Higher prices for platinum and palladium helped Stillwater Mining Co., realize a profit of $800,000 for the second quarter.
The company reported at the end of July and bear analyst expectation and pleased investors with the second quarter results. The previous quarter saw the company take a nearly $10 million loss, The Billings Gazette reported.
Stillwater officials noted in a conference call with investors that prices of platinum and palladium are rising this year, production at their two mines is growing and the cost of mining is falling.
“We are now pushing ounces (of metals mined). I feel we have the culture right, where we can push ounces without losing costs… An integral part of that equation is to produce more ounces,” Stillwater CEO Mick McMullen said Friday in response to an analyst question.
Stillwater is the only U.S. producer of palladium and platinum, operating two mines in the Beartooth foothills. Platinum in particularly has seen a recent rush in retail investor demand, growing faster than gold this month, according to Kitco Metals Inc., a precious metals buyer that analyzes prices.
Platinum traded at about $1,148 an ounce Friday and has risen about 15 percent over the month. Palladium has strengthened to $702 per ounce, up about 19 percent over the month, according to Stillwater.
“Prices have moved up significantly from when we had the call last quarter,” McMullen said during the Friday analyst call.
The Billings Gazette reported that low prices were the primary reason company officials gave for laying off 119 workers last summer at its Montana operations. McMullen didn’t mention rehiring during the conference call, but he did say that Stillwater miners have improved their efficiency and safety record greatly over the past year and are in a better position to further increase production.
The company reported mined production of palladium and platinum of 137,100 ounces in the second quarter, an 8 percent increase from the previous quarter.
Stillwater has mines near Nye and Big Timber, and the company also operates a recycling smelter in Columbus. Stillwater has about 1,440 employees, mostly in south-central Montana.
With prices rising, Stillwater officials are pushing to get their Blitz expansion project online in late 2017 or early 2018 at the J-M reef adjacent to the main Stillwater mine near Nye.
Blitz is roughly the length of “two Golden Gate bridges” and would add 150,000 to 200,000 ounces annually to production totals, McMullen said.
“The faster we can develop it, the quicker we can bring it online for people,” he said.