Chesapeake Gold Corp.
TSX VENTURE : CKG

Chesapeake Gold Corp.

March 07, 2011 20:12 ET

Chesapeake Gold Corp.: Metates Updated PEA Indicates Excellent Project Economics; 26,000 Metre Drill Program Underway

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - March 7, 2011) - Chesapeake Gold Corp. (TSX VENTURE:CKG) ("Chesapeake") is pleased to announce the results of an updated Preliminary Economic Assessment ("PEA") on its large 100% owned Metates gold-silver project located in Durango State, Mexico. The updated NI 43-101 compliant PEA provides new information, operating and costing estimates as compared to the original PEA filed June 4, 2010 on SEDAR. The original PEA and the update were prepared by M3 Engineering & Technology of Tucson, Arizona ("M3") with input from other prominent industry consultants. All costs are in US Dollars.

Updated PEA Key Findings

  • An increase in the processing rate to 120,000 tonnes per day ("tpd) from 90,000 tpd indicates markedly improved economics and will be the process rate used in the pre-feasibility study
     
  • At 120,000 tpd, the average annual production during the first full four years of operations is 873,000 ounces gold, 33 million ounces silver (1,533,000 ounces gold equivalent) and 122 million pounds zinc with an average gold equivalent cash cost of $308 per ounce
     
  • Over a 20 year mine life ("LOM"), the average annual production is 744,000 ounces gold, 19.4 million ounces silver (1,131,000 ounces gold equivalent) and 102 million pounds zinc making it one of the largest gold and silver mines in the world, with an average LOM gold equivalent cash cost of $436 per ounce
     
  • An average net cash flow of $905 million in operating years 2-5. Total LOM net cash flow of $10.4 billion
     
  • An estimated initial capital cost of $3.16 billion including $725 million in contingency and owner's costs reflecting capital reduction by outsourcing the dedicated electric power and oxygen plants
     
  • Unleveraged pre-tax internal rate of return ("IRR") of 16.7%, a payback period of 4.1 years, and a net present value ("NPV") of $2.88 billion at a 5% discount rate using base case metal prices of $900 per ounce gold, $18.00 per ounce silver and $1.00 per pound zinc

Resource Base

The updated PEA uses the same NI 43-101 compliant in-pit mineral resource estimate as the 2010 study. The resource estimation was performed by Independent Mining Consultants of Tucson, Arizona ("IMC") at a gold price of US $900 per ounce and a cut off grade of 0.40 g/t gold equivalent and is presented in the following table:

  Throughput   Gold   Silver   Gold Eq. (1)   Zinc  
Resource Class  (K tonnes ) (g/t ) (g/t ) (g/t ) ( %)
Measured 216,199   0.67   16.5   0.92   0.19  
  Contained Metal     4,658,000 oz   114,704,000 oz   6,416,000 oz   900,590 (Klbs )
Indicated 729,938   0.54   15.2   0.78   0.16  
  Contained Metal     12,524,000 oz   351,857,000 oz   17,941,000 oz   2,491,187 (Klbs )
Measured + Indicated 936,137   0.57   15.5   0.81   0.16  
  Contained Metal     17,182,000 oz   466,571,000 oz   24,357,000 oz   3,391,777 (Klbs )
Inferred 135,315   0.60   14.3   0.82   0.12  
  Contained Metal     2,611,000 oz   62,219,000 oz   3,572,000 oz   357,881 (Klbs )
(1) Gold Equivalent equals Gold plus Silver/65; assumes 85% metal recoveries

Mining Schedule

IMC prepared a mine schedule based on the production rate of 120,000 tpd which results in a 20 year mine life. The mine schedule includes Inferred mineral resources which are considered to be too speculative geologically to have economic considerations applied that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves. There is no certainty that all or any part of the mineral resources will be converted into mineral reserves. The PEA is an estimate of the economic viability of the project and there is no certainty that the results projected will be realized and actual results may vary substantially. The mine schedule is based on an average gold price of US$825 per ounce but employs a variable gold equivalent cut off grade ranging from 0.68 g/t to 0.43 g/t depending on the mining year to balance mine production capacity with the process plant capacity and optimize the grades and strip ratio in the early years of production. The table below provides a summary of the mineral resources and schedule used in the updated PEA, and illustrates the higher grades and lower strip ratio achieved early in the mine life:

  Years 2-5 Life of Mine
Processed Tonnes (1) 175 million 821 million
  Gold (g/tonne) 0.73 0.65
  Silver (g/tonne) 27.7 17.0
  Gold Equivalent (g/tonne) (2) 1.16 0.91
  Zinc (%) 0.24 0.16
  Strip Ratio 1.00 1.85
(1) Material processed does not meet NI 43-101 requirements for reserves  
(2) Gold Equivalent equals Gold plus Silver/65 

Development Overview

The updated PEA is based on the same basic mining method and processing flow sheet as utilized in the original study except scaled up to the larger mining and processing rate. The processing plant includes a conventional crushing, grinding and flotation circuit which utilizes high pressure grinding to feed a sulphide rougher flotation concentration plant. The sulphide concentrate is transported downhill via a slurry pipeline to an area referred to as the Ranchito (formerly Comedero) site which is located about 70 kilometers southwest of the Metates mine site. The Ranchito site is located near a large limestone resource and close to excellent infrastructure including available power, water and labour.

At Ranchito the concentrate is treated via pressure oxidation with subsequent cyandiation and Merrill-Crowe recovery of gold and silver dore. High purity oxygen to feed the pressure oxidation plant will be manufactured on site in a dedicated plant. Acidic solutions from the pressure oxidation will be treated with limestone and lime produced on-site. Zinc will be recovered from the pressure oxidation solutions via sulphide precipitation to make a concentrate which is then shipped to a smelter for final processing. Electrical power is to be supplied from a dedicated coal fired power plant which is to be located at the port of Topolobampo. Overall gold and silver recoveries through dore production are estimated at 84.7%. Overall zinc recovery is estimated at 85%.

Comparison of Production Rates, Capital Costs, Metal Prices and Financial Valuation

The larger 120,000 tpd production rate requires a higher initial capital cost but results in higher annualized metal production and lower unit operating costs in most areas while keeping intact the same operating conditions and metal recovery and pricing estimates from the earlier PEA. In the table below, the PEA Base Case refers to the 90,000 tpd production basis used in the 2010 study. The updated PEA Case 1 is the larger 120,000 tpd production rate relating to out-sourcing the dedicated 300 MW power plant and the oxygen plant with a combined initial capital cost of approximately $1.04 billion. In this case the lower CAPEX trade-off resulted in a higher cost of power from $0.051 per kwh to $0.079 per kwh and the cost of oxygen from $2.24 to $4.50 per tonne of material. The increased oxygen cost also reflects a higher estimated oxygen demand from the scaled up operation. Out-sourcing these large capital items results in improved overall economic metrics of the project except for a measured increase in cash costs per ounce.

The updated PEA Case 2 is the same as Case 1 but uses metal price assumptions of $900 per ounce gold, $18.00 per ounce silver and $1.00 per pound zinc. As shown in the table below, Case 2 further improves the project economics relative to the other cases:

  PEA   PEA   Updated PEA  
  Base Case   Case 1   Case 2  
Production Rate (ktonnes/day) 90   120   120  
Projected Mine Life (yrs) 27   20   20  
Metal Price Assumptions            
  Gold ($/oz.) 900   900   900  
  Silver ($/oz.) 14   14   18  
  Zinc ($/lb.) 1.00   1.00   1.00  
Average Annual Production            
  Gold (oz.) 547,000   744,000   744,000  
  Silver (oz.) (000) 14,500   19,400   19,400  
  Gold Equivalent (oz.) 770,000   1,045,000   1,131,000  
  Zinc (million lbs.) 95   102   102  
LOM Revenue ($000) $20,805,000   $20,486,000   $22,031,000  
Average Annual Net Cash Flow ($000) Pre-Tax $408,600   $440,600   $519,200  
LOM Total Net Cash Flow ($000) Pre-Tax $11,032,000   $8,812,000   $10,384,000  
Initial Capital ($000) $3,196,000   $3,157,000   $3,157,000  
Sustaining Capital ($000) $624,000   $566,000   $566,000  
LOM Operating Costs            
  Mining Cost ($/tonne mined) /($/tonne throughput) $0.88/$2.42   $0.91/$2.60   $0.91/$2.60  
  Process Plants Operating Cost ($/tonne throughput) $7.55   $9.97   $9.97  
  General Administration ($/tonne throughput) $0.41   $0.31   $0.31  
  Other ($/tonne throughput) $0.21   $0.19   $0.19  
  Total Operating Cost ($/ tonne throughput) $10.59   $13.07   $13.07  
Cash Cost/ Gold Equivalent oz.            
(Zn By-Product Basis) $366   $473   $436  
Pre-Tax Economic Indicators            
  NPV @ 5% ($000) $2,500,000   $1,971,000   $2,885,000  
  IRR (%) 13.0 % 13.3 % 16.7 %
  Payback (yrs) 5.7   5.0   4.1  
After-Tax Economic Indicators            
  NPV @ 5% ($000) $1,569,494   $1,190,000   $1,845,000  
  IRR (%) 10.5 % 10.3 % 12.9 %
  Payback (yrs) 6.7   6.2   5.1  

The initial capital cost estimates for the 120,000 tpd cases have generally been factored from the earlier study at the 90,000 tpd process rate unless otherwise noted. For Case 2, the initial capital costs include a total of $611 million for contingency along with $114 million for owner's costs. Sustaining capital amounts to $566 million. Going forward, Case 2 employs the production rate, capital cost and metal price assumptions that may updated as developments occur towards completing a pre-feasibility study ("PFS").

Pre-Feasibility And Opportunities

Chesapeake, M3 and other prominent industry consultants expect to complete a PFS of the Metates project by the end of the year. Management believes ongoing extensive testwork and evaluating certain feasibility trade-off options will further improve the overall capital and operating costs. Since the completion of the 2010 PEA the following testing or investigations have been undertaken or are planned.

  • SGS Lakefield has performed a number of flotation tests as well as MFT and FLEET simulations to better define flotation plant design and operating conditions.
     
  • RDI has completed an extensive series of flotation tests evaluating a wide range of gold and silver grades and host rock types which confirmed that a coarse grind (200 microns) is optimal for metal recoveries to a flotation concentrate.
     
  • Sherritt Technologies has broadly confirmed past pressure oxidation testing and operating assumptions and will undertake a pilot plant scale pressure oxidation circuit on the bulk rougher flotation concentrate. Sherritt will also be responsible for generating the design and capital and operating cost estimates of the pressure oxidation circuit for the PFS.
     
  • Evaluation of the integrated waste disposal options (waste rock and tailings) at the Metates site to reduce the area impacted and address potential acid rock drainage issues.
     
  • Geotechnical investigations (geophysics, trenching, drilling) to evaluate site specific foundation conditions for the production facilities (crushing, flotation, tailings, pressure oxidation, leach tanks, etc.).
     
  • Expanded baseline environmental and socioeconomic assessments.
     
  • Continued evaluation of electric power supply options including discussions with independent power providers operating in Mexico in regards to long term power supply costs.
     
  • Discussions with third party oxygen plant providers to determine long term oxygen supply costs.
     
  • Evaluation of a shorter alternate road and concentrate pipeline alignment. The current alignment is about 140 km in length while alignments under study are about 100 km which could result in significant capital savings.
     
  • Evaluating solvent extraction/electrowinning as an alternate zinc recovery option which would result in the recovery of saleable zinc metal on site and eliminate processing by a smelter which could result in a substantial increase in revenue from zinc sales.

2011 Drilling Program

Chesapeake has commenced a 26,000 meter (21,000 meters core, 5,000 meters rotary) drill program at Metates. Currently two core rigs and one rotary rig are on-site to test and provide the following into the PFS:

  • Conversion of Inferred resources into the Indicated category to allow for possible inclusion into the economic model for the PFS
     
  • Assign metal grades to assumed waste blocks within the PEA open pit resource which may result in a lower overall strip ratio
     
  • Drill geotechnical holes targeting specific sectors of the open pit to allow better definition of recommended pit slope angles
     
  • Significantly expand the current resource by drilling a series of step out holes at 100 meters spacing along trend to the northwest and southeast
     
  • Complete condemnation drill holes in areas of the proposed waste rock dump and other site facilities in the Metates area

Drilling activities will be prioritized around the resource conversion and geotechnical holes so that the results of this work are available in three to four months to allow for the completion of the PFS by the end of this year.

Chesapeake currently has 39.8 million shares outstanding (47.5 million fully diluted) and $27 million in cash and liquid investments.

Mr. Gary Parkison, CPG, Metates Project Manager and a Qualified Person as defined by NI 43-101 supervised the preparation of the technical information in this release. Mr. Doug Austin P E , Senior Vice President with M3 and Mr. Michael Hester F AUS IMM, Vice President of IMC have also reviewed and approved the data in this news release.

For more information on Chesapeake and its Metates Project, please visit our website at www.chesapeakegold.com.

CHESAPEAKE GOLD CORP

P. Randy Reifel, President

CAUTIONARY DISCLAIMER – FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS

This news release contains "forward-looking information" within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities legislation. Such forward-looking statements and information herein include, but are not limited to, statements regarding prospective gold, silver and zinc production, timing and expenditures to develop the Metates property, gold, silver and zinc grades and recoveries, cash costs per ounce, capital and operating expenditures and sustaining capital and the ability to fund mine development at Metates. The Company does not intend to, and does not assume any obligation to update such forward-looking statements or information, other than as required by applicable law.

Forward-looking statements or information involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results, level of activity, performance or achievements of Chesapeake and its operations to be materially different from those expressed or implied by such statements. Such factors include, among others: ability to finance mine development, fluctuations in the prices of gold, silver and zinc, fluctuations in the currency markets (particularly the Mexican peso, Canadian dollar and U.S. dollar); changes in national and local governments, legislation, taxation, controls, regulations and political or economic developments in Canada and Mexico; operating or technical difficulties in mineral exploration, development and mining activities; risks and hazards of mineral exploration, development and mining (including environmental hazards, industrial accidents, unusual or unexpected geological conditions, pressures, cave-ins and flooding); inadequate insurance, or inability to obtain insurance; availability of and costs associated with mining inputs and labour; the speculative nature of mineral exploration and development, diminishing quantities or grades of mineral reserves as properties are mined; risks in obtaining necessary licenses and permits, and challenges to the Company's title to properties; as well as those factors described in the section "risk factors" contained in the Company's most recent MD&A filed with the Canadian securities regulatory authorities. Although the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in forward-looking statements or information, there may be other factors that cause results to be materially different from those anticipated, described, estimated, assessed or intended. There can be no assurance that any forward-looking statements or information will prove to be accurate as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements or information. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements or information.

The TSX Venture Exchange does not accept responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this news release.

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