--- adds broker comment ---
Nickel miner ’ () Hitura mine in Finland enjoyed its best ever quarter in the three months to March.
Hitura produced 665 tonnes of nickel concentrate, against forecast production of 610 tonnes and which boosted cash generated to €3.2 mln.
Revenues rose by 18 per cent quarter on to quarter to €8.86 mln, while net income more than doubled on a sequential basis to €1.31 mln.
Belvedere said the results built on a good performance from the previous quarter and reflected reducing operating costs and increasing throughput at Hitura.
David Pym, chief executive, added: "This quarter is the third consecutive quarter where operations have demonstrated real growth in revenues, cash flow, production and net income against an extremely challenging macro-economic background."
"Income from the Hitura nickel mine continues to grow the company's cash position and finance exploration and development on our pipeline of gold projects,” he added.
The company said that final studies are underway at Hitura on the feasibility of restarting open pit operations at surface in conjunction with underground mining, while the recent resource upgrade at the mine has also substantially increased overall mining reserves.
Over the rest of the year, Belevedere said it intends to continue underground exploration for near surface resources on its nickel projects.
Further exploration drilling campaigns are also planned on its early stage gold plays at Rantasalmi, Hirsikangas, Antikanpera and Kangaskyla, while metallurgical studies are underway at the Kopsa gold copper property to allow feasibility studies to commence.
Belvedere is aiming for gold production from Kopsa in 2014.
Christopher Welch at Ocean Equities described today’s news as “a very positive step forward for the company”.
“The company has illustrated that it has been able to meet the internal goals of increasing operational cash flows through reducing operating costs, and increasing throughput at the Hitura nickel mine. (The Q1 results are) a huge achievement for Belvedere which can now expand on the operational success and as operations are further optimised at Hitura,” the analyst said.
According to Welch, Belvedere is is essentially a self-funding exploration play in the low risk jurisdiction of Finland, an area in-vogue following recent world-class discoveries made by major mining companies, such as .
Augmenting this is the potential for additional near-term cash flow from the Kopsa gold-copper project that is sufficiently close to Hitura that infrastructure can be shared.
“There is a good chance that Belvedere will be able to meet its longer-term objectives of acquiring additional properties and growing its portfolio at little cost to the shareholder,”Welch added.