|November 20, 2017|
Nevada Copper Announces Development Plan For Optimized Underground Mine And Appoints Chief Operating Officer
November 20, 2017: Nevada Copper Corp. (TSX: NCU) (“Nevada Copper” or the “Company”) is pleased to announce a development plan to swiftly advance the Pumpkin Hollow Underground Mine Project (the “Underground Project”) at Nevada Copper’s 100% owned Pumpkin Hollow Copper Property (“Pumpkin Hollow”) to construction phase, with the objective of making a construction decision by mid-2018 and realizing first copper production in 2019.
Highlights of the Underground Project Pre-Feasibility Study
The Pumpkin Hollow Property encompasses the only fully-permitted copper project of scale in the United States, comprising two potential copper mines:
The two projects benefit from over $220 million of prior expenditures which funded a significant amount of engineering work and technical studies, and allowed for the construction of a production-sized headframe and hoist, warehouse, a 1,900 foot deep, 24-foot diameter concrete-lined production size shaft and over 600 feet of lateral development.
The PFS for the Underground Project leverages the substantial existing infrastructure at the site, including power, water, road access, plus a production shaft and lateral mine development. The objective of the PFS has been to optimize the previously-defined underground portion of the Mineral Resources at Pumpkin Hollow with a focus on:
Sedgman Engineering and Mining Plus have taken advantage of the existing infrastructure to improve capital cost accuracy and reduce development risk, and worked with Nevada Copper’s project team, supported by Pala Investments as technical advisor, on preparation of the PFS.
A detailed overview of the PFS is provided below, and the project highlights include:
A Technical Report (the “Technical Report”) prepared in accordance with NI 43-101, will be filed on SEDAR within the 45 days from the date of this announcement and will be made available on Nevada Copper's website (www.nevadacopper.com).
Appointment of Chief Operating Officer
Nevada Copper is pleased to announce the immediate appointment of Phillip Day as Vice President, Chief Operating Officer.
Mr. Day has significant project delivery and operating experience, and brings key project management skills required to advance the Underground Project into construction phase. Mr. Day’s project construction experience includes senior roles with AMEC Americas, where he managed a number of major projects, including the brownfields expansion of Corrego do Sito Gold Project and the $1 billion Gramalote gold study for AngloGold Ashanti. Previously he worked in managerial, operational and technical roles for BHP Billiton and WMC Resources as well as comissioning and operation of the Minara Resources Murrin Murrin Nickel Laterite project. Mr. Day is presently Head of Technical and Operations at Pala Investments.
Commenting on the appointment and the release of the PFS, Mr. Day stated: “I am excited to join Nevada Copper. I see significant opportunities at Pumpkin Hollow, as we now have a robust underground project ready to advance into construction in the near term. The ability to leverage the existing infrastructure and previous studies will allow us to significantly de-risk project development. Importantly, for the flagship Pumpkin Hollow Open Pit, I also see substantial scope for optimization and value creation that can be advanced in parallel with the near-term production from the underground mine. In particular, drilling of the Northern Extension and Connector Zones, combined with ongoing technical studies, has the potential to add open pit tons and grade, which has the potential to enhance project economics by converting material currently classified as waste into ore.”
Financial Support from Pala Investments
To support Nevada Copper in swiftly advancing the Underground Project to the construction phase, Pala Investments has advised that it will provide financial support to Nevada Copper, including the potential backstop of future equity financings, in connection with delivering a project financing package for the construction of the Underground Project. In this regard, Pala Investments is currently working closely with Nevada Copper and its senior lender, Red Kite Mine Finance, and existing and new investors, on delivering a project financing package for the construction of the Underground Project. Nevada Copper will provide an update as soon as more details are available.
Underground Project Development Plan
In light of the positive results of the PFS and the financial support of Pala Investments, Nevada Copper is pursuing a development plan to efficiently transition into a mid-tier copper producer. Key milestones include:
A construction decision on the Underground Project will be determined by the board of directors of Nevada Copper subject to completion of remaining project engineering, financing and market conditions at the relevant time.
Open Pit Optimization Opportunities
In addition to its plan to transition to a copper producer in the near term, Nevada Copper has also identified multiple opportunities to optimize a future open pit mining option, including:
Nevada Copper intends to progress these optimization opportunities during 2018 in parallel with its objective to advance construction of the Underground Project.
Giulio Bonifacio, President & CEO of the Company commented: "The announcement of the PFS results against the backdrop of improving copper prices, sets the stage for the next steps towards financing and a construction decision at Pumpkin Hollow. Pala has continued to provide both financial and technical support to Nevada Copper. Their technical input has been invaluable in the optimization of the underground project, and the ongoing optimization of the open pit, with a focus on profitability and constructability”
We welcome Mr. Day to our senior management team as we further advance Pumpkin Hollow towards construction. Pumpkin Hollow is a truly unique, robust base metal asset that is fully permitted in a top tier location while also possessing significant built-in growth potential and upside both by way of the underground deposits and the large open pit deposits. Our stated objective is to be the next significant new copper producer in the Americas by way of a staged development of the underground mine followed by the open pit operation at Pumpkin Hollow.”
Further Details of the Technical Report
The Technical Report also includes feasibility-level information on the potential development of a large 70,000 tons/day mine at Pumpkin Hollow with feed mainly from the nearby open pit deposits, but also from the same underground mineral resources as accessed in the Underground Project. This is referred to within the Technical Report as the “Integrated Project” or “Case B”. The Integrated Project was originally the subject of a NI 43-101 2015 Feasibility Study Technical Report6 (“2015 IFS”) for which the scientific and technical information is materially unchanged and remains a viable development option.
The Technical Report that will be filed will therefore contain a summary of both:
Note: unless specifically stated, all descriptions and results below refer to the Underground Project: a 5,000 tons/day underground mine development scenario as described in the Technical Report. A summary and results of the Integrated Project are disclosed at the end of this document.
The open pit cut-off grade has been approximated at 0.15% Cu prior to completion of cost optimization and has been applied for purposes of the resource statement only. To further approximate the reasonable prospects of economic extraction, a cut-off grade of 0.15% Cu has been applied to Measured, Indicated and Inferred Resources constrained within a Geovia WhittleTM pit optimization assuming a copper price of $3.75/lb and the parameters used for the reserve pit optimization. Value has only been attributed to copper for the pit optimization constraint. Iron is reported as a by-product to the Cu-Au-Ag resource blocks.
The underground cut-off grade has been approximated at 0.75% Cu prior to completion of cost optimization and has been applied for purposes of the mineral resource statement only. To further approximate the reasonable prospects of economic extraction, reporting of resources has been constrained to within the mineralized domains, with the exception of waste amongst the mineral zone interpretation that was confined with a waste solid for purposes of internal waste inclusion for the mine plan. Metals prices of $3.00/lb, $1,250/oz and $18/oz for copper gold and silver respectively were used for resource estimation.
The Mineral Resources have an effective date of April 15, 2015. The independent Qualified Person for the Mineral Resources is Dr. Rex Bryan RM SME of TetraTech. Tables may not add due to rounding
Underground Project: Project Mineral Reserve - East & E2 Deposits
With respect to the Underground Project (Case A) in the PFS, the mineral reserves for the East and E2 deposits were developed from the deposits’ Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources after the application of a net smelter return (“NSR”) cut-off grade of $46/ton Minable Shape Optimizer (MSO) was conducted on the mining block models. The results generated from MSO were utilized for generating detailed and refined crosscut and stope designs within Deswik CAD.
The Mineral Reserves reflect the transverse mining method, primary and secondary stope sequence along with the use of cemented paste fill, unconsolidated paste fill and rock fill within the respective stope sequencing. Dilution and mine loss percentage estimates have been applied in the Reserves. Stope dilutions range between 2.5% and 10% and stope recoveries range between 95% and 96%.
Underground Project: Mineral Reserves - East & E2 Underground Deposit
(1)Copper equivalency calculations are based on $3.00 per pound for copper, $1,343 per ounce gold and $19.86 per ounce silver, and metallurgical recoveries of 92%, 78% and 70% for copper, gold and silver, respectively.
The independent Qualified Person for the Underground Project Mineral Reserves is Neil Schunke P.Eng. of Mining Plus. The effective date of the Underground Project Mineral Reserves is July 2017. Tables may not add due to rounding.
Approximately 44% of the total East and E2 deposits Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources were converted to a mineral reserve by the Underground Project mine plan. Pumpkin Hollow’s eastern deposits mineral resource is composed of resources located in the East and E2 Deposits and the deeper JK-34 Deposit. The current Underground Project mine plan does not include material from the JK-34 Deposit.
Integrated Project: Mineral Reserves
The mineral reserves summarized below were disclosed in the 2015 IFS as filed on SEDAR with an effective date of April 15, 2015 and reflect the various mining and operating assumptions detailed in that report. They remain unchanged as of the date of the Technical Report. The Integrated Project mineral reserves are not additive to the Underground Project mineral reserves.
The independent Qualified Persons for the Integrated Project Mineral Reserves are Ed Lips, P.Eng of TetraTech for the open pit and Mel Lawson RM SME, of Stantec for the underground. Tables may not add due to rounding.
Both the Underground Project and Intergrated Project development scenarios have been fully permitted in order to retain future development flexibility. It is expected that changes during final engineering design will require notification and submission of revised designs to the respective Nevada state agencies. These design changes are considered “engineering design changes”, or minor modifications, to the permit and will not require a new permit application, nor the associated public notice and review.
The project area is well supplied with nearby local infrastructure. Project-related infrastructure expenditures include an upgraded power line and substation and, for the Integrated Project only, a new water line that connects to the City of Yerington’s water system. An energy cost of $0.056/kwh during production was used for the Underground Project PFS purposes, based on NV Energy estimated rates. Existing state and county roads will be used to access the mine site. Copper concentrates will be trucked directly from the mine-site to a trans-load facility, where they will be transported to a US west coast port or to domestic smelters. Process make-up water for Underground Project will derived from onsite wells. The Company also has a water service agreement with the City of Yerington, that could be used for either the Underground Project or Integrated Project development plans. Housing and regional services are available in Yerington and the surrounding communities of Silver Springs, Smith Valley, Fernley, Dayton, Fallon, Carson City and Hawthorne all of which are within commuting distance. These communities have an existing labor pool and housing, including a construction and an operations workforce.
The Underground Project has one mining area, the Eastern Area, that is planned to be mined by underground methods, specifically, long-hole stoping, with predominantly cemented paste fill methods. The mining methods and the mining sequence were developed to maximize grades in the early production years to the extent possible. Underground mining zones included in the mine plan extend between the 1040 and 2840 Levels. Access to the mine will be via the existing 24-foot diameter vertical shaft. Vent and secondary egress shafts will be constructed as required.
Mining will be performed using the productive mechanized transverse long-hole mining method, with cemented paste fill (CPF) in the primary and some secondary stopes, and un-cemented paste fill (UPF) or unconsolidated rock fill of remaining secondary stopes. Once at steady-state production, all waste rock is planned to remain underground to be used as backfill for secondary stopes. Until then, waste rock will be hoisted to surface.
One production/service shaft and three ventilation/emergency egress shafts are included in the mine design. Stopes will be 100 ft high by 50 ft wide for East South, 100 ft high by variable widths for E2 zones, and 75 ft high by 50 ft wide for East North zone. Mining will be carried out using longhole drilling and blasting, with ore and waste material mucked using load, haul, dump equipment (“LHDs”), direct to ore passes or to remuck bays situated for optimum materials handling. Ore material will be transported via haul trucks and/or ore passes to the Coarse Ore Bins (“COB”) for storage before being hoisted out of the mine. Haul trucks will be used to transport ore material from the remuck bays to the COBs, or to transport waste to the backfill levels. The majority of the underground mobile mining fleet will be battery powered. Primary crushing is located on the surface. Un-crushed rock will be conveyed to skips and hoisted to the surface, then crushed and stockpiled, for either direct-feed to the processing plant or stockpiling to the low-grade stockpile. For all stopes that will be backfilled using CPF or UPF, a bulkhead will be constructed at all access points and the stopes will be filled with paste delivered by a piping network from the paste plant. The paste plant will be located on the surface and booster pumps will be used where necessary to transfer paste fill through the mine workings to the fill point.
Ore will be hoisted to the surface, crushed and conveyed to a coarse ore stockpile and reclaim located near the 5,000 tons per day concentrator. The concentration circuit is conventional with a combined semi-autogenous (SAG)/ball mill circuit with cyclone classification, flotation circuits, followed by thickening and pressure filtration to produce a concentrate grading 26% copper or greater, and containing payable gold and silver. Projected metallurgical recoveries are 92%, 78% and 70%, for copper, gold and silver, respectively.
Dry stack tailings (DST), in conjunction with underground paste backfill, are the preferred means of final deposition as this method contains substantially less water than tailings discharged directly from a concentrator. DST will be produced by filtering the final flotation tailings. The underground paste backfill portion of the tailings will be combined with cement before being deposited in the underground mine workings.
Filtration of tailings allows for better process water management and control. Process water will be recycled from the tailings and concentrate thickener overflows. Fresh water will generally be used only for pump gland service, mill lube cooling, SAG mill ring motor cooling, reagent preparation, and safety showers / eyewash stations.
Projected ore tonnage and grades, and recovered metals production to the copper concentrate is summarized below. Life-of-Mine (LOM) copper recovered to concentrates is estimated to be 698 million pounds.
The Underground Project initial capital costs are estimated at $182.4 million as of September 2017 with an accuracy of +/- 25%. The major direct cost items include: underground mine development initially on the East deposits, process plant, tailing storage facility, and site infrastructure. Indirect costs include such major areas as engineering and procurement, construction management, freight and commissioning, spares inventory, first fills, and Owner’s Costs, such the owners personnel, local taxes, insurance and other site office costs.
Initial Capital Costs
The working capital required to fund capital expenditures and operating losses during ramp-up operations is estimated to be up to $22 million.
The initial capital cost excludes expenditures previously incurred by Nevada Copper from 2006 to September, 2017 which were used to fund the 1,900 foot deep, 24-foot diameter concrete-lined production size shaft and lateral development, surface facilities including a production hoist, head frame, power line and substation, water management infrastructure, and site buildings such as offices, warehouse, maintenance shop and mine dry.
Life-of-Mine sustaining capital costs is a total of $110.6 million with an accuracy of +/- 25% as summarized below, which include ongoing underground mine development and equipment replacement, and expenditures for expansion of the tailings storage facility.
Sustaining Capital Costs
LOM site unit operating cash costs are projected to average $44.52 per ton milled, as summarized in the table below:
Ongoing underground mine development costs are included in sustaining capital. Copper “C1” production costs per payable pound, including site operating costs and copper conversion costs such as smelter charges and concentrate transport, net of gold and silver revenue credits, are estimated to average $1.69/lb. for Years 1 to 5 and $1.85/lb. for LOM.
The projected copper concentrate grade averages 26% copper and contains payable gold and silver values. The concentrates are considered to be of good quality. The concentrates will be marketed to domestic smelters, and to Asia via a west coast port. Average concentrate transportation costs were estimated to be $75/dry metric tonne. Long term smelter treatment and refining charges of $75/tonne concentrates and $0.075/lb payable copper, respectively were used.
Economic Analysis Summary
Project economics were evaluated using a cash flow analysis, with future revenues and costs projected into the future to yield annual net cash flow and a Net Present Value. The cash flows are calculated both before and after corporate income taxes, and include the cost of all royalties, local property taxes and Nevada net proceeds of mining tax. Cash flows were discounted at 5% to reflect the time value of money and risk factors. An Internal Rate of Return ("IRR") and payback period for the project were also calculated. Variance in metals prices will have the most significant impact on the projected revenues and cash flows.
The following metal price scenarios were used:
1. Base metal price scenario:
Base case metals prices were assumed from analysts’ consensus prices, as published by Consensus Economics Inc. as follows:
2. Alternate metal price scenarios:
Alternate low and high copper price scenarios of $2.60/lb and $3.50/lb respectively were also used. A gold price of $1,300/oz and a silver price of $17/oz were used for both scenarios and all prices were held constant for these alternate scenarios.
Summary of Economic Results
A summary of key economic indicators for the Underground Project development option are summarized below:
Royalties and Taxes The economic results above include the costs of all third-party royalties, an estimate of local property taxes, and Nevada net proceeds of mining tax payable on income from operations. The effects of corporate income taxes on project cash flows are also estimated by Nevada Copper on a stand-alone project basis. Income tax calculations related to mining income can be complex in the United States. Although nominal corporate tax rates are 35%, deductions such as undepreciated accumulated tax pools, percentage depletion deductions and others available to mining operations typically reduce the effective tax rate to 20% or less. The undepreciated accumulated tax pools available to shelter the project from corporate income taxes are substantial based on the prior expenditures made on the project. The tax calculation is an estimate only; actual corporate taxes payable may be higher or lower than those presented based on other future corporate activities, such as any proposed further development of the open pit mineral resources. Readers should consult a tax advisor should they require more definitive information on taxation of income derived from mining operations in Nevada.
Mineralization in the East and E2 deposits remains open in several directions, and has not been drilled since 2015. Nevada Copper expects to resume drilling on the East and JK-34 deposits from underground drill stations once operations have commenced. Reserve expansion in these areas will likely extend mine life beyond the current 13 years and an underground definition drilling program will better define tonnages and grades.
Additionally, the potential for development of the Mineral Resources associated with the western open pit deposits remains fully intact.
Case A Underground Project Development Schedule
Subject to the approval of the board of directors of the Company and conclusion of project financing arrangements, detailed engineering and ordering of key long-lead-time mining and process equipment is targeted to commence in January 2018. Ramp-up of underground development is anticipated to commence in late 2018 and early 2019 with mill ramp-up starting anticipated starting in Q2 of 2019.
Integrated Project (Case b, 2015 IFS) Summary of Assumptions and Economic Results
The assumptions and results of the 2015 IFS (noted as Case B herein) were publicly disclosed in July 2015 as summarized below:
In early 2017, Nevada Copper commissioned Sedgman Limited (part of the Cimic Group) as lead, along with Mining Plus Limited, to complete a Technical Report including a PFS level study on the Case A Underground Project, and including the previous disclosure from the 2015 IFS, in accordance with NI 43-101 standards. The scientific and technical information in this news release has been reviewed and approved by Mr. John Grady Ch.Eng. IEA, Project Manager with Sedgman, and overall manager for the PFS. Mr. Grady is an Independent Qualified Person within the meaning of NI 43-101.
The information and data contained in this news release insofar as Case A has been reviewed by the independent Qualified Persons, John Grady Ch.Eng. and Steve Rossetti Ch.Eng. of Sedgman, Neil Schunke P.Eng. of MiningPlus. The information and data contained in this news release insofar as Case B has been reviewed by the independent Qualified Persons as identified in the 2015 IFS or an alternate QP if this person is no longer available.
The information and data in this news release was also reviewed by Gregory French, P.G., Vice-President & Project Manager of Nevada Copper and Robert McKnight, P. Eng., Executive Vice-President of Nevada Copper, both of whom are Non-independent Qualified Persons within the meaning of NI 43-101.
NEVADA COPPER CORP.
Giulio T. Bonifacio, President & CEO
This news release includes certain statements and information that contains forward-looking information within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities laws. All statements in this news release, other than statements of historical facts, including metal price assumptions, cash flow forecasts, projected capital and operating costs, metal or mineral recoveries, mine life and production rates, and other assumptions used in the pre-feasibility and feasibility studies, the likelihood of commercial mining, securing as strategic partner, expanding the mineral resources and reserves and possible future financings are forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements and forward-looking information specifically include, but are not limited to, statements concerning: the Company’s plans at Pumpkin Hollow Project; the estimated mineral resources and mineral reserves at Pumpkin Hollow; the estimated metal production of Pumpkin Hollow and the timing thereof; capital and operating costs aof Pumpkin Hollow, future metal prices and cash flow estimates derived from the foregoing; and the closing of the Bridge Loan.
Forward-looking statements or information relate to future events and future performance and include statements regarding the expectations and beliefs of management and include, but are not limited to, statements with respect to the estimation of mineral resources and reserves, the realization of mineral resources and reserve estimates, the timing and amount of estimated future production, capital costs, costs of production, capital expenditures, success of mining operations, environmental risks and other mining related matters. Often, but not always, forward-looking statements and forward-looking information can be identified by the use of words such as "plans", "expects", "potential", "is expected", "anticipated", "is targeted", "budget", "scheduled", "estimates", "forecasts", "intends", "anticipates", or "believes" or the negatives thereof or variations of such words and phrases or statements that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will" be taken, occur or be achieved. Forward-looking statements or information include, but are not limited to, statements or information with respect to known or unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual industry results, to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements or information.
Forward-looking statements or information are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties which could cause actual events or results to differ from those reflected in the forward-looking statements or information, including, without limitation, risks and uncertainties relating to: history of losses; requirements for additional capital; dilution; loss of its material properties; interest rates increase; global economy; no history of production; future metals price fluctuations, speculative nature of exploration activities; periodic interruptions to exploration, development and mining activities; environmental hazards and liability; industrial accidents; failure of processing and mining equipment to perform as expected; labor disputes; supply problems; uncertainty of production and cost estimates; the interpretation of drill results and the estimation of mineral resources and reserves; changes in project parameters as plans continue to be refined; possible variations in ore reserves, grade of mineralization or recovery rates may differ from what is indicated and the difference may be material; legal and regulatory proceedings and ommunity actions; accidents, title matters; regulatory restrictions; permitting and licensing; volatility of the market price of Common Shares; insurance; competition; hedging activities; currency fluctuations; loss of key employees; other risks of the mining industry as well as those factors discussed in the section entitled "Risk Factors" in the Company's Annual Information Form dated March 30, 2017. Should one or more of these risks and uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary materially from those described in forward-looking statements or information. The Company disclaims any intent or obligation to update forward-looking statements or information except as required by law, and you are referred to the full discussion of the Company's business contained in the Company's reports filed with the securities regulatory authorities in Canada. Although the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially, there may be other factors that could cause results not to be as anticipated, estimated or intended. For more information on Nevada Copper and the risks and challenges of its business, investors should review Nevada Copper's annual filings that are available at www.sedar.com.
The Company provides no assurance that forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements.
Alternative Performance Measures
"Copper Production Costs", "LOM Operating Costs", "LOM site unit operating costs" and similar terms are alternative performance measures. These performance measures are included because these statistics are key performance measures that management may use to monitor performance. Management may use these statistics in future to assess how the Company is performing to plan and to assess the overall effectiveness and efficiency of mining operations. These performance measures do not have a meaning within International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS") and, therefore, amounts presented may not be comparable to similar data presented by other mining companies. These performance measures should not be considered in isolation as a substitute for measures of performance in accordance with IFRS.
For further information call:
Robert McKnight, P.Eng.,
1 From Mineral Reserves table on Page 8
You can view the Next News Releases item: Tue Nov 28, 2017, Nevada Copper Announces Q1-2018 Drill Program and Open Pit Optimization and Development Plan
You can view the Previous News Releases item: Tue Nov 14, 2017, Bridge Facility With Pala Investments
You can return to the main News Releases page, or press the Back button on your browser.