Volta Resources announces robust pre-feasibility study and mandating of project finance advisor for its Kiaka Gold Project in Burkina Faso

- Pre Tax Project NPV(8%) = $548M -

- Pre Tax Project IRR = 23.3% -

TORONTO, May 3, 2012 /CNW/ - Volta Resources Inc. ("Volta Resources" or the "Company") (TSX: VTR) announces the results of a pre-feasibilty Study (the "Study") carried out on the Kiaka Gold Project ("the Project") in southern Burkina Faso.  The Study was carried out by independent consultants, Tetra Tech Wardrop ("Tetra Tech") out of Swindon in the UK.  The Study discusses scope, design features and the economic viability of the Project.  All references to currency are in USD unless otherwise noted.

The independent Study for the Project demonstrates a robust gold development opportunity with the following highlights:

  • Proven and Probable Mineral Reserves of 126.08 million tonnes at a diluted grade of 0.96 g/t Au for 3.89 million ounces, representing a conversion from Measured & Indicated Mineral Resources to Proven and Probable Mineral Reserves of 96%.
  • A base case evaluation using:
    • Owner mining 12 million tonnes per annum of gold ore from a single open pit in the Kiaka Central Area at a strip ratio of 2.95:1,
    • Crushed and processed in two parallel trains of 6 million tonnes per annum, each comprising Semi-Autogenous ("SAG") mill, Ball mill and Carbon in Pulp ("CIP") leach circuit achieving an average metallurgical recovery of 89.84%,
    • Annual production of 340,000 ounces of gold per year over a life of mine of 10.3 years.
  • Initial capital costs of 609.7 million
  • Average on-site operating costs of US$ 671/ounce.
  • Pre-tax NPV of 548 million, assuming a 1,372 per ounce gold price and an 8% discount rate,
  • Pre-tax IRR of 23.3% with a 4.3 year payback on initial capital.

Kevin Bullock, Volta's President and CEO, said, "These are monumental results for Volta that widely exceeded our expectations and place Volta firmly on the path to production.  It's notable that the strong economic benefits arise from conservative assumptions and, along with numerous options for optimization, we are confident that we can make these numbers even more powerful. We will continue our aggressive pace toward production.  We will continue drilling our new high grade deposit and conclude various technical tasks in order to begin a feasibility study as soon as possible."

The Study is based exclusively on the mineral resources defined in the Kiaka Central Area.  Drilling undertaken 750 metres south of the Kiaka Central Area has identified the potential for an open-pit high grade satellite resource (see press release of February 14, 2012).  The drilling has so far identified continuous high grade mineralization over a strike length of more than 175 metres to a vertical depth of 60 metres.  In addition, potential parallel high grade zones, arranged en echelon, have also been intersected.  The Company is currently drilling this target with a view to defining a maiden mineral resource estimate at the Kiaka South Area in early Q3 2012. The close proximity of a possible high grade satellite resource offers the project the opportunity for commencing production at a considerably higher grade.  Currently the Kiaka South Area is not included in the Company's mineral resources estimates, mineral reserve estimates or in the Study.

Mandating of Financial Advisor

The scale and robustness of the Project has resulted in multiple expressions of interest from a range of banks and project finance advisory groups seeking to assist the Company in exploring appropriate financing arrangements for the project. Following review of proposals submitted, the company is pleased to announce that it has selected Standard Bank to provide advice on securing the financing for the Project development.

Standard Bank's Head of Mining, Energy & Infrastructure Lending, Don Hultman, commented: "We are delighted with the opportunity to work with Volta's experienced management team to ensure the successful funding and development of their Kiaka Gold Project. Kiaka is proving to be one of the most exciting new gold projects in West Africa, with a considerable resource, strong annual production and potential for economic upside from identified satellite resources."

Engagement of Whittle Consulting to undertake optimization studies

The Study has identified a number of opportunities to significantly optimize the Project.  Volta has engaged Whittle Consulting to undertake a Project optimization study to highlight areas to focus on during the Definitive Feasibility Study. The main benefit of Whittle Consulting's approach lies in its unique ability to optimize all parts of the business together. Novel philosophy and methodology are applied by highly experienced personnel, backed by advanced proprietary software ("Prober") developed in stages over the past twenty five years. This will enhance cash flow in the early years, thereby further improving NPV and reducing the payback period to provide stronger project economics.

Study Overview

This prefeasibility study has been completed to National Instrument 43-101 (NI 43-101) reporting standards, discusses scope, design features and economic viability of the Kiaka Gold Project (the Project), located in Southern Burkina Faso.

Key Project Data (assuming US$ 1,372 / ounce of gold)
Ore Mined
Waste Mined
Total Material Mined
Total Mill Mill Feed Processed
Open Pit Mine Life
Contained Gold
Recovered Gold
Average Strip Ratio
Average Diluted Grade
Average Gold Recovery
Average Annual Tonnes Processed
Average Annual Production
126.08 Mt
372.52 Mt
498.60 Mt
126.08 Mt
10.3 years
3,888 Koz
3,493 Koz
2.95 : 1
0.96 g/t
89.84%
12.00 Mt
340,000oz
Initial CAPEX
Average OPEX
NPV8%
IRR
Payback
609.7 US$M
671 US$
548 US$M
23.30%
4.3 years

*  Volta Resources' ultimate ownership of the Project is 81%, with a local Burkinabe Company holding 9% as a particpating partner and the Burkina Faso state owning a 10% free carried interest. 
*  Project economics are pre-tax. 

Tetra Tech worked with additional qualified consulting companies that have taken responsibility for various portions of the Study.  The areas of responsibility for each consultant are listed below:

  • Tetra Tech (UK) - Overall project management, mineral reserves, mining methods, metallurgical design, all mine infrastructure, environmental summary, economic analysis, capital and operating costs pertaining to mining, processing and infrastructure, including general and administration costs (G&A) costs.
  • Energy and Power Consultants Ltd. (E&P) (UK) - Mine power solution comprising of an option study investigating potential alternatives including grid supply, photovoltaic (PV) and light fuel oil (LFO) and heavy fuel oil (HFO) options.
  • SRK Consulting (UK) Ltd. (SRK) - Drilling, sample preparation and security, data verification, mineral resource estimates, hydrology and hydrogeology and geochemistry.  SRK are also conducting the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) as a concurrent body of work.

Mineral Resource

SRK completed an independent mineral resource estimate for the Kiaka Central Area in March 2012 (see press release March 21, 2012).  The results are summarized in the table below:

Mineral Resources *
 
Tonnes
(Mt)
Grade
(g/t)
Contained Gold
(Koz)
Measured
Indicated
31.37
86.05
1.13
1.05
1,135
2,894
Subtotal (M&I) 117.42 1.07 4,029
Inferred 29.96 1.00 1,000

*  NI43-101 Resource estimate completed by SRK Cardiff in March 2012 
* Cut-off grade of 0.60 g/t applied
*  Whittle shell of $1,400 /oz used
* Mineral Resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstated economic viability

Mineral Reserve

Tetra Tech applied the Lerchs-Grossman optimization algorithm using Gemcom Whittle-4D V4.4 Software™ to evaluate the mineral resource model provided by SRK.  Assumptions used were prevailing mining, process and G&A costs, an average CIP gold recovery based on existing test work, pit slopes recommended based on a visual assessment, a designed production rate of 12 million tonnes per annum of ore for 365 days and a gold price of $1,372 per ounce.  A pit design was completed guided by the results obtained from Gemcom Whittle™.  The diluted Proven and Probable Mineral Reserve estimated by Tetra Tech within a final open pit are given in the table below:

Mineral Reserves*
 
Tonnes
(Mt)
Grade
(g/t)
Contained Gold
(Koz)
Proven
Probable
34.38
91.70
1.04
0.93
1,146
2,742
Total (Proven & Probable) 126.08 0.96 3,888
Total Waste Mined
Strip Ratio
372.52
2.95
 
 
 
 

*  Mining Recovery of 97% and dilution of 5% applied
*  Cut-off Grade of 0.40 g/t applied
*  Selling price of gold used US $ 1,372 / oz

Mining

Tetra Tech designed an optimum open pit with final dimensions of 860 x 1,360 metres to a depth of 440 metres and starter pit and a three stage pushback phased mining plan. The plan anticipates an average production of 33,000 tonnes per day (of gold ore) and a plus 10-year LOM production of 126 Mt (of gold ore).

A total of 373 Mt of waste will be stored in either low grade mineral waste dumps or grade strategic stockpiles adjacent to the open pit.  Open pit mining operations will be conducted by conventional drill/blast and load/haul using 177 tonne ore trucks, 177 tonne waste trucks and shovels on initial 12 metre benches for waste and 6 m benches for exploitation of mineralized zones.

Metallurgical

Mineralogical test work has established the chemical and physical properties of the ores.  Dynamic leach test work established that the gold is largely disseminated as free gold on grain boundaries or micro fractures, with little association with sulphides, indicating that the gold is 'free milling' non refractory ore, with significant liberation occurring at a grind size of approximately 80% passing 75 microns (µm).

Metallurgical test work has investigated, crushing and grinding, as well as preliminary investigations of high pressure grinding roller (HPGR) crushing and SAG grinding.  Combinations of gravity concentration, flotation concentration and cyanide leaching have all been tested based on well-established non-refractory gold process flowsheets.

Tetra Tech has made a comprehensive comparison of six different process flowsheet options identified in the scoping study to process a design throughput of 12 million tonnes per annum (Mt/a).  The objective of this comparison was to identify the lowest cost, lowest energy and highest gold recovery flowsheet.

The options considered in this study were:

  • Base Case - Conventional crushing followed by grinding and carbon in leach (CIL).
  • HPGR - Conventional and HPGR crushing followed by grinding and CIL.
  • Gravity - Conventional crushing followed by grinding, gravity concentration, intensive cyanidation and CIL.
  • Flotation - Conventional crushing followed by grinding, flotation and CIL of concentrates.
  • SAG CIL - SAG milling followed by CIL.
  • SAG CIP - SAG milling followed by leaching and CIP.

Capital costs for each option were established by creating mass and water balances and an equipment list.

The evaluations of these flowsheets were conducted solely on gold recovery based on available test work results, capital cost, operating cost and installed power.  The results from this study concluded that a SAG CIP would provide the most cost effective solution and is briefly described below.

Run of Mine (ROM) is processed by a single closed circuit jaw crusher, operating seven days a week to produce a P80 product of -300 millimetres.  The crusher product will be delivered, by conveyor to a crushed ore stock pile, with two full day's operation capacity.

The stockpile will feed two identical process trains incorporating SAG/ball milling and CIP leaching.  The double train configuration, each capable of handling 50% of the process feed, will enable the opportunity to phase the plant construction reducing initial capital investment.  On completion of construction, the twin-train arrangement will also provide the added operational stability of a 50% downturn, during times of campaign maintenance or unforeseen downtime.

The mill plant is designed to operate 365 days a year processing 12 million tonnes per annum, which equates to 34,607 tonnes per day, with an overall plant utilisation of 95%.

The SAG mills which are in closed circuit with an inline pebble crusher, will feed a ball mill with F80 1.7 mm material.  Each ball mill is in closed circuit with classifying hydroclones which will deliver material to the CIP leaching circuit at a rate of 4,542 cubic metres per hour.

The mill circuit will feed two trains of 12 leach tanks followed by six carousel-type CIP pumpcells.  Each pumpcell unit contains approximately 15 tonnes of carbon and one unit per carousel arrangement is emptied approximately every two days.

The carbon is then pressure stripped with a 145 Degrees Celsius (°C) caustic solution to re-dissolve the precious metals into a high grade (HG) pregnant solution which flows through six 3.54 cubic metre conventional electrowinning cells, in parallel.  Each cell will contain 33 cathodes (stainless steel basketless) and 35 anodes (stainless steel punch plate) to produce cathodes suitable for direct smelting on site.  The precious metal sludge which forms on the cathode, is recovered as filter cake, before being treated in an electric drying oven at temperatures up to 450°C for 10 hours.

The dried and partially calcined, sludge is then mixed with fluxes and fed to a diesel fired tilting induction furnace at a temperature of 1,050°C.  Doré gold bars are subsequently cast into 25 kilogram moulds and cleaned before being sampled.  Over the LOM an average of 7.99 doré gold bars will be poured per week and transferred to a vault for later transport to the refinery.

Based on the proposed mining schedule the total LOM production would be 126.08 Mt at approximately 12 Mt/a.  Over the life of the mine the total gold content held within this material is 3,888Koz Au, which takes in to account the proposed heads of 1.3 and 0.7 g/t Au for the two different ore types being processed. The expected gold recovery is 89.84% Au which will produce an estimated 3,493,000 ounces of gold over the LOM.

Infrastructure

The Project will be developed over an approximate area of 24 km2 that will require a number of infrastructure elements, which will generally be constructed at the early stage of the operation.  The most important components are as follows:

  • Tailings Management Facility (TMF).
  • Access road from the nearby county road to the mine site.
  • Internal road network connecting the open pit, mine facilities and the camp site.
  • Perimeter security fencing with guard houses.
  • Flood control dam with a clay core, to prevent flooding of the open pit from the adjacent Nakambé River.
  • Raw water management infrastructure, including a network of drainage ditches, dewatering wells around the open pit, pumps and water storage ponds.
  • Fresh water supply to treat and distribute process, potable and fire water, including pumps, a pipe network, water treatment plants and storage tanks.
  • Water treatment infrastructure, including detoxification and sewage treatment facilities.
  • Waste management systems for sewage and domestic waste disposal.
  • Fuel storage and distribution facilities.
  • Power supply and distribution system, including HFO storage tanks and a HFO power generation plant.
  • Explosive storage facility with safety berm and perimeter security system.
  • Temporary and permanent camps with recreation area.
  • Process plant with overhead cranes, electrical rooms, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, storages, laboratory, toilets, offices and a rooftop helicopter landing pad.
  • Ancillary structures, including administration, heavy vehicle workshop, warehouse and laboratory buildings.

Capital and Operating Costs

Tetra Tech used standard industry practices, including consultations with engineers, procurement specialists and cost estimators along with input from Volta (Owner's costs) in arriving at an initial capital expenditure (CAPEX) estimate of $609.7 million including an overall contingency of 10% of direct costs. The CAPEX does not include escalation of costs, interest payments, exchange rates, scope changes, schedule or permit delays, or taxes.

A summary of the CAPEX is provided in provided below:

Project Capital Area
 
Cost
US $M
Mining & Pre-production development
Process Plant
Tailings Management Facility
Infrastructure
Utilities
89.69
212.72
32.01
50.18
71.24
Total Direct Costs 455.82
Total Indirect Costs (including Owner's Costs) 153.86
Total CAPEX 609.68

 

Using the same criteria, Tetra Tech have estimated a total sustaining capital cost of US$230.5 million starting during the first full year of production (Year 1) and running over a 10-year period.

Tetra Tech calculated a total operating expenditure (OPEX) of $18.30 per tonne (/t) (of ore) which includes a mining cost of $6.40 per tonne, processing cost of $10.90 per tonne and an all in G&A cost of $1.00 per tonne.  A summary of the operating costs is provided below:

Category
 
Average Cost
US $/t milled
Mining
Processing
General & Administration
6.40
10.90
1.00
Total Direct Costs 18.30

 

This translates to cash operating cost of US$ 671 per accountable ounce produced.

Environmental

The current environmental and social baseline investigations have been completed under the management and supervision of SRK.  They include the following aspects:

  • Environmental Studies - Geology and geomorphology, soils, land use, climate, water, ecology and biodiversity, air quality, noise and traffic.
  • Social Studies - Socio-economic indicators including, demography, migration, housing and settlements, health, gender, education and literacy, livelihoods, living standards, social infrastructure, communications, cultural heritage, archaeology.

The SRK Scoping Report also described the regulatory framework for ESIA within Burkina Faso together with international obligations for the project.  These include the Equator Principles, utilised by the majority of lending banks, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards (PS) and World Bank Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) guidelines, which are generally considered to be best international practice and the Treaties and Conventions that are relevant to the Project development.  The baseline studies undertaken satisfy the regulatory requirements and meet the standard expected by the Equator Principles and the IFC Standards. Currently the IFC is an equity shareholder of the Company.

Economic Analysis

Tetra Tech has completed a base case, 100% equity, pre-tax, economic analysis of the Project based on the following:

  • Price of gold - $1,372 per ounce
  • Total LOM production of 126.08 Mt of ore.
  • Average diluted grade of 0.96 g/t Au and average recovery of 89.84% Au.
  • Total of 3,493 Koz Au recovered over the LOM and a mean of 340,000oz Au recovered per year.
  • LOM at mine revenue of $4,451 million with a total OPEX of $2,292 million and a total CAPEX of $840 million (including sustaining capital).

The resulting discounted cash flow NPV at 8% is $548 million; the IRR is 23.3% and the payback period is 4.3 years.

In addition to the possible impact on overall economics that could result from variations in CIP recoveries or ore grades, sensitivity analyses show that the project economics are particularly sensitive to changes in gold price with lesser influence from operating and capital costs.  It is apparent that increases in gold price would have a very significant positive impact on profitability of the Project.

Project Execution

Tetra Tech has provided a project execution schedule that includes studies, financing periods and project execution leading to commissioning and production ramp up to steady state.  Tetra Tech has recommended traditional Engineering, Procurement and Construction Management (EPCM) with a timetable that runs from January 2013 until start of production in February 2015.

Recommendations & Conclusions

Tetra Tech concludes that the Project is economically viable and recommends that the Project proceeds to a feasibility study contingent on completion of site and mine geotechnical evaluation and further metallurgical test work as detailed in this report.

Exploration drilling, conducted by Volta during the duration of this study, has identified mineralised extensions to the south of the proposed pit area that could be evaluated in the subsequent study phases.  The potential contribution of this extension is currently unknown.

Based on the recommendations and conclusions Volta Resources will immediately send out Requests For Proposals ("RFP's") to carry out a Definative Feasibility Study.

A copy of the NI 43-101 technical report for the Study will be posted on SEDAR within the next 45 days.

Volta Resources will be engaging in a search for a new CFO to replace Mr. Alan Rootenberg, who will be persuing a new career opportunity.  The Company wishes to thank Mr. Alan Rootenberg for his tireless efforts to date and wishes him success in his future endeavours.

About Volta Resources

Volta Resources has a portfolio of quality gold exploration projects in Burkina Faso and Ghana, both mining-friendly West African jurisdictions with proven world-class gold deposits.  VTR will focus on fast-tracking its flagship Kiaka Gold Project (NI-43-101 compliant resources include 90.29 million tonnes @ 1.04 g/t Au for 3,018,000 ounces in the Measured and Indicated categories and 38.52 million tonnes @ 1.00 g/t Au for 1,260,000 ounces in the Inferred category [Please see VTR press release dated June 29, 2011] including 34.38 million tonnes @ 1.04 g/t Au for 1,145,969 ounces of gold in the Proven category and 91.70 million tonnes @ 0.93 g/t Au for 2,742,353 ounces of gold in the Probable category [Please see current VTR press release]) towards a development decision, aiming to complete a Feasibility Study in Q1, 2013. Recent acquisition of properties around Kiaka have provided VTR with an extensive ground position along the highly prospective Markoye Fault Corridor in an important emerging gold province.

About Standard Bank

Rooted in Africa with strategic representation in key sub-Saharan and other emerging markets, Standard Bank is a bank with a global sweep. A mainstay of South Africa's financial system for over 145 years, its international expansion has taken it to 18 countries on the African continent and 16 countries outside Africa including Brazil, Russia and China. Its headquarters are in Johannesburg and it is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. Standard Bank's Corporate and Investment Banking division is a leading global emerging markets corporate and investment bank and offers its clients banking, trading, investment, risk management and advisory services in developing economies throughout the world. It has specific sector expertise in mining & metals; oil, gas & renewables; telecommunications & media; power & infrastructure and financial institutions.

Standard Bank Plc in London is the bank's principal international subsidiary. It is authorized and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, and is a member of the London Stock Exchange, the London Bullion Market Association, the London Metal Exchange, the London Platinum and Palladium Market and the New York Mercantile Exchange (COMEX Division). For further information, visit: www.standardbank.com/cib.

This Study was prepared by Tetra Tech under the supervision of Jon Priest, C.Eng MIMMM, who ia a "qualified person" under the standards set forth in NI 43-101.  Guy Franceschi, VP Exploration, was the Company's designated Qualified Person for the purposes of the Study.

All parties have reviewed and approved their respective content of this press release.

Forward Looking Information Caution:

This press release presents "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of Canadian securities legislation that involve inherent risks and uncertainties.  Forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, statements with respect to the expected development of the Kiaka Project based on the results of the pre-feasibility study, future price of gold and other minerals and metals, the estimation of mineral reserves and resources, the realization of mineral reserve estimates, the capital expenditures, costs and timing of the resources, the realization of mineral reserve estimates, the capital expenditures, costs and timing of the development of Kiaka central area as well as new areas, success of exploration activities, permitting time lines, currency exchange rate fluctuations, requirements for additional capital, government regulation of mining operations, environmental risks, unanticipated reclamation expenses, title disputes or claims and limitations on insurance coverage.  Generally, these forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of forward looking terminology such as "plans", "expects" or "does not expect", "is expected", "budget", "scheduled", "estimates", "forecasts", "intends", "anticipates" or "does not anticipate", or "believes", or variations of such words and phrases or state that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will be taken", "occur" or "be achieved". Forward-looking statements are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results, level of activity, performance or achievements of Volta Resources to be materially different from those expressed or implied by such forward looking statements, including but not limited to: risks related to international operations, risks related to the integration of acquisitions; risks related to joint venture operations; actual results of current exploration and pre-feasibility activities; actual results of current or future reclamation activities; conclusions of economic evaluations; changes in project parameters as plans continue to be refined; future prices of gold and other minerals and metals; possible variations in ore reserves, grade or recovery rates; failure of equipment or processes to operate as anticipated; accidents, labour disputes and other risks of the mining industry; and delays in obtaining governmental approvals or financing or in the completion of development or construction activities.  Although the management and officers of Volta Resources believe that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based upon reasonable assumptions and have attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in forward-looking statements, there may be other factors that cause results not to be as anticipated, estimated or intended. There can be no assurance that such 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.  Volta Resources does not undertake to update any forward-looking statements that are incorporated by reference herein, except in accordance with applicable securities laws.

 

For further information:

For further information, please refer to our website www.Voltaresources.com or contact:

Kevin Bullock, P.Eng., President & CEO      
Tel:  (647) 388-1842        
Fax: (416) 867-2298
Email: kbullock@Voltaresources.com 

or

Andreas Curkovic, Investor Relations 
Tel: (416) 577-9927