"The combination of low nickel prices, a stronger euro and low grades in the current stopes makes for difficult operational conditions," said David Pym, chief executive officer of Belvedere.
"While the company regrets initiating employee consultations, management considers it prudent to keep all options open, and to consider all cost saving initiatives at the mine to preserve working capital," Pym continued.
Underground exploration drilling work has been curtailed, and the company added it would suspend work carried out by the underground developmentcontractors, although development being carried out by Belvedere employees will carry on.
The moves are in response to continued permitting delays to the open pit cutback, an initiative the company is pursuing to increase throughput and lower opwerating costs at the mine.
The open pit cutback alone once economically proven, will potentially add three to four years to the mine life at Hitura, Pym declared last year.
"Permitting delays and resultant uncertainties around the open pit, have severely affected operational flexibility at the mine, and placed undue pressure on the underground operations," Pym explained.
While the company mulls changes to nickel operations at the Hitura mine in Finland, it also remains focused on delivering its first gold mine by the end of 2014, subject to permitting and final feasibility studies.
"It is envisaged that the Kopsa gold copper ore will be processed at the Hitura mill either utilising the existing facilities or in a parallel circuit to the nickel," Pym said.
Belvedere has a number of advanced gold projects close to the Hitura mine.
"The Kopsa gold deposit contains 223,000 ounces of gold resources with Osikonmäki containing 312,000 oz (86% attributable to Belvedere), Hirsikangas containing 228,000 ounces and Kiimala containing 149,000 ounces (86% attributable to Belvedere)," says Ocean Equities analyst Christopher Welch.
Using a median West African peer group comparison of US$35 per ounce in the ground, says the analyst, the value of Belvedere's gold resources would be US$29.67 million - or equivalent to $0.32 per share.
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