Release date- 12102017 - Avesoro Resources Inc. ('Avesoro' or the 'Company'), the TSX and AIM listed West African gold producer, is pleased to announce the results of an updated Mineral Resource and Reserve Estimate and an updated Life of Mine ('LOM') schedule for its 100% owned New Liberty Gold Mine ('New Liberty' or the 'Project') in Liberia, in addition to an update on production during the third quarter (the 'Quarter' or 'Period').
Updated Mineral Resource and Reserve Estimate Highlights: Measured and Indicated Mineral Resource of 9.6Mt containing 985,000 ounces of gold grading 3.2g/t; Inferred Mineral Resource of 6.4Mt containing 620,000 ounces of gold grading 3.0g/t; Proven and Probable Mineral Reserve of 7.4Mt containing 717,000 ounces of gold grading 3.03g/t; Additional heavy mining equipment ('HME') including four Komatsu PC1250 excavators and 12 Komatsu HD785 haul trucks to be procured to achieve a peak mining rate of 4 million tonnes of material per month; An increase in process plant throughput from 140 to 200 tonnes per hour by the end of 2017; Average forecast annual gold production of approximately 149,000 ounces over four years; Total forecast recovered gold of 642,000 ounces; Reduced operating costs have resulted in a larger optimised pit shell that has captured an Inferred Mineral Resource of some 3.5Mt with a mean grade of 2.8g/t and containing some 315,000 ounces. The Company plans to infill drill this Inferred Mineral Resource with the aim of generating an Indicated Mineral Resource in this area and potentially increasing the Mineral Reserve and extending the life of mine ('LOM') by a number of years; Average LOM operating cash costs of US$659/oz and all in sustaining cash costs ('AISC') of US$749oz1 and Post tax NPV of US$179 million at a 5% discount rate (after debt repayment and associated finance charges) and LOM free cash generation of US$198 million1.
Q3 Production Highlights
Total gold production for the Quarter was 19,885 ounces representing a 26% increase on the previous quarter, bringing year to date production to 50,615 ounces of gold; The Company has revised its annual production guidance to 70,000 - 80,000 ounces of gold; Notwithstanding the downgrade in 2017 production guidance due to an unexpected lack of grade continuity in the Marvoe area of the pit, gold production has increased quarter on quarter to an annualised production rate of approximately 80,000 ounces in Q3 2017 and The Company expects the annualised production rate to increase to approximately 100,000 ounces during Q4 2017.
1Non-GAAP Financial Measures: The Company has included certain non-GAAP financial measures in this press release, including net present value ('NPV'), operating cash costs and all-in sustaining costs ('AISC') per ounce of gold produced. These non-GAAP financial measures do not have any standardised meaning. Accordingly, these financial measures are intended to provide additional information and should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for measures of performance prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards ('IFRS'). Operating cash costs and all-in-sustaining cash costs are a common financial performance measure in the mining industry but have no standard definition under IFRS. Operating cash costs are reflective of the cost of production and include a net-smelter royalty of 3%. AISC include operating cash costs, corporate costs, sustaining capital expenditure, sustaining exploration expenditure and capitalised stripping costs.
Serhan Umurhan, Chief Executive Officer of Avesoro Resources, commented: 'We are very pleased with the outcome of the updated Mineral Resource and Reserve estimates and mine plan for New Liberty. The improved operational performance from the business turnaround is now largely complete and has resulted in a significantly improved financial performance of New Liberty being forecast in the updated NI 43-101. Importantly, the reduced operating costs and consequent larger optimised pit shell captures a further 315koz of Inferred ounces, which we intend to drill and seek to upgrade with the aim of increasing the Mineral Reserve during H1 2018 and thereby extending the mine life.
We have today reduced our full year production guidance to 70,000 - 80,000 ounces which is primarily attributable to pre-mining assumptions used in the modelling of some sections of the ore body which were subsequently found to be unrepresentative. This reduction in full year production guidance as a result of grades in the historical resource model not being realised in the Marvoe area of the pit was, in our view, an isolated problem and these modelling assumptions have now been corrected in the updated Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve estimate. The ounces produced during the Quarter are not representative of the operational turnaround achieved during the year to date, with plant recovery of 92% achieved in September, which if continued in subsequent quarters with more consistent grades and the expanded mine fleet is expected to represent a ramp-up to a quarterly production-rate of 36koz during 2018.'
Updated Resource and Reserve Estimate
The updated Mineral Resource and Reserve Estimates were produced by SRK Consulting (UK) Limited ('SRK') with an effective date as at 1 August 2017, and reflect depletion from the first three years of mining alongside the application of updated constraining parameters. These revised parameters are based on mining observations to date, including infill grade control drilling defining a wider mineralised zone close to surface in both the Larjor and Kinjor pits, better constraining the volume and distribution of some of the high-grade zones defined in the previous model, and an updated geological interpretation at Marvoe to reflect hard boundary zonation between areas of higher and lower grades.
As a part of the Resource and Reserve update, the Marvoe zone of the Resource model has been reinterpreted. Part of the mineralisation in this Marvoe zone now includes a barren zone of waste between two high grade lenses, giving a lower overall tonnage at a higher grade of ore than previously thought.
In comparison to the previous October 2012 Mineral Resource estimate for the Project which was reported at a cut-off grade of 1.0g/t Au and unconstrained at depth, this updated Mineral Resource Estimate represents a 14% reduction in metal content within the Measured and Indicated categories from 1,143koz to 985koz. This reduction is primarily due to depletion from mining activities (within the Measured category) and the use of an open pit depth constraint (the US$1,500/oz optimised pit shell) which limits the depth to which open pit material is now reported. Mineral Resources below the US$1,500oz optimised pit shell have been assessed for underground potential and are included in the updated Mineral Resource Statement.
Within the Inferred Mineral Resource, there has been a 5% increase in the metal content for the Project from 593koz to 620koz due to the addition of additional tonnes within extensions to the mineralisation wireframes mainly at depth. This is based upon an updated assessment of the grade and geological continuity using mining observations to date and an improved understanding of the mineralised system.
Near Term Resource Upside
Following the completion of a revised pit optimisation exercise using improved costs and performance parameters, some 0.1Mt of Inferred Mineral Resource with a mean grade of 2.7g/t Au has been estimated to be present within the designed pit used for the New Liberty Mineral Reserve estimate. This material has been treated as 'waste' in the project economic valuation as required by NI 43-101 guidelines.
The Company's exploration team, in conjunction with SRK, has designed a drill plan consisting of 46 diamond drill holes, totalling some 14,000 meters with the intention of infill drilling an area of the model that contains an Inferred Mineral Resource of some 3.5Mt with a mean grade of 2.8g/t Au (and containing 315koz of gold). This drilling will be undertaken at a spacing SRK considers should enable the level of continuity to be determined to the level of confidence required to enable the reporting of an Indicated Mineral Resource for this area and so potentially increase the tonnage of mineralisation that can be converted to a Mineral Reserve and then included in the economic model as required by NI 43-101. The mineralisation targeted with this drill plan is the current Inferred Mineral Resource that lies deeper than the current pit design on which Reserves are based but within the US$1,500/oz optimised pit shell that is used to constrain open pit resources.
The Company has begun preparations to mobilise four drill rigs to New Liberty and expects that this drill programme will commence in early November after the conclusion of the wet season, at a total cost of approximately US$1.5 million. Following the conclusion of this drill programme, the Company will release an updated Mineral Resource and Reserve statement which it expects will extend the mine life of the Project.
Mid Term Resource Upside
Following the completion of the near-term Resource upside drilling programme, the drill rigs will commence a second programme designed to test the deeper underground potential of the plunging high grade shoots identified under the US$1,500/oz optimised pit shell used to constrain open pit resources. Specifically, this drilling will target an area containing an Inferred Mineral Resource of some 2.8Mt with a mean grade of 3.3g/t Au and containing some 295koz of gold.
Additionally, plunging high grade shoots delineated at Larjor, Kinjor South and Marvoe remain open at depth, providing further potential for increasing the underground Mineral Resource in these areas through further deeper drilling.
In addition to the on-mine Resource upgrade drilling programmes, the Company has substantial exploration potential including satellite resources at both Silver Hills and within the Cape Mount licences, both of which are located within 20 kilometres of the New Liberty process plant. The Company has already delineated an Indicated Mineral Resource of 7.6Mt with 386,000 ounces of gold grading 1.6g/t and Inferred Mineral Resource of 9.6Mt with 515,000 ounces of gold grading 1.7g/t at its Ndablama project, dated 1 December 2014 and at Weaju has an Inferred Mineral Resource of 2.7Mt with 178,000 ounces of gold grading 2.1g/t, dated 11 November 2013.
Considering the combined near-term, mid-term and exploration potential of New Liberty, Ndablama and Weaju, the Company has 18.6Mt grading 2.2g/t of material that is currently classified as Inferred Mineral Resources which the Company plans to infill drill with a view to upgrading as much as possible to higher classification categories.
2017 Mineral Reserve Statement
Since the commencement of mining operations at New Liberty in Q4 2014 to the end of July 2017, some 1.8Mt of ore has been mined and processed at an average grade of 2.5g/t and containing 145koz of gold.
The updated 2017 Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve statements supersede the Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve's disclosed in the Company's 2016 Annual Information Form. As a result of a review by the Ontario Securities Commission, the Company has undertaken to provide annual updates to these estimates commencing not later than December 31, 2018.
Updated Life of Mine Schedule
Since commissioning at New Liberty in Q3 2015, there were a number of operational issues that have affected the performance of the process plant at New Liberty. Following a comprehensive operational review undertaken by the new management team which commenced in Q3 2016 following a change in control of the Company, these issues have been evaluated and measures have been implemented to improve plant performance as follows: Modifications have been made to the process plant to increase the plant throughput by 42% to 200 tonnes per hour, whilst achieving the designed gold recovery levels of between 91 and 93%;
These modifications include the addition of a tertiary cone crusher and increasing the capacity of the crushing circuit to 280 tonnes per hour (at 75% planned availability); Further modifications and upgrades have been implemented within the milling circuit to increase availability, improve the mill liner and grate life, reduce ball consumption rates and to increase the throughput of the circuit to 200 tonnes per hour. This includes feeding finer 8mm material to the mill; Additional process plant upgrades included the addition of two further PSA oxygen plants to the flow sheet to ensure pre-oxidation, leaching and detox performance and It is planned to add a second gravity concentrator to increase gravity gold recovery levels towards the 60% planned in the original plant design.
As a result of the increased process plant throughput, mining rates at the Project have also been increased accordingly to accommodate this extra plant feed and subsequently the mine life of the Project has been reduced to 4.5 years based upon existing Reserves, with drilling of resource upside expected to add further years to the LOM in due course.
Existing Finance Facility
As a result of accelerating production from the New Liberty Mine, the Company is forecasting that less than 30% of its Reserves will remain in the mine plan at the date on which it is due to make its final debt repayment. This would constitute a technical default on the reserve tail covenant at the next test date of 31 December 2017. The Company does not forecast any difficulty making its scheduled debt repayments and is in dialogue with its lenders (Nedbank Limited and FirstRand Bank Limited (acting through its Rand Merchant Bank division)) with the intention of reaching an agreement to avoid a technical default under this covenant at the test date.
Additional Heavy Mining Equipment Purchase
In order to deliver on the increased mining rates included within the revised LOM schedule, the Company is currently in discussions with Mapa naat ve Ticaret A.. ('Mapa') to acquire and finance the additional new HME requirements which includes four Komatsu PC1250 excavators, 12 Komatsu HD785 haul trucks and auxiliary equipment. The Company expects to be able to announce the successful conclusion of these negotiations shortly and the signing of equipment finance agreements ('Finance Agreements') with Mapa.
Mapa is part of the MNG Group of Companies owned by the Company's Non-Executive Chairman, Mr Mehmet Nazif Gnal, and if executed, entering into the Finance Agreements will constitute a related party transaction for the Company under the AIM Rules. The primary reason for procuring and financing HME via Mapa would be that due to Mapa's purchasing power it can secure more competitive terms than can be achieved by the Company.
Q3 2017 Production Update
Total gold production for the Quarter was 19,885 ounces representing a 26% increase on the previous quarter, bringing year to date production to 50,615 ounces of gold.
September 2017 had the second highest rainfall in the eight years that the Company has maintained records and pit flooding has restricted ore tonnes and impacted plant throughput. The total material movement (waste rock and ore) in the Quarter was 3,227,596 tonnes, a 15% decrease on the previous quarter's performance. This was due to lower equipment availabilities with delays on both tyres and track deliveries, in addition to a shortage of pumps to deal with water in the pits at the height of the wet season. Mined ore grades averaged 2.75g/t, an increase of 4% on the previous quarter. Throughout the Quarter, the Company continued to focus on catching up on previously postponed waste pushbacks, whilst maintaining plant throughput of 140 tonnes per hour.
Blast Monitoring Technology ('BMT') was implemented in the previous quarter and this was used on all ore blasts throughout the period with positive effects. The introduction of revised grade control procedures, including 10 metre spaced channel sampling and closer spaced reverse circulation grade control drilling completed across the mining area has led to an improvement in reconciliation of mined grades to the resource model.
Process plant performance remained stable throughout the Quarter, although the plant was standing idle for a number of days during late September due to a lack of run of mine ('ROM') ore feed caused by heavy downpours of rain resulting in temporary flooding of the pits. Gold recovery for the Quarter increased from 88% in the prior quarter to 91%.
The process plant was restarted in early October, following the build-up of a suitable stockpile of ROM ore feed. Historically, Liberia experiences its peak rainfall during August and September and moving into Q4 2017 it is anticipated that the pumping capacity on site will be sufficient to cope with any further rainfall.
The Company expects to receive delivery of the first tranche of new HME, in late October, comprising one Komatsu PC1250 excavator and four Komatsu HD785 haul trucks. This will enable the mining rate at New Liberty to be accelerated. The Company expects delivery of a further three Komatsu excavators and eight Komatsu haul trucks in early 2018, following which it is targeting an increase in the mining rate further towards four million tonnes of material per month and increasing the gold production rate per quarter to 36Koz in 2018.
The Company advises that production for the year 2017 is now expected to be between 70,000 - 80,000 ounces of gold at an operating cash cost of US$ 900 - 950 per ounce.
The reduction from the previous forecast of 90,000 - 100,000 ounces is primarily due to a lack of grade continuity in the mineralisation within the Marvoe pit, which resulted in a shortfall in mining production of approximately 10,000 ounces when compared to the original mine plan for 2017, which the Company will not be able to recover before the end of the year.
Market Abuse Regulation
This announcement is released by Avesoro Resource Inc. and contains inside information for the purposes of Article 7 of the Market Abuse Regulation (EU) 596/2014 ('MAR'), encompassing information relating to the Company's trading performance and future prospects described herein, and is disclosed in accordance with the Company's obligations under Article 17 of MAR.
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About Avesoro Resources Inc.
The Company's assets include the New Liberty Gold Mine in Liberia (the 'New Liberty Gold Mine,' 'New Liberty' or the 'mine') which has an estimated proven and probable mineral reserve of 7.4Mt with 717,000 ounces of gold grading 3.03g/t and an estimated measured and indicated mineral resource of 9.6Mt with 985,000 ounces of gold grading 3.2g/t and an estimated inferred mineral resource of 6.4Mt with 620,000 ounces of gold grading 3.0g/t. The foregoing Mineral Reserve and Mineral Resource estimates and additional information in connection therewith will be set out in an NI 43-101 compliant Technical Report for the New Liberty Project to be filed on SEDAR within 45 days of this press release.
The New Liberty Gold Mine is located within the Southern Block of the 100% owned Bea Mountain mining licence. This licence covers 478 km-2 and has a 25 year, renewable, mineral development agreement. The Bea Mountain mining license also hosts additional gold projects of Ndablama, Gondoja, Weaju and Leopard Rock which host indicated and inferred mineral resources. The Company also owns the Yambesei (473 km2), Archaen West (56 km2), Mabong (36.6 km2) and Mafa West (15.6 km2) licences, in addition to a gold exploration permit in Cameroon.
Forward Looking Statements
Certain information contained in this press release constitutes forward looking information or forward looking statements with the meaning of applicable securities laws. This information or statements may relate to future events, facts, or circumstances or the Company's future financial or operating performance or other future events or circumstances. All information other than historical fact is forward looking information and involves known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results or performance to be materially different from any future results, performance, events or circumstances expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements or information. Such statements can be identified by the use of words such as 'anticipate', 'plan', 'continue', 'estimate', 'expect', 'may', 'will', 'would', 'project', 'should', 'believe', 'target', 'predict' and 'potential'. No assurance can be given that this information will prove to be correct and such forward looking information included in this press release should not be unduly relied upon. Forward looking information and statements speaks only as of the date of this press release.
Forward looking statements or information in this press release include, among other things, statements regarding the potential to upgrade inferred resources to higher categories of confidence to include in economic models; statements regarding average annual gold production of approximately 149,000 ounces over four years at average LOM cash costs of US$659/oz and AISC of US$749/oz; statements of annual gold production guidance of 70,000 to 80,000 ounces of gold for 2017; statements; statements regarding forecasts of ore mined, head grade and material milled in 2018 to 2022 and for LOM at the New Liberty Project; statements regarding the timing and delivery of new HME and increased gold production rate of 36Koz per quarter in 2018;
In making the forward looking information or statements contained in this press release, assumptions have been made regarding, among other things: general business, economic and mining industry conditions; interest rates and foreign exchange rates; the continuing accuracy of Mineral Resource and Reserve estimates; geological and metallurgical conditions (including with respect to the size, grade and recoverability of Mineral Resources and Reserves) and cost estimates on which the Mineral Resource and Reserve estimates are based; the supply and demand for commodities and precious and base metals and the level and volatility of the prices of gold; market competition; the ability of the Company to raise sufficient funds from capital markets and/or debt to meet its future obligations and planned activities and that unforeseen events do not impact the ability of the Company to use existing funds to fund future plans and projects as currently contemplated; the stability and predictability of the political environments and legal and regulatory frameworks including with respect to, among other things, the ability of the Company to obtain, maintain, renew and/or extend required permits, licences, authorizations and/or approvals from the appropriate regulatory authorities; that contractual counterparties perform as agreed and the ability of the Company to continue to obtain qualified staff and equipment in a timely and cost-efficient manner to meet its demand.
Actual results could differ materially from those anticipated in the forward looking information or statements contained in this press release as a result of risks and uncertainties (both foreseen and unforeseen), and should not be read as guarantees of future performance or results, and will not necessarily be accurate indicators of whether or not such results will be achieved. These risks and uncertainties include the risks normally incidental to exploration and development of mineral projects and the conduct of mining operations (including exploration failure, cost overruns or increases, and operational difficulties resulting from plant or equipment failure, among others); the inability of the Company to obtain required financing when needed and/or on acceptable terms or at all; risks related to operating in West Africa, including potentially more limited infrastructure and/or less developed legal and regulatory regimes; health risks associated with the mining workforce in West Africa; risks related to the Company's title to its mineral properties; the risk of adverse changes in commodity prices; the risk that the Company's exploration for and development of mineral deposits may not be successful; the inability of the Company to obtain, maintain, renew and/or extend required licences, permits, authorizations and/or approvals from the appropriate regulatory authorities and other risks relating to the legal and regulatory frameworks in jurisdictions where the Company operates, including adverse or arbitrary changes in applicable laws or regulations or in their enforcement; competitive conditions in the mineral exploration and mining industry; risks related to obtaining insurance or adequate levels of insurance for the Company's operations; that Mineral Resource and Reserve estimates are only estimates and actual metal produced may be less than estimated in a Mineral Resource or Reserve estimate; the risk that the Company will be unable to delineate additional Mineral Resources; risks related to environmental regulations and cost of compliance, as well as costs associated with possible breaches of such regulations; uncertainties in the interpretation of results from drilling; risks related to the tax residency of the Company; the possibility that future exploration, development or mining results will not be consistent with expectations; the risk of delays in construction resulting from, among others, the failure to obtain materials in a timely manner or on a delayed schedule; inflation pressures which may increase the cost of production or of consumables beyond what is estimated in studies and forecasts; changes in exchange and interest rates; risks related to the activities of artisanal miners, whose activities could delay or hinder exploration or mining operations; the risk that third parties to contracts may not perform as contracted or may breach their agreements; the risk that plant, equipment or labour may not be available at a reasonable cost or at all, or cease to be available, or in the case of labour, may undertake strike or other labour actions; the inability to attract and retain key management and personnel and the risk of political uncertainty, terrorism, civil strife, or war in the jurisdictions in which the Company operates, or in neighbouring jurisdictions which could impact on the Company's exploration, development and operating activities.
This press release also contains Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve estimates. Information relating to Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve contained in this press release is considered forward looking information in nature, as such estimates are estimates only, and that involve the implied assessment of the amount of minerals that may be economically extracted in a given area based on certain judgments and assumptions made by qualified persons, including the future economic viability of the deposit based on, among other things, future estimates of commodity prices. Such estimates are expressions of judgment and opinion based on the knowledge, mining experience, analysis of drilling results and industry practices of the qualified persons making the estimate. Valid estimates made at a given time may significantly change when new information becomes available, and may have to change as a result of numerous factors, including changes in the prevailing price of gold. By their nature, Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve estimates are imprecise and depend, to a certain extent, upon statistical inferences which may ultimately prove unreliable. If such Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve estimates are inaccurate or are reduced in the future (including through changes in grade or tonnage), this could have a material adverse impact on the Company and its operating and financial performance. Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability. Due to the uncertainty that may be attached to inferred mineral resources, it cannot be assumed that all or any part of an inferred mineral resource will be upgraded to an indicated or measured mineral resource as a result of continued exploration.
Although the forward-looking statements contained in this press release are based upon what management believes are reasonable assumptions, the Company cannot provide assurance that actual results or performance will be consistent with these forward-looking statements. The forward looking information and statements included in this press release are expressly qualified by this cautionary statement and are made only as of the date of this press release. The Company does not undertake any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward looking information except as required by applicable securities laws.