All amounts are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.
TORONTO AND JOHANNESBURG, April 19, 2012 /CNW/ - First Uranium Corporation (TSX:FIU), (JSE:FUM) (ISIN:CA33744R1029) ("First Uranium" or "the Company") today released its production results for the three months ended March 31, 2012 ("Q4 2012") .
| Q1 2012
| April 1, 2011 - June 30, 2011
July 1, 2011 - September 30, 2011
October 1, 2011 - December 31, 2011
January 1, 2012 - March 31, 2012
April 1, 2011 - March 31, 2012
April 1, 2012 - March 31, 2013
| Q1 2011
| April 1, 2010 - June 30, 2010
July 1, 2010 - September 30, 2010
October 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010
January 1, 2011 - March 31, 2011
April 1, 2010 - March 31, 2011
April 1, 2012 - June 30, 2012
For Q4 2012, the Company sold 32,923 ounces of gold, a 15% decrease on the 38,548 ounces of gold sold in Q3 2012. Only 86 pounds of uranium was produced in Q4 2012, compared to 30,887 pounds in Q3 2012.
The following table summarizes the production from each operation during Q4 2012, compared to the previous quarters in FY 2012:
|FY 2012||Q4 2012||Q3 2012||Q2 2012||Q1 2012|
| Tonnes of ore reclaimed (000s)
Average gold head grade (g/t)
Gold plant recovery (%)
Gold sold (oz)
| Tonnes of ore milled
Average gold recovery grade (g/t)
Gold sold (oz)
Uranium produced (lbs)
At Ezulwini Mine, a total of 8,061 ounces of gold was sold in Q4 2012, compared to 13,406 ounces of gold sold in Q3 2012. Although the Ezulwini Mine only produced 86 pounds of uranium in Q4 2012, the sale of 23,756 pounds of uranium produced in Q3 2012, is reflected in this quarter's revenue. The decline in both gold and uranium production for Q4 2012 is primarily a result of the restructuring of Ezulwini as announced in December 2011 and reflects both the reduction in the workforce and the limited number of working areas available as a result of the new mine plan. Indications are that production is beginning to stabilise.
The planned restructuring in accordance with Section 189a of The South African Labour Relations Act has now been concluded. Following consultation and negotiations with organized labour, the staff complement was reduced by 1,320 employees, with many being offered alternative positions at neighbouring operations. As at April 1, 2012, the Ezulwini Mine employed 1,980 employees.
In Q4 2012, the on-going drive to improve safety performance resulted in a significant improvement in key safety metrics. On March 14, 2012, the mine reached 250,000 fatality free shifts, which is the first important milestone towards the operation's goal of 1,000,000 fatality free shifts by the end of FY 2013.
Aligned to the restructuring of the Ezulwini Mine, management has completed a new ten-year operating plan which includes more detailed analysis of the Upper Elsburgs ("UEs", a gold-only massive ore body) and plans for further technical work to be conducted, in order to define a four-year mineral reserve and a corresponding production plan which yields sustainable and profitable results. In terms of the new four-year plan, mining of all marginal production panels has ceased. As a consequence, mining in the Middle Elsburgs ("MEs", a gold and uranium ore body with relatively low gold grades) has been temporarily halted and the operation of the uranium plant suspended due to the combination of low uranium prices and the high costs associated with mining the MEs. The MEs are on average 1,500 metre further from the shaft and 300 metre deeper than the UE orebody which adds significantly to the cost of mining this area. The lower gold grades and persistently low uranium prices do not generate sufficient revenue per tonne mined to off-set the high cost per tonne. This is further exacerbated by the high cost per tonne associated with operating the under-utilized uranium plant and the Company's limited cash reserves. As a result and as part of the restructuring, the Ezulwini uranium plant was placed on care and maintenance at the end of February 2012.
Notwithstanding the restructured operation at Ezulwini, and the reduction in the required delivery of gold to Franco-Nevada Barbados Corporation to 7% of gold production, the turnaround in operations at Ezulwini has not yet been realized or yielded the expected results. While the quantity and grade of the blasted tonnes is substantially in-line with the new operating plan, a fall of ground on one of the major ore transfer levels has required that the underground production be trammed at a much greater distance to the shaft. The mobile trackless equipment on this major ore transfer level, is currently not sufficiently robust to sustain the required rate of transport of ore to the shaft. As a result, the operation continues to lose money and consume cash at a greater rate than planned despite the fact that all efforts continue to resolve this issue. In order to address these issues, management is in the process of implementing a detailed action plan, which includes clearing the fall of ground, correcting the trackless section operating conditions and addressing the mechanical condition of the trackless equipment on the level. These actions are expected to yield the desired results as early as May 2012.
MINE WASTE SOLUTIONS
During Q3 2012, management downgraded its FY 2012 guidance from a range of between 105,000 and 115,000 ounces to a range of between 98,000 and 100,000 ounces. MWS achieved 99,003 ounces. Quarter on quarter gold sales remained stable with a marginal 1% decrease from Q3 2012 to Q4 2012. The throughput which decreased marginally in aggregate across the three gold modules was offset by a slight improvement in aggregate feed grade delivered to the three gold modules.
Gold circuit one (Phase 1A) saw a 7% drop in grade and an associated drop in recovery. As previously reported, the drop off in grade was anticipated as the resources from the high grade Buffelsfontein No. 2 tailings dam diminish and the proportion of the mining mix from the lower grade Buffelsfontein No. 3 tailings dam increases. As previously reported, process optimisation test work has been undertaken in an effort to try and improve recoveries and mitigate the production impacts of a reduced feed grade. As a result of the test work, an extended leach circuit (utilising existing infrastructure) will be commissioned during Q1 2013 targeting improved recoveries.
The second gold circuit (Phase 1B) continues to perform well, the feed grade delivered to the plant during Q4 2012 increased by 9%, largely due to the proportion of high grade floor material from Buffelsfontein No. 4 tailings dam which is approaching the end of its life. Despite the increase in feed grade compared to Q3 2012, there was no commensurate increase in recoveries. Management attribute this to the recent clay intersections on Buffelsfontein No. 3 tailings dam and anticipate that the clay will continue to impact on recovery performance. In addition, management anticipate that throughput performance will be diminished as a result of the increased difficulty of handling clay bearing material. Historical experience from reclamation activities on Buffelsfontein No. 2 tailings dam suggest that throughput rates will reduce by approximately 10%, however this will largely depend upon the extent of the clay.
While a certain quantity of clay was anticipated in processing the Buffelsfontein No. 3 tailings dam, the performance for March was negatively affected by the unexpected exposure of material with a high clay content (approximately 70% compared to an anticipated 20%). The Buffelsfontein No. 3 tailings dam supplies 90% of the tonnes processed in the Phase 1A and Phase 1B, and the high clay content negatively impacted the tonnage as well as the recovery and consequently the revenue of these two phases. Management has made immediate adjustments to the MWS mining sequence to reduce the amount (percentage) of clay material delivered to the plant for processing. Early indications are that these adjustments are having a positive impact on throughput and recoveries in the first and second gold circuits (Phase 1A and 1B).
Gold circuit three (Phase 2) processes material from the relatively lower grade Hartebeesfontein No. 1 tailings dam. To preserve feed grade delivered to the plant, the mining mix to date has been supplemented by high grade material from the small satellite resources located on the western perimeter of the project footprint. Throughput rates remained fairly constant, however marginal quarter on quarter decreases in feed grade to the plant coupled with decreased recovery performance impacted negatively on Q4 2012 production compared to Q3 2012. The high grade contribution to the mining mix from the satellite resources will dissipate going forward and consequently the grade delivered to the plant will reduce by approximately 15%. This is not a surprise, and in previous disclosure management indicated that it was focusing on test work to improve recovery performance. This test work is ongoing with no definitive process modifications identified to date, consequently it is anticipated that recovery performance will reduce in line with a lower feed grade being delivered to the plant.
EFFECT ON PRO FORMA DISTRIBUTIONS FROM SALE PROCEEDS
As at March 31, 2012, the cash reserves of the Company, net of the semi-annual interest paid on April 2, 2012 in respect of the secured convertible notes due March 31, 2013, were US$6.7 million.
The Company announced on March 2, 2012, that it had entered into a definitive agreement (the "AGA Agreement") for the sale indirectly of the MWS tailing recovery project to AngloGold Ashanti Limited ("AGA") (the "AGA Transaction"). Under the terms of the AGA Agreement, AGA will pay $335 million in cash for all of the shares and associated claims of First Uranium (Proprietary) Limited, which holds indirectly the MWS tailings reprocessing project, subject to the fulfilment of a number of conditions precedent. In a separate transaction, the Company also announced that it entered into a binding letter agreement providing for the sale of all of the shares of First Uranium Limited (a wholly‐owned subsidiary of the Company), which owns all of the shares of Ezulwini, to Gold One International Limited ("Gold One") for $70 million in cash (the "Gold One Transaction" and together with the AGA Transaction, the "Transactions") and a credit agreement with Gold One for a $10 million loan facility (the "Gold One Loan"). On April 2, 2012, the Company announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement with Gold One to complete the Gold One Transaction subject to fulfilment of a number of conditions precedent. (See news releases dated March 2, 2012 and April 2, 2012.)
On the announcement of the Transactions on March 2, 2012, the Company outlined the Pro Forma Use of Proceeds, including an approximate amount expected to be available to shareholders on closing of $36.6 million. The Pro Forma amounts were subject to change due to, among other things, currency fluctuations (conversion rates were based on the Bank of Canada noon rate as of March 1, 2012), results of operations and the repayment at closing of the Transactions of any amount drawn under the Gold One Loan.
The Company has accessed $5 million of the Gold One Loan and expects that it will have to draw on the remaining $5 million to sustain operations. As the Gold One Loan must be repaid at the closing of the Gold One Transaction, the repayment of the loan will reduce the Pro Forma Proceeds at closing by $10 million. In addition, under the terms of the Transactions, the working capital of the operations acquired must be positive, or at a minimum there must be at least sufficient cash and other current assets to fund current liabilities. If there is a further shortfall in operating performance, that may further reduce the Pro Forma Proceeds and result in material reduction in the cash available for distribution to Shareholders at the closing of the Transactions.
As reported in the Company's news release issued on February 14, 2012, MWS received a notice of intention on February 10, 2012 to issue a directive ("Pre-Directive") in terms of section 31 A of the Environment Conservation Act (No. 73 of 1989) ("ECA") and Section 28 of the National Environmental Management Act (No. 107 of 1998) from the Department of Environmental Affairs ("DEA"). The Pre-Directive lists certain concerns that the DEA has with the MWS reclamation project and the environmental impact thereof. MWS submitted a formal response to the DEA on February 24, 2012. Whilst no further communication has been received from the DEA related to the submission, management is confident that the issues raised have been materially addressed. MWS continues to operate legally in terms of current authorizations and legislation.
About First Uranium Corporation
First Uranium Corporation (TSX:FIU, JSE:FUM) operates the Ezulwini Mine, an underground mining operation, and Mine Waste Solutions (MWS), a tailings recovery facility. Both operations are situated in South Africa.
Cautionary Language Regarding Forward-Looking Information
This news release contains and refers to forward-looking information based on current expectations. All other statements other than statements of historical fact included in this release are forward-looking statements (or forward-looking information). The Company's plans involve various estimates and assumptions and its business and operations are subject to various risks and uncertainties. For more details on these estimates, assumptions, risks and uncertainties, see the Company's most recent Annual Information Form and most recent Management Discussion and Analysis on file with the Canadian provincial securities regulatory authorities on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. These forward-looking statements are made as of the date hereof and there can be no assurance that such statements will prove to be accurate, such statements are subject to significant risks and uncertainties, and actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements, including without limitation, the statements regarding the proposed transactions with Gold One International Limited and AngloGold Ashanti Limited. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements that are included herein, except in accordance with applicable securities laws.
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