New Liberty Gold Mine: Operational Update

TSX : AUE
AIM : AUE

TORONTO, Jan. 22, 2016 /CNW/ - Aureus Mining Inc., ("Aureus" or the "Company"), the TSX and AIM listed West African Gold Producer, provides the following operational update for the New Liberty Gold Mine ("New Liberty" or "Mine") in Liberia.

Summary

  • Comminution circuit (consisting of the primary and secondary crushers and ball mill) now operating at design throughput capacity;
  • Ongoing optimisation programme to focus on improving the performance of the gravity and Carbon in Leach ("CIL") circuits to achieve production performance in accordance with design specifications;
  • Issues experienced during the final phase of commissioning in the gravity and CIL circuits have affected plant recoveries resulting in reduced gold sales;
  • Gold production achieved during 2015 was 17,172 ounces, against a target of 27,000 ounces, and 3,663 ounces of gold have been produced to date in 2016;
  • The Company has entered into discussions with its banks to obtain a deferral of the first bullet repayment, scheduled for 31 January 2016.

Operations Update and Commercial Production

Since the resumption of processing operations at New Liberty on 30 October 2015, over the last 81 days the ball mill has been operating at an average of 82% of its designed capacity, including planned downtime for ongoing optimisation.  The criteria for the declaration of Commercial Production, which has previously been communicated to the market, has been reached, however, Aureus has experienced issues during the final phase of commissioning in the gravity and CIL circuits of the plant, affecting plant recoveries and resulting in an impact on cash flow and therefore does not feel it is prudent to officially declare commercial production at this point.

The Company continues to focus on fine-tuning and improving the operational performance of the gravity circuit and further optimising CIL leach kinetics, with various options being evaluated and systematically implemented in order to improve overall plant performance to within design specifications.

It is anticipated that plant performance will improve to design levels by the end of Q1 2016, when the Company intends to declare full commercial production at New Liberty once the entire process plant is operating at full design capacity and in a manner consistent with management expectations.

Production Update

Mining operations at New Liberty are progressing, with fresh ore run of mine ("ROM") stockpiles currently standing at 83,509 tonnes at a grade of 2.78 g/t and oxide and transitional stockpiles of 75,248 tonnes at a grade of 1.35 g/t.  To date, the New Liberty process plant has processed 386,262 tonnes of ROM fresh sulphide ore and lower grade oxide material resulting in 19 shipments of gold doré from New Liberty for smelting and refining at the MKS PAMP refinery in Switzerland, totalling 20,835 ounces of gold.  The average achieved price for gold sold is US$ 1,113 per ounce.

Gold production achieved for the calendar year 2015 was 17,172 ounces, against a target of 27,000 ounces, and 3,663 ounces of gold have been produced to date in 2016, with production since mid-December hampered by issues experienced during the final phases of plant commissioning.  Performance from the gravity circuit of the plant has not yet reached design specifications, resulting in overall gold recoveries of approximately 70% throughout December 2015 and early January 2016.  The Company has implemented various initiatives to address these issues – there has recently been a subsequent improvement in the performance of the CIL circuit, with further improvements expected over the coming weeks.

Updated Mine Plan

Several Life of Mine ("LoM") options for New Liberty are currently being evaluated by the Company to align production to the current gold price environment.  It is anticipated that this review process will be completed by the end of February 2016, upon which time further updates will be communicated.

Bank Debt Repayment Being Rescheduled

Following discussions with FirstRand Bank Limited, acting through its Rand Merchant Bank division ("RMB"), Nedbank Limited ("Nedbank") and the Export Credit Insurance Corporation of South Africa Limited ("ECIC"), (collectively, the "Lenders"), who are progressing through their credit approval process to obtain approval for a deferral of the first debt repayment (which is scheduled for 31 January 2016) and thereafter will work with the Company to agree upon an appropriate debt repayment schedule in conjunction with the Updated Mine Plan. 

The Company has sought Lenders approval for deferral of the first debt repayment as it currently has insufficient cash resources available to pay both the first debt repayment and continue to make payments to suppliers as they fall due.  It is anticipated that revenue generated from future gold production should ensure that suppliers continue to be paid and operations can continue at New Liberty.

Appointment of Financial Advisor

Aureus is finalising the appointment of a Financial Advisor to conduct a strategic review to assess potential options that may be available to Aureus.

Commenting, David Reading, President and Chief Executive Officer of Aureus Mining, said:

"The commissioning phase of New Liberty has brought some unexpected challenges, however, the recent progress being made and improved performance of the process plant are encouraging.  I am confident that the various process improvements that our experienced operations team are systematically implementing will continue to improve the overall plant performance towards design specifications.  

"We look forward to receiving the final approvals from Nedbank, RMB and the ECIC and would like to thank them for their continuing support and we look forward to agreeing a new repayment schedule in due course."

About Aureus Mining Inc.

The Company's assets include the New Liberty Gold Mine in Liberia (the "New Liberty Gold Mine," "New Liberty" or the "mine") which has an estimated proven and probable mineral reserve of 8.5 Mt with 924,000 ounces of gold grading 3.4 g/t and an estimated measured and indicated mineral resource of 9,796 Kt with 1,143,000 ounces of gold grading 3.63 g/t and an estimated inferred mineral resource of 5,730 Kt with 593,000 ounces of gold grading 3.2 g/t.  A Definitive Feasibility Study ("DFS") has been completed, the first gold pour has taken place and work continues on commissioning the plant for full scale commercial production.  The mine is expected to have an 8 year life and annual production of 119,000 ounces for the first 6 years of production.  The foregoing mineral reserve and mineral resource estimates and additional information in connection therewith are set out in the Company's technical report dated March 25, 2015 and entitled "New Liberty Gold Project, Bea Mountain Mining Licence Southern Block, Liberia, West Africa, Definitive Project Plan."

The New Liberty Gold Mine is located within the Southern Block of the 100% owned Bea Mountain mining licence.  This licence covers 478 km² and has a 25 year, renewable, mineral development agreement.  The Bea Mountain mining license also hosts additional gold projects of Ndablama, Gondoja, Weaju and Leopard Rock which are the focus of exploration programs during 2016. Ndablama has an indicated mineral resource of 386,000 ounces of gold grading 1.6 g/t and inferred mineral resource of 515,000 ounces of gold grading 1.7 g/t and Weaju has an inferred mineral resource of 178,000 ounces of gold grading 2.1 g/t.  The Yambesei (759 km2), Archaen West (112.6 km2), Mabong (36.6 km2) and Mafa West (15.6 km2) licences will also be subject to preliminary reconnaissance geological work.  The foregoing mineral resource estimates and additional information in connection therewith are set out in the Company's technical report dated December 1, 2014 and entitled "Ndablama and Weaju Gold Projects, Bea Mountain Mining Licence, Northern Block, Technical Report on Mineral Resources" ("Ndablama and Weaju Technical Report 2014").

The Company also has a gold exploration permit in Cameroon.

Qualified Persons

The Company's Qualified Person is David Reading, who holds a MSc in Economic Geology from University of Waterloo, Canada and is a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining. David Reading is the President and CEO of Aureus Mining Inc. and has reviewed and approves this press release.

Forward Looking Statements

Certain information in this news release relating to Aureus is forward-looking and related to anticipated events and strategies. When used in this context, words such as "will", "anticipate", "believe", "plan", "intend", "target" and "expect" or similar words suggest future outcomes. Forward-looking information contained in this press release includes, but may not be limited to, statements or information relating to: the New Liberty Gold Project (including the quantity and quality of mineral resource and mineral reserve estimates), the potential to upgrade inferred mineral resources, opportunities to optimize the New Liberty Gold Project, the ability of the Company to develop the New Liberty Gold Project into a mine and the proposed new plans relating thereto regarding operations and mine design, future gold production, and future cash flows, the expected mine life of the New Liberty Gold Project, progress in the fight against Ebola and the anticipated exploration and development activities of Aureus. By their nature, such statements are subject to significant risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results or events to differ materially from current expectations, including: risks normally incidental to exploration and development of mineral properties; the inability of the Company to obtain required financing when needed and/or on acceptable terms or at all; risks that the cost of implementing the new mine plan at the New Liberty Gold Project  and the operating cash costs of the New liberty Gold Project exceed those estimated in the new mine plan; uncertainties in the interpretation of results from drilling and test work; the possibility that future exploration, development or mining results will not be consistent with expectations; regulatory and government decisions; the possibility that future drawdowns under the loan facilities may not be available; construction of the New Liberty Gold Project being delayed and/ or over budget; economic conditions; availability and cost of financing; estimates of capital and operating costs and start-up costs; plans regarding construction activities; risks related to the Ebola crisis; and future unforeseen liabilities and other factors including, but not limited to, those listed under "Risk Factors" in the Company's Annual Information Form dated March 26, 2015, a copy of which is available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com, and in the Aureus Mining Admission Document, a copy of which is available at www.aureus–mining.com. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking information as actual results could differ materially from the plans, expectations, estimates or intentions expressed in the forward-looking information. Forward-looking information speaks only as of the date on which it is made and, except as may be required by applicable law, Aureus disclaims any obligation to update or modify such forward-looking information, either as a result of new information, future events or for any other reason.

With respect to forward looking information contained in this news release, assumptions have been made regarding, among other things: general business, economic and mining industry conditions; interest rates and foreign exchange rates; mineral resource and mineral reserve estimates; geological and metallurgical assumptions (including with respect to the size, grade and recoverability of mineral resources and mineral reserves) and cost estimates on which the mineral resource and mineral reserve estimates are based; the parameters and assumptions employed in the New Liberty Technical Report, (including but not limited to, those relating to construction, future mining and operating costs, processing and recovery rates, net present values and internal rates of return, timing for the commencement of production, tax and royalty rates,  future gold prices, metallurgical rates, pit design, operations and management, grades, the base case analysis and the proposed budget for further exploration plans and objectives); the supply and demand for commodities and precious and base metals and the level and volatility of the prices of gold; market competition; the ability of the Company to raise sufficient funds from capital markets and/or debt to meet its future obligations and planned activities; the business of the Company including the continued exploration of its properties; the political environments and legal and regulatory frameworks in Liberia and Cameroon with respect to, among other things, the ability of the Company to obtain, maintain, renew and/or extend required permits, licences, authorizations and/or approvals from the appropriate regulatory authorities and the ability of the Company to continue to obtain qualified staff and equipment in a timely and cost-efficient manner to meet its demand. Assumptions used in the preparation of such information, although considered reasonable by Aureus at the time of preparation, may prove to be incorrect.

Any mineral resource and mineral reserve figures referred to in this press release are estimates and no assurances can be given that the indicated levels of minerals will be produced. Such estimates are expressions of judgment based on knowledge, mining experience, analysis of drilling results and industry practices. Valid estimates made at a given time may significantly change when new information becomes available. While the Company believes that the mineral resource and mineral reserve estimates in respect of its properties are well established, by their nature mineral resource and mineral reserve estimates are imprecise and depend, to a certain extent, upon statistical inferences which may ultimately prove unreliable. If such mineral resource and mineral reserve estimates are inaccurate or are reduced in the future, this could have a material adverse impact on the Company. Due to the uncertainty that may be attached to inferred mineral resources, it cannot be assumed that all or any part of an inferred mineral resource will be upgraded to an indicated or measured mineral resource as a result of continued exploration. Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability.

SOURCE Aureus Mining Inc.

For further information: Aureus Mining Inc., David Reading / Paul Thomson, Tel: +44(0) 20 7010 7690; Buchanan, Bobby Morse / Anna Michniewicz, Tel: +44(0) 20 7466 5000; Numis Securities Limited, (Nominated Adviser), John Prior / James Black / Paul Gillam, Tel: +44(0) 20 7260 1000

RELATED LINKS
www.aureus-mining.com

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