Note (1): Gold equivalent for Q1 2023 is calculated based on: gold $1,890 per ounce; silver $22.55 per ounce; and copper $4.05 per pound.
K92 Mining Inc. (TSX: KNT) (OTCQX: KNTNF) announces production results for the first quarter of 2023 at its Kainantu Gold Mine in Papua New Guinea, of 21,488 oz AuEq or 17,593 oz gold, 1,651,297 lbs copper and 29,859 oz silver. Sales during the first quarter were 17,602 oz gold, 1,538,590 lbs copper and 29,164 oz silver.
During the first quarter, the process plant delivered a strong quarterly ore processing rate of 117,903 tonnes or 1,310 tpd, our third highest quarter on record despite experiencing 8 days of combined unplanned maintenance. The unplanned plant maintenance occurred in February due to a mill trunnion bearing failure (2 days downtime) and a limited electrical fire in a cable tray, which damaged a number of cables feeding the wet section of the process plant (6 days downtime) (see February 27, 2023 press release).
After completion of the unplanned maintenance in February, the process plant performed very strongly, setting a new monthly ore processed record of 1,490 tpd in March which is 9% greater than the Stage 2A Expansion design throughput of 1,370 tpd. Additionally, multiple new daily throughput records were achieved during the quarter including 1,726 tonnes processed on February 26, 1,773 tonnes processed on February 28, 1,802 tonnes processed on March 3 and 1,815 tonnes processed on March 11. Importantly these records were achieved prior to the final major upgrade to the Stage 2A Expansion process plant, the flotation expansion to double rougher capacity, which is planned for commissioning in Q2 and is expected to provide a boost to metallurgical recoveries and flexibility to potentially increase throughput further.
Mine performance during the first quarter recorded 117,865 tonnes of ore mined, an 18% increase from Q1 2022, and delivered a total material mined (ore plus waste) of 277,534 tonnes mined, representing an increase of 33% from Q1 2022. During the quarter, operations focused on Kora’s K1 and K2 veins, and Judd’s J1 Vein for a total of 8 levels mined. Mining on Kora was conducted on the 1130, 1150, 1170, 1205, 1265 and 1285 levels, and Judd on the 1285 and 1305 levels.
The operation delivered head grades of 5.21 g/t gold, 0.70% copper and 10.14 g/t silver (6.35 g/t AuEq) in Q1. Metallurgical recoveries averaged 89.1% for gold and 91.3% for copper during the quarter, with recoveries expected to improve upon the commissioning of the flotation expansion planned in Q2 2023. Head grade was notably impacted, during the second half of the quarter, when underground mining encountered an area with more challenging ground conditions than expected, associated with where the K1 and K2 veins almost converge, which impacted our production stoping rates and access to higher grade ore. Generally, in this situation, mill feed would be supplemented by mining from additional mining fronts as we mine through the impacted area more slowly. However, due to development rates being below budget for several quarters during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the alternative mining areas were not yet developed, therefore supplementing from our low-grade stockpile was required (see March 30, 2023 press release, and see Figure 1).
Operationally, as previously disclosed, we expect Q2 production to be moderately below budget, with the second half of 2023 being our strongest in terms of production and 2023 production being within the bottom half of the guidance range (see March 30, 2023 press release).
The anticipated strength of the second half of 2023 is driven by an expected significant increase to our operational flexibility and stope sequencing. In terms of operational flexibility, it is important to highlight the following positive trends:
See Figure 1: Quarterly Total Ore Processed, Development Metres Advanced and Total Mined Material Chart
See Figure 2: Daily Ore Processed Records Chart
COVID-19 Operational Resiliency
The Kainantu Gold Mine operates under a comprehensive COVID-19 Management Plan that has continuously operated during the pandemic. A considerable focus is on health and safety and risk-mitigation. Under the COVID-19 Management Plan, K92 has established a Government-recognized testing lab facility utilizing qualified medical personnel on site, set up quarantine and isolation facilities for incoming staff (currently not in use), and implemented enhanced hygiene, disinfecting and training systems and procedures. A focus has been towards supporting Government efforts at a national, provincial and local level through the 1.5 million PGK (Papua New Guinea Kina) COVID-19 Assistance Fund, and a further 1.0 million PGK of additional assistance funding to Eastern Highlands Province.
In addition to our various control measures, K92 continues to make considerable progress increasing resiliency through vaccinations of our expatriate and PNG national workforce, with vaccinations continuing to be administered on site. Over 75% of our workforce (employees and contractors) have received at least one vaccine dose. The Company is in close communications with the provincial and national health authorities of Papua New Guinea and the Government of Australia in addition to the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Mines and Petroleum to deliver an effective pandemic response.
Table 1 – Q1 2023 & 2022 Annual Production Data
|Q2 2022||Q3 2022||Q4 2022||2022||Q1 2023|
|Feed Grade Au||g/t||8.3||7.2||8.7||8.8||8.3||5.2|
|Feed Grade Cu||%||0.76%||0.56%||0.72%||0.74%||0.70%||0.70%|
|Recovery (%) Au||%||90.9%||91.0%||88.9%||91.2%||90.4%||89.1%|
|Recovery (%) Cu||%||91.1%||90.9%||88.4%||91.8%||90.5%||91.3%|
|Metal in Conc & Dore Prod Au||Oz||24,152||22,934||29,256||31,204||107,546||17,593|
|Metal in Conc Prod Cu||T||692||558||756||829||2,834||749|
|Metal in Conc Prod Ag||Oz||28,142||25,224||32,161||40,517||126,043||29,859|
|Gold Equivalent Production||Oz||28,188||26,085||32,995||35,538||122,806||21,488|
Note – Gold equivalent for Q1 2023 is calculated based on: gold $1,890 per ounce; silver $22.55 per ounce; and copper $4.05 per pound. Gold equivalent for 2022 is calculated based on: gold $1,793 per ounce; silver $22 per ounce; and copper $3.95 per pound. Gold equivalent for Q4 2022 is calculated based on: gold $1,728 per ounce; silver $21 per ounce; and copper $3.63 per pound. Gold equivalent for Q3 2022 is calculated based on: gold $1,730 per ounce; silver $19 per ounce; and copper $3.51 per pound. Gold equivalent for Q2 2022 is calculated based on: gold $1,870 per ounce; silver $23 per ounce; and copper $4.32 per pound. Gold equivalent for Q1 2022 is calculated based on: gold $1,879 per ounce; silver $24 per ounce; and copper $4.53 per pound.
John Lewins, K92 Chief Executive Officer and Director, stated, “While the first quarter was more challenging than expected, there were many positives that we can build on for the operation going forward.
Firstly, the performance of the process plant was very strong, setting a new monthly ore processed record in March of 1,490 tpd, 9% greater than the Stage 2A Expansion Rate. Multiple new daily records were also set during the quarter, with the latest record now standing at 1,815 ore tonnes processed on March 11th. Importantly, this strong performance has been achieved prior to the commissioning of the flotation expansion for the Stage 2A Expansion that is planned for Q2 and is expected to provide a boost to metallurgical recoveries and flexibility to potentially increase throughput further.
On the underground mine, we see operational flexibility significantly improving over the coming weeks and months, driven by our recent record development advance rates, multiple key pieces of equipment now on site, and, a new mining front at depth in H2 serviced by our twin incline that is significantly oversized for not just the Stage 2A Expansion (500,000 tpa) throughput rate but also Stage 4 (1.7 mtpa).
And lastly, we are very excited about our exploration plans for 2023. In Q1, exploration continued to expand the drilled deposit extents at our Kora-Kora South and Judd-Judd South vein system (see February 21, 2023 press release), and porphyry drilling also recently commenced on A1, our top copper-gold porphyry target.”
K92 Mine Geology Manager and Mine Exploration Manager, Andrew Kohler, PGeo, a qualified person under the meaning of Canadian National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects, has reviewed and is responsible for the technical content of this news release. Data verification by Mr. Kohler includes significant time onsite reviewing drill core, face sampling, underground workings, and discussing work programs and results with geology and mining personnel.
K92 Mining Inc. is engaged in the production of gold, copper and silver at the Kainantu Gold Mine in the Eastern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea, as well as exploration and development of mineral deposits in the immediate vicinity of the mine. The Company declared commercial production from Kainantu in February 2018, is in a strong financial position. A maiden resource estimate on the Blue Lake porphyry project was completed in August 2022. K92 is operated by a team of mining company professionals with extensive international mine-building and operational experience.
Figure 1: Quarterly Total Ore Processed, Development Metres Advanced and Total Mined Material Chart
Figure 2: Ore Processed Daily Records Chart
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