Aura Minerals Inc.
TSX : ORA

Aura Minerals Inc.

August 14, 2012 18:00 ET

Aura Minerals Announces Second Quarter 2012 Financial and Operating Results

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Aug. 14, 2012) - Aura Minerals Inc. ("Aura Minerals" or the "Company") (TSX:ORA) announces financial and operating results for the second quarter of 2012.

This release does not constitute management's discussion and analysis ("MD&A") as contemplated by applicable securities laws and should be read in conjunction with the MD&A and the Company's unaudited condensed interim consolidated financial statements for the three and six months ended June 30, 2012, which are available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and on the Company's website.

Highlights:

  • Gold ounce production of 42,361 ounces in the second quarter of 2012, an increase of 11% compared to the second quarter of 2011 and 13% compared to the first quarter of 2012;
  • Copper production at Aranzazu of 2,960,700 pounds in the second quarter, an increase of 83% compared to the second quarter of 2011 and a decrease of 6% as compared to the first quarter of 2012. The on-site average cash cost per pound of payable copper produced, net of gold and silver credits is $2.92 for the second quarter of 2012 compared to $3.28 for the second quarter of 2011.Copper concentrate of 5,338 DMT shipped in the second quarter, an increase of 52% compared to the second quarter of 2011;
  • Revenue of $72.6 million in the second quarter of 2012, an increase of 6% over the second quarter of 2011;
  • Gross margin of $(8.3) million for the second quarter of 2012, compared to a gross margin of $6.2 million for the second quarter of 2011;
  • Loss of $11.5 million ($0.05 per share) for the second quarter of 2012 compared to a profit of $1.2 million ($0.01 per share) for the second quarter of 2011;
  • Completed the PEA for the Aranzazu expansion project and appointed Mr. Agne Ahlenius as General Manager of the Aranzazu project;
  • Ended the second quarter of 2012 with $21.2 million in cash and cash equivalents. Amended the revolving credit facility, extending the maturity to June 30, 2014 and increasing the credit available to $45 million;
  • Continued to progress and optimize the bankable feasibility study for the Serrote Project, which is scheduled for completion and publication in the third quarter of 2012.

Mr. Jim Bannantine, the Company's President and CEO stated, "Despite experiencing a number of unexpected difficulties in 2012 Aura remains in a strong operating and financial position and management remains confident that we will be able to execute our business plan and achieve guidance for the year.

During the quarter, plant and mine operations at San Andres, with the assistance of the new mine contractor, continued to improve and deliver cash flow for our operations. Production, sales and average cash cost per ounce of gold produced improved upon the first quarter results. Management expects San Andres to continue to operate pursuant to guidance and our planned exploration drill program this fall will hopefully add to our knowledge about the reserve base at San Andres.

Our second quarter results were partly reflective of the higher than expected levels of arsenic at the Aranzazu Mine. The impact on the current quarter's cash costs of the additional charges and penalties is estimated to be $0.72 per payable pound of copper. We continue to work towards understanding the level of arsenic as well as reviewing options to effectively lower current arsenic levels in the concentrate production. In reviewing these options, we have negotiated revised arsenic penalties that better allow the Company to deal with the current copper concentrate until the arsenic problem can be controlled at an acceptable level. Following the completion of the quarter, we have negotiated the placement of all of our concentrate into 2014 with separate off-takers. This placement allows us to maximize our net smelter royalties from each off-taker depending upon the arsenic levels in the concentrate sold. We look forward to expansion at Aranzazu as the recently released PEA confirms that the project's value is greatly improved by expanding the plant capacity to 4,000 tpd and installing a roaster to eliminate the high levels of arsenic. Based on the positive results of the PEA, the next step is to commence the feasibility study and advance engineering for the expanded project.

We are very fortunate to have Mr. Ahlenius join our team at Aranzazu. Mr. Ahlenius served as the Chief Operating Officer of Orvana Minerals and has over 23 years of international mine and development and operations experience. Mr. Ahlenius also served as Director General, Kinbauri Espana S.L. from August 2010 to December 2011 and was the Operation Manager of Minas de Aguas Teñidas S.A. Spain.

With respect to the Brazilian Mines, Sao Vicente operated basically on target; however, the second quarter operations were also reflective of the recovery to normalized operations at Sao Francisco following the repair of the structural failure of the primary crusher. This non-recurring structural issue has been rectified and the Company continues to refine the geological model to better reconcile the grade in order to decrease production costs. The lower than expected grade at Sao Francisco as compared to the geological model has caused management to take steps to reduce costs in anticipation of grade improvement at lower levels of the mine.

The Company's cash flow generated from operating activities was positive for the second quarter and year-to- date. Management expects that with the revised arsenic penalties at Aranzazu and improved grades at Sao Francisco, the Company will continue to generate cash flow from operating activities for 2012. In addition to cash flow from operations, while continuing to reduce group-wide general and administrative expenses, which we reduced 34% year-to-date, the gold hedges placed in the form of costless collars in late-February continue to be in the money.

Going forward, we are committed to working on the ground to realize the value of our existing assets to increase stakeholder value. The Company's focused growth strategy includes implementing the expansion plans and roaster at Aranzazu and completion of the bankable feasibility study at the advanced-stage Serrote de Laje copper project in Brazil, which will be released in the third quarter. In anticipation of the feasibility study, we have commenced negotiations for its financing and will provide a corporate update with the results of the study."

Production and Cash Costs

The Company's production and cash costs for the three and six months ended June 30, 2012 are summarized in the table below:

For the three months ended For the six months ended
June 30, 2012 June 30, 2012
Oz Produced Cash Costs Oz Produced Cash Costs
San Andres 18,131 $ 918 31,517 $ 1,008
Sao Francisco 15,826 1,752 31,175 2,083
Sao Vicente 8,404 1,581 17,256 1,567
Total / Average 42,361 $ 1,361 79,949 $ 1,548

Gold production at San Andres in the second quarter 2012 increased 14% over the comparable period due to the increase in ounces stacked, resulting in 12% more ore tonnes fed through the plant.

San Andres' operating cash costs in the second quarter of 2012 were 21% higher than the second quarter of 2011. The increased cash costs are a result of higher consumable costs and a lower recovery resulting from mining more sulphide ore as opposed to oxide ore.

Gold production at Sao Francisco in the second quarter of 2012 was 23% higher than the second quarter of 2011 due to the higher plant feed partially offsetting the lower grade but more importantly, by the application of extra cyanide to the old cells to remove "old gold" from the heap. The lower than expected grade at Sao Francisco as compared to the geological model has meant that management has been taking steps to reduce costs until the grade improves at a lower mine level. Sao Francisco's operating cash costs in the second quarter of 2012 were 50% higher than the second quarter of 2011. The increased operating cash costs are primarily a result of higher consumable costs, and lower gold production due to lower grades and maintenance issues with the crusher circuit. Year on year inflation and general cost escalations also impacted the 2012 second quarter. The area mined for most of the second quarter was above the pit bottom due to the wet season. With the upcoming dry season, mining will focus on the pit bottom from where higher grade ore is expected to be mined going forward.

Gold production at Sao Vicente in the second quarter 2012 was 9% less as compared to the second quarter of 2011 due to equipment availability issues that has delayed access to high grade ore at the pit base. Additional excavators have been rented to increase productivity.

Sao Vicente's operating cash cost per ounce produced in the second quarter of 2012 was 22% higher than the average cash cost in the second quarter of 2011. The increase in the operating cash cost per ounce produced over the comparable period in 2011 is due to a higher waste-to-ore ratio, lower production and general cost escalation, partially offset by higher process recovery rates. The mine plan calls for consistent grades for the balance of 2012, but a decreasing waste-to-ore ratio. This is expected to result in lower costs, particularly in the fourth quarter.

During the quarter ended June 30, 2012, Aranzazu continued to experience higher than expected levels of arsenic in its concentrate production. These levels were outside original contract specification and resulted in significantly higher treatment and refining charges and penalties from the Company's off-take customer during the second quarter. Recent updates to the underground grade control model indicate an expected life of mine average of 1.6% arsenic in the concentrate. The Company's near term plan, 2012 through 2014, is to mitigate the arsenic levels, charges and penalties though optimizing short-term grade control campaigns in the mine as well as process control and blending at the plant.

Aranzazu's operating cash costs per payable pound of copper for the second quarter 2012 decreased 11% compared to the second quarter 2011. Operating cash costs per payable pound of copper have steadily decreased quarter by quarter as production continues to increase, recoveries improve and Aranzazu moves towards design levels for throughput and concentrate production. However, operating cash costs increased from the first quarter 2012 of $2.46 per payable pound of copper due to additional charges and penalties incurred on the out-of-specification concentrate shipments. The impact on the current quarter's cash costs of the additional charges and penalties is estimated to be $0.72 per payable pound of copper.

Revenues and Cost of Goods Sold

Revenues for the three months ended June 30, 2012 increased by 6% compared to the three months ended June 30, 2011. The increase in revenues resulted from an 8% increase in gold sales, partially offset by an 11% decrease in copper concentrate sales.

The increase in gold sales is attributable to a 3% increase in gold ounces sold during the quarter and a 6% increase in the realized average gold price per ounce.

The decrease in copper concentrate sales is attributable to 41% lower realized revenue per DMT of copper concentrate, partially offset by a 52% increase in DMT sold. Total revenues for the three months ended June 30, 2012 at Aranzazu related to the shipment of 5,338 DMT of copper concentrate compared to 3,504 DMT of copper concentrate for the three months ended June 30, 2011. Total concentrate shipment revenues for the second quarter of 2012 were $1,651 per DMT compared to $2,813 per DMT for the second quarter of 2011. The Company recorded an average price of $7,868 per tonne ($3.57 per pound) of copper, $1,603 per ounce of gold and $28.83 per ounce of silver, excluding the impact of price adjustments during the quarter. The second quarter 2012 revenues reflect additional charges and penalties for the arsenic content within the concentrate sold.

For the three For the three For the six For the six
months ended months ended months ended months ended
June 30, 2012 June 30, 2011 June 30, 2012 June 30, 2011
San Andres, (oz) 13,880 18,845 26,558 37,309
Sao Francisco, (oz) 16,438 10,630 31,930 19,712
Sao Vicente, (oz) 10,324 9,886 19,381 19,852
Total ounces sold 40,642 39,361 77,868 76,873
Realized average gold price per oz $ 1,601 $ 1,512 $ 1,643 $ 1,452
Gold sales revenues (in '000's) net of local sales taxes $ 63,782 $ 58,908 $ 125,400 $ 110,474
Copper concentrate sales (in '000's) $ 8,812 $ 9,856 $ 22,790 $ 12,079
Total net sales (in '000's) $ 72,594 $ 68,764 $ 148,190 $ 122,553

The average realized prices per oz for the quarters ended June 30, 2012 and 2011 compare to the average market prices (London PM Fix) of $1,610 and $1,506, respectively.

Copper concentrate sales are from the shipment of 5,338 DMT and 3,504 DMT of copper concentrate for the quarters ended June 30, 2012 and 2011, respectively. Copper concentrate revenues for the three months ended June 30, 2012 and 2011 are comprised as follows:

For the three For the three
months ended months ended
June 30, 2012 June 30, 2011
Copper revenue, net of treatment and refining charges $ 6,278 $ 5,828
Gold by‐product revenue 2,679 2,591
Silver by‐product revenue 1,051 1,142
Price adjustments recorded (1,196 ) 295
Total revenue $ 8,812 $ 9,856

For the three months ended June 30, 2012, total cost of goods sold from San Andres were $16,143,000 or $1,163 per ounce compared to $16,625,000 or $882 per ounce for the three months ended June 30, 2011. For the second quarters 2012 and 2011, cash operating costs were $982 per ounce and $699 per ounce, respectively, while non-cash depletion and amortization charges were $181 per ounce and $183 per ounce, respectively.

Total cost of goods sold from the Brazilian Mines for the three months ended June 30, 2012 and 2011 were $51,922,000 or $1,940 per ounce and $34,370,000 or $1,675 per ounce, respectively. For the second quarters 2012 and 2011, cash operating costs were $1,589 per ounce and $1,303 per ounce, respectively, while non-cash depletion and amortization charges were $351 per ounce and $372 per ounce, respectively. The second quarter results included a write-down of $4,329,000 or $162 per ounce to present production inventory at net realizable value.

Total cost of goods sold from Aranzazu for the three months ended June 30, 2012 and 2011 were $12,808,000 or $2,399 per DMT and $11,532,000 or $3,291 per DMT, respectively. For the second quarters 2012 and 2011, cash operating costs were $1,926 per DMT and $2,608 per DMT, respectively, while non-cash depletion and amortization charges were $473 per DMT and $685 per DMT, respectively. On-site average cash cost per pound of payable copper produced, net of gold and silver credits is $2.92 for the second quarter of 2012 compared to $3.28 for the second quarter of 2011. The increased production levels during the second quarter were offset by the adverse effect of elevated arsenic levels in Aranzazu's concentrate production, included in cash costs. The second quarter results included a write-down of $1,302,000 or $244 per DMT to present production inventory at net realizable value.

Additional Highlights

In February 2012, the Company took steps to reduce general and administrative costs in Canada and Brazil. Salaries, wages and benefits have decreased 34% due to reorganizations at the Company's corporate offices. Share-based payment expense has decreased 65% as a result of the increase in forfeitures during the quarter. Professional and consulting fees have decreased 62% due to the Company not undertaking any special projects during the second quarter of 2012.

On May 10, 2012, the Company entered into an amended credit facility (the "Amended Credit Facility") pursuant to which a second bank was added as a lender to the Company. Under the Amended Credit Facility, the maturity was extended from June 30, 2013 to June 30, 2014. The revolving credit available to the Company has been increased from $25,000,000 to $45,000,000, but will be reduced by $3,750,000 per quarter from June 30, 2013 to March 31, 2014. All other terms and conditions remain unchanged from the original Credit Facility, except for the interest margin which has increased from 2.75% over LIBOR to 3.25% over LIBOR, the arrangement fee which has increased to 1.75% from 1.5%, and the standby fee on undrawn funds which has increased from 1.0% to 1.5% per annum. Pursuant to the terms of the Amended Credit Facility, the Company is required to maintain a total debt/EBITDA ratio of not more than one to one for each reporting period. The Company was in violation of this financial covenant at June 30, 2012 and a waiver has been received from the Company's lenders.

Outlook and Strategy

Aura Minerals' future profitability, operating cash flows and financial position will be closely related to the prevailing prices of gold and copper. Key factors influencing the price of gold and copper include the supply of and demand for these commodities, the relative strength of currencies (particularly the U.S. dollar) and macroeconomic factors such as current and future expectations for inflation and interest rates. Management believes that the short-to-medium term economic environment is likely to remain supportive for both gold and copper prices with continued volatility of both.

Other key factors influencing profitability and operating cash flows are production levels (impacted by grades, ore quantities, labour, plant and equipment availabilities, and process recoveries) and production and processing costs (impacted by production levels, prices and usage of key consumables, labour, inflation, and exchange rates).

Aura Minerals' full year 2012 gold production and operating cash cost guidance per mine is as follows:

Gold Mines - Production Estimates
San Andres $900 - $1,000 60,000 - 65,000 oz
Sao Francisco $1,500 - $1,700 70,000 - 80,000 oz
Sao Vicente $1,350 - $1,450 35,000 - 40,000 oz
Total $1,250 to $1,400 165,000 - 185,000 oz

The Company expects production to increase and cash costs to decrease in the second half of the year at Sao Francisco and Sao Vicente at higher grades deeper in the pits with lower strip ratios. The third quarter at San Andres features the rainy season as well as blocks of significantly mixed ore, both reflected in production and cost guidance for the year.

The Company's 2012 production guidance for Aranzazu is as follows:

Copper 11,000,000 - 12,500,000 lbs

Cash costs per payable pound of copper for Aranzazu are net of gold and silver by-product credits and include off-site treatment and refining charges and penalties. Accordingly, as the arsenic level in Aranzazu's concentrate shipments is a factor in determining the overall treatment and refining charges and penalties incurred, cash costs will be affected by the level of arsenic. As a result, the Company's previous 2012 cash costs guidance for Aranzazu of between $1.75 to $2.00 per pound of payable copper have been adjusted to between $2.25 and $2.75 per pound of payable copper. After the end of the second quarter, the Company secured off-take commitments for all of the production of Aranzazu into 2014 split between three different buyers covering the range of arsenic concentrations produced at Aranzazu. The prices and volumes in these off-take agreements cover both mine operating costs and mine development capital costs during this time period.

Total capital expenditure guidance for the balance of 2012 is approximately $13 million, with $9 million relating to growth and sustaining projects and $4 million relating to the continued development at Aranzazu. Exploration expenses are forecast to be approximately $3 million for the balance of 2012, including costs associated with the completion of the Serrote Feasibility Study and the Aranzazu PEA as well as resource definition and expansion drilling at San Andres.

Conference Call

Aura Minerals' management will host a conference call and audio webcast for analysts and investors on Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 9 a.m. (Eastern Time) to review the second quarter 2012 results. Participants may access the call by dialing 416-695-7848 or the 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 August 15, 2012, until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on August 29, 2012.

Non-GAAP Measures

This news release includes certain non-GAAP performance measures, in particular, the total cash costs of gold per ounce and cash costs per payable pound of copper. These non-GAAP measures do not have any standardized meaning within International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) 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 IFRS. 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. Similarly, total cash costs of copper produced include the above costs, and are net of gold and silver by-products, but include offsite treatment and refining charges. Total cash costs of copper produced are divided by payable pounds of copper produced to arrive at per payable pound cash costs.

About Aura Minerals Inc.

Aura Minerals is a Canadian mid-tier gold and copper production company focused on the 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, the Sao Francisco and Sao Vicente gold mines in Brazil and the copper-gold-silver Aranzazu Mine in Mexico. The Company's core exploration asset is the feasibility-stage copper-gold-iron ore Serrote Project in Brazil. The Company also has the Inaja iron ore project currently optioned to Vale.

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

Cautionary Note

This press release contains certain "forward-looking information" and "forward-looking statements", as defined in applicable securities laws (collectively, "forward-looking statements"). All statements other than statements of historical fact are forward- looking statements. Forward-looking statements relate to future events or future performance and reflect the Company's current estimates, predictions, expectations or beliefs regarding future events and include, without limitation, statements with respect to: the amount of mineral reserves and mineral resources; the amount of future production over any period; the amount of waste tonnes mined; the amount of mining and haulage costs; cash costs; operating costs; strip ratios and mining rates; expected grades and ounces of metals and minerals; expected processing recoveries; expected time frames; prices of metals and minerals; mine life; and gold hedge programs. Often, but not always, forward-looking statements may be identified by the use of words such as "expects", "anticipates", "plans", "projects", "estimates", "assumes", "intends", "strategy", "goals", "objectives" or variations thereof or stating that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will" be taken, occur or be achieved, or the negative of any of these terms and similar expressions.

Forward-looking statements are necessarily based upon a number of estimates and assumptions that, while considered reasonable by the Company, are inherently subject to significant business, economic and competitive uncertainties and contingencies. Forward-looking statements in this press release are based upon, without limitation, the following estimates and assumptions: the presence of and continuity of metals at the Brazilian Mines at modeled grades; the capacities of various machinery and equipment; the availability of personnel, machinery and equipment at estimated prices; exchange rates; metals and minerals sales prices; appropriate discount rates; tax rates and royalty rates applicable to the mining operations; cash costs; anticipated mining losses and dilution; metals recovery rates, reasonable contingency requirements; and receipt of regulatory approvals on acceptable terms.

Known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, many of which are beyond the Company's ability to predict or control could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements. Specific reference is made to the most recent Annual Information Form on file with certain Canadian provincial securities regulatory authorities for a discussion of some of the factors underlying forward-looking statements, which include, without limitation, gold and copper or certain other commodity price volatility, changes in debt and equity markets, the uncertainties involved in interpreting geological data, increases in costs, environmental compliance and changes in environmental legislation and regulation, interest rate and exchange rate fluctuations, general economic conditions and other risks involved in the mineral exploration and development industry. Readers are cautioned that the foregoing list of factors is not exhaustive of the factors that may affect the forward-looking statements.

All forward-looking statements herein are qualified by this cautionary statement. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. The Company undertakes no obligation to update publicly or otherwise revise any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information or future events or otherwise, except as may be required by law. If the Company does update one or more forward-looking statements, no inference should be drawn that it will make additional updates with respect to those or other forward-looking statements.

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