ROMARCO MINERALS INC. (TSX:R) has announced positive Feasibility Study results for its 100% owned Haile Gold Mine Project in Lancaster County, South Carolina, USA.
The Feasibility Study was compiled by M3 Engineering & Technology Corporation ("M3") with the participation and contribution of Independent Mining Consultants ("IMC") and AMEC Americas Limited ("AMEC").
The Company is also pleased to announce estimates of additional mineral potential that exists outside of the recently reported $1,200 per ounce gold in-shell resource that are not included in the Feasibility Study. Please see the section below titled "Potential Mineral Deposits" for details. Haile continues to remain open in all directions and at depth with significant potential for continuing to increase resources and reserves.
Highlights of the Feasibility Study (base case at $950/oz gold):
- One of the lowest capital cost, lowest operating cost and highest-grade open-pit gold mines in the industry
- Capital costs of $275 million
- Average cash cost (after by-product credit) of $347 per ounce first five years
- Reserve grade of 2.06 grams/tonne
- Proven and probable reserves of 2.0 million contained ounces of gold
- Robust project economics
- At $950 gold, pre-tax net present value (NPV) at 5% discount of $279 million and internal rate of return (IRR) of 19.6%
- At $1,300 gold, pre-tax NPV (5%) is $693 million; 37.6% IRR
- Mine life in excess of 13 years at a mill throughput of 7,000 tons per day (tpd)
- First year production of 172,000 ounces of gold
- First 5 years production average 150,000 ounces gold per year
- Average 83.7% gold recovery
- Life of mine (LOM) strip ratio of 7.2:1
- The Feasibility Study does not include:
- Horseshoe, Snake Deep, West Ledbetter and some portions of Mill Zone, Small and Champion deposits.
- Inferred resources in the $950 pit
- These zones required additional drilling and are the target of the 2011 exploration program.
- The project will be designed and constructed to meet the International Cyanide Management Code standards
Proven and probable reserves and the mine plan were calculated using a $950 per ounce gold price and drill data from the most recently reported in-shell resource (calculated at $1,200 per ounce gold with drill results through September 30, 2010). The project has been specifically designed to facilitate expansion early in the mine life. Studies are currently being conducted to evaluate both open-pit and under-ground expansion alternatives.
Once the necessary permits have been received and financing is in place, Romarco plans to proceed immediately with the construction and commissioning of the project as the first phase of development in the Haile district. Detailed design work is currently underway on the project.
Development of the Haile project will deliver significant, positive impact on the economies of Lancaster and Kershaw counties, and the state of South Carolina. Romarco anticipates directly employing approximately 500 persons at site during construction and approximately 300 persons on a sustaining basis once in production. Future expansions at Haile would require additional personnel. The Company will continue to hire locally and use local and regional suppliers as it has over the past three years. The Company currently spends in excess of $1 million per month locally, including wages. Contractors and consultants provide additional economic benefits. The multiplier on the economic impact of Haile to the local community and county will be significant.
The financial analysis for the Base Case ($950 gold and $18 silver) indicates a pre-tax NPV at a 5% discount rate of $279 million with an IRR of 19.6% and a payback period of 4.2 years. On an after-tax basis, the NPV at a 5% discount rate is $191 million with an IRR of 15.7%. The base case is expected to generate $508 million in pre-tax operating cash flow.
Haile Mineral Reserves and Resources
The open pit mineral reserves and resources were completed by Independent Mining Consultants (IMC), with John Marek, P.E. acting as the Qualified Person (QP) for the calculations. The proven and probable reserves were developed from the block model and the mine plan using a gold price of $950 per ounce. The mineral reserve is the total of all proven and probable category mineralization in the Feasibility mine plan.
The floating cone algorithm provided guidance to the design of the pushbacks and the final pits. Multiple cones at a range of metal prices were run in order to determine the best place to start mining, initial pit openings, and guidance to final pit geometries.
Exploration Potential - Potential Mineral Deposits
Significant upside potential exists within and surrounding the Haile mineralized system, which continues to remain open in all directions and at depth. The Company's focus is to expand the resource within and near known deposits, upgrade inferred mineral resources, and discover new deposits in areas surrounding the known deposits where drilling is sparse. Romarco will also begin exploring further along trend, stepping easterly of the Horseshoe zone, and westerly of the Champion and 601 areas that are over 1 km west of South Pit. Additionally, as the Company continues to expand its land position throughout the district, exploration drilling will be initiated to evaluate these prospective new target areas. Romarco's regional exploration team has identified several new target areas beyond the Haile system with historical drilling, and in some cases existing historical resources. The 2011 exploration program consists of 110,000 meters of both RC and core drilling.
Potential mineral deposits within the proposed mine site were created in order to estimate potential zones of gold mineralization outside of the in-shell resource estimate ($1,200 gold). These zones are based on trends, geology, and scattered drilling. It should be recognized that these zones list only the areas where current knowledge of Haile's mineralization is sufficient to indicate that these zones are viable targets. These potential mineral deposits represent a small portion of the Haile property.There are numerous additional targets at Haile that are not listed here. Therefore, these tonnages and grades should not be construed as minimums or maximums. Independent Mining Consultants (IMC) has reviewed the geometries and procedures applied by Haile in developing the potential mineral deposits. As a result, IMC holds the opinion that those procedures are a reasonable means to establish range estimates of potential quantities and grades for future drill targets.
The conceptual estimates were based on projecting potential mineralized zones through areas with limited drill information. The zones were developed by constructing 3-dimensional wireframes using Vulcan mine planning software and a minimum grade of 0.34 g/t.
Quantity ranges were estimated using two scenarios: Scenario A used geologic inference to determine the orientation and extent of the zones along known mineralized trends based on the Haile geologic model and current drill results. Scenario B excluded the distal portions of the potential mineralized zones. Ranges of grade were assigned to the potential mineralized zones using two cases: Case A applied the average grade for zones within the $1,200 per ounce gold shell to the adjacent zones outside the shell, and Case B was determined by taking an arithmetic average of all the drill composites within each zone outside the $1,200 per ounce gold shell. It should be noted that averaging all composites has a tendency to reduce the grade versus resource techniques that discard low-grade intervals.
The resulting potential ranges of quantities and grades listed below are conceptual in nature based on geologic knowledge, interpretation and wireframes. There has been insufficient exploration to define a mineral resource and it is uncertain if further exploration will result in any of the targeted areas being delineated as a mineral resource. The Company currently plans to focus on further exploration drilling within these potential mineral deposits during 2011 and beyond.
Mining and Production
Romarco plans to use conventional open pit mining methods. A combination of hard rock and soft rock will be encountered in the deposit during the mining process. The majority of the material from the mine will be hard rock, which will be drilled and blasted prior to loading. The initial mining fleet consists of fourteen100-ton haul trucks, two 15 cu yd front-end loaders, and one 14.4 cu yd hydraulic front shovel, with various support equipment. The mine plan produces 2.55 million tons of ore per year for delivery to the process plant (7,000 tpd). A variable cutoff grade strategy was utilized for the mining schedule in order to provide higher-grade mill feed during the early years, while stockpiling low-grade material to be processed at the end of the project life. The pit design is based on variable pit slope angles. The inter-ramp slope angles utilized are 49 degrees for the north walls, 38 to 45 degrees for the south walls, 40 degrees in the saprolite, and 27 degrees for the coastal plains sand.
Metallurgy and Processing
The plant design incorporates conventional precious metals recovery processes including jaw crushing, semi-autogenous and ball milling, flotation, fine grinding of the flotation concentrate, and carbon-in-leach cyanidation. The plant will process nominal 7,000 tpd based on 92% plant availability. Gold recovery is calculated at 83.7% based on an average head grade of 2.06 g/t. Primary grind product size is estimated at P80>80>Denver, Colorado. Final plant tailing will be stored in a conventional tailing facility. Well-proven and commercially applied sulfur dioxide/air cyanide destruction technology will be used as needed to ensure tailing meets International Cyanide Management Code standards.
Land and Infrastructure
The Haile property is situated 4.8 kilometers northeast of the Town of Kershaw in Lancaster County, South Carolina, USA. The site is roughly one hour south of Charlotte, North Carolina and one and one half hour northeast of Columbia, South Carolina. The project is somewhat unique in that it is situated wholly on private land 100% owned fee simple (surface, water, and mineral rights) and no royalties. Private lands, unlike federal (BLM or USFS) lands are not subject to the proposed amendment of the 1872 mining law imposing federal royalties on mining properties. To date the Company's land position is approximately 8,000 acres.
The proximity to existing infrastructure reduces project costs because the project is easily accessible and there is adequate housing, power, phone, and water. Natural gas, sanitary sewer, and potable water lines run along Highway 601, which borders the Haile property to the west. Haile has two sources of power available to it - Duke Energy and Lynches River Power Cooperative. The power transmission infrastructure is well established, and less than 8 kilometers of new Duke or Lynches River service will be required.
Life of mine (LOM) unit costs per ton of ore is $18.92 and the unit cost per ounce of gold produced is $379 including by-product credits. The G&A component of the cash operating costs includes property taxes of $0.62 per ton of ore, or $12.51 per ounce.
- Conversion of measured and indicated as well as inferred resources within the $1200 shell
- Infill drilling to connect the pit bottoms of South Pit, Ledbetter, and Snake could lead to a lower overall strip ratio and increased gold ounces
- Continued expansion of the high grade Mill Zone to maintain higher production levels beyond the first year
- A throughput expansion early in the mine life to improve project economics
- Further exploration:
- at Horseshoe to develop higher grade underground potential
- between Snake Deep and Horseshoe to connect mineralization
- stepping out in all directions
- Completion of the underground scoping study at Horseshoe for possible expansion scenario - this higher grade ore would lead to increased production and grade
- Completion of analysis on tax matters including applying prior net operating losses to operations
- Fluctuation in commodity prices
- Increased costs or delayed availability of equipment
- Timing of permits
- Timing and availability of financing
Qualified Persons for Feasibility Study
The Feasibility study was prepared by leading independent industry consultants, all Qualified Persons (QP) under National Instrument (NI) 43-101, with the collaboration of the Romarco technical group. The QP's have reviewed and approved the content of this news release.
Source: ROMARCO MINERALS INC.