Mawson West Ltd.
TSX : MWE

August 29, 2011 09:49 ET

Mawson West Announces Positive Feasibility Study for Dikulushi Cutback Project

PERTH, AUSTRALIA and TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Aug. 29, 2011) - Mawson West Ltd. (TSX:MWE) ("Mawson" or the "Company") is pleased to announce positive feasibility study results supporting the development of a pit cut-back at its Dikulushi copper-silver project (the "Dikulushi Project") in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ("DRC"). The feasibility study was reviewed by Optiro Pty Ltd. ("Optiro") with contribution from Sedgman Ltd. ("Sedgman"). Unless otherwise indicated, all figures are in US dollars.

Highlights of the Feasibility Study

  • Proven and Probable Mineral Reserves of 539 kt at 6.1% Copper (Cu) and 182g/t silver (Ag), at $3.50/lb Cu and $30/oz Ag.
  • Existing processing capacity of 500 ktpa. All feed is sulphide ore with budgeted Cu recoveries of 90% Cu and Ag (based on plant actuals for same material).
  • Expected concentrate grade of >50% Cu and >1500g/t Ag (based on actual plant recoveries from same material).
  • Anticipated 12 month pre-strip costing $61 million, fully funded from Mawson's existing cash reserves, and paid back in less than 12 months.
  • Anticipated operating costs of $1.46/lb Cu ($0.10/lb Cu exclusive of duties and taxes, depreciation and amortization, and net of silver credit).
  • At $3.50/lb Cu, and 10% discount rate the net present value ("NPV") is $116 million (90% or $104 million apportioned to Mawson) with an internal rate of return ("IRR") of 128%.
  • Upside potential as current reserves do not include Dikulushi underground, Kazumbula or Boomgate deposits and Mawson is in the process of drilling additional exploration prospects within a 50km radius of Dikulushi.

The Dikulushi Project

The Dikulushi Project is located in the south-eastern corner of the DRC - Haut Katanga District, Katanga Province, approximately 25 km from the western shore of Lake Mweru and approximately 450 km north of Lubumbashi. The project can be accessed by air from Lubumbashi, or by road from Zambia and thence across Lake Mweru by barge or speedboat. Dikulushi is situated 135 km south-west of Mawson's mine construction project at Kapulo. The Dikulushi Project is governed by the Dikulushi Mining Convention, a mining concession granted by the Government of the DRC on January 31, 1998 and ratified by Presidential Decree on February 27, 1998, which sets out the regulatory and fiscal regime applicable to tenements owned by Anvil Mining Congo SARL, which is in the process of being renamed CMCC SARL ("CMCC") and is a 90% owned subsidiary of Mawson. The remaining 10% of CMCC is held by the Dikulushi-Kapulo Community Foundation Non-Profit Organisation in accordance with the terms of the Dikulushi Mining Convention.

Mawson has been operating the Dikulushi process plant since July 2010 when it commenced treatment of a low-grade stockpile from which it produces approximately 350-400 t of copper and 30-35,000 oz of silver per month in concentrate. Processing of the low-grade stockpile is expected to be completed in November 2011, after which material from satellite deposits will be processed until ore material from the Dikulushi cut-back is available.

The Dikulushi cut-back project will involve a conventional open pit, selective mining exploitation method, employing a mining contractor, using drilling, blasting, 80 t to 190 t back hoe excavators, articulated haul trucks with a payload capacity of between 40 t to 50 t, and rigid haul trucks with a payload of 90 t.

The existing process plant has a capacity of 500 ktpa and is based on conventional comminution, flotation and filtration processes using a primary jaw crusher, secondary and tertiary cone crushers, ball milling and conventional flotation to produce a copper-silver concentrate. Concentrate is bagged on site for transport and sale either directly to smelters or directly to metal trading companies.

Pre-Strip and Capital Costs

Pre-strip and capital costs for the Dikulushi cut-back project are summarised below. Most of the capital costs are incurred at project start-up and during the 12-month pre-strip period. An anticipated maximum negative cash flow of -$61.2 million is expected 12 months from commencement of mining, after which this pre-strip cost is paid back in less than 12 months of ore processing.

Dikulushi Project – Pre-Strip and Capital Cost Estimate
Item Cost ($M)
Pre-Strip
Pre-strip Mining Costs (capitalised) 54.7
Drill and Blast Fleet 2.2
Dewatering Infrastructure 1.0
Mining Fleet Mobilisation 1.1
Owner Mining Equipment and Software 1.8
Site Infrastructure (power, water, accommodation) 0.6
Pre-Strip total (maximum negative project cash flow) 61.4
Post Pre-Strip
Sustaining Capital (process plant) 2.0
Mining Fleet Demobilisation 0.5

Operating Costs

Life-of-mine operating costs (excluding pre-strip) for the Dikulushi cut-back project are expected to be $1.46/lb Cu (excluding silver credit) and include all mining, processing, general and administrative costs and product transport and refining costs. The operating costs exclude depreciation and amortization. Exclusive of duties and taxes, life-of-mine operating costs are expected to be $1.33/lb Cu (excluding silver credit) and $0.10/lb Cu after silver credits. The life of mine operating cost estimate is summarized in the table below:

Dikulushi Cut-Back Project Life-of-Mine Operating Cost Estimate - (excluding pre-strip)
Item Cost ($M) Unit Cost ($/lb Cu)
Contract mining costs 26.8 0.42
Processing costs 18.7 0.30
On site general and administration costs 4.2 0.07
Sub-total 49.8 0.78
Duties and taxes 8.5 0.13
Metal sales and transport costs 34.5 0.54
Sub-total 43 0.68
Total 92.7 1.46
Cash cost/lb Cu (net of taxes and duties) 1.33
Cash cost/lb Cu (net of taxes, duties, and Ag credit) 0.10
Note: Numbers are rounded.

The Dikulushi Project is in its 9th year of operation and under the term of the Dikulushi Mining Convention the project is subject to taxation on the following basis: years 0-5 no tax, years 6-10 at16%, years 11-15 at18%, and at 40% thereafter.

Financial Analysis

Development of the Dikulushi cut-back project is fully funded from Mawson's existing cash reserves. Accordingly, the financial model to evaluate the economics of the Dikulushi cut-back project has been developed as an equity model assuming 100% equity financing.

The base case for the financial model, which assumes an average copper price of $3.50/lb Cu over the life of mine and uses a discounted cash flow methodology, is expected to generate revenue of $299 million and pre-tax operating cash flow of $146 million. This results in a NPV at a 10% discount rate of $116 million (or $104 million apportioned to Mawson to reflect Mawson's 90% interest in the Dikulushi Project) with an IRR of 128% and a payback period of less than 12 months. Sensitivity analysis indicates that the project is most sensitive to a change in the Cu price, with a 10% change in the Cu price resulting in an approximate 15.5% change in the NPV.

Mineral Resources and Reserves

The Mineral Resources for the Dikulushi Project have been estimated by Optiro, with David Gray of Optiro acting as the Qualified Person for the calculations. The Mineral Reserves for the Dikulushi cut-back project have been estimated by Optiro, with Andrew Law of Optiro acting as the Qualified Person for the calculations. Mineral Reserves for the Dikulushi cut-back project have been determined for the open cut portion of the Dikulushi deposit only and no Mineral Reserves have been determined for the underground part of the deposit or any satellite deposits. The Resources and Reserves were developed from the block model. Resources are inclusive of the Reserves. The Mineral Resources and Reserves for the Dikulushi Project are summarized in the tables below:

Mineral Resources for the Dikulushi Project – depleted for underground stoping and development.
(Above a 1.0% Cu Cut-Off)
Classification Tonnes Cu-Grade In-situ Cu
Metal
Ag-Grade In-situ Ag
Metal
(kt) (%) (kt) (g/t) (Moz)
Measured Mineral Resources 516 7.04 36.3 211 3.5
Indicated Mineral Resources 251 5.61 14.1 114 0.9
Total Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources 767 6.57 50.4 179 4.4
Inferred Mineral Resources 380 6.82 25.9 91 1.1
Note: Figures are rounded. Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources are inclusive of Mineral Reserves.
Mineral Reserves for the Dikulushi cut-back Project
(Above a 1.0% Cu Cut-Off and Based on $3.50/lb Cu & $30/oz Ag)
Classification Tonnes Cu-Grade In-situ Cu
Metal
Ag-Grade In-situ Ag
Metal
(kt) (%) (kt) (g/t) (Moz)
Proven 185 7.27 13.4 207 1.23
Probable 354 5.51 19.5 169 1.93
Total Proven and Probable 539 6.12 33.0 182 3.2
Note: Figures are rounded. Mineral Reserves are reported with 5% ore loss and 15% dilution which was assigned a 0.5% Cu and 20 g/t Ag grade, assuming $3.50/lb Cu and $30/oz Ag.

Key Regulatory Requirements

The Dikulushi Project is already operating under a granted exploitation permit. An environmental adjustment plan in respect of increasing the current tailings storage facility has been submitted to the mines department and is expected to be approved in the immediate future.

Key Infrastructure Requirements

The only key infrastructure required for the development of the Dikulushi cut-back is an extension of the existing tailings storage facility.

Additional Exploration Potential

The Company believes that significant additional upside potential exists at the Dikulushi Project as the current Mineral Resources do not include the potential from surrounding satellite deposits nor do the Mineral Reserves include the previously developed underground Measured Mineral Resources.

Exploration is at an advanced stage at Kazumbula and Boomgate with the deposit at Kazumbula sufficiently defined by drilling for an open pit Mineral Resource. Further drilling is required to define the depth extents of both deposits for potential underground extensions. Boomgate has been drilled on a nominal 20 m by 20 m grid and additional drilling is required to fully define this deposit for conversion to a Mineral Resource.

Mawson is also in the process of drilling additional exploration prospects within a 50 km radius from Dikulushi. Geochemistry completed during 2010 has provided a number of targets, which the Company plans to target with further drilling in 2011 for resource definition. As such, there is a reasonable expectation to increase Mineral Resources within trucking distance of the Dikulushi Project. In addition, Mawson intends to commence a feasibility study on the existing Dikulushi underground Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources in 2012.

Qualified Persons

The feasibility study was reviewed by leading independent industry consultants, each Qualified Persons under National Instrument 43-101, with the collaboration from Mawson's technical group. In particular, the feasibility study was reviewed by Optiro with the participation of Sedgman. An updated National Instrument 43-101 compliant technical report, prepared by Optiro reflecting information in the feasibility study, will be filed under the Company's profile on SEDAR. David Gray and Andrew Law of Optiro, both Qualified Persons for the purposes of National instrument 43-101, have reviewed and approved the content of this press release.

About Mawson West Ltd.

Mawson West Ltd. is an Australian-based copper producer, developer and explorer. Mawson West's focus is on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and its major asset is its 90% ownership of the Dikulushi Mining Convention, which is located in the Katanga Province. The Dikulushi Mining Convention covers an exploration land package of 7,300 km2 and encompasses the Company's two main projects, the Dikulushi copper-silver mine and the Kapulo copper exploration and development project, as well as multiple exploration targets. Mawson West's principal objectives are to expand copper production at the Dikulushi mine, commence copper production at the Kapulo project and further explore the Dikulushi Mining Convention area to identify new targets.

Forward-Looking Information

This press release contains "forward-looking information" that is based on Mawson West's expectations, estimates and projections as of the dates as of which those statements were made. This forward-looking information includes, among other things, statements with respect to the Company's business strategy, plans, outlook, financing plans, projections, targets and expectations as to reserves, resources, results of exploration (including targets) and related expenses, mine development, mine operations, mine production costs, drilling activity, sampling and other data, estimating grade levels, future recovery levels, future production levels, capital costs, costs savings, cash and total costs of production of copper, expenditures for environmental matters, projected life of Mawson West's mines, reclamation and other post closure obligations and estimated future expenditures for those matters, completion dates for the various development stages of mines, availability of water for milling and mining, future copper prices (including the long-term estimated prices used in calculating Mawson West's mineral reserves), end-use demand for copper, currency exchange rates, timing of expected sales and final pricing of concentrate sales and anticipated timing of production at the Dikulushi cut-back project. Generally, this forward-looking information can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as "outlook", "anticipate", "project", "target", "believe", "estimate", "expect", "intend", "should", "scheduled", "will", "plan" and similar expressions. Forward-looking information is subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause Mawson West's actual results, level of activity, performance or achievements to be materially different from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking information, and developed based on assumptions about such risks, uncertainties and other factors set out herein, including but not limited to:

  • Our ability to successfully bring the Dikulushi cut-back project into production;
  • Receipt of all permits required for the Dikulushi cut-back project;
  • The ability of our key contractors to perform the services for us in the manner contracted for;
  • The availability and cost of key operating supplies and services;
  • The production facilities may not achieve the planned desired recoveries;
  • Fluctuations in copper prices;
  • Insurance coverage may not be available for certain risks that the company might deem it prudent to insure against;
  • The ability to expand or replace depleted reserves and the possible recalculation or reduction of the reserves and resources;
  • Actual capital costs, operating costs and expenditures, production schedules and economic returns from the Dikulushi cut-back project;
  • Geotechnical issues;
  • Mineralogy and block model assumptions;
  • Potential challenges to title to the properties;
  • Inherent hazards and risks associated with mining operations;
  • Inherent uncertainties associated with mineral exploration;
  • Being subject to government regulation, including changes in regulation;
  • Being subject to extensive environmental laws and regulations, including change in regulation;
  • Need for governmental licenses and permits;
  • Political and country risk;
  • Fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates; and
  • Global financial conditions.

Forward-looking statements are based on assumptions management believes to be reasonable, including but not limited to no material adverse change in the market price of commodities, that mining development and operations will operate in accordance with Mawson West's public statements and achieve their stated outcomes, and such other assumptions and factors as set out herein. Although Mawson West has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in forward-looking statements, there may be other factors that cause results not to be as anticipated, estimated or intended. There can be no assurance that forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Mawson West disclaims any intent or obligations to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements whether as a result of new information, estimates or options, future events or results or otherwise, unless required to do so by law.

Contact Information

  • Mawson West Ltd.
    David Frances
    President and Chief Executive Officer
    Telephone: 61 8 9321-9669
    61 8 9481-2394 (FAX)
    dfrances@mawsonwest.com