portion of it and the pathway. And then, just a second question is, do you think will the support agreement associated with Victoria Gold, do you think that will get extended or what are your thoughts on that?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Well, good question. The expiration date is the 31st. You will maybe note if you really dug through last night in all your spare time our disclosures, there is an embedded derivative tied to that support agreement that we assigned a value of 02 in our disclosures, which is maybe an indirect long-winded and maybe wonky way of answering your question of the likelihood that we assigned there being any value associated with that agreement.

Mark Reichman -- NOBLE Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay. Well, thank you very much. I'll quit while I'm behind.

Operator

Our next question comes from Michael Dudas with Vertical Research Partners. Please go ahead.

Michael Dudas -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

Good morning, Mitch and gentlemen.

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Good morning. Hi.

Michael Dudas -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

So, Mitch, can you maybe elaborate a little bit more on Rochester and the pre-screening capital that may or may not go in? What are some of the trade-offs, IRRs timing relative to enhanced or lengthening life for cash flow through the project?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, good question. I'll ask Mick to cover that. It's something that we've zeroed in on here over the last few months as we've done a whole lot of test work out there and as we have continued to operate existing operation, especially as it relates to some of that softer ore that we've talked about on prior earnings calls. This pre-screen concept is something we think that could provide a lot of flexibility for handling that softer ore type in the coming years.

Mick, do you want to go a layer deeper on pre-screens?

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah, for sure. So, very typical, in a mine, the ore body develops and we see a little bit of faines [Phonetic] and very typical in other mines. You pre-screen in there, pull those veins off, but that does a few things, of course. That manages the faines at the back end that we put to the heap leach, which is a good positive thing, helps us manage the PSD. And then, it also helps with throughput at times. We haven't finished the design on that yet though. And so, we're busy working through that. And we'll certainly update as we go forward. But for the moment, we've taken a deep look at that. We're going to look to put some pilot into the ex-pit to make sure that the technology that we put in there matches the ore body that we'll have and that we'll get good learning ahead of any kind of possible implementation of Limerick.

Michael Dudas -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

And we'll have that work, Mike, and wrap it [Phonetic] up here in the fourth quarter.

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah. Expectation is that we'll have some [Speech Overlap].

Michael Dudas -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

Understood. And then, looking out at the rebid and reconstituted requirements for the remaining capital allocation on Rochester, could you talk a little bit about timing and some of the dynamics. Obviously you've talked about some of the dynamics, but is it just your contractor material timing? It's just everything so tied and has COVID been an issue relative to working in north central Nevada, and getting the folks at Hamburg?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I'll start. And then, Tom, you can pick up where I leave off. Your last point there, Mike, COVID is definitely exacerbating the labor challenges for contractors. Just in terms of available people, that's not helping for sure. That has, I think, found its way a bit into some of the preliminary proposals that we received on some of this remaining unawarded work.

Tom, maybe from here, you can take over and talk a little bit about the 10% to 15% range that we mentioned, timing and dynamics, like Mike asked about.

Thomas S. Whelan -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Sure. So, both of the two SMPI contracts were bid out with fixed prices in mine to mitigate our risk. And what happened was, as part of that mitigation, given the labor supply shortages as well as some other cost inflation pressures that are absolutely real and we continue to read about. We saw some bids that were much too high. So we've decided to go back, talk rebid each of the two contracts, widen the scope of who we're talking to and most importantly is to modify the commercial approach. So, instead of a fixed price to go with a reimbursable cost with the sharing of the commercial risk. And so, again, so that work is busily underway and hope to get that awarded here in the near future. I would suspect we'll have a lot more to say during the February year-end call.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

And then, Mike, just shape of remaining capital, if that's a part of your question, I think as we go into 2022 and 2023, you could expect sort of 70% of the remaining capital next year and the remainder then in 2023 as we wrap things up. But Mick, I want to give you a chance to add in anything if there's anything Tom or I didn't touch on that you want to make sure Mike hears.

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Just we have some great partnerships, like the one that we have with Kwid [Phonetic] so that's it of course and that work went really well. And so, we're talking to those kinds of organizations now around that rebid and the new strategy around execution on 3A, 3B. And those negotiations are going well and we'll update everybody after that. But so far, we're seeing some opportunity there to rethink those packages.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Does that help, Mike?

Michael Dudas -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

Yeah, that's great. Very helpful, Mitch, Tom, Mick. Thank you very much.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, sure. Thanks.

Operator

Our next question comes from Joseph Reagor with ROTH Capital Partners. Please go ahead.

Joseph Reagor -- ROTH Capital Partners -- Analyst

Hey, Mitch and team, thanks for taking the questions.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, hi.

Joseph Reagor -- ROTH Capital Partners -- Analyst

So two things. First one on the cost side. There is a lot of debate over whether or not the current inflationary environment will hold, whether it will accelerate, etc. What are you guys doing to kind of plan for existing operations to keep cost inflation at a minimal over the next year or two?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. The word transitory, I guess it depends on what your definition is of transitory, right. I mean, we don't really see there being some near-term point -- inflection point here of where things start to ratchet back down necessarily. So we are making plans and pursuing opportunities to try and offset some of those impacts that could be around for a very long time.

Tom, do you want to share a little bit more into some of the inflationary aspects? And then, maybe Mick, you can touch on some of the things we're trying to do operationally to mitigate the impacts.

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah.

Thomas S. Whelan -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

So, the two biggies for us have been labor and consumables. And again, some of the consumables like diesel, for example, were seeing 35% increases across our US operations, 20% of Mexico. Fortunately, diesel is only in that 7% to 8% range. And then, on labor kind of across the board, particularly at Kensington, we've seen some pressure. So all of that kind of has us in the 5% range increase in costs. And so -- and again, we're not anticipating. We're in our budget cycle right now. We are not anticipating that pressure to come off in '22 at all. So, we're doing lots of things to do our best to maintain those costs. And again, we're pretty pleased that we were able to maintain our cost guidance. And I think, a lot of the efforts that Mick can touch on here in a second are contributing to being able to build our cost flat in this inflationary environment.

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah. And on the FX front, we have a really strong BI, business improvement, continuous improvement program. So we have various projects that we're working through last year, this year and we have a good focus on next year's portfolio as well to hold cost and improve cost. And then, particularly where we have areas of high fixed cost to drive productivity at the same time. And we've seen some really good progress this year in some of that space, particularly at Palmarejo and at Rochester.

Joseph Reagor -- ROTH Capital Partners -- Analyst

Okay. Thanks for that color. And then, Mitch, kind of following on the sustainability question earlier and given that you guys tend to be a bit active on the M&A front, have you guys given any thought to diversifying the company into battery minerals, given one that would really help your ESG focus to have a critical mineral like that for the change in economies of the world. And two, just because that sector seems to have plenty of technical people, but not necessarily the most mining experience. Any thoughts there?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, it's a provocative question and one that with all the attention on some of these other rare earths or battery metals, you can't help but think about things like that. For us in the near-term, we have an awfully full plate and delivering on those priorities. That's our focus. And I guess, you raised an interesting point there in terms of the ESG angle. With the significant amount of silver that we do continue to produce, even though it's down to 30% or less of our revenue, it's got such a great ESG story to it and the end users, solar and electrification battery storage, etc, etc. That is a -- we're pleased to have that as our sort of critical metal contributor. But as far as extending into any of the other rare earths or battery metals, for us that's just not a priority, and at least in the near-term never say never, but no plans to look at anything like that.

Joseph Reagor -- ROTH Capital Partners -- Analyst

Okay, fair enough. I'll turn it over.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thanks, Joe. Good question.

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our next question comes from Michael Siperco at RBC Capital Markets. Please go ahead.

Michael Siperco -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hi. Thanks very much, guys. Could you -- just going back to the Rochester expansion and the timing of capital spend, so if I do the math on the revised guidance for Rochester capex in 2021, I get to a number of about $60 million, $70 million in Q4 and then about $300-or-so million through completion based on that 10% to 15% cost inflation. So, am I right in my math in thinking about around $200 million in 2022 and $100 million in 2023, is that the ballpark?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I think your numbers sink up with that 70%-30%

Michael Siperco -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

70%-30%, right.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, yeah.

Michael Siperco -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay, great. Just wanted to make sure on that. And then, on Silvertip, are you able to separate the delta in costs versus your expectations in terms of how much was related to the accelerated timeline and how much was general cost pressure or maybe, in other words, how confident are you in a more reasonable number while pushing out the project if inflationary pressures remain?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, good question. Let me take a crack at it. And then, I'm looking at Mick and Tom and you can both chime in if there is anything that I didn't cover or that I made a mess of. But I think that the accelerated timetable, it was definitely a large contributor in terms of not only squeezing construction activities into what is a fairly short construction window, but then needing to accommodate large numbers of contractors to do that well in excess of current capacity. So, the fixed cost, those indirect costs were only going to grow significantly under that accelerated timetable.

There is also a factor there that related to just the design of several of the key infrastructure components and placing them into the existing footprint, which were less than optimal and drove cost higher as well. And our thinking here is that with a little bit of time, obviously we keep drilling and growing the resource. We can see if these macro factors come down a bit, we can take a little bit more patient approach to footprint and how we might ideally lay out the site in a way that could alleviate some of those restraints, I guess, in column that we saw in the feedback that we received there late in the third quarter.

So, I'm not giving you a real black and white answer, but I'm trying to give you some additional context to some of the drivers that helped kind of lead us in the direction that we're now going.

Mick or Tom, is there anything you want to add to that?

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah. I mean, with the timeframe be in our hands, we can look at the technology selection, make sure the health, safety environment and hygiene factors are best practice levels. And then, we optimize that as we learn more about the resource. And so, real great opportunity for us. The early works has gone very well, so we're derisking the project as we go. And that site clean-up has gone very well. The decontamination has gone very well. So, overall, I think we're well positioned.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Tom, do you want to add on to that?

Thomas S. Whelan -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. And just -- again, a staple of what we've been saying all along is the importance of a strong and flexible balance sheet during the entire Rochester construction. And this is sort of another -- a bow in that statement to support that we're going to have a strong and flexible balance sheet throughout the Rochester expansion. So, that's the only thing that I had to mention.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Does that help?

Michael Siperco -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Yeah. That makes sense. And maybe, following on that last point, are you able -- realizing that this is a bit influx, and I guess part A of this question is, when should we expect an updated technical report or more color on how the project will be progressing? And part B is, can you give us a sense of the quantum of spending at Silvertip in 2022 and 2023 before you would actually embark on the actual construction.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, two fair questions. Mick, I'll ask you to talk about schedule. And then, Tom, I'll ask you to talk about spend. Do you want to go?

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yes. So, on the Technical Report schedule, it's highly likely to be around the middle of next year, but we have to determine that. As we now reset a little bit and look at the new schedule and this opportunity, then we'll talk about that as we go forward, but that's highly likely and scheduled for TR. And then, overall for the project, it will depend on the technology selection and the strategy that we look to implement as an example. There's potential for a staged approach compared to a step change approach. And then we have to look at that permit requirements for each of those options. And we'll leave that all out in that future technical report.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Tom, you want to cover that?

Thomas S. Whelan -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. And again, kind of depending on if we go down the staged or the step change approach, that's going to impact that the level of care and maintenance that we'll need to have. And so, we'll be out with our budget here early in early in February. And again, I think the other piece of it is, we're obviously very excited about the exploration potential. So, I think you'll continue to see at the levels of exploration to help support that growth in the resource. So, sorry, I can't be more specific at this stage, Mike.

Michael Siperco -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

No, makes sense. Sorry to go on, just another one. You mentioned last quarter, you were looking at offtake options for funding. Is that still ongoing? Is that still a consideration?

Thomas S. Whelan -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I'd say, it's going to continue to be an element. Again, the testing is coming along as we continue to be really positive and the level of interest is high. Obviously the timing has now been pushed out. And so, but no change that that would be a big piece of the strategy to help fund Silvertip.

Michael Siperco -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay, great. And I promise, last question for me on a different topic. Can you comment on how, if at all, the new contractor was in Mexico have affected operations or costs, if it will, in the future?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, yeah. For us, Mike, that was a process that we completed in July when we transferred employees out of a service company really without any big challenges. The way we have historically compensated employees in that service companies. It has been consistent with how we compensate everybody regardless of what entity they which they work and so there was really no, there's really no meaningful impact to our costs are labor costs wages compensation between what we used to do and what we'll do going forward. So, it's largely more of an administrative exercise that wrapped up in July. And there has been no fallout or issues since then.

Michael Siperco -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Okay, great. Thanks very much for all the answers.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks for all the good questions.

Operator

Our next question comes from Brian MacArthur with Raymond James. Please go ahead.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Brian.

Brian MacArthur -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Hi. Good morning. I think Mike was asking a lot of my questions about timing at Silvertip and ongoing cap -- our ongoing expenditures to care and maintenance, which I guess we can't get yet. But maybe if I ask this differently, conceptually are we thinking, you'll notice flooded [Phonetic] with Rochester that we're going to drill '22, '23, and we're trying to hit the construction season for some sort of plant in '24 with production in '25. And I realize some of this may be drilling dependent, are we now talking about something that we're going to drill for two or three more years and aim for '26, but I guess where this comes out is what the carrying cost as we wait for all this, notwithstanding the fact that I promised you [Phonetic] what you're doing and trying to sequences with Rochester.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Well, I'll go first my preference is door number one, but we'll have to work, sort of dictate the schedule and just -- again, you used the word, Brian conceptually. Conceptually, the idea of a staged approach makes a lot of sense, where you could start maybe a little sooner and smaller and allow the operation to kind of self fund its own expansion over time and as permitting and continued drilling, sort of lay out the runway for the future. But again, that's a concept/preference at this point. Now, the work is underway to see if that's the viable way or not.

Mick, anything you want to add to that?

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah, for sure. It's absolutely dependent on that. Of course, we have permits in hand already and amendments that we can make to those permits to allow us to build a smaller plant. If we want to go for a big plant, then we have to reevaluate those permits in the footprint and then get those things in place to make those changes. So, certainly a preference to look at a modular approach, but we will look at the best value proposition for Silvertip. And then we'll make that decision when we're ready.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

And balancing that with balance sheet and preserving the flexibility there now. Good. Does that help, Brian?

Brian MacArthur -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Yeah. And then, I assume you're just -- as you go through that, if you just continue to aggressively drill and trying to figure out what you actually have here to side where do you want to build the bigger plant?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Exactly.

Brian MacArthur -- Raymond James -- Analyst

That's great. Thanks very much.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thanks, Brian.

Operator

Our next question is a follow-up from Mark Reichman with NOBLE Capital Markets. Please go ahead.

Mark Reichman -- NOBLE Capital Markets -- Analyst

Thank you. Just lastly, I wanted to ask you about what the impetus behind the sale of La Preciosa. I mean, I've heard some criticism, but you've known they've open a long time and it seems like that we know we'll probably try to make the most of this asset and you've retained some interest. So just kind of your thoughts about that transaction and why now?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, thanks for the question. La Preciosa, we've been trying to determine the best path for unlocking some value there for a while, that was acquired in environment where silver price was sort of mid-30s and that thing looked awfully attractive. Well, we're not in that environment anymore. And when it comes down to kind of after-tax risk-adjusted returns the press. He also has a hard time competing with the other opportunities that we have mostly here in the US, West and then, to a lesser extent, up in Canada. So, there were some of those thoughts going into this.

And then, just Mexico in general, it has become a more challenging environment for mining. At least that's been our experience in terms of permitting security and corruption rule of law and not that the VAT write-off drove the La Preciosa decision, but it certainly our ongoing disappointment challenges with SAT down there around these VAT refunds, which goes back several years now, that's been another headwind.

And just tax rates in general in Mexico, relative to other jurisdictions. And for us, in particular here in the US where we have a lot of tax loss carry-forwards, so there were a lot of aspects to this, including -- That's a primary silver asset. We're comfortable with kind of our metals mix as we have it currently. And I think leveraging that infrastructure next door there at Avino makes a lot of sense. And it's hopefully a pathway to realizing some value out of La Preciosa sooner than we would on a stand-alone basis.

Mark Reichman -- NOBLE Capital Markets -- Analyst

That's very helpful. Thank you very much, Mitch

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, sure.

Operator

Our next question comes from Ryan Thompson with BMO. Please go ahead.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hi, Ryan.

Ryan Thompson -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Hey, Mitch. Thanks for the updates. Just a question on Rochester, just kind of looking at recent run rates you're producing, call it, between 700,00 and 900,000 ounces of silver and 7,000 to 8,000 ounces of gold over the past few quarters. You mentioned that you've been using the crusher for the over-liner material of the expansion and so on. Is it a safe assumption to assume that Rochester production over the next, call it, few quarters is going to pick up a little bit. Now that crusher is available, how should we be thinking about it over the next medium-term before the expansion is done.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. I'll start and then Mick, you can follow-up. In the very near-term here in the fourth quarter, despite some recent record range out in Northern Nevada and California from that cyclone bomb, we're excited about this fourth quarter at Rochester, just because there's not any over-liner being generated and diverted over to Stage VI. There is not a swap out of a, is it should be a fairly clean quarter relative to recent ones and then going into early next year. The only thing that pops up on my radar screen here in response to your question, Ryan, is putting those pre-screens in to the legacy ex-pit crusher there. There will be a little downtime associated with that. And I'm thinking, what's early second quarter, spring?

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah, exactly, in '22, yes.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

...but otherwise then, we'll be able to have some higher sustained throughput rates, question rates, stacking rates. We're hopefully continuing better improvement with these inter-lift liners that we put in, with the MP1000 that we put in earlier this year. And then, with those screens in that we'll be putting in earlier in April of 2021, long-winded answer. I don't know if I gave you any good color there, but Mick, do you want to add anything to that?

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Yeah, so for sure, right. We'll continue to use the ex-Pit as really a large scale pilot for the Limerick. And so we're learning a lot of things. So we will continue through '22 to optimize the PSD and look for the balance between throughput and recoveries. And we'll continue to learn things so that we can optimize that Limerick project when we bring it up to derisk that and the performance of it. So with that, we expect to see some variability through '22. But overall, it should be more stable now that we've got the infrastructure in place other than not pre-screen that we'll put in, in Q2.

Ryan Thompson -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Got it. That's very good to hear. And thanks for the added color on that. Maybe just one more for me. Mitch, I noticed that you didn't -- so you wouldn't be taking questions on Victoria in your prepared remarks. So, maybe if you could just give us an update on what your latest thinking is with that investment?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

I don't remember saying -- I remember saying that last quarter, but I'm open to the question, right. Look, it's -- since May when we made that investment where, I think it was $117 million that we -- of share consideration to Orion. It's been a good investment, it's up to, I think, current value $160 million or so. So it's generated a nice return and a nice gain for us. Their stock price has increased significantly, whether you look back over the last three years, over the last year-to-date, I think it's up 50%. So, almost 30% since we bought the 18%. So, they have definitely benefited from, I suppose, a combination of the ramp up there at Eagle as well as perhaps some speculation in their stock price since the May purchase of the 18%.

I know they have said publicly that they are running a soft process. We're not a part of that process. Despite having an 18% ownership and a genuine interest, we continue to view Victoria as a attractive opportunity, it's on strategy. And we noted they put out some solid third quarter production results recently. So the ramp-up seems to be progressing well. So, those are at least some thoughts in reaction to the response to your question. Does that...

Ryan Thompson -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Yeah. That's great. That's good color. Thanks for that. And maybe I'll just sneak one more quick one. Could we get an update on the southern Nevada property? There has been some sort of activity in that region as well, so just if you can update what the [Indecipherable] is thinking and activities out there?

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. And Hans, you're still on. So, if I don't hit anything that you want to make sure That we say to Ryan, feel free to chime in. But we'll keep drilling there. We love our land package. We think it's great that Anglo has kind of helped to validate the enthusiasm in the region there by acquiring Corvus. That's all one big system that we're drilling on. We'll continue to prioritize the drilling but are, of course, very interested in finding ways to work with neighbors to make the pie as big as possible to share infrastructure to do whatever we can to maximize value. And we look forward to having those discussions at the appropriate time.

I think for now, the best thing we can do is keep drilling. I mentioned earlier that we'll be putting out an exploration update still here this year that will contain some new results from down there. And suffice to say, we remain really excited and there is a lot of potential down there. So, it's an active area, it's probably the most exciting exploration district currently in Nevada. And that's a great place to be. We know it well and we look forward to having that sort of become a clear part of our future pipeline.

Ryan Thompson -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

Perfect. Thanks for that, Mitch. That's all I had. Thanks.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay, good. No. Thank you, Ryan.

Operator

This concludes our question-and answer-session. I would like to turn the conference back over to Mitchell Krebs for any closing remarks.

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Okay. Well, hey, thank you for all the good questions and for your time this morning. And we will have another call like this, I guess, early next year. I can't believe I'm saying that and happy holiday season to everybody. It doesn't seem right, but I guess that's where we are on the calendar. So, have a safe happy and healthy holiday season. Thanks for your time today and have a good rest of the day.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 56 minutes

Call participants:

Paul DePartout -- Director, Investor Relations

Mitchell J. Krebs -- President and Chief Executive Officer

Hans Rasmussen -- Senior Vice President, Exploration

Michael Routledge -- Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Thomas S. Whelan -- Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Mark Reichman -- NOBLE Capital Markets -- Analyst

Michael Dudas -- Vertical Research Partners -- Analyst

Joseph Reagor -- ROTH Capital Partners -- Analyst

Michael Siperco -- RBC Capital Markets -- Analyst

Brian MacArthur -- Raymond James -- Analyst

Ryan Thompson -- BMO Capital Markets -- Analyst

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