09:14 AM EDT, 04/06/2016 (MT Newswires) -- Claude Resources (CRJ.TO) on Wednesday reported strong first quarter gold production of 20,672 ounces, up 2% from the same quarter last year. During Q1, the Seabee Gold Operation milled 74,179 tonnes at a grade of 8.99 grams of gold per tonne with an average mill recovery of 96.5%.
While first quarter gold production was consistent from the comparable period in 2015, gold sales were up 21% to 21,008 ounces. During the quarter, cash and bullion increased to $45.2 million, a 14% increase over the prior quarter, primarily from strong gold sales offset by $1.25 million of debt repayment and the payment of a large part of the company's capital outlay on the winter ice road re-supply program.
The Santoy Gap deposit continued to advance, averaging 589 tonnes per day at a head grade of 9.04 grams of gold per tonne to produce 15,041 ounces of gold during the quarter.
During the quarter, the Santoy Gap represented approximately 73% of total gold production and is expected to play an increasing role as the miner moves to increase long-hole production stoping during 2016. "With a strong first quarter performance, we have continued the momentum we generated in 2015," stated Brian Skanderbeg, president and CEO. "Our consistent operating results reflect the strength and flexibility of our ore bodies, specifically Santoy Gap. We are confident that our performance is sustainable and that we will meet or exceed our 2016 guidance."
In 2016, the Seabee Gold Operation is expected to produce between 65,000 and 72,000 ounces of gold. The majority of tonnes and ounces in the 2016 business plan are expected to be sourced from the Santoy Gap deposit as it ramps up to an average of approximately 700 tonnes per day, Claude added.
The company said it is remains confident that it will continue to generate strong earnings and free cash flow during 2016 with unit cash costs and all-in sustaining costs expected to be consistent with those from 2015.