Mercator Minerals Ltd.

Mercator Minerals Ltd.

March 20, 2013 18:21 ET

Mercator Minerals Reports Fourth Quarter and Year End 2012 Results

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - March 20, 2013) -

(All US$ unless otherwise specified)

Mercator Minerals Ltd (TSX:ML) ("Mercator" or the "Company") today announced its financial results for the three months and year ended December 31, 2012. For 2012 the Company reported revenues of $262.6 million, an operating profit of $24.7 million before the El Creston asset impairment charge*, a net loss of $128.7 million (loss of $0.48 per share, basic) or an adjusted net loss* of $1.2 million ($nil per share). Included in the net loss is the $119.8 million (or $0.44 per share) non-cash accounting charge for the impairment of the El Creston project. Cash flow from operations, before non-cash working capital changes, was $20.6 million in 2012. For the fourth quarter of 2012, the Company reported revenues of $77.6 million, with operating profit of $10.6 million before the El Creston asset impairment charge*, net loss of $115.2 million ($0.43 per share, basic) or income of $4.4 million ($0.02 per share) on an adjusted net income* basis. The net loss recorded during the fourth quarter includes the previously mentioned write-down of the El Creston project. Cash flow from operations before non-cash working capital changes were $9.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2012.

"During 2012 we delivered consistent quarter over quarter production improvements which, combined with cash generated at the operations and our improved financial position, should provide the momentum for a stronger 2013," commented Bruce McLeod, President and CEO of Mercator. "We are focussed on delivering shareholder value by executing our plan of continual improvement through increased production and reduced costs at Mineral Park while pursuing value-accretive options to build our El Pilar SX/EW copper project."


  • Implemented a safety program called "Safe Production" which has significantly improved safety at Mineral Park - the mine has now achieved 472 consecutive days without a lost time accident.
  • Achieved record molybdenum and record copper equivalent** production:
    • 87.5 million pounds of copper equivalent** production for the year, comprised of 40.9 million pounds of copper in concentrates and cathode, 10.3 million pounds of molybdenum in concentrates and 677,498 ounces of silver.
  • Comparing the year ended 2012 to 2011, Mineral Park has:
    • Achieved sustained, quarter-on-quarter improvements in copper equivalent** production, mill throughput and metal recoveries;
    • Increased copper and molybdenum recoveries to 79.9% and 79.5% respectively, for gains of 4% and 13%, respectively;
    • Increased average throughput by 28% to 45,570 tons per day ("tpd");
    • Increased total material mined by 27% to 29.5 million tons; and
    • Reduced onsite operating costs by 7% to $10.29 per ton milled.
  • Working capital position as at year-end 2012 was $2.0 million, which includes a current liability of $15.2 million for the Company's 2013 copper forward sales, and considered discounts that will be applied to future revenues. Also included in working capital is $27.7 million of cash and current restricted cash.
  • Based primarily on the decline in molybdenum prices since the June 2011 acquisition, the Company has elected to defer development of the El Creston project and therefore has reviewed its estimated net present value of future cash flows. The review has resulted in a non-cash accounting charge of $119.8 million which was recorded in the fourth quarter of 2012. The reduced carrying value does not alter the importance of El Creston for the Company's long-term future.
  • In October 2012, the Company increased its financial flexibility and enhanced its financial position through the restructuring of the Mineral Park credit facilities, a $29 million private placement, replaced the expiring El Pilar pre-construction facility with a new three-year facility and repaid overdue trade payables.
  • In 2011 and 2012, Mercator has repaid $48.6 million in total debt principal and reduced its forward sales commitments on its copper hedges by 50%.
  • In October 2012, the Company reported the results of an optimized 2012 Feasibility Study on the El Pilar project ("Project"), which further enhanced the Project's already robust economics from the 2011 Feasibility Study.


  • Production for the fourth quarter of 2012 was a record for a single quarter and totaled 23.8 million copper equivalent** pounds, comprised of 10.9 million pounds of copper in concentrates and cathode, 2.9 million pounds of molybdenum in concentrates and 156,985 ounces of silver.
  • During the quarter, the Company achieved recoveries of 83.1% and 85.5%, for copper and molybdenum, which, for the third consecutive quarter, was above design rates of 80% and 75% respectively.
  • Average throughput was a record of 44,978 tpd.
  • Mineral Park generated stand-alone cash flows from operations before non-cash working capital changes of $14.3 million.


$ millions unless otherwise noted Three months ended
December 31,
Year ended
December 31,
2012 2011 2012 2011
Revenues 77.6 70.7 262.6 263.0
Operating profit before the El Creston asset impairment charge* 10.6 9.3 24.7 42.7
El Creston asset impairment charge (119.8) - (119.8) -
Net (loss) income (115.2) (32.9) (128.7) 91.7
(Loss) earnings per share (basic) $(0.43) $(0.13) $(0.48) $0.41
Adjusted net income* 4.4 1.5 (1.2) 8.0
Adjusted earnings per share* (basic) $0.02 $nil $nil $0.04
Cash flow from operations, before non-cash working capital changes 9.8 7.2 20.6 18.6
Production (million pounds)
- Copper 10.9 11.3 40.9 42.4
- Molybdenum 2.9 2.3 10.3 7.0
- Copper equivalent** 23.8 21.7 87.5 74.1
Throughput (tons per day) 44,978 44,264 45,570 35,503
Recoveries (%)
- Copper 83.1 80.1 79.9 77.2
- Molybdenum 85.5 71.6 79.5 70.1
On-site operating costs ($/ton milled) 10.83 9.62 10.29 11.04
Cash costs* on a co-product basis ($/lb)
- Copper 2.56 2.23 2.48 2.32
- Molybdenum 9.52 10.43 10.37 11.58
Average realized prices ($/lb)
- Copper (excluding hedges) 3.52 3.60 3.64 3.89
- Molybdenum 11.35 13.44 12.21 14.90

2013 Objectives

Mineral Park Mine

Mercator's objectives for 2013 are to continue to maximize cash generation through continual improvements, with a focus on increasing throughput and lowering unit costs. Specific goals are to produce 93.0 to 102.0 million pounds of copper equivalent**, comprised of 41.5 million to 46.5 million pounds of copper, 11.0 to 12.0 million pounds of molybdenum and 0.6 million ounces of silver, with cash costs* to $2.25 to $2.50 per pound of copper and $8.55 to $9.45 per pound of molybdenum.

In the first quarter of 2013, Mineral Park has taken additional maintenance downtime to re-install the Company-owned natural gas turbine, which, since reinstallation, has been exceeding expectations. As planned, the Company is currently mining through harder sections of the mineral reserves and has also recently completed the dewatering of Ithaca allowing for mining to resume in that pit. Mining in the Ithaca pit, which has softer ore, should help increase mill throughput as it will provide additional blending options for the various ore types at the mine. As a result of the increased maintenance downtime and temporarily mining through harder ore sections of the mine, the Company expects production in the first quarter of 2013 to be lower than the previous quarter. However, with increase ore blending options and ongoing optimization initiatives, the Company anticipates sequential quarterly production improvements during 2013 to achieve its production goals.

As previously disclosed, in 2012, the Company encountered lower than expected copper grades as it mined through the transition zone from the supergene enriched copper material into the primary hypogene copper mineralization, while also mining through harder than expected ore in the Turquoise pit at the mine. As such, the Company is presently in the process of revising the mineral resource model to more accurately predict transition zone copper grades and the hardness of certain zones in the ore body to help with mine planning. Once fully assessed, the Company will update Mineral Park's mineral reserve and mineral resource estimates.

As part of the cost reduction and productivity improvement initiatives in 2013, the Company has revised its capital program to $11.7 million at Mineral Park, which includes capital investments in the mill to increase throughput rates, $1.7 million for additional mining fleet to improve flexibility in the mine's ore blending options to increase throughput rates, and $6.3 million being spent on sustaining capital.

El Pilar

Plans at El Pilar for 2013 include continuing efforts to de-risk the Project through additional metallurgical testing, which has already commenced, and completion and receipt of the final environmental permits for constructing the power line to the Project. All permits necessary for the commencement of construction of the mine have been received.

Although extensive external and internal metallurgical studies have already been conducted for the Project, including over 100 column tests and two larger scale run-of-mine crib tests, additional metallurgical column testing has commenced to evaluate the potential to attain the same projected copper recoveries (56.9% over the Project's life-of-mine) while reducing acid consumption, by potentially as much as 20%. These column tests will be conducted by managing solution application rates and raffinate pH.

Meanwhile, the Company continues to explore various value-accretive options to finance the Project. After funding is secured, with a 15-month construction timeline, the Company has the potential for a short cycle to convert its investment into cash flows.

Financial Statements and Management Discussion & Analysis (MD&A)

This news release is prepared as at March 20, 2013 and should be read in conjunction with the MD&A and Financial Statements for the year ended December 31, 2012. These documents have been posted on Mercator's website ( and on SEDAR ( under the Company's profile.

*Alternative Performance Measures

This press release refers to "cash costs", "adjusted net income (loss)" and "operating profit before the El Creston asset impairment charge" which are not performance measures recognized as having a standardized meaning under IFRS. The Company discloses these performance measures, which have been derived from the financial statements on a consistent basis, because the Company believes they are of assistance in understanding the results of Mercator's operations and financial position, and are meant to provide further information about the Company's financial results to the investors. These performance measures may not be comparable to similar data presented by other mining companies. This information should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for measure of performance prepared in accordance with IFRS. Readers should refer to "Alternative Performance Measures" section on page 36 of the MD&A for additional information.

**Copper equivalent production

All references to copper equivalent production for 2012 and 2011 is calculated using a molybdenum/copper ratio of 4.53, based on the Company's beginning of year estimated 2012 metals prices, including adjustments for copper hedging. All references to copper equivalent production for 2013 is calculated using a molybdenum/copper ratio of 4.65, based on the Company's beginning of year estimated 2013 metals prices, including adjustments for copper hedging.

Webcast/Conference Call

Mercator's senior management will hold a conference call and a live audio webcast on March 21, 2013 at 8:30 a.m. Pacific time to discuss results for the fourth quarter and year-ended 2012. To participate in the call, dial 877-240-9772 (North America) and 800-2787-2090 (International). To listen to the live webcast, visit A presentation will accompany the call and will be available on the company's website under investor relations, presentations.

An archived recording of the conference call will be available for playback after the event until April 4, 2013 by dialling 1-800-408-3053 (North America), 905-694-9451 (local) and 800-3366-3052 (overseas) with conference passcode 2945338#.

Quality Assurance/Quality Control

The Technical Information contained in this news release of has been prepared under the supervision of, and its disclosure has been reviewed by the following who are deemed to be Qualified Persons under NI 43-101: Gary Simmerman, BSC, Mining Eng., FAusIMM, Mercator's Vice President, Mineral Park Mine, and Mike Broch, BSC Geology, MSC Economic Geology, FAusIMM, the Company's Vice-President, Exploration and Evaluations.

About Mercator Minerals Ltd.

Mercator Minerals Ltd., a TSX listed Canadian mining company with the potential to have one of the fastest growing base metal profiles in its peer group, is a copper, molybdenum and silver producer with a diversified portfolio of high quality assets in the USA and Mexico. Mercator provides investors exposure to current copper, molybdenum and silver production from the large tonnage long life Mineral Park Mine in Arizona, as well as mid-term exposure to potential copper production from its El Pilar deposit in the State of Sonora in northern Mexico and longer term exposure of molybdenum and copper through the potential development of the El Creston deposit also in the State of Sonora in northern Mexico.

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On Behalf of the Board of Directors


D. Bruce McLeod, P.Eng., President and CEO

National Instrument 43-101 Compliance

Unless otherwise indicated, Mercator has prepared the technical information in this news release ("Technical Information") based on information contained in the technical reports, annual information form, news releases, material change reports and quarterly and annual consolidated financial statements and management discussion and analysis (collectively the "Disclosure Documents") available under Mercator Minerals Ltd.'s company profile on SEDAR at Each Disclosure Document was prepared by or under the supervision of a qualified person (a "Qualified Person") as defined in National Instrument 43-101 Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects of the Canadian Securities Administration ("NI 43-101"). Readers are encouraged to review the full text of the Disclosure Documents which qualifies the Technical Information. Readers are advised that mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability. The Disclosure Documents are each intended to be read as a whole, and sections should not be read or relied upon out of context. The Technical Information is subject to the assumptions and qualifications contained in the Disclosure Documents.

Forward-Looking Information

This news release contains certain forward-looking information within the meaning of Canadian securities legislation and forward-looking statements within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. This information and these statements, referred to herein as "forward-looking statements", are not historical facts, are made as of the date of this news release and include without limitation, statements regarding discussions of future plans, projections, objectives, estimates and forecasts and statements as to management's expectations with respect to, among other things, the size and quality of the Company's mineral reserves and mineral resources, potential mineralization, and possible extensions of zones. In addition, estimates of mineral reserves and mineral resources may constitute forward looking statements to the extent they involve estimates of the mineralization that will be encountered if a property is developed. These forward-looking statements involve numerous risks and uncertainties and actual results may vary. Important factors that may cause actual results to vary include without limitation, certain transactions, certain approvals, changes in commodity and power prices, changes in interest and currency exchange rates, risks inherent in exploration results, timing and success, inaccurate geological and metallurgical assumptions (including with respect to the size, grade and recoverability of mineral reserves and resources), unanticipated operational difficulties (including failure of plant, equipment or processes to operate in accordance with specifications, cost escalation, unavailability of materials, equipment and third-party contractors, delays in the receipt of government approvals, industrial disturbances or other job action, and unanticipated events related to health, safety and environmental matters), political risk, social unrest, and changes in general economic conditions or conditions in the financial markets. In making the forward-looking statements in this press release, the Company has applied several material assumptions, including without limitation, the assumptions that: (1) market fundamentals will result in sustained copper and molybdenum demand and prices; (2) the current copper leach and milling operations at Mineral Park remain viable, operationally and economically; (3) the milling operations at Mineral Park will continue to be viable, operationally and economically, (4) the financing, construction and operation of the El Pilar Project will proceed as expected; and (5) any additional financing needed will be available on reasonable terms. The Company's ability to progress the El Pilar and El Creston projects towards a construction decision and eventually into production is dependent on the Company's ability to arrange for sufficient funds to cover the capital and start up related costs. There can be no assurance that the Company will be successful in arranging such funding. Statements concerning mineral reserves and mineral resource estimates may also be deemed to constitute forward-looking statements to the extent that they involve estimates of the mineralization that may be encountered during current or future operations. The words "expect," "anticipate," "estimate," "may," "will," "should," "intend," "believe," "target," "budget," "plan," "projection" and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Information concerning mineral reserve and mineral resource estimates also may be considered forward-looking statements, as such information constitutes a prediction of what mineralization might be found to be present if and when a project is actually developed. The risks and assumptions are described in more detail in the Company's audited financial statements and MD&A for the year ended December 31, 2012 on the SEDAR website at The Company does not assume the obligation to revise or update these forward-looking statements after the date of this news release or to revise them to reflect the occurrence of future unanticipated events, except as may be required under applicable securities laws.

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