Aya Gold & Silver Inc. (TSX: AYA) (OTCQX: AYASF) is pleased to report interim financial and operational results for the first quarter ended March 31, 2022. All amounts are in US dollars unless otherwise stated.
“We had a slow start to the year as our focus on mining infrastructure, stope accesses, and backfilling historical stopes temporarily impacted our access to high-grade zones. February and March production and grade were less affected. I am pleased with the operational improvements since January and our on-schedule construction start-up, which included delivering on some key construction milestones in the quarter. Overall, Zgounder operations performed well, particularly as we kicked off our mine development program in the quarter,” said Benoit La Salle, President and CEO. “As development progresses, our access to richer ore and greater mining capacity will position us well for delivering 2022 production guidance. Mine development to date is also running to plan, with the FEED tracking slightly ahead of schedule.”
“Exploration at Zgounder continues to return impressive results that we expect to include in the updated resource statement later this year. We are excited to be completing geophysical surveys on our three key exploration properties and start adding value for all stakeholders through our next phase of exploration drilling. Combined with our clean balance sheet and strong development pipeline, we are just beginning our journey as one of the largest primary-silver producers.”
Q1-2022 Operational and Financial Highlights
|Key Performance Metrics||Q1-2022||Q1-2021||Variation
’22 vs ’21
|Ore Processed (tonnes)||62,001||48,472||28%|
|Average Grade (g/t Ag)||192||296||(35%)|
|Mill Recovery (%)||80.4||82.8||(3%)|
|Silver Ingots Produced (oz)||123,336||190,621||(35%)|
|Silver in Concentrate Produced (oz)||185,009||198,511||(7%)|
|Total Silver Produced (oz)||308,345||389,132||(21%)|
|Silver Ingots Sold (oz)||199,500||162,500||23%|
|Silver in Concentrate Sold (oz)||207,308||189,519||9%|
|Total Silver Sales (oz)||406,808||352,019||16%|
|Avg. Net Realized Silver ($/oz)||22.52||24.26||(7%)|
|Avg. Silver Production Cost ($/oz)||17.11||11.26||52%|
|Cost of Sales||6,961,784||3,963,251||76%|
|Operating (Loss) Income||(250,396)||2,458,478||(110%)|
|Net (Loss) Income||(1,962,249)||819,670||(339%)|
|Operating Cash Flows||(792,166)||4,223,564||(119%)|
|Cash and Restricted Cash||76,594,171||31,820,687||141%|
|Earnings (Loss) per Share – basic||(0.019)||0.009|
|Earnings (Loss) per Share – diluted||(0.019)||0.008|
Q1-2022 Operations Review
The focus in the first quarter of 2022 was on commencing development of the underground mine infrastructure to support the expansion. Initial development was completed on schedule with over 365m of permanent infrastructure completed and a new main portal opened. Several road segments were maintained, the base camp was refurbished, and the new administrative offices were fully completed. Additionally, a portion of the project construction team was mobilized on site to prepare the site for construction.
As mine development progresses and the new block model is incorporated in the planning, the mine operation sequencing has been updated to ensure that the ramp-up is aligned with the expansion project timeline.
Mine & Milling Operations
During the first quarter, 308,345 oz were produced at a global silver recovery of 80.4%. The cyanidation plant operated at 96% availability, and the flotation plant at 91.5%, resulting in a total milling rate of 689 tpd. A total of 62,001t were milled at a silver grade of 192 g/t. The lower ounces produced compared to Q1-2021 was directly related to lower grade mined as per the mine sequencing plan for the year and to a lack of ore on the ROM pad as the mining rate is equal to the processing rate.
Mine sequencing in the first quarter was planned to prioritize mining development infrastructure. Mine grade is expected to improve through the year as the recent block model is incorporated in the mine planning, new stopes are opened, and definition drilling accelerates. Delivery of additional mining equipment is expected in Q2-2022 that will provide Aya with more mining capacity than milling capacity. This will allow the Corporation to build up an ore stockpile beginning in Q3-2022.
Two significant capital infrastructure projects were completed during the first quarter: the new site administrative offices and the 60,000m3 water retention pond, the latter of which will benefit from the ongoing wet season. This water retention pond will secure Aya’s current water needs in the dry season. Improvement is ongoing at the camp, including sanitary installations for camp wastewater that will be used to irrigate the site vegetation.
A new jumbo was received for commissioning in Q2-2022. Furthermore, a 70t crane was delivered to facilitate plant maintenance that will also be useful during the upcoming expansion project. Surface roads between mine levels were improved to sustain interlevel production.
On February 22, 2022, Aya completed an expansion FS to grow Zgounder production from 700 tpd to 2,700 tpd capacity (see press release dated February 22, 2022) that includes a maiden reserve estimate of 8.59 Mt at an average grade of 257 g/t for 70.9 Moz Ag . The initial estimated capital expenditures are $139.4 million, and the first Ag pour is planned in Q1-2024. Post-expansion, the mine is expected to produce 7.9 Moz Ag for an initial life of mine of 11 years at an all-in sustaining cost (“AISC”) of $9.58/oz. Project economics, using a Ag price of $22 per oz, indicate an after-tax 5% present value of $373 million and an after-tax Internal Rate of Return of 48%. At a Ag price of $23.50, the NPV increases to $433M and the IRR to 54%.
In the first quarter, Aya began advancing the Zgounder expansion towards construction start-up by Q3-2022, notably by achieving the following items:
The first quarter saw Aya return high-grade DDH results that continued to expand the eastern zone and further defined the upper areas of the Zgounder Mine underground workings. Within Zgounder East, highlight intervals such as DZG-21-25 and DZF-21-27 extended the eastern strike and vertical depth beyond previously drilled intersections, increasing the resource envelope to the east. The vertical eastern zone remains open at depth. Below the Zgounder Mine area, underground infill drilling results such as DZG-SF-22-07 and T28-21-1988-272 defined wide zones of mineralisation above the 260 g/t Ag reserves grade that are situated below current mine galleries. All five DDHs drilled at depth to the granite contact returned high-grade mineralised intercepts with ZG-21-62 hitting 663 g/t Ag over 8.5m. A total of four rigs are currently operating on Zgounder, two on surface and two at depth.
At the end of the quarter, the geophysical airborne survey began over the Zgounder Regional permits. Results will be combined with those from the mapping program to generate targets for a drilling program later this year.
Drilling continued at Imiter bis in the first quarter, with 4,130m of DDH drilling completed mostly on three new targets (the North-West Zone, the Daoud Zone and the North-East Zone). A follow-up drilling section was also added north of the Middle Zone which had returned several promising results in the 2021 exploration program including 4.2m at 1.27g/t Au (IM-DD21-014) and 1.2m at 1.20 g/t Au (IM-DD21-016). The Corporation will build on these results with follow-up drilling in Q2-2022.
The airborne geophysical survey, which included magnetic, radiometric and electromagnetic surveys over 554 linear kilometers, was completed in April 2022.
A 349-line km airborne geophysical survey was completed in April 2022 and included magnetic, radiometric, and electromagnetic surveys. The 7,500m drill exploration program is scheduled to start in May 2022.
About Aya Gold & Silver Inc.
Aya Gold & Silver Inc. is a rapidly growing, Canada-based silver producer with operations in the Kingdom of Morocco.
The only TSX-listed pure silver mining company, Aya operates the high-grade Zgounder Silver Mine and is exploring its properties along the prospective South-Atlas Fault, several of which have hosted past-producing mines and historical resources. Aya’s Moroccan mining assets are complemented by its Tijirit Gold Project in Mauritania, which is being advanced to feasibility.
Aya’s management team has been focused on maximising shareholder value by anchoring sustainability at the heart of its operations, governance, and financial growth plans.
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We acknowledge the [financial] support of the Government of Canada.