Mercator Minerals Ltd. ("Mercator" or "Company") is pleased to announce today, further to the September 4, 2012 press release, it has filed an updated El Pilar National Instrument 43-101 ("NI 43-101") compliant Feasibility Study Technical Report ("2012 FS") on SEDAR.
The 2012 FS is an update to the Feasibility Study completed November 2011 ("2011 FS"), which further enhances the potential development of a robust, large-scale, low-cost copper mine at the El Pilar project ("Project"), located in the mining friendly jurisdiction of the northern Mexican state of Sonora.
2012 FS Base Case(1) Highlights
- Net present value ("NPV"), after tax, discounted at 8% ($ millions) -- $ 416.0
- Internal rate of return ("IRR"), after tax -- 36.6 %
- Payback period, after tax (years) -- 1.8
- Life-of-mine ("LOM"), average annual production (m lbs) -- 79.3
- First five years, average annual production (m lbs) -- 85.4
- Average LOM total cash operating costs ($/lb) -- $ 1.34
- First five years, average annual cash operating costs* ($/lb) -- $ 1.22
- Initial capital costs ($ millions) -- $ 279.9
- Mine life (years) -- 13
- Total copper production (m lbs) -- 998.3
(1) Base Case at $3.83/lb copper price per pound Years 0 and 1, $3.44/lb Year 2, $3.14/lb Year 3 and $2.60/lb for the remaining life of mine, averaging $2.82/lb copper over the life of mine. All calculations are Base Case except where otherwise specified.
The 2012 FS includes a new base case ("Base Case") utilizing:
- enhanced copper recoveries based on heap leaching in three meter lift heights (as compared to the six meter lift heights used in the 2011 FS);
- the same copper price assumptions as the 2011 FS;
- updated mineral reserve, metal recoveries and mine plan;
- capital and operating cost assumptions based on the 2011 FS study with no escalation added other than an increase in the initial capital based on an increased leach pad area in the first year of operations;
- the purchase of a shovel in Year 3 as compared to Year 5 in the 2011 FS (this minor change adjusts the NPV from $417.0 million to $416.0 million and the IRR from to 37.0% to 36.6%, while all other project economics remain the same).
Further Opportunities for Enhancement
The 2012 FS highlights various opportunities to increase the value of the Project, as additional metallurgical tests show that, using three meter lift heights may provide greater copper extraction over a 360 day leach cycle as compared to the 180 day leach cycle used in the Base Case. This is due to continued copper extraction over time in the multi-lift heap configuration. If realized, this opportunity could result in:
- An increase of 14% over the Base Case in total copper recovered, to 1,142 billion pounds;
- An increase of 13% over the Base Case in the average life of mine recoveries to 64.9%;
- A 36% increase in after-tax NPV8% to $565.6 million;
- A 18% increase in the IRR from 36.6% to 43.3%; and
- A payback of 1.7 years as compared to 1.8 years in the Base Case.
"We are very encouraged with the continued improvements in and upside potential of the El Pilar Project. The recently completed 360-day leach results from 11 three meter high mini-columns (tested on the same ore sample as used in the Base Case of the 2012 FS) indicate increased copper recoveries could be achieved," commented D. Bruce McLeod, President & CEO. "The results also show that higher acid pre-cure amounts, combined with reduced acid application rates, can increase copper recoveries by as much as 9% over the 180 days of leaching, thereby indicating even better project economics may be achievable."
For readers to fully understand the information in this news release, they should read the 2012 FS in its entirety, including all qualifications, assumptions and exclusions that relate to the information set out in this news release. The 2012 FS is intended to be read as a whole, and sections should not be read or relied upon out of context. The technical information in the 2012 FS is subject to the assumptions and qualifications contained therein.
El Pilar Permitting Update
The Project is construction-ready, with approval for all environmental permits needed for construction having been received and the acquisition of all required surface land rights having been completed. Important permits received recently include Notice of Approval of the Change of Land Use (CUS) Permit on August 23, 2012 and the MIA Study Approval Resolution for the access road and railroad spur on September 21, 2012.
This news release has been prepared under the supervision of Michael Broch, BSc. Geology, MSc Economic Geology, FAusIMM, the Company's Vice President, Exploration and Evaluations, a Qualified Person as defined in National Instrument 43-101. Mr. Broch was the author of the 2012 FS and has read and approved the relevant technical portions of this news release.