2020 was a challenging year, and although we are relieved to put it behind us, the year will be marked as one of learning, patience, and with a significant focus on the health and safety of the entire company spanning Mexico, Canada, and the US.
The pandemic presented new challenges for our entire team and I am proud of the way we were united by our shared culture of discipline, flexibility and teamwork that truly made us stronger as a Company.
In April, 2020, we followed the orders given by the Mexican Government to temporarily suspend operations due to the pandemic. Our priority was to ensure the safety of our communities, which included all of our employees. Rigorous health and safety procedures were implemented. The Avino Mine transitioned to care and maintenance utilizing a reduced workforce to protect mining operations, employees and the local communities.
In May, 2020, we received authorization to resume mining activities in an orderly, gradual and cautious manner, and subsequently on June 1, the Company started a phased ramp up of operations.
In July, 2020 members from the Mexican mining union blocked the entrance to the Avino Mine near Durango, Mexico. The Company negotiated in good faith, and in October, the Company and the Mexican Mining Union reached an agreement and the strike at the mine ended.
Production for the year was significantly impacted by the temporary closure of the mine due to the pandemic and the strike at the mine. Silver equivalent production for the year was 0.8 million ounces, down 65% from 2019.
In August, 2020 Avino granted Silver Wolf Exploration (formerly Gray Rock Resources) the exclusive right to acquire a 100% interest in the Ana Maria and El Laberinto properties in Mexico. Avino will have the right of first refusal to purchase and process any ore or concentrate extracted from the properties for processing.
During the remainder of the 2020, we were focused on preparing the mine for start-up of operations, as well as planning an exploration program to commence during the first quarter of 2021 at the Avino property.
The restarting of operations, once the labor agreement is in place, is expected to provide significant direct economic benefits and stimulus for the local communities, so we are very much looking forward to that.
Over the next years, one of Avino’s objectives will be to adopt an inclusive ESG strategy and embrace a stronger social responsibility. We will endeavor to set environmental and social performance objectives that are relevant and that will result in tangible actions. Our goal is to respect our investors’ objectives and provide even greater attention to our communities and their needs.
I believe the outlook for silver remains very positive and our favourite metal will be a strong performer over the medium to long-term, and from that performance, Avino will benefit.
Avino’s longevity demonstrates a commitment to maintaining our mission, vision and values. As we enter our 53rd year, we remain diligent in our efforts across our operations with respect to COVID-19 and are working together to keep our employees and communities healthy. We look forward to a positive and productive 2021 together with the potential of continued strengthening of the market and of commodity prices.
Over our 53 - year history, this company has inspired resilience, initiative and enterprise across its dedicated team. We have also adhered to our core values of Growth, Quality and Relationships, values that got us where we are today. These principles were first instilled by my father and company founder Louis Wolfin, and I promise they will never change.
Fifty three years. Not many companies in this industry can claim such a legacy. But we’re just getting started. Our brand embodies this spirit, this endurance, this pride in a job well done. Going forward, I am confident these principles will energize and guide us through the next 50 + years.