THUNDER BAY – MINING – Pure Gold Mining Inc. (TSX-V:PGM, LSE:PUR) (“PureGold” or the “Company”), is pleased to provide an operations update from the Company’s PureGold Mine in Red Lake, Ontario and to provide an updated corporate outlook for 2022.
Revitalized Operational Leadership Team
Significant changes have been made to PureGold’s executive management team to date in 2022, reflecting the Company’s commitment to building a culture of operational excellence. Since the beginning of 2022, new appointments include President & CEO, COO, CFO, VP Mine General Manager, VP Finance, and VP Technical Services among others. This revitalized operational leadership team, who collectively bring several decades of underground operating, ramp-up and turnaround experience to PureGold, have been working together now for six weeks and in that time have kicked off several initiatives which are expected to improve ore production, increase head grades, reduce operating and sustaining capital costs, and increase cash flow throughout the 2022 calendar year.
Additionally, work in support of an updated Mineral Resource, Mineral Reserve, and Life of Mine plan is underway, and an updated NI 43-101 Technical Report is expected to be released in late Q3 or early Q4 2022. The updated Life of Mine plan will set out the Company’s vision for developing, operating, and potentially expanding the PureGold Mine based on all available data and operating experience to date.
Terry Smith, Chief Operating Officer of PureGold stated, “The wide-ranging optimization initiatives underway at PureGold designed to improve production, boost grade, and reduce costs all share one thing in common, and that is that they are long-term solutions designed to address the fundamental, underlying issues to ensure sustainable long-term success. This asset offers tremendous upside in terms of organic growth and exploration potential, but we need to operate efficiently as a first step in order to unlock that potential. In our first six weeks here, the new operational leadership team have made great progress but we have more work to do and look forward to providing further updates on our progress throughout 2022.”
Bryan Wilson, VP Mine General Manager of PureGold stated, “Throughout my career I have been a part of several underground start-ups and turnarounds and in my experience, success is a product of a strong culture which starts with leadership from the top. We are building a new culture at PureGold centered around open communication, clear goals and strategy, and accountability. In the few weeks I’ve been on the job I can already sense we have an incredible group of people who are up to the challenge, and I look forward to showing them and everyone else what we can achieve.”
Increasing Ore Production and Reducing Costs
In 2021, the milling facilities at the PureGold Mine demonstrated capability of operating consistently and reliably at and above the design capacity of 800 tpd on multiple occasions. The regulatory process to increase the permitted mill capacity to 1,000 tpd is well advanced. Despite strong mill performance, gold production at the PureGold Mine in 2021 fell short of design capacity due to challenges in maintaining access to enough high-confidence, high-grade stopes to provide high-grade ore to the mill. A persistent shortage of high-grade ore from underground resulted in less than full utilization of the mill and at various times led to blending of low-grade development material and stockpiles which also reduced the overall feed grade to the mill. Identifying and addressing the underlying causes of insufficient access to high-grade stopes has been a central focus of the Company’s new operational leadership team. Several new initiatives have been launched which are expected to improve stope access and ultimately result in increased ore throughput, improved grades, and reduced costs in 2022.
Faster Sill Development
PureGold’s new operational leadership team has identified faster sill development as a key opportunity to increase access to high-grade ore. To date, sill development has been done with short (2.4 metre) rounds and extensive geological grade control in an effort to maximize grades from sill development. While these measures were effective in their intended purpose, their success came at the expense of slower pace of development which constrained access to larger, higher-grade stopes and reduced overall mining flexibility. As a result, a significant proportion of the total mill feed has been comprised of lower grade sill development ore rather than higher grade stope ore which has also reduced the overall head grade to the mill. PureGold’s new operational leadership team has introduced the ‘Fast Track Sills’ initiative which will expedite access to higher grade stopes by developing sills faster by taking longer (3.6 metre) rounds and improving definition drilling and grade control procedures (see below). Overall, the Fast Track Sills initiative is expected to increase ore throughput, improve overall head grades, improve planning and flexibility, and reduce costs.
Definition Drilling and Grade Control
Definition drilling remains a key component in the plan to improve both ore production and grade. As previously announced, PureGold significantly increased its definition drilling program in Q4 2021, the positive impacts of which are beginning to influence short-term mine plans for 2022 and are expected to positively impact production beginning in the second quarter of 2022. PureGold’s new operational leadership team have implemented several improvements to the definition drilling program which are designed to improve efficiency and reduce drilling costs. To improve efficiency, infill targets are now assessed based on data quality (historic versus modern drilling), quantity (average sample spacing), mineralized width and grade as well as alteration strength. A monthly review has recently been established to compare drilling results to these variables to ensure the efficiency of the program is continually improving. Going forward, with enhanced integration between definition drilling and mine planning, drilling platforms will be established in closer proximity to production areas which will lead to further improvements in drilling efficiency with shorter holes and tighter spacing which will also reduce drilling costs. With these changes, the Company expects definition drilling progress to accelerate in the coming months and to have inventory of several months of high confidence stopes developed by the second half of 2022.
Resource and Reserve Model Reconciliation
In support of the updated Life of Mine Plan, significant data has been gathered with respect to 2021 grade control sampling including drill core, face and muck samples as well as sludge samples from longhole probe drilling. Using the combined experience and expertise of both internal staff and several independent third-party technical experts, work is underway to compile and reconcile this data with the Company’s Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve models and with mill production. The company expects to provide more detail on the results of this work by mid-year.
Mobile Fleet Maintenance Strategy
Improving the maintenance strategy for the mobile equipment fleet represents a significant opportunity to increase ore production rates and reduce costs for the PureGold Mine. Over the past several months poor availability has contributed at various times to reduced ore production rates. PureGold’s new operational leadership team have identified several underlying reasons including insufficient parts inventory, supply chain issues, and a lack of maintenance space for service. The Company has partnered with its principal supplier, Epiroc, to rapidly assess and repair the fleet, bringing the equipment up to a good operating standard. These assessments will also help significantly reduce the overall fleet needed to support current operations, which will lead to lower operating and sustaining capital costs. This assessment and repair phase will begin immediately and is expected to conclude in the third quarter of 2022. Going forward, the Company expects this initiative will significantly reduce maintenance, sustaining capital, and operating costs while also increasing mechanical availability and production.
Enhancing Key Infrastructure
Improving ventilation planning and investment have been identified as another key opportunity to improve ore production and enhance mining flexibility. Ore production and scheduling flexibility to date have been limited from time to time by ventilation constraints. Recently, operational ventilation has improved significantly due to dedicated focus. Going forward, greater integration of ventilation planning with overall mine planning is expected to increase scheduling flexibility and ultimately support sustainable increases in ore production at a lower cost.
The PureGold Mine operates several underground production drills that require compressed air. To date, the compressed air system has consisted of temporary electric and diesel compressors. The diesel units, in particular, have had very poor mechanical availability over the past several months of cold weather, which has negatively impacted longhole drilling performance which in turn has constrained ore production from underground. Three new electric air compressors have been sourced and are expected to be installed in the second quarter of 2022. These new compressors are expected to significantly improve equipment availability and utilization and ultimately, support sustainable increases in ore production at a lower cost.
Another key initiative is the purchase and installation of an on-site full-service camp which will enhance PureGold’s ability to attract and retain top talent and recruit from a larger pool of mining professionals, while simultaneously reducing costs of accommodation and travel and investing in the local community. The new on-site camp will be modular construction and will feature two 44-person dormitory units, a 5-unit kitchen and dining facility, and one recreation unit. An operating contract has been signed with Shared Spirits LLP, a shared venture of Wabauskang and Lac Seul First Nations and local employment opportunities are also expected. The camp is expected to be operational in Q3 2022.
Other Operating Cost Improvements
The Company’s new operational leadership team has engaged in a comprehensive review of all operating and capital costs with the assistance from third-party specialist consultants. Several other cost saving opportunities have been identified in addition to the initiatives discussed above including mine fleet optimization, procurement optimization, key contractor optimization, and improvements to general operational efficiency. Based on early assessments, the Company had identified potential to reduce overall operating costs by 20-40% from 2021 levels by the end of 2022. The Company continues to work on developing and executing action plans to realize these cost savings and will provide a further progress update as more information become available.
Optimizing the Life-of-Mine Plan
The Company recently engaged SRK Consulting (Canada) Inc. (“SRK”) to lead a team of multidisciplinary consultants from SRK and other independent consulting firms including Allnorth Consultants Limited, Knight Piésold Ltd., and Equity Exploration Consultants Ltd. to prepare an updated Mineral Reserve, Mineral Resource, and Life of Mine plan for the PureGold Mine. The updates will be detailed in a NI 43-101 Technical Report which the Company expects to release in the third or fourth quarter of 2022. The scope of work for the updated Life of Mine plan includes an analysis of the optimal throughput rate, analysis of mining methods, analysis of current and future mine access including shaft versus ramp trade-off studies, and analysis of potential future production expansions. The goal of the updated Life of Mine plan is to identify the best value-maximizing path forward for the Company and its shareholders based on existing development and infrastructure, operating experience to date, significant exploration and organic growth potential, and the Company’s current and future financial capacity.
2022 Production and Cost Outlook
Based on the various production improvement and cost savings initiatives currently underway, by the end of 2022, the Company is targeting a minimum of a 50% increase in average daily ore production, a 30% increase in average head grade, and a 20% reduction in monthly operating costs compared to 2021 totals.
For the first half of 2022, the Company expects to mine and process ore at an average rate of between 600-700 tonnes per day at an average head grade of 4.0-5.0 g/t Au and average gold recovery of 95% translating to expected gold production of between 15,000-20,000 ounces for the six-month period. Both ore production and grade are expected to improve in H2 2022 as the various initiatives underway continue to be developed and implemented, including work in support of the updated Life of Mine plan.
The Company expects cost and production guidance for H2 2022 will be available by June 2022.
Cash and Liquidity
At the date of this news release, the Company’s cash balance is approximately $9 million. The Company expects it will need to seek additional financing in the next 30 days to fund operations and to service the interest on its debt. The Company is working collaboratively with its lending partner, Sprott Private Resource Lending II (Collector), LP (“Sprott”), and with its financial and legal advisors to explore a variety of potential financing solutions. If such additional financing is not received in the short term, PureGold will not be able to meet its obligations as they become due resulting in a default under its debt obligations.
The Company expects that, in total, over the next six months, it will require approximately $50 million of external financing to bring the Company to a state of sustainable positive free cash flow at the corporate level. Assuming the required capital can be secured, the Company expects to achieve sustainable positive free cash flow by the end of 2022. This external financing could take a variety of forms including debt or equity and may include proceeds from option or warrant exercises. The Company is currently evaluating several financing alternatives and will provide a further update when such information is available.
Qualified Persons and 43-101 Disclosure
Terrence Smith, P.Eng., Chief Operating Officer for the Company, is the designated Qualified Person for this news release within the meaning of National Instrument 43-101 (“NI 43-101”) and has reviewed and verified that the technical information contained herein is accurate and approves of the written disclosure of same.
EARNINGS RELEASE AND CONFERENCE CALL DETAILS
PureGold will host its first Quarterly Conference Call on Thursday March 31st, 2022 at 9:00am PDT. Prior to the conference call, the Company will release Q4 and Full Year 2021 financial results after market close on March 30th.
Conference Call Dial-in Details:
Title: Pure Gold Mining Inc. Fourth Quarter and Full Year Financial Results Conference Call
Conference ID: 10018408
Date of call: 03/31/2022
Time of call: 9:00 AM Pacific Time
Expected Duration: 60 minutes
PARTICIPANT TELEPHONE NUMBERS
Callers should dial in 5 –10 min prior to the scheduled start time and simply ask to join our call.
Canada/USA TF: 1-800-319-4610
International Toll: +1-604-638-5340
A replay of the audio call will be available via the telephone numbers below and available until April 7th, 2022.
Canada/USA TF: 1-800-319-6413
International Toll: +1-604-638-9010
Replay Access Code: 8632
About Pure Gold Mining Inc.
PureGold is a Canadian gold mining company, located in the very heart of Red Lake, Ontario, Canada. Our vision is pure and simple. To build a highly profitable, multi-generational growth company in the world-class gold mining district of Red Lake. With our 100%-owned, fully constructed operating PureGold Mine, a multi-million-ounce gold endowment, and significant exploration upside, our value-maximizing strategy is to pursue operational excellence today, while investing in systematic exploration and phased expansions to fuel discovery and growth for the future.