High River Gold Mines Ltd.
TSX : HRG

High River Gold Mines Ltd.

September 10, 2010 16:00 ET

High River Gold Reports Feasibility Study Results for the Bissa Gold Project

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 10, 2010) -

(All currency figures are in US dollars unless otherwise noted)

High River Gold Mines Ltd. ("High River" or the "Company") (TSX:HRG) today reported the results of the recently completed feasibility study for its Bissa Gold Project, located in Burkina Faso, West Africa.

The Feasibility Study

Highlights:

  • Probable reserves estimated at 703,655 ounces
  • Global measured and indicated mineral resources of 1.1 million ounces (inclusive of mineral reserves) and 483,000 ounces in the inferred category
  • Average annual gold production of approximately 95,000 ounces
  • 6.75 years life of mine (LOM) at mill throughput ranging from 4000 to 5000tpd
  • At $900 per ounce and a 10% discount rate, a net present value (NPV) of US$34.1 million generating an internal rate of return (IRR) of 18%
  • Estimated start-up capital costs of US$110 million

The Bissa gold mine is planned to be an open pit operation using excavators, loaders and trucks. The processing plant will comprise crushing, a ball mill, and carbon-in-leach (CIL) gold extraction. Gold is recovered from carbon by pressure stripping and electro-winning, with gold smelted into dore bars on site.

High River has recently applied for the exploitation permit for the Bissa project. The company expects to receive the permit in Q4 2010.

During 2008, High River initiated a feasibility study utilizing a combination of international and in-house engineering expertise to meet Burkina Faso regulatory and permitting requirements as well as international standards.

The feasibility study for the 1.5 million tonnes per year Bissa Project was prepared by Genivar. The geology, mineral resource estimate and open pit optimization for the feasibility study were provided by SRK (Canada) Inc., Toronto, Canada. Open pit slope design study was performed by Piteau Associates Engineering Ltd. (Canada). Metallurgical testwork was performed by AMMTEC (Australia).

A technical report pursuant to National Instrument 43-101 containing the results of the feasibility study is being currently prepared by Wardell Armstrong International (WAI). The company expects to file the completed report within 10 to 15 days. The qualified person in charge of the preparation of the technical report is Dr Phil Newall, BSc (ARSM), PhD (ACSM), CEng, FIMMM, Director with Wardell Armstrong International.

Mineral Resource/Reserve Estimation

The resource modeling was performed by SRK using a pit optimizer. The optimization parameters include: ore mining and processing costs varying between US$22 and US$30/t processed, overall pit slope angles varying between thirty-five and forty-five degrees, metallurgical recovery of ninety percent, appropriate dilution and offsite costs. A gold price of US$1,000/oz was used.

SRK considered it appropriate to report two cut-off grades to reflect the varying economic characteristics of the gold mineralization in each weathering zone. Mineral resources in the laterite and saprolite rock are reported at a cut-off grade of 0.8g/t Au whereas the transition and fresh rock mineral resources are reported at a cut-off grade of 1.1g/t Au. The mineral resource estimate for the Bissa-Zandkom gold project is presented in the table below. The effective date of this estimate is March 30, 2010.

Bissa-Zandkom Mineral Resource Statement (inclusive of mineral reserves)
Deposit Measured Indicated Measured & Indicated Inferred
Tonnes (kt) Grade (g/t) Au (koz) Tonnes (kt) Grade (g/t) Au (koz) Tonnes (kt) Grade (g/t) Au (koz) Tonnes (kt) Grade (g/t) Au (koz)
All Zones
Laterite       588 2.33 44 588 2.33 44 531 1.58 27
Saprolite 907 3.23 94 9,231 2.19 650 10,138 2.28 744 5,737 1.54 284
Transition 23 2.94 2 1,181 3.08 117 1,204 3.07 119 847 2.20 60
Fresh       1,418 3.49 159 1,418 3.49 159 1,184 2.94 112
Total 930 3.22 96 12,418 2.43 970 13,348 2.48 1,066 8,299 1.81 483

An economic pit optimization was performed by SRK in Whittle 4X software (Lerchs-Grossman algorithm) using operating costs established by Genivar, at a metallurgical recovery of 90%. The optimization was based on a gold price of US$950/oz.

The probable reserve estimate of 8.7Mt at 2.52g/t Au or 703,655oz of gold for the Bissa-Zandkom gold project is presented in the table below. The effective date of this estimate is March 30, 2010.

Bissa-Zandkom Mineral Reserves June 2010 (Genivar)
Rock Type Alteration Type Tonnes (t) Au Grade (g/t) Au (koz)
Probable Reserves
Laterite Weathered 506,000 2.48 40
Saprolite Weathered 7,284,000 2.46 576
Transition Non-weathered 894,000 3.08 88
Total   8,684,000 2.52 704

Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability.

Mining

The gold deposits at Bissa are near surface and suitable for conventional truck and shovel open pit mining. The proposed facilities for the Bissa project will be similar to those used at HRG's Taparko-Bouroum operations in Burkina Faso.

The expected extraction rate is 4,300tpd of ore and up to 25,000tpd of waste. The zone of mining extraction consists of several open pits dispersed along approximately 7.8km of the southwest/northeast oriented mineralized zone. The pit designs highlighted seven zones of the Bissa-Zandkom project and 14 pits with varying depths from 25m to 160m.

Exploration

The exploration strategy deployed by HRG in Burkina Faso follows a predetermined protocol proven effective for gold exploration in this region. Preliminary targets are selected from the interpretation of available geological and geophysical data. Each exploration permit is then subject to reconnaissance prospecting, geological mapping and regional soil sampling on a 400m grid pattern. Follow-up work included additional prospecting and detailed soil sampling on 100 to 50m grids, ground geophysics, trenching and rotary air-blast drilling. The most promising targets are subsequently tested by reverse circulation drilling and by core drilling, if warranted.

Metallurgy

Samples representing the Bissa-Zandkom deposits were selected and submitted to AMMTEC for a detailed program of testing. Cyanide leach recoveries ranged from 61.6% to 94.8%, with the lower recoveries being achieved with the transition and fresh (primary) ore. The average gold recovery was 87.4% and the average cyanide and lime consumptions were 0.43kg/t and 1.61kg/t respectively.

Processing

The run of mine ore is planned to be delivered from the mine pits by 90t trucks, and passed to a jaw crusher, which reduces the ore to less than 200mm. The primary grinding circuit will be a grinding circuit consisting of a ball mill 5.5m in diameter by 9.3m long (4,500kW motor) in closed circuit with cyclones. A SAG mill may be installed at a later date, depending on the amount of harder rock which is mined in later years.

The carbon-in-leach process (CIL) requires fine grinding of the ore, followed by dissolution of the gold in agitated tanks with cyanide in the presence of activated carbon, which adsorbs the gold from solution. This gold is then removed from the carbon by desorption. Gold is then recovered by an electrolytic process, melted, refined and poured into ingots.

The role of the leach circuit (CIL) is to dissolve the solid gold in the presence of cyanide in a series of agitated tanks, where the dissolved gold is adsorbed onto coarse activated carbon. The gold adsorbed onto the carbon is then recovered by a standard elution (desorption) and
electro-winning circuit (high pressure Zadra process) followed by refining.

Tailings and Water Management

The tailings slurry, at a density of 40% solids, is planned to be sent to a tailings pump box and pumped to the tailings pond. The tailings area will be located south of the open pits and plant zone, and will occupy a 2Mm2 area. All water available after settling of the solid phase will be pumped back to the plant in order to contribute to its water balance.

Under normal operation, the plant will require 280m3/h of water (including drinking water needs). Considering an average recirculation of 72m3/h from the tailings pond, the fresh water requirement for the plant will be 208m3/h, for an annual total of 1.7Mm3. This includes the filtered water needs for the process, as well as the water fed to a potable water plant planned to meet the site's drinking water needs.

A volume of 2,500,000m3/year has been retained as the maximum volume of water necessary for the operation of the mine. In order to supply process water, a water reservoir must be constructed by erecting a dam to accumulate water during the rainy season and constitute a reserve for the dry season, which extends approximately from October to May.

Infrastructure and Services

The RN22 main road between Ouagadougou and Kongoussi will have to be diverted to the eastern side of the Bissa Hill deposit because it is currently crossing the mineralized zone.

Two potential sites for mine accommodation have been identified; both are located on the east side of the mining and processing area. A camp will be erected at both sites. The first camp to be built will be to house workers during construction. The second camp built will house operations personnel.

Other infrastructure components include offices, workshops, changing facilities, warehouses, laboratory, power generation, water supply, explosive storage, refueling facility for light and heavy vehicles, parking, and security. These will all be assembled during the construction phase in readiness for commencing production.

Environmental Management

The Environmental Impact Assessment has been developed to meet national requirements, and with minor amendments and additions, international requirements. WAI considers that the final EIA largely satisfies international requirements.

WAI has indicated to the Company that it is encouraged by the Company's recent commitment to public consultation procedures. The Environmental Impact Assessment appears to have been handled sensitively, with efforts made to reduce the negative impact of further exploratory activities. WAI feels it is important that these considerations, and the impact on communities and livelihoods as a whole, are formalized and addressed via a Public Consultation and Disclosure Plan (PCDP) and in accordance with IFC Performance Standards (PS 5 and PS 1). WAI is of the view that the plan appears reasonable and has been developed in line with national requirements, including a time line for consultation.

A Mine Closure and Rehabilitation Plan (MCRP) is being prepared and will be finalised when the mine enters the production phase. It will also be revisited throughout the life of the mine.

Economic Assessment

A financial evaluation of the Bissa-Zandkom gold deposits has been performed in order to estimate the potential economical outcome of the project and its robustness. The life of the mine capital costs will be US$123M. US$110M of those costs will be spent during 2011 and 2012 and the remaining expenditure has been allocated to sustaining capital from 2013 – 2018. The operating costs will be US$1.80/t ore, US$1.57/t waste mined and the processing costs will be US$14.55/t ore processed which are in line with the Tarparko operation.

The WAI financial model for Bissa Gold project was based on gold price of US$900/oz, 1.5Mtpa production rate, DCF 10.0% (Base case) and overall tax at 20% of net income applied. The financial model generated a NPV of US$34.1M with an IRR of 18% and payback period of 5 years.

A sensitivity analysis showed that the project is most sensitive to gold price, followed by operating cost, and capital costs closely behind that. The key financial indices are reasonably good given the conservative cost input parameters (such as mining and processing costs) used in the models, and show good economic potential for the project.

Sensitivity Analysis Results (NPV, $US M)
  -20% -10% 0 10% 20%
Gold Price -25.1 4.9 34.1 63.3 92.5
Operating Cost 56.1 45.1 34.1 23.1 12.1
Capital Cost 57.0 45.5 34.1 22.6 11.2
Discount Factor 45.9 39.8 34.1 28.7 23.6

Project Assumptions and Parameters (Base Case)

Assumptions    
Gold price (US$/oz) 900  
Income tax rate (%) 20  
     
Mine Parameters    
Ore milled (Mt) 8.7  
Waste mined (Mt) 45.9  
Strip ratio (waste:ore) 5.3  
Average gold grade (g/t) 2.52  
Total contained gold (koz) 704  
Estimated gold recovery (%) 91  
Total recovered gold (MM oz) 641  
Average annual gold production (koz) 95  
Mine life (years) 6.75  
     
Costs    
Pre-production capital (US$ MM) 110  
Sustaining capital (US$ MM) 13  
Average operating cash costs (US$/oz) 339  
Average total cash costs (US$/oz) 467  
     
Financial Analysis (unleveraged)    
Average annual (pre-tax) cash flow (US$ M) 127  
NPV 10% discount after tax (US$ M) 34.1  
IRR after-tax (%) 18  
Payback period (years) 5  
     

Expansion Strategy

High River will design the Bissa facility with a longer term operation in mind, believing that there is excellent potential to define additional satellite deposits. High River controls a number of exploration properties adjacent to the Bissa project. The ongoing exploration at these properties may result in discoveries within trucking distance of the mill. In this case an expansion of the processing plant may be justified.

The Company feels there is potential to increase mineral resources and reserves at the Bissa project to improve economic viability.

Data Verification

Dr. Phil Newall is a "qualified person" as defined by National Instrument 43-101 and as a qualified person completed the verification of data on which the Bissa-Zandkom mineral reserve and resource estimates were based. This verification included an assessment of QA/QC data, sample preparation and assay methodologies, core recoveries, density data, data inputs, survey data and validation of historic exploration data used in the estimate. Data was validated by using field checks, statistical methods and evaluating written protocols.

High River has implemented QA/QC procedures at Bissa to ensure best industry practice in sampling and analysis of the drill core samples at its dedicated facility in the town of Kongoussi.

The primary analytical laboratory used by High River for the Bissa project is Abilab Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso. It employs an established QA/QC program which operates a global quality management system that is ISO9001:2000 accredited.

None of the laboratories contracted by High River for sample analyses has any relationship or interest in High River or any of their projects.

Qualified Person

Dr. Phil Newall, BSc (ARSM), PhD (ACSM), CEng, FIMMM, Director with Wardell Armstrong International is the qualified person responsible for supervising the preparation of this press release and the scientific and technical information contained in this press release.

Cautionary Note

The grades presented in the above tables are not meant to imply recoverable gold. Mineral Resources for the Bissa project have been estimated and classified according to the "CIM Standards on Mineral Resources and Reserves: Definitions and Guidelines (December 2005)". High River is not aware of any known environmental, permitting, legal, title, taxation, socio-economic, marketing or other relevant issues that could potentially affect the estimate of mineral resources or reserves. The Mineral Resources and Reserves may be affected by subsequent assessments of mining, environmental, processing, permitting, taxation, socio-economic and other factors.

About High River

High River is unhedged gold company with interests in producing mines and advanced exploration projects in Russia and Burkina Faso. Two underground mines, Zun-Holba and Irokinda, are situated in the Lake Baikal region of Russia. Two open pit gold mines, Berezitovy in Russia and Taparko-Bouroum in Burkina Faso, are also in production. Finally, High River has two advanced exploration projects with NI 43-101 compliant resource estimates, the Bissa gold project in Burkina Faso and 50% interest in the Prognoz silver project in Russia.

FORWARD LOOKING INFORMATION

This release and subsequent oral statements made by and on behalf of the Company may contain forward-looking statements. Forward-looking information includes, but is not limited to, statements with respect to mineral reserve and resource estimates; the ability to realize estimated mineral reserves; recoveries, grades and annual production; receipt of all necessary approvals; the parameters and assumptions underlying the mineral resource and reserve estimates and the financial analysis; and gold prices. Wherever possible, words such as "intends", "expects", "scheduled", "estimates", "anticipates", "believes", and similar expressions or statements that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will" be taken, occur or be achieved, have been used to identify these forward-looking statements. Estimates regarding mineral resources and reserves, as outlined above and in the technical report, have been based on knowledge of company management and the knowledge and experience of third party experts. Although the forward-looking statements contained in this release reflect management's current beliefs based upon information currently available to management and based upon what management believes to be reasonable assumptions, High River cannot be certain that actual results will be consistent with these forward-looking statements. A number of factors could cause events and achievements to differ materially from the results expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements. These factors should be considered carefully and prospective investors should not place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements necessarily involve significant known and unknown risks, assumptions and uncertainties that may cause High River's actual results, event, prospects and opportunities to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Although High River has attempted to identify important risks and factors that could cause actual actions, events or results to differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements, there may be other factors and risks that cause actions, events or results not to be anticipated, estimated or intended, including those risk factors discussed in the Company's 2009 Annual Information Form. There can be no assurance that the forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, prospective investors should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Any forward-looking statements are made as of the date of this release, and High River assumes no obligation to update or revise them to reflect new events or circumstances, unless otherwise required by law.

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