Orezone Gold Corporation (TSX: ORE) (OTCQX: ORZCF) reported its operational and financial results for the three and six months ended June 30, 2023. The consolidated financial statements and Management’s Discussion and Analysis are available at www.orezone.com and on the Company’s profile on SEDAR+ at www.sedarplus.ca.
Patrick Downey, President and CEO, commented “The Bomboré mine delivered another solid quarter of gold production which allowed the Company to reduce its debt by a further $19.1 million while maintaining a healthy cash balance.During the quarter, the operations team successfully completed several mill maintenance tasks including a full mill re-line with a new liner design that will increase liner life going forward. Processed head grades were lower than modelled in the first half of 2023 as we encountered a greater intensity of historical artisanal depletion in certain near-surface higher-grade ore zones mined. As a result, we now forecast that 2023 gold production will trend towards the low-end of our guidance range with a modest increase in AISC guidance.
With our value enhancing initiatives, we are advancing fieldwork to connect to Burkina Faso’s national grid and remain on track to receive grid power before year-end. Once completed, this will significantly reduce our cost for power which is currently being generated using on-site diesel gensets rented from a third party. In addition, our Phase II hard rock expansion feasibility study and LOM plan update is nearing completion with release of study results planned for the end of September.”
SECOND QUARTER 2023 HIGHLIGHTS
1 Non-IFRS measures. See “Non-IFRS Measures” section below for additional details.
PRODUCTION AND FINANCIAL SUMMARY
Adjusted earnings, Adjusted earnings per share, and Free cash flow are non-IFRS measures. See “Non-IFRS Measures” section below for additional information.
The Company poured first gold on September 10, 2022 and declared commercial production on December 1, 2022 at its Bomboré mine. As a result, comparative figures for the corresponding quarter and year-to-date period in the prior year have not been presented as they are not meaningful as the Bomboré mine was under construction during this period. Operating and financial performance in the current quarter have been compared against Q1-2023 to highlight quarter-over-quarter movements in performance.
2023 Guidance Update
The Company previously issued 2023 gold production guidance of between 140,000 to 155,000 oz with AISC per gold ounce sold in the range of $1,010 to $1,110. The Company is now forecasting 2023 gold production at the bottom end of its guidance range. Greater-than-anticipated artisanal depletion has been encountered in certain high-grade zones mined to the end of H1-2023 which has resulted in lower-than-modelled ore grades being delivered to the process plant. Significant artisanal workings were encountered in H1-2023 but evidence of artisanal activity has diminished as the Company mines towards lower pit benches. As a result, the Company expects historical artisanal activity to have less influence on the modelled mined grades in H2-2023. In addition, the mining contractor is currently approximately 10% behind plan in terms of material movement which has delayed access to areas of higher-grade ore. A second mining contractor, currently on-site assisting with the expansion of the tailings storage facility, has been hired on a temporary basis to improve mining volumes and to catch-up to plan by the end of 2023.
As planned, the Company has processed its last remaining stockpiles of higher-grade ore accumulated during construction in June 2023, and therefore, gold production in H2-2023 is expected to decline from production levels realized in H1-2023, offsetting the benefits of greater mining volumes and expected lower artisanal depletion.
AISC per ounce sold for 2023 is now revised upwards to $1,100 – $1,180, up from the previous guidance range of $1,010 – $1,110. The cost increase is driven mainly by the lower forecasted gold production and head grades. Other contributing factors include persistently high local diesel prices which affect both mining costs and on-site power generation, a stronger XOF currency, and additional government royalties from a higher-than-budgeted realized gold price.
BOMBORÉ GOLD MINE (100% BASIS) – OPERATING HIGHLIGHTS
Bomboré Production Results
Gold production in Q2-2023 was 35,482 oz, a decrease of 14% from the 41,301 oz produced in Q1-2023. The drop in gold production is attributable to decreases in head grades of 9%, plant throughput of 3%, and plant recoveries of 2% as compared to the prior quarter.
Head grades were lower in Q2 due to mine sequencing, greater prevalence of historical artisanal activity in areas mined, and the mill feed prioritization of better grade ore stockpiles in Q1.
Plant throughput declined marginally from Q1 which exceeded nameplate by approximately 13%. Lower plant availability in Q2 was the result of routine maintenance for the installation of newly designed mill liners in April 2023 and the replacement of worn shafts in the front-end mineral sizer in late May 2023. All major planned maintenance is now complete for 2023 with plant throughput expected to trend upwards again towards record levels.
As mining deepens in certain pits, the quantity of transition ore is starting to increase. The presence of transition ore results in slightly lower metallurgical recovery and the generation of additional ball mill scats that must be recirculated through the circuit to achieve the required grind size fraction. Consequently, plant recoveries were slightly lower in Q2 as compared to Q1.
To improve the treatment efficiency of scats and to crush hard oversize transition material, the Company has acquired a used mobile crushing system (a jaw crusher and a cone crusher) in good condition to pre-treat transition ore ahead of the ROM dump pocket and to crush scats prior to recirculation. The system is currently in transit from overseas and is scheduled to be placed into operations by the end of October 2023. This system will also provide additional process plant operational flexibility once the future Phase II Hard Rock plant expansion is in operation.
Bomboré Operating Costs
AISC per gold ounce sold in Q2-2023 was $1,109, an increase of 20% from the AISC per gold ounce sold of $926 in Q1-2023. The increase in AISC was mainly driven by a combination of lower head grades, plant throughput, and recovery as explained above, higher unit operating costs, and timing of sustaining capital. Cash cost per ore tonne processed increased by 10% from $18.95 per tonne in Q1 to $20.91 per tonne in Q2 due primarily to lower plant throughput and higher processing costs for maintenance from the mill re-line and sizer shaft change-outs, and greater consumption of lime, grinding media, and power to treat a larger percentage of transition ore and scats. Site G&A also increased modestly from the planned spending increase on site security improvements including additional reinforcements of highly-trained guards and a greater frequency of patrols on and around the mining permit.
Bomboré Growth Capital Projects
Grid Power Connection
The project to connect Bomboré to Burkina Faso’s national grid continues to advance and remains on schedule for completion before the end of the 2023 year.
All long lead equipment orders are in fabrication with certain deliveries already received at site. The main installation contractors have mobilized and fieldwork has commenced for the switching station, the main on-site substation, and the transmission line towers. SONABEL, Burkina Faso’s state-owned electricity company, has approved the required drawings and designs for the powerline and substations while land compensation under the direction of SONABEL and ground clearing for the transmission line corridor are essentially complete. Pouring of concrete foundations for the 56 transmission towers are on-going with the first shipment of transmission towers and stringing gear expected to arrive in August 2023. The Company is reviewing opportunities to accelerate or to mitigate risks to schedule. The Company has also initiated discussions to formalize a power purchase agreement with SONABEL following the memorandum of understanding signed between the parties earlier in the year.
Resettlement Action Plan (“RAP”) Phases II and III
RAP Phases II and III involve the construction of four new resettlement villages (MV3, MV2, BV2, and BV1). The Company has sequenced MV3 as the first village to construct in order to gain access to mining areas that are currently contemplated in the 2024 mine plan. MV3 is the largest of the resettlement villages and requires the erection of over 1,200 private homes and public structures.
RAP construction is currently behind schedule as the construction start for the MV3 village was delayed for two months as communities conducted sacred ceremonies for the new resettlement grounds. The Company has engaged several local contractors to complete homes on distinct lots within the MV3 site. To improve the pace of construction, the Company has commenced the award of work to additional contractors along with the recruitment of a small owner’s team to assist with procurement of building material and site construction activities.
RAP compensation for displaced households began in late Q2-2023 and has continued into Q3-2023.
2023 Feasibility Study Update for the Phase II Expansion
The 2019 feasibility study contemplated the construction of a 2.2M tonnes per annum (“tpa”) hard rock facility which would commence production in the third year of oxide operations. Based on the mineral reserves outlined in the 2019 FS, the overall plant capacity was to remain at a nominal 5.2Mtpa, comprising of 3.0Mtpa of oxides and 2.2Mtpa of hard rock, resulting in an average gold production profile of 134K oz per year for the first ten years of commercial operations.
Subsequent to the 2019 FS, over 150,000 m of drilling has been completed leading to the discovery of the near surface P17NE deposit and extensions of other known higher grade hard rock zones within the main Bomboré deposit. Results of drilling undertaken in 2022 are expected to successfully convert Inferred resources of higher grade hard rock material into the Measured and Indicated categories.
The Company expects the new hard rock expansion will be sized as a 4.4Mtpa standalone circuit to operate independently and in parallel to the existing 5.7Mtpa oxide circuit, a notable increase to the 5.2Mtpa combined circuit in the 2019 FS. The Company has chosen to expand the circuit size to 10.1Mtpa as it believes recent drilling successes have demonstrated that the Bomboré mine is capable of supporting a larger annual operation. The Bomboré deposit remains open to further extensions and potential new discoveries from future drilling.
Metallurgical test work is complete and confirms more rapid leach kinetics than those contemplated in the 2019 FS, leading to a significant reduction in required leach time from the 42 hours shown in the 2019 FS to the estimated 24 hours to be used in plant design for the 2023 FS. Flowsheet development is also complete and will follow the same design (e.g. carbon-in-leach and elution circuits) of the current operations where feasible to standardize equipment and processes. Firm quotes have been received for the SAG mill, which is on the critical path, and budgetary quotes for all other major equipment are in hand and under evaluation and will form the basis for the expansion capital estimate. Modelling of the new mineral resource estimate has concluded with modelling of the new mineral reserve estimate well-advanced. The Company remains on track to release the study results by the end of Q3-2023.
The Company has held early discussions with its senior lender, Coris Bank, about their participation in this future Phase II Expansion. Coris Bank has indicated they are supportive of this expansion and the Company intends to launch more formal discussions with Coris Bank as it draws closer to completing the 2023 FS when information about the new expansion economics and capital requirements are better known.
The Company has included certain terms or performance measures commonly used in the mining industry that is not defined under IFRS, including “cash costs”, “AISC”, “EBITDA”, “adjusted EBITDA”, “adjusted earnings”, “adjusted earnings per share”, and “free cash flow”. Non-IFRS measures do not have any standardized meaning prescribed under IFRS, and therefore, they may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other companies. The Company uses such measures to provide additional information and they should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for measures of performance prepared in accordance with IFRS. For a complete description of how the Company calculates such measures and reconciliation of certain measures to IFRS terms, refer to “Non-IFRS Measures” in the Management’s Discussion and Analysis for the three and six months ended June 30, 2023 which is incorporated by reference herein.
The scientific and technical information in this news release was reviewed and approved by Dr. Pascal Marquis, Geo., Senior Vice President of Exploration, Mr. Rob Henderson, P. Eng, Vice President of Technical Services, and Mr. Patrick Downey, P.Eng. President and CEO, all of whom are Qualified Persons as defined under NI 43-101 Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.
About Orezone Gold Corporation
Orezone Gold Corporation is a Canadian mining company operating the open pit Bomboré Gold Mine in Burkina Faso.
Orezone is focusing on mining and processing the Phase I near surface free-dig oxides at a planned annual throughput of 5.7 million tonnes. The Company believes that Bomboré has a significant underlying sulphide resource to support a substantially larger Phase II expansion. The Company has recently completed a resource definition drill program, and plans to issue an updated mineral resource, reserve and life of mine plan, as part of this Phase II expansion. It is expected that the pending study will be completed in Q3-2023 to be followed by a production decision.
Orezone is led by an experienced team focused on social responsibility and sustainability with a proven track record in project construction and operations, financings, capital markets and M&A.
The technical report for the 2019 Feasibility Study on the Bomboré Project entitled NI 43-101 Technical Report (Amended) Feasibility Study of the Bomboré Gold Project is available on SEDAR+ under the Company’s profile at www.sedarplus.ca.
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