Aura Minerals Inc.
TSX : ORA

Aura Minerals Inc.

March 30, 2011 17:22 ET

Aura Minerals Announces Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2010 Financial and Operating Results

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - March 30, 2011) - Aura Minerals Inc. (TSX: ORA) ("Aura Minerals" or the "Company") today announced financial and operating results for the fourth quarter and full year 2010. All dollar amounts are expressed in US dollars unless otherwise specified.

Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2010 Financial and Operating Highlights:

  • Gold production of 44,449 ounces for the quarter and 137,517 ounces for the full year 2010, with on-site average cash costs1 of gold produced of $884 per ounce and $885 per ounce, respectively, comprised of the following:
  For the three months For the year ended
  ended December 31, 2010 December 31, 2010
    Ounces Produced Cash Costs1 Ounces Produced Cash Costs1
  San Andres 19,469 $ 562 70,640 $ 589
  Sao Francisco (from May 1, 2010) 12,922 1,189 36,277 1,338
  Sao Vicente (from May 1, 2010) 12,058 1,077 30,600 1,029
  Total / Average 44,449 $ 884 137,517 $ 885
  1 See cautionary note regarding non-GAAP measures.
  • Compared to the third quarter of 2010, fourth quarter production was 16% higher and cash costs1 of gold produced were 21% lower;
  • As compared to the third quarter, gold sales of 42,543 ounces for the quarter represent a 9% increase and net sales of $57.7 million represent an increase of over 21%;
  • Gold sales for the full year 2010 were 131,688 ounces for net sales of $163.7 million;
  • Realized average price of gold sold of $1,371 per ounce for the quarter, which compares to a market average price of $1,367 per ounce (London PM Fix), and realized average price of gold sold of $1,255 per ounce for the year, which compares to a market average price year-to-date of $1,225 per ounce (London PM Fix);
  • Net loss for the quarter of $25.8 million or $0.12 per share and $57.0 million or $0.28 per share for the year, both of which included an impairment charge of $24.3 million against the goodwill and mineral property at the Sao Vicente Mine in Brazil, as further described below;
  • Adjusted net income1 for the quarter ended December 31, 2010 of $1.5 million or $0.01 per share and adjusted net loss1 for the year ended December 31, 2010 of $13.4 million or $0.07 per share, after adjusting for write-downs of inventory, impairment charges, unrealized foreign exchange losses and other non-recurring revenue and expense items;
  • Completed a joint treasury and secondary bought equity financing in Q1/2010 for gross proceeds of C$100,800,000 of which C$75,600,000 ($70,476,000) was attributable to the Company;
  • Closed the acquisition of the Sao Vicente Mine and the Sao Francisco Mine (collectively, the "Brazilian Mines") on April 30, 2010, and since the acquisition date focused on operational improvements at both mines, including optimizing pit reconfigurations and improving maintenance practices in order to increase plant and equipment availability;
  • Implemented a four-month dedicated waste stripping program at the Sao Francisco Mine commencing in late November 2010, which will allow the mine to resume normal operations in April 2011 with a sustainable mine plan in place;
  • Advanced the construction and mine development at the Aranzazu Mine which resulted in a re-start of the upgraded mine and plant operations in the fourth quarter and a declaration of commercial production on February 1, 2011;
  • Continued exploration at the San Andres, Sao Vicente and Aranzazu Mines throughout 2010 with a focus on converting resources to reserves;
  • Released results during and subsequent to the fourth quarter from ongoing exploration and definition drilling programs at the Aranzazu Mine, with an emphasis on increasing the overall resource base along strike and at depth;
  • Ended the year with $36.5 million in cash and cash equivalents;
  • Subsequent to the year-end, completed a debt restructuring of the contractual obligations owing to Yamana Gold Inc. ("Yamana"); and
  • Entered into an agreement subsequent to the year end with a major financial institution for a revolving credit facility (the "Credit Facility") for up to $25 million, to be used for working capital at the Aranzazu Mine and general corporate purposes.

1 See cautionary note regarding non-GAAP measures.

"Although 2010 was a challenging year for the Company, Aura Minerals ended the year with a solid operating performance, meeting its revised production guidance. As compared to the previous quarter, the fourth quarter of 2010 saw a 16% increase in gold production, a 21% decrease in average cash costs, a 9% increase in ounces of gold sold and a 21% increase in sales revenues. This was made possible by numerous improvements made at each of the gold operations since their acquisitions. One of our most important operating decisions this past year was to implement the dedicated waste stripping program at the Sao Francisco Mine, effective at November month-end," commented Patrick Downey, President and Chief Executive Officer of Aura Minerals. "This program allows the Sao Francisco Mine to resume normal operations with a sustainable mine plan and a pit configuration and layout that will enhance production, reduce waste dilution, increase operating efficiencies and improve safety. Our operations and technical teams have also completed a new mine plan which the Company will implement in April 2011. As a result, with the mining of higher grade ore later this year, expected annualized production at the Sao Francisco Mine, beginning in mid-2012, is 100,000 ounces of gold at significantly lower cash costs1 than experienced in 2010. This compares to 61,770 ounces of gold produced in all of 2010. Similarly, numerous improvements at the San Andres Mine have resulted in 2011 production guidance of 80-90,000 ounces of gold, up from the 70,640 ounces and 68,372 ounces of gold produced in 2010 and 2009, respectively. We declared commercial production at the Aranzazu Mine in February 2011, and while full capacity of 2,600 tpd has been reached, copper recoveries have varied to date due to the processing of underground development ore, oxide ore and transition ore from open-pits. However, once final commissioning of the regrind and cleaner circuit is completed and processing of sulphide ore commences in the second quarter, the copper concentrate grade is expected to reach 30%, with a significant improvement in copper production. The next stages of underground mine development at the Aranzazu Mine will be in the Mexicana zone, the high grade BW zone and the AA Sub Level Cave. Our technical team has also commenced planning for a future expansion of the operation at the Aranzazu Mine to 4,500 – 5,000 tpd. We recently completed all optimization testwork for the Arapiraca Project in Brazil, and we plan to complete a bankable feasibility study later this year. This will be a milestone development for the Company as we see significant value in this project. At the Corporate level, we took several major steps to ensure added liquidity and flexibility in managing our affairs, by restructuring over $100 million in near-term debt and other obligations and by the arranging of a low-cost $25 million revolving debt facility."

Adding to the above, Mr. Patrick Mars, Chairman of Aura Minerals, stated, "Aura has made significant progress throughout 2010, particularly in the last quarter. This is due to the dedication and hard work of our operations teams. Looking forward to 2011 and beyond, Aura Minerals is well positioned for further growth and value realization."

Financial Review

The following financial information does not constitute management's discussion and analysis ("MD&A") as contemplated by relevant securities rules and should be read in conjunction with the Company's annual audited financial statements and MD&A for the year ended December 31, 2010, which are available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com under the Company's profile or on the Company's website.

The following table presents a summary of financial information for the three months and the years ended December 31, 2010 and 2009:

  Three months ended Dec. 31, 2010 Three months ended Dec. 31, 2009
Year ended Dec. 31, 2010

Year ended Dec. 31, 2009
 
(In thousands of dollars, except per share amounts)
  (Unaudited) (Unaudited) (Audited) (Audited)
         
Sales $ 57,735 $ 19,601 $ 163,652 $ 26,491
Mine operating expenses, depletion, amortization and accretion, and net smelter return royalties (46,720) (14,607) (140,270) (21,359)
Mine operating profit 11,015 4,994 23,382 5,132
 
Expenses        
  Stock-based compensation (1,591) (931) (11,456) (4,586)
  Cost of operations in care and maintenance - (153) - (1,664)
  Exploration expenses (5,811) (3,862) (24,157) (10,699)
  General and administrative expenses (5,135) (4,170) (14,637) (7,753)
  Amortization and accretion (782) (107) (2,051) (367)
  Transaction costs - - (2,335) -
  Interest expense (633) (229) (1,898) (319)
  Other income 1,064 512 3,411 781
  Foreign exchange and derivatives loss (gain) 1,046 1,932 3,369 (2,952)
  Impairment charge - resource properties (681) - (681) (8,167)
  Impairment charge - Sao Vicente Mine (24,276) - (24,276) -
Loss before income taxes (25,784) (2,014) (51,329) (30,594)
  Income tax expense, net (41) (3,897) (5,719) (743)
Net loss for the period $ (25,825) $ (5,911) $ (57,048) $ (31,337)
 
Adjustments:        
  Unrealized foreign exchange (gains) losses 249 - 1,165 -
  Stock-based compensation 1,591 931 11,456 4,586
  Write-down of inventory 549 - 3,737 -
  Impairment charge - Sao Vicente Mine 24,276 - 24,276 -
  Impairment charge, net of related future income tax recovery 681 - 681 8,167
  Non-recurring transaction costs - - 2,335 -
         
Adjusted income (loss)1 for the period $ 1,521 $ (4,980) $ (13,398) $ (18,584)
 
Basic and diluted loss per share $ (0.12) (0.04) (0.28) (0.23)
         
Adjusted income (loss)1 per share $ 0.01 $ (0.03) $ (0.07) $ (0.13)
1 See cautionary note regarding non-GAAP measures.

Gold ounces sold for the respective periods, the average realized prices per ounce and net sales are detailed in the following table. The average realized prices per ounce for the three months and the year ended December 31, 2010 compare to the average market prices (London PM Fix) of $1,367 and $1,225 per ounce, respectively.

  Three months ended Dec. 31, 2010 Three months ended Dec. 31, 2009 Year ended Dec. 31, 2010 Year ended Dec. 31, 2009
 
 
         
San Andes Mine, from August 25, 2009 (ounces) 19,172 18,076 69,643 25,251
Sao Francisco Mine, from May 1, 2010 (ounces) 13,052 - 34,109 -
Sao Vicente Mine, from May 1, 2010 (ounces) 10,319 - 27,936 -
Total ounces sold during period 42,543 18,076 131,688 25,251
         
Realized average gold price per ounce in period $ 1,371 $ 1,081 $ 1,255 $ 1,048
         
Gold sales revenues (in '000's) net of local sales tax $ 57,735 $ 19,601 $ 163,652 $ 26,456
Concentrate sales (in '000's) - - - 35
Total net sales $ 57,735 $ 19,601 $ 163,652 $ 26,491

Cash costs of goods sold for the quarter and for the year ended December 31, 2010 totalled $40.2 million (or $944 per ounce) and $117.9 million (or $895 per ounce), respectively, which included inventory write-downs of $0.5 million and $3.7 million, respectively, to bring production inventories to their net realizable value. Together with non-cash depletion, amortization and accretion charges of $6.6 million and $22.3 million for the quarter and year ended December 31, 2010, respectively, total cost of goods sold was $46.7 million (or $1,098 per ounce) and $140.3 million (or $1,065 per ounce), respectively.

Mine operating profit for the quarter ended December 31, 2010 was $11.0 million, which compares to a mine operating profit of $5.0 million for the fourth quarter of 2009, while mine operating profit for the year ended December 31, 2010 was $23.4 million, which compares to a mine operating profit of $5.1 million for the the year ended 2009.

Other expenses for the three months and for the year ended December 31, 2010 included exploration expenses of $5.8 million and $24.2 million, respectively, stock-based compensation of $1.6 million and $11.5 million, respectively, and general and administrative expenses of $5.1 million and $14.6 million, respectively. Other expenses for the quarter and the year ended December 31, 2010 also include an impairment charge against the assets and goodwill at the Company's Sao Vicente Mine of $24.3 million. The impairment charge was the result of an impairment test conducted as of December 31, 2010, which determined that the expected future cash flows of the Sao Vicente Mine were less than the carrying value of its assets and goodwill. The $24.3 million impairment charge resulted in a reduction of all the goodwill allocated to this mine of $6.1 million and a reduction of mineral properties included in property, plant and equipment of $18.2 million. Due to the high costs encountered at the Sao Francisco Mine and Sao Vicente Mine throughout 2010, the Company was required to assess whether their carrying values of the long-lived assets and related goodwill were impaired. Although the mines were acquired as part of a single transaction, the Company is required to perform these impairment analyses at the lowest level for which separate identifiable cash flows exist. As such, the impairment analysis was performed for each of the two Brazilian Mines. For the Sao Francisco Mine, estimated undiscounted cash flows indicate that the net cash flows are well in excess of the mine's carrying values as at December 31, 2010 and, accordingly, the Company determined that no impairment of the goodwill or assets at the Sao Francisco Mine is required.

Interest expense for the quarter and the year ended December 31, 2010 totalled $0.6 million and $1.9 million, respectively, and related to interest paid on the promissory notes payable in connection with the acquisitions of the San Andres Mine and the Brazilian Mines. For the three months and the year ended December 31, 2010, the Company recorded foreign exchange gains of $1.0 million and $3.4 million, respectively, reflecting the effects of the Company's assets and liabilities held in foreign currencies and the fluctuation of those currencies against the United States dollar during the period.

Other income for the three months and the year ended December 31, 2010 of $1.1 million and $3.4 million, respectively, included gains on marketable securities, income generated on invested funds, and gains related to marking the portion of the Company's forward currency contracts not designated as hedges to their market values.

For the fourth quarter and the full year 2010, the Company recorded total income tax expense of $41,000 and $5.7 million respectively. The income tax expense consisted of current income tax expense for the quarter and the full year 2010 of $6.2 million and $12.6 million, respectively, relating to income taxes payable on earnings at the San Andres Mine, offset by a future income tax recovery of $6.2 million and $6.9 million, respectively.

For the three months and the year ended December 31, 2010, the Company recorded a net loss of $25.8 million or $0.12 per share and $57.0 million or $0.28 per share, respectively. Adjusted net income1 for the fourth quarter was $1.5 million and adjusted net loss1 for the year ended December 31, 2010 was $13.4 million, after adjusting for unrealized foreign exchange gains and losses, write-downs of inventory, impairment charges and other non-recurring revenue and expense items.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

As at December 31, 2010, the Company had working capital of $50.2 million, including cash and cash equivalents of $36.5 million. Netted against year-end working capital is the current portion of the promissory notes, of $23.0 million, which were issued in connection with the acquisition of the San Andres Mine and the Brazilian Mines. Other significant financial obligations include the long-term portion of the promissory notes of $41.2 million and the deferred purchase consideration payable of $43.2 million payable as to 50% of net free cash flows once certain thresholds have been achieved at each of the San Andres Mine and Brazilian Mines.

Based on the operating difficulties encountered at the Brazilian Mines since acquisition, the lack of cash flow generated by those operations, the amounts due in 2011 under the promissory notes, and the fact that 50% of cash flows from the San Andres Mine were forecast to commence being applied to the deferred purchase consideration in late-2012, the Company determined that it was in its best interest to restructure these obligations. Accordingly, on March 18, 2011, the Company completed a restructuring of these contractual obligations which includes a full release of all obligations owing thereunder, and a release of all related security, in consideration for the issuance of 19,056,113 common shares in the capital of the Company at a deemed price of C$3.83 per common share, a cash payment of $5 million, and a net smelter return royalty equal to 1.5% of the sales from the San Andres Mine, the Sao Francisco Mine and the Sao Vicente Mine, up to a cumulative royalty of $16 million, commencing on March 1, 2013. Under the terms of the agreement, the royalty may be repurchased at specified amounts up to March 31, 2015.

Additionally, with the ramp-up of the Aranzazu Mine and the continuing stripping program at the Sao Francisco Mine during the first quarter of 2011, combined with a significant portion of the San Andres Mine capital required to be spent during the first half of 2011, prior to the start of the rainy season, the Company sought and obtained a revolving Credit Facility in order to ensure added flexibility and liquidity during this period of increased spending. The Credit Facility, of up to $25 million, is to be used for working capital purposes at the Aranzazu Mine and for general corporate purposes, and has a maturity date of June 30, 2013.

The Company's liquidity needs will be funded from current cash resources, funds available under the Credit Facility, and cash flows generated from the San Andres Mine and from the Aranzazu Mine once steady state production is achieved with open pit and underground sulphide ore early in the second quarter of 2011. Following the recommencement of normal operations at the Sao Francisco Mine, with the operational improvements being made and a new mine plan based on significantly higher head grades and increased production levels, the Company also expects stronger operating cash flows to be generated from the Sao Francisco Mine. As a result, based on the Company's current expectations from its operating mines, combined with strong metal prices and currently available cash resources, the Company believes it is fully financed to achieve its near-term growth objectives.

1 See cautionary note regarding non-GAAP measures.

Operational and Project Review

San Andres Mine

Production at the San Andres Mine during the fourth quarter was 19,469 ounces of gold, an increase of 21% over the third quarter of 2010 and an increase of 6% from the fourth quarter in 2009. During the year ended December 31, 2010, the Company experienced lower than expected gold production from June to August as a result of the early onset of the rainy season, combined with higher than normal rainfall, which impacted mining operations, the crusher and conveyor systems, and the grade of the heap leach solution. The Company undertook a number of measures to mitigate this risk in the future, including covering the conveyors and adding significant operational flexibility by having two primary crushers available during the rainy season, which eliminates the need for stockpiles and the resulting material handling issues. The Company is also now considering covering the active pit areas during heavy rains to improve mining conditions. Other key items completed in 2010 included a water treatment facility to allow continuous treatment and discharge of excess fluids during the rainy season and more efficient pregnant leach solution management, the commissioning of a new stacking system during the third quarter, and ongoing materials handling improvements, which are expected to increase gold production going forward.

The table below sets out selected operating information for the San Andres Mine for the fourth quarters and full years 2010 and 2009:

Operating Information Q4 2010 Q4 2009 YTD 2010 YTD 20092
         
Ore mined (tonnes) 1,293,200 976,100 4,742,700 1,393,300
Waste mined (tonnes) 297,000 141,500 935,800 174,100
Total mined (tonnes) 1,590,200 1,117,600 5,678,500 1,567,400
 
Waste-to-ore ratio 0.23 0.14 0.20 0.12
 
Ore plant feed (tonnes) 1,303,600 959,200 4,768,800 1,379,200
Grade (g/tonne) 0.73 0.69 0.72 0.70
 
Production (ounces) 19,469 18,357 70,640 25,282
Sales (ounces) 19,172 18,076 69,643 25,251
 
Average cash cost of gold produced ($/ounce)1 $ 562 $ 550 $ 589 $ 545
1 See cautionary note regarding non-GAAP measures.
2 Following date of acquisition on August 25, 2009.

Cash operating costs1 of $562 per ounce of gold produced in the fourth quarter of 2010 were approximately 21% lower than the $709 per ounce reported for the third quarter of 2010 and 2% higher than the $550 per ounce reported for the fourth quarter of 2009. Cash operating costs1 for the year ended December 31, 2010 were $589 per ounce on the total 70,640 ounces of gold produced, as compared to $545 per ounce for the 25,282 ounces produced in 2009, from the date of acquisition on August 25, 2009. Factors affecting production and costs at the San Andres Mine included slightly higher grades in 2010 as compared to the same periods in 2009, offset by higher average waste-to-ore ratios and slightly lower recoveries in 2010. While recoveries in the second and third quarters of 2010 were negatively impacted by the higher than average rainfall from June to August, the recovery rate in the fourth quarter was affected by the higher proportion of 'mixed' ore processed, which characteristically has a lower level of oxidation and subsequent gold recovery and somewhat slower recovery rate kinetics.

In 2011, the planned mining sequence will have a higher proportion of mixed ore mined in the first half of the year. During the third quarter of 2011, the mine plan is to commence mining on the next phase of the upper benches of the Twin Hills pit which will have a greater proportion of oxide ore. Ongoing metallurgical test work at site indicates that mixed ores will have a gold recovery rate in the order of 60 – 65%, while oxide ore will have a higher gold recovery rate of approximately 80%.

Sao Francisco Mine

During the fourth quarter, gold production at the Sao Francisco Mine was 12,922 ounces, compared to 12,424 ounces for the third quarter, an increase of approximately 4%. Operating cash costs1 for the fourth quarter were $1,189 per ounce of gold produced, approximately 29% lower than the $1,682 per ounce reported for the third quarter of 2010. Lower costs during the fourth quarter are attributable to higher gold production, lower variable costs resulting from the Company's aggressive focus on cost control and the re-negotiated contracts for fuel, cyanide and other key consumables, and changes in inventory levels. It should also be noted that cash costs1 during the fourth quarter were adversely impacted by a further 3% strengthening of the Brazilian Real as compared to the United States Dollar. Cash costs1 of $1,338 per ounce for the year in 2010 have been adversely impacted by lower gold production, which is primarily due to the mining of ore with average head grades of 0.42 g/tonne, significantly below the life of mine plan head grades. Increased waste stripping prior to the implementation of the dedicated waste stripping program, the stronger Brazilian Real, and increased maintenance to the crushing and gravity circuit and other plant areas have also contributed to the high costs during 2010.

The table below sets out selected operating information for the Sao Francisco Mine for the portion of the second quarter of 2010 for which the Company operated the mine, the third and fourth quarters of 2010, and for the period from May 1 to December 31, 2010:

Operating Information For the period from May 1 to June 30, 2010 Q3 2010 Q4 2010 For the period from May 1 to Dec. 31, 2010
         
Ore mined (tonnes) 833,800 1,224,700 886,200 2,944,700
Waste mined (tonnes) 2,314,300 2,759,800 1,093,000 6,167,100
Deferred stripping (tonnes) - 790,500 2,717,000 3,507,500
Total mined (tonnes) 3,148,100 4,775,000 4,696,200 12,619,300
 
Waste-to-ore ratio2 2.78 2.90 4.30 3.29
 
Ore plant feed (tonnes) 782,000 1,233,200 866,500 2,881,700
Grade (g/tonne) 0.46 0.37 0.45 0.42
 
Production (ounces) 10,931 12,424 12,922 36,277
Sales (ounces) 6,928 14,129 13,052 34,109
 
Average cash cost of gold produced ($/ounce)1 $ 1,125 $ 1,682 $ 1,189 $ 1,338
1 See cautionary note regarding non-GAAP measures.
2 Includes deferred stripping waste.

1 See cautionary note regarding non-GAAP measures.

Fourth quarter gold production at the Sao Francisco Mine continued to be affected by the inability to access higher grade areas of the mine, which resulted in the continued mining of lower than life-of-mine average grade material, as discussed above. Due to the limitations of the contractor fleet and the confined pit layout, the Company determined that a dedicated waste stripping program was the only way to achieve a longer term sustainable mine plan. Operational improvements in the process area commenced during the third quarter and continued into the fourth quarter, resulting in better than average recovery rates in the period. The calculated recovery rate which was over 100% in the fourth quarter, compared to 85% in the prior quarter, is not a sustainable rate, and is primarily a result of minimal ore being stacked in December 2010 following the commencement of the dedicated waste stripping program in late November.

Ore mined during the fourth quarter of 2010 of 886,200 tonnes was approximately 28% lower than the prior quarter, reflecting the start of the capitalized waste stripping program at the end of November 2010 and the suspension of ore mining at that date. During the fourth quarter, the average ore grade was 0.45 g/tonne, an increase of 22% quarter-over-quarter, however, still significantly below the life of mine plan. Including the 1.7 million tonnes of waste moved in December as part of the stripping program, total waste and ore mined during the fourth quarter was 4.7 million tonnes, which resulted in the waste-to-ore ratio increasing to 4.30 to 1 in the quarter, as compared to 2.90 to 1 in the previous quarter. Total waste stripping during the fourth quarter of 2010 was 3.8 million tonnes, of which 2.7 million tonnes of deferred stripping has been capitalized. Associated costs of $8.2 million will be depleted as ore accessed by the stripping activities is mined. Approximately seven million tonnes of waste has been removed during the dedicated stripping period and normal operations are expected to resume in April 2011 with a sustainable mine plan going forward. The estimated capital cost for the four-month waste stripping program is $21 million, of which $15 million is attributable to the first quarter of 2011.

During the period of the waste stripping program, the Company undertook a detailed review of all aspects of the Sao Francisco operation including input costs, supply chain management, consumable usage, productivity issues, maintenance practices, and safety. This has resulted in the development of a new mine plan which the Company will commence in April 2011. The key aspects of this new plan, along with the mining of higher grade ore, are expected to result in continued cash cost1 reductions. As stated above, the Company expects to resume normal operations at the Sao Francisco Mine early in the second quarter of 2011. Once the leach pads are operating on a steady state basis later in the second quarter of 2011, and full access to the higher grade ore is achieved later in the year, on site cash costs1 are expected to decrease. During the first year following the resumption of operations, the head grade is expected to be 0.8 g/tonne gold for the crusher-gravity ore, as compared to the 0.42 g/tonne average head grade mined in 2010. Following the recommencement of normal operations and with the operational changes outlined above, the Company expects annualized production of approximately 100,000 ounces of gold, beginning in mid-2012.

Sao Vicente Mine

During the fourth quarter, gold production was 12,058 ounces compared to 9,908 ounces for the third quarter, an increase of approximately 22%. Operating cash costs1 for the fourth quarter were $1,077 per ounce of gold produced, approximately 1% lower than the $1,091 per ounce reported for the third quarter of 2010. Cash costs1 since acquisition on May 1, 2010 have been negatively impacted by the continued strengthening in the Brazilian Real as compared to the United States Dollar.

The table below sets out selected operating information for the Sao Vicente Mine for the portion of the second quarter of 2010 for which the Company operated the mine, the third and fourth quarters of 2010, and the period from May 1 to December 31, 2010:

1 See cautionary note regarding non-GAAP measures.

Operating Information For the period from May 1 to June 30, 2010 Q3 2010 Q4 2010 For the period from May 1 to Dec 31, 2010
         
Ore mined (tonnes) 562,900 1,015,300 916,300 2,494,500
Waste mined (tonnes) 1,070,000 1,121,600 1,450,600 3,642,200
Deferred stripping (tonnes) - 545,800 285,100 830,900
Total mined (tonnes) 1,632,900 2,682,700 2,652,000 6,967,600
 
Waste-to-ore ratio2 1.90 1.64 1.89 1.79
 
Ore plant feed (tonnes) 581,000 1,008,500 921,000 2,510,500
Grade (g/tonne) 0.49 0.47 0.49 0.48
 
Production (ounces) 8,634 9,908 12,058 30,600
Sales (ounces) 6,622 10,995 10,319 27,936
 
Average cash cost of gold produced ($/ounce)1 $ 893 $ 1,091 $ 1,077 $ 1,029
1 See cautionary note regarding non-GAAP measures.
2 Includes deferred stripping waste.

In the fourth quarter of 2010, the Company mined 916,300 tonnes of ore at an average head grade of approximately 0.49 grams per tonne. Although the gold grade was slightly higher compared with the prior quarter, ore tonnes mined and processed were down approximately 10% and 9%, respectively, from the ore tonnes mined and processed in the prior quarter. This was due to the onset of the rainy season in September, which has continued into March 2011. Recovery rates are influenced by changes to inventory levels, variations in mining and processing activities between periods and leach cycle times. The calculated recovery rate for the fourth quarter of 2010 was 83% as compared to 65% in the prior quarter, primarily because of the fewer number of contained ounces stacked during the fourth quarter. As a result, the increased production in the fourth quarter reflects higher gold recovery and changes to ore stockpile and heap leach inventories as described above.

The Company's focus for the Sao Vicente Mine has been operational improvements to increase productivity, improve overall gold recovery and lower cash operating costs. Ongoing operational initiatives include:

  • Upgrading the crushing and process plant to increase equipment availability and thereby improve plant throughput and reduce operating costs. Such improvements have included installation of certain critical standby equipment and improved wear materials;
  • Constructing additional leach pad space, which began in the third quarter of 2010; and
  • Conducting a definition and expansion drilling program to improve the mine planning and grade control and to increase the resource base.

Aranzazu Mine

During the fourth quarter, mine development and mill commissioning work was ongoing, with a goal of reaching full production of 2,600 tpd by the end of the first quarter of 2011. Subsequent to the end of the 2010 year, the Company declared that the mine had reached commercial production, effective February 1, 2011. Accordingly, operating costs incurred during the development and commissioning period have been capitalized and any incidental product shipment revenues prior to the date of commercial production have been applied as a reduction of capitalized costs. While full capacity has been reached, copper recoveries have varied due to the processing of underground development ore, oxide ore and transition ore from open-pits. This material was essentially used for plant commissioning purposes, but has less favourable copper recoveries than primary sulphide mineralization in the plant flotation circuit. It is expected that the open-pit mining of the oxide mineralization will be completed during the second quarter of 2011, at which time steady state mining of primary sulphide ore can be sustained. Underground mining is also being ramped up with the mining of ore currently from the Mexicana zone. The ramp up of underground mining has been slower than expected due to the delay in delivery of mine equipment and the difficultly in hiring suitably qualified mine operations personnel. The majority of the fleet has now been delivered and the Company has also hired a mining contractor to assist in mine operations and development as well as the training of the Company's mine personnel. The next stages of underground mine development will be in the high grade BW zone and the AA Sub Level Cave. Ore will be sourced from both open pit and underground during the remainder of 2011 and into 2012, with transition into full underground operations thereafter.

During 2009 and 2010, the Company continued to drill the high-grade resources within the Calcocita, Arroyos Azules, Glory Hole and BW zones for conversion of resources into proven and probable reserves, and discovered a new zone, Zona CC, which returned high-grade drill results generally consistent with the existing resource base. As part of this program, results from 161 holes were released in 2009, and results from an additional 170 new and six historic holes were released during 2010, which continued to confirm grades and widths of the deposit. Drill results from another 20 holes were also released subsequent to the end of 2010.

In the first quarter of 2010, a deep drilling program was initiated at the Aranzazu Mine to test the depth potential of the mineralization. To date, the Company has released results from 10 deep drill holes located in the "Glory Hole/Tiro Azules" zone. The results demonstrate the resource in this area is still open at depth with grades and widths consistent with the main resource. Based on the encouraging results both at depth and along strike, the Company is intending to commence planning for a major expansion program for the mine in 2011.

Arapiraca Project

The Arapiraca Project is a bulk-tonnage copper-gold-magnetite deposit located in the central-southern part of the State of Alagoas, Brazil. The Company has now completed final variability testwork, grinding simulation testwork and final design criteria and finalized the process flowsheet. The contract to complete a feasibility study is expected to be awarded later in the second quarter of 2011, with full completion of this study expected late in the fourth quarter of 2011. As part of the feasibility study, an additional drill program is planned to better define Measured and Indicated resource blocks at the margins of the deposit and define the life of mine waste-to-ore strip ratio. A new resource estimate will be completed on conclusion of the drill program and will to be incorporated into the feasibility study. With all essential permits in place, and with the excellent infrastructure in the vicinity of the project, the Company expects to commence negotiations for project financing and development during 2011, with a construction decision later in the year or early 2012.

Outlook

In 2011, the Company expects to start reaping the benefits of all the changes and improvements carried out in 2010, as reviewed above. The Company expects production at the San Andres Mine of between 80,000 and 90,000 ounces of gold in 2011 with cash costs1 in the range of $550-650 per ounce, reflecting the benefit of the operational improvements against a backdrop of continued rising industry cost pressures.

Similarly, operating results at the Sao Francisco mine should benefit from the modifications carried out in 2010 and, in particular, the waste stripping program. On resumption of normal operations, the head grade for the crusher-gravity ore is expected to be approximately double the average head grade processed in 2010. Taking into consideration the April start-up and the typical leach cycle, the Company expects production of between 55,000 and 60,000 ounces of gold for 2011 with cash costs1 between $1,000 and $1,050 per ounce. Approximately one year after the re-start of operations, or mid-2012, annualized production is expected to be approximately 100,000 ounces of gold per year at estimated cash costs1 of between $700 and $800 per ounce. Thereafter, the grades are expected to continue to improve which should increase annual gold production.

Like the Sao Francisco Mine, the Sao Vicente Mine faces the same exposure to the Brazilian Real and also has numerous opportunities to improve operational performance. Several of the operational initiatives noted above were started in the second half of 2010 and certain others will continue to be implemented in 2011, such as modifying the heap leach stacking system to improve recoveries, and reviewing the current process plant to upgrade plant availability and increase recoveries. Additionally, definition and expansion drilling will continue in an effort to increase the resource base. The Company expects production at the Sao Vicente Mine of approximately 45,000-50,000 ounces of gold in 2011 at estimated cash costs1 between $1,000 and $1,100 per ounce, with further decreases in cash costs1 when other operational improvements take effect.

Estimated 2011 gold production guidance per mine, based on the restart of operations at the Sao Francisco Mine in early April, is summarized in the table below:

Gold Production Estimates
San Andres Mine 80,000 - 90,000 oz
Sao Francisco Mine 55,000 - 60,000 oz
Sao Vicente Mine 45,000 - 50,000 oz
Total 180,000 – 200,000 oz

Plant commissioning at the Aranzazu Mine was completed in January and commercial production was declared effective February 1, 2011, with ramp-up to the targeted throughput of 2,600 tpd achieved late in the first quarter of 2011. As announced in the first quarter of 2011, the Aranzazu Mine is expected to produce 16.5 million pounds of copper, 10,000 ounces of gold, and 200,000 ounces of silver during 2011. Cash costs1 are estimated at $1.25-1.35 per pound of copper, net of by-product credits from gold and silver, once steady state production is achieved.

Capital expenditures for 2011 are expected to be approximately $52.7 million, related primarily to: the completion of projects at the Sao Francisco Mine of $21 million, including $15 million to complete the stripping program; $19.7 million at the Aranzazu Mine including $14.3 million in underground development; and $6 million at each of the San Andres Mine and the Sao Vicente Mine. Exploration expenditures are forecast to be approximately $6.2 million for the year, and include $3.2 million at the Aranzazu Mine, $2.0 million at San Andres to convert Measured and Indicated resource ounces to reserve categories, and approximately $1.0 million is to be spent on expanding the resource base at Sao Vicente.

The Company believes that the commodity price environment and prospects for its business remain favourable and it expects that San Andres, Aranzazu and Brazilian Mines will generate positive operating cash flows in 2011. As a result, based on the Company's current expectations from its operating mines, combined with strong metal prices, cash on hand, and the recently announced $25 million revolving Credit Facility, the Company believes it is fully financed to achieve its near-term growth objectives.

1 See cautionary note regarding non-GAAP measures.

Conference Call

Aura Minerals' management will host a conference call and audio webcast for analysts and investors on Thursday, March 31, 2011, at 9 a.m. (eastern time) to review the fourth quarter and full year 2010 results. Participants may access the call by dialing 416-695-7848 or toll-free access at 1-800-355-4959. Participants are encouraged to call in 10 minutes prior to the scheduled start time to avoid delays.

The call is being webcast and can be accessed at Aura Minerals' website at www.auraminerals.com. Those who wish to listen to a recording of the conference call at a later time may do so by dialing 905-694-9451 or 1-800-408-3053 (Passcode 7801002#). The conference call replay will be available from 2 p.m. eastern time on March 31, 2011, until 11:59 p.m. eastern time on April 15, 2011.

Non-GAAP Measures

This news release includes certain non-GAAP performance measures, in particular, the total cash costs of gold per ounce, and adjusted earnings or loss and adjusted earnings or loss per share. These non-GAAP measures do not have any standardized meaning within Canadian GAAP and therefore may not be comparable to similar measures presented by other companies. The Company believes that this information is useful to management and certain investors in evaluating the Company's performance. The data presented is intended to provide additional information and should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for measures of performance prepared in accordance with Canadian GAAP. Cash costs are presented as they represent an industry standard method of comparing certain costs on a per unit basis. Total cash costs include on-site mining, processing and, administration costs, off-site refining and royalty charges, reduced by by-product credits, but exclude amortization, reclamation, and exploration costs, as well as capital expenditures. Total cash costs are divided by ounces to arrive at per ounce cash costs. Adjusted earnings or loss and adjusted earnings or loss per share are calculated by taking the Company's net earnings or loss, excluding (a) non-recurring revenue and expense items; (b) stock-based compensation; (c) unrealized foreign exchange gains and losses; (d) unrealized gains and losses on derivative financial instruments; and (e) impairment losses.

About Aura Minerals Inc.

Aura Minerals is a Canadian mid-tier gold production company focused on the acquisition, exploration, development and operation of gold and base metal projects in the Americas. The Company's producing assets include the San Andres gold mine in Honduras, and the Sao Francisco and Sao Vicente gold mines in Brazil. The Company also operates the copper-gold-silver Aranzazu Mine in Zacatecas state in Mexico. Other significant assets include the feasibility-stage Serrote Deposit at the copper-gold-iron ore Arapiraca Project in Brazil.

(1) Refer to cautionary note regarding non-GAAP measures in this news release.

For further information, please visit Aura Minerals' web site at www.auraminerals.com.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statement:

This news release contains "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the applicable Canadian securities legislation. Except for statements of historical fact relating to the Company, information contained herein constitutes forward-looking statements, including any information as to the Company's strategy, plans or future financial or operating performance. Forward-looking statements are characterized by words such as "plan", "expect", "budget", "target", "project", "intend", "believe", "anticipate", "estimate" and other similar words, or statements that certain events or conditions "may" or "will" occur. Forward-looking statements are based on the opinions, assumptions and estimates of management considered reasonable at the date the statements are made, and are inherently subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties and other known and unknown factors that could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements. These factors include, but are not limited to, the impact of general business and economic conditions, global liquidity and credit availability on the timing of cash flows and the values of assets and liabilities based on projected future conditions, fluctuating metal prices (such as gold, copper, silver, nickel and iron ore), currency exchange rates (such as the Canadian dollar, Brazilian Real, Mexican Peso and the Honduran Lempira versus the United States dollar), possible variations in ore grade or recovery rates, changes in accounting policies, changes in the Company's corporate resources, changes in project parameters as plans continue to be refined, changes in project development and production time frames, the possibility of project cost overruns or unanticipated costs and expenses, higher prices for fuel, steel, power, labour and other consumables contributing to higher costs and general risks of the mining industry, failure of plant, equipment or processes to operate as anticipated, unexpected changes in mine life, final pricing for concentrate sales, unanticipated results of future studies, seasonality and unanticipated weather changes, costs and timing of the development of new deposits, success of exploration activities, successful completion of proposed acquisitions, permitting time lines, government regulation of mining operations, environmental risks, unanticipated reclamation expenses, title disputes or claims, limitations on insurance coverage and timing and possible outcome of pending litigation and labour disputes, as well as those risk factors discussed or referred to in the Company's AIF under the heading "Item 4.2 – Risk Factors". Although the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual actions, events or results to differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements, there may be other factors that cause actions, events or results not to be anticipated, estimated or intended. There can be no assurance that forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. The Company undertakes no obligation to update forward-looking statements if circumstances or management's estimates, assumptions or opinions should change, except as required by applicable law. The reader is cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. The forward-looking information contained herein is presented for the purpose of assisting investors in understanding the Company's expected financial and operational performance and results as at and for the periods ended on the dates presented in the Company's plans and objectives and may not be appropriate for other purposes.

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