Aquila Resources Inc. (TSX: AQA) announced today the results of an independent open pit only Feasibility Study completed on its 100% owned zinc- and gold-rich Back Forty Project in Michigan. The Feasibility Study was compiled by Lycopodium Minerals Canada Ltd with support from globally recognized experts and specialist consulting engineering companies in environmentally critical areas such as waste water treatment, tailings and waste rock management and mine design. All economic values within this news release are in US dollars unless indicated otherwise.
“The completion of the Back Forty Project Feasibility Study is a significant milestone for Aquila and sets the stage for the next steps to develop this deposit,” said Barry Hildred, President and Chief Executive Officer of Aquila. “Back Forty is well-positioned as a permitted project in a favourable mining jurisdiction that is close to existing infrastructure. We can now focus the Company’s resources on the pre-construction phase at Back Forty while considering funding alternatives to complete the development of the Project.”
Andrew Boushy, P.Eng., Senior Vice President, Projects commented, “I want to thank our entire expanded team of specialists and consultants for all of their efforts in helping us complete the Feasibility Study. The robust results of the study clearly demonstrate that Back Forty is a compelling project based only on an open pit operation and we see several opportunities to further enhance value that will be advanced during the detailed engineering phase. We have set the bar high for environmental protection and plan to engage local contractors who live in the community in which we will operate.”
|1 C1 cash costs, which are intended to measure direct cash costs of producing paid metal, does not have a standardized meaning under IFRS. See “Non-IFRS Measures”.|
|2 All-in sustaining costs (“AISC”) does not have a standardized meaning under IFRS. See “Non-IFRS Measures”.|
Back Forty Project Background
The Back Forty Project is a polymetallic (zinc, gold, copper, silver, lead) Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide deposit located in Menominee County, Michigan, USA. The Back Forty deposit was originally discovered in 2002, and is currently wholly-owned by Aquila. The Project is located approximately 55 km south-southeast from Iron Mountain, and approximately 19 km west of Stephenson, Michigan.
Mineralization at the Back Forty deposit consists of discrete zones of: 1) zinc or copper-rich massive sulphide (±lead), which may contain significant amounts of gold and silver, 2) stockwork stringer and peripheral sulphide, which can be gold, zinc, and copper-bearing (±lead/silver), 3) precious metal-only, low-sulphide mineralization, and 4) oxide-rich, precious metal-bearing gossan.
Major aspects of the Project include mine open pit, hydrological cut-off wall, oxide and sulphide processing plants, tailings management facility, waste rock storage facilities, contact and non-contact water basins, mine services, access road and a state of the art waste water treatment plant. The reclamation and closure plan includes the backfilling of the open pit with waste rock and the capping of the tailings and waste rock facility followed by a minimum of 20 years of environmental monitoring as required by Michigan law.
Access to the facility is from the west side of the Project from the existing River Road. Principal access will be via a main security gate near the process plant. Power to the site will be provided via an incoming high voltage line from the east side of the Project.
Mineral Reserve Estimate
The Proven and Probable Mineral Reserve Estimate for the Project is summarised in the table below. Approximately 70% of the Mineral Reserve Estimate is in the Proven category. Only Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources are included in the open pit Mineral Reserve Estimate. The Mineral Reserve Estimate was prepared by P&E Mining Consultants Inc.
|Back Forty Mineral Reserve Estimate as at February 6, 2018|
|Proven + Probable||11.65||$109||1.85||21.7||2.64||0.21||0.28|
|1.||CIM definitions were followed for the Mineral Reserve Estimate.|
|2.||The Mineral Reserve Estimate used average long term metal prices of $1,250/oz gold; $20.00/oz silver; $1.15/lb zinc; $1.00/lb lead; and $3.00/lb copper.|
|3.||A Mineral Reserve is defined within a mine plan, with pit phase designs guided by Lerchs–Grossmann (LG) pit shells, after dilution and mining loss adjustments.|
|4.||The Mineral Reserve Estimate is derived from Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources only.|
|5.||Metallurgical recovery used was a variable function of the rock type and metal grade.|
|6.||The Mineral Reserve Estimate for the Project will be comprised of eight different ore types that will be processed either though a flotation concentrator or cyanide leach plant. NSR cut-off values applied are: Ore 1 – $16.50/t, Ore 2,3,4,7,8 – $16.00/t, Ore 5 – $17.50/t, and Ore 6 – $28.50/t.|
|7.||The life-of-mine strip ratio is 4.3:1 including the pre-construction period.|
Mineral Resource Estimate
The Mineral Resource Estimate from which the Mineral Reserve is derived from is set out below and was prepared by P&E Mining Consultants Inc.
|Back Forty Mineral Resource Estimate as at February 6, 2018|
|$/tonne||(1,000)||g/t||K oz||g/t||K oz||%||M lb||%||M lb||%||M lb|
|M & I||21||10,565||1.68||572||20.9||7,083||3.34||778.2||0.33||76.3||0.24||56.2|
|M & I||22||2,330||2.97||223||38.5||2,881||0.36||18.5||0.04||1.9||0.25||13.0|
|M & I||21+22||12,895||1.92||795||24.0||9,964||2.80||796.6||0.28||78.2||0.24||69.2|
|Out of Pit||Floatable||Meas||70||556||1.79||32||26.8||480||5.32||65.2||0.33||4.0||0.41||5.0|
|M & I||70||3,615||1.83||213||26.3||3,057||4.40||350.7||0.48||38.4||0.32||25.3|
|M & I||70||114||5.01||18||56.1||206||0.32||0.8||0.14||0.3||0.13||0.3|
|M & I||70||3,729||1.93||231||27.2||3,262||4.28||351.5||0.47||38.7||0.31||25.7|
|M & I||21+70||14,180||1.72||785||22.2||10,140||3.61||1,128.8||0.37||114.7||0.26||81.5|
|M & I||22+70||2,444||3.07||241||39.3||3,087||0.36||19.3||0.04||2.2||0.25||13.4|
|M & I||21+22+70||16,623||1.92||1,026||24.7||13,227||3.13||1,148.1||0.32||116.9||0.26||94.9|
|1.||Mineral Resources which are not Mineral Reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability.|
|2.||The Inferred Mineral Resource in this estimate has a lower level of confidence that that applied to an Indicated Mineral Resource and must not be converted to a Mineral Reserve. It is reasonably expected that the majority of the Inferred Mineral Resource could be upgraded to an Indicated Mineral Resource with continued exploration.|
|3.||The Mineral Resource was estimated using CIM guidelines and include the Mineral Reserve.|
|4.||Metallurgical type Oxide (all gold domains and leachable Gossans) is leachable, while all other metallurgical types are flotable.|
|5.||The Mineral Resource Estimate was based on metal prices of $1,375/oz gold, $22.27/oz silver, $1.10/lb zinc, $3.19/lb copper and $1.15/lb lead.|
The Project area consists of subdued terrain and topography. The area, topography and climate are amenable to the conventional open pit mining operations proposed for the Project. No underground mining is planned at this stage although the potential for underground mining will be evaluated in the near future.
The mining operations will encompass a single large open pit that will be mined with conventional mining equipment in three pushback phases. The mining fleet will consist of major equipment used directly in the rock-moving operation including blast hole drills, hydraulic excavators, and 91 t haul trucks. Various support equipment will be required, such as dozers, graders, water trucks, and light vehicles for maintenance, personnel transport and mine supervision.
For scheduling purposes, the Back Forty open pit was subdivided into three phases. Mining commences in a small higher-grade starter pit and subsequently expands outwards by pushing back the pit walls. This enables annual waste stripping quantities to be distributed over time to avoid highly variable annual total material mined tonnages.
A summary of the phase tonnages is shown in the table below.
|Pit Phase Tonnages|
|Phase 1||Phase 2||Phase 3||Total|
Ore may be delivered either to the primary crusher or placed into one of the nearby stockpiles. Waste is either taken to a waste storage facility or used in tailings dam construction.
In order to improve mining selectivity and reduce ore dilution, two different bench heights will be used. The Oxide and Pinwheel Ore Zones can be narrow and closely spaced, hence they will be mined using a 2.5 m high bench height. In the Main and Tuff Ore Zones and in large waste areas away from the ore zones, bench heights of 5.0 m will be used to minimize unit mining costs. In waste areas near the ore zones, waste must be mined on the 2.5 m bench as part of the ore/waste mining separation. Approximately 10% of the waste rock tonnage will be mined on 2.5 m high benches.
Mineral Processing and Metallurgy
The process plant design for the Project is based on a flexible metallurgical flowsheet designed for treatment of a variety of different ore types. The flowsheet is based on well proven unit operations in the industry.
The key project design criteria for the process plant are:
Sulphide Mineral Reserve that will be processed through the flotation concentrator have been classified into five ore types from three zones:
Project value will be maximized by campaigning the different sulphide ore types through the process plant separately, with the minimum duration of any campaign approximately one month. A total of seven different ore stockpiles will be used to facilitate campaigning and also ensure that both the sulphide and oxide process plants are fed with the highest value ore available.
For the initial 18 months of operation, only Main and Pinwheel type ores will be campaigned through the process plant. After 26 months of operation, Pinwheel ore will be depleted and for the remaining life, only Main and Tuff ores will be campaigned through the process plant.
The overall sulphide process plant flowsheet includes the following steps:
The overall oxide process plant flowsheet includes the following steps:
Three stage crushing using an open circuit jaw crusher, open circuit secondary cone crusher and tertiary cone crusher in closed circuit.
Metal production figures are summarized in the table below.
|Metal||Life of Project Production||Average Annual Production|
|Gold (K oz)||468||67|
|Zinc (K lbs)||512,198||73,171|
|Copper (K lbs)||51,109||7,301|
|Silver (K oz)||4,458||637|
|Lead (K lbs)||24,183||3,455|
A summary of the life of project revenue by metal, revenue by product, and recovery by metal are included in the tables below.
|Revenue by Metal||Revenue by Product||Metal Recovery by Product|
|Metal||% of Revenue||Product||% of Revenue||Metal||Concentrates||Doré|
In addition to a Doré, the Back Forty Project will produce zinc, copper and lead concentrates. The zinc concentrates will on average grade 52.7%, the copper concentates will on average grade 19.3%, and the lead concentrate will on average grade 35%. Over its seven year life, the Project will on average annually produce 71,160 tonnes of zinc concentrate, 23,120 tonnes of copper concentrate and 5,600 tonnes of lead concentrate. All concentrates are expected to be marketable. Studies are ongoing to evaluate the optimal blends, destinations and transport options for Back Forty concentrates. The Company believes that there are multiple attractive options for each of the concentrates.
Capital and Operating Costs
The capital estimate is summarized in the following tables by area and by discipline. All costs are based on Q1 2018 pricing. The estimate is deemed to have an accuracy of ±15%.
|Capital Estimate Summary by Area|
Project Implementation Strategy
The implementation strategy for the Back Forty Project is based on a traditional Engineering, Procurement and Construction Management (“EPCM”) implementation approach with horizontal discipline-based contract packaging. Horizontal packages were established for earthworks, building works, concrete works, field erected tankage, structural, mechanical and piping installation, electrical and instrumentation supply and installation. Opportunities for vertical or area packages will be reviewed. An experienced project management firm will be engaged to oversee Engineering and Procurement support (“EP”) services for the development of the process plant and the associated infrastructure and directly manage project controls and construction with a focus on project delivery best practices as part of an integrated owner’s team with Aquila.
Mine Sustaining Capital
Expenditures incurred after Year -1 are considered sustaining capital and are summarized in the table below. The majority of the sustaining capital consists of capital lease payments for the mining equipment. Given the five year life of the open pit, no equipment replacements are planned.
|Mine Sustaining Capital Cost Summary ($ ‘000)|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Year 5||Year 6||Year 7||Total|
|Equip. & Down payments||749||277||–||40||–||100||–||1,165|
|Equip. Capital Leases||6,420||7,709||8,287||8,287||4,181||84||84||35,052|
|Freight & Spares||358||399||414||416||209||9||4||1,811|
|Total Mine Sustaining Costs||10,483||8,548||8,811||8,743||4,390||193||88||41,256|
Project Infrastructure Sustaining Capital
Infrastructure sustaining capital costs include subsequent TMF stage raises over the life of mine, waste rock facility expansion costs, mine closure costs, salvage value and rehabilitation costs. The sustaining capital schedule over the life of mine is estimated as shown in the table below.
|Project Sustaining Capital Cost Summary ($ ‘000)|
|Year 1||Year 2||Year 3||Year 4||Year 5||Year 6||Year 7||Total|
|Tailings Management Facility||15,734||4,360||5,155||–||1,813||–||–||27,062|
|South Waste Rock Facility||8,538||–||–||–||–||–||–||8,538|
|North Waste Rock Facility||9,798||19,263||–||–||–||–||–||29,062|
|Total Project Sustaining Costs||38,728||23,623||5,155||–||1,813||–||–||69,320|
A summary of the life of Project operating costs is outlined in the table below.
|Operating Costs Summary|
|Life of Project
|NSR (Base Case)||1,256||108|
|Total Site Opex||371||32|
A summary of key Back Forty Project metrics is outlined in the table below. The Base Case metal price deck is: $1,300/oz gold, $1.20/lb zinc, $20/oz silver, $3.00/lb copper and $1.00/lb lead.
|Summary Economic Analysis – Base Case Metal Prices|
|Strip Ratio||waste : ore||4.3|
|Grade||Gold equivalent||4.3 g/t|
|Total Recovery & Payability||% of con’d ZnEq||69.1%|
|Payable Zinc Equivalent||Mlbs||1,197|
|Payable Gold Equivalent||koz||1,105|
|Gross Revenue||$/t ore||123|
|NSR (Base Case)||$/t ore||108|
|Total Site Opex||$/t total ore||32|
|Royalties||$/t total ore||1|
|EBITDA||$/t total ore||75|
|EBITDA margin||EBITDA / NSR||69.6%|
|Gross C1 Cash Costs||$/oz AuEq||499|
|Net C1 Cash Costs||$/oz Gold||(590)|
|Net C1 Cash Costs||$/lb Zinc||(1.73)|
|Total Investment (including Closure)||$M||480|
|Gross AISCs||$/oz AuEq||677|
|Net AISCs||$/oz Gold||(171)|
|Net AISCs||$/lb Zinc||(1.34)|
|Annual After-Tax Operating Cash Flow||$M pa||62|
|After-Tax NPV at a 0% discount rate||$M||316|
|After-Tax NPV at a 6% discount rate||$M||208|
|Pre-Tax NPV at a 6% discount rate||$M||259|
|1.||None of EBITDA, C1 cash costs or all-in sustaining costs (“AISC”) have a standardized meaning under IFRS. See “Non-IFRS Measures”.|
|2.||Gold and zinc equivalencies were determined using total contained and payable metals and the respective ratio of Base Case metals prices.|
|3.||Evaluation includes financial impacts of the Company’s silver stream with Osisko Gold Royalties (OGR) but does not include the financial impact of its gold stream with OGR for which the majority of the upfront payments have yet to be received and for which there is uncertainty regarding the exact timing of these payments. See the Company’s Q1 2018 Financial Statements and MD&A available on SEDAR for additional details regarding the gold stream.|
Figure 1 illustrates life of project production, payable production and cash flow that would result under the Base Case macro-economic scenario.
|Base Case||Base Case
|NPV (6% discount rate) (M)||102||259||416|
|NPV (6% discount rate) (M)||79||208||332|
|Payback Period (years)||3.3||2.2||1.5|
Aquila believes there are a number of opportunities available to the Company to improve the performance of the Project as currently outlined in the Feasibility Study, all of which require additional evaluation. These include:
The Feasibility Study Mineral Reserve Estimate does not consider any out of pit Mineral Resource. The Company believes there is an opportunity to develop the out of pit Mineral Resource, which currently stands at 3.7M tonnes (Measured + Indicated), but additional studies will be required to demonstrate the economic viability of an underground expansion. An underground expansion would also defer mine closure costs which currently commence in Year 8 at a nominal cost of $74.7M. The Company’s existing permits are for an open pit mine only and amendments and additional environmental studies would be required to allow underground mining. Aquila will soon be commencing an exploration drill program to further define the underground Mineral Resource.
Metallurgical test work and optimization is continuing with the objective of decreasing process plant cyanide consumption, water treatment costs and tailings treatment operability. Studies will also be undertaken to follow up on initial test results that have demonstrated increased copper recoveries particularly in the years of higher copper grades in the process plant feed.
Certain pre-construction activities have already commenced. The Company is finalizing its Project Execution Plan which will further define the Project development strategy including contracting philosophy, plans for basic and detailed engineering and any required permit amendments, as well as plans for building the owner’s team in preparation for the construction and operational readiness phases of the Back Forty Project.
The Company will continue discussions with prospective financial partners to secure the required capital to build the Back Forty Project. Aquila, with the assistance from its advisors, will consider all strategic and financial options available to the Company and the Project.
With its current cash resources and an additional $47.5M in staged payments that remain available to the Company under its gold stream purchase agreement with Osisko Gold Royalties Ltd, Aquila is well-financed to complete its planned pre-construction and exploration activities.
The Company will file the Feasibility Study Technical Report on SEDAR in accordance with NI 43-101 within 45 days of the date of this news release. Readers are cautioned that the conclusions, projections and estimates set out in this news release are subject to important qualifications, assumptions and exclusions, all of which are detailed in the Feasibility Study and Technical Report. To fully understand the summary information set out in this news release, the Technical Report to be filed on SEDAR should be read in its entirety.
This news release has been reviewed and approved by the Qualified Persons noted below. The Qualified Persons have reviewed or verified all information for which they are individually responsible.
|Qualified Person||Employer||Professional Designation|
|Neil Lincoln||Lycopodium Minerals Canada Ltd||P.Eng.|
|Eugene Puritch||P&E Mining Consultants Inc.||P.Eng.|
|David Penswick||Gibsonian Inc||P.Eng.|
|Kebreab Habte||Golder Associates||P.Eng.|
ABOUT AQUILA RESOURCES
Aquila Resources Inc. is a development‐stage company with strategic assets in the Great Lakes Region. The Company’s experienced management team is focused on advancing pre-construction and exploration activities for its 100%‐owned zinc‐ and gold‐rich Back Forty Project in Michigan.
Aquila’s flagship Back Forty Project is an open pit volcanogenic massive sulfide deposit with underground potential located along the mineral‐rich Penokean Volcanic Belt in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Project contains approximately 1.1B pounds of zinc and 1M ounces of gold in the Measured & Indicated Mineral Resource categories, with additional upside potential. Aquila has received all State and Federal permissions required for the construction and commencement of operations at the Back Forty Project.
The Company has three other exploration projects: Reef Gold Project located in Marathon County, Wisconsin, the Bend Project located in Taylor County, Wisconsin and Aquila Nickel located in the Upper Peninsula, Michigan. Reef is a gold-copper property and Bend is a volcanogenic massive sulfide occurrence containing copper and gold.
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