- Completes Requirement for Project Ownership to Increase to 80%
- Robust economics to drive construction funding
- solid operating basis to drive initial production
- Optimization program commenced to further enhance economics
Highlights of the 2023 Definitive Feasibility Study include:
- Post-tax NPV8% of US$147 million and 39% IRR
- Average annual payable zinc equivalent ("ZnEq") production of 124 million lbs per annum over first 5 years
- Average All-in Sustaining Cost ("AISC") of US$0.59/lb ZnEq over first 5 years
- Robust Average EBITDA of US$75.5 million per annum over the first 5 years
- Upfront capex requirement of US$164 million (including US$12 million of contingency)
- Inaugural NI 43-101 compliant Proven and Probable Reserves in the North Zone and South Zones of 14.6Mt at an average NSR of US$66.1/tonne
- Updated NI 43-101 compliant Mineral Resource of:
- North Zone: 8.9Mt at 10.52% ZnEq Measured and Indicated and additional Inferred Resources of 0.5Mt at 6.62% ZnEq
- South Zone: 10.0Mt at 1.22% Copper Equivalent ("CuEq") and additional Inferred resources of 8.1MT at 1.16% Cu Eq.
- Fulfilled option requirement to deliver 80% indirect ownership in the Lagoa Salgada Project;
- Metallurgical results confirm strong metal recoveries and saleable concentrates
- Optimization Program commenced to enhance NPV, IRR and operational efficiencies targeted for completion by year end.
TORONTO, July 25, 2023 /CNW/ - Ascendant Resources Inc. (TSX: ASND) (FRA: 2D9) ("Ascendant" or the "Company") is pleased to announce results of its initial NI 43-101 Feasibility Study ("FS") for its Venda Nova deposit at its Lagoa Salgada VMS Project in Portugal, based upon an updated Mineral Reserves and Resources Estimate. The completion of the FS satisfies Ascendant's earn-in option requirements to move to 80% ownership, subject to closing documentation with all other conditions having previously been met.
The FS was completed by QUADRANTE, a multidisciplinary engineering and consulting company with more than 25 years of experience in Europe, Africa and the Americas. Mine planning, design and engineering was undertaken by IGAN INGENIERÍA, an independent consulting firm specializing in mine planning and engineering for open pit and underground mining projects and operations based in Spain. The DFS is based on the NI 43-101 Mineral Resource estimate completed by MICON International dated May 31, 2023 and Mineral Reserves estimate completed by IGAN dated June 16, 2023. Golder Associates has been engaged to provide a comprehensive peer review of the entire report. The FS report will be posted to the Company's profile on SEDAR imminently.
Mark Brennan, Executive Chairman of Ascendant stated, "We are very pleased to have completed this initial feasibility study for the Venda Nova deposit at Lagoa Salgada. It is the first comprehensive study covering all aspects of the operations required for the commercialization of the project. It will also serve to secure our 80% interest in what is proving to be a robust project, even at this very early stage in its development. Lagoa Salgada remains a discovery project with significant upside potential expected as we optimize these results and as we continue to expand the resource base."
He added, "We believe the results of the FS demonstrate a solid, economically robust project for what has always been the initial development phase for the larger potential we see for the Lagoa Salgada property. Given the nature of VMS deposits to occur in clusters on the Iberian Pyrite Belt, we see evidence of potential for several more deposits to be defined in the coming years to enhance the overall value proposition at Lagoa. Furthermore, we expect these results to support our current financing discussions and construction decision in the coming months."
While completing the FS satisfies the requirements for Ascendant to earn an 80% interest in the project as required under the Earn In Option agreement, the Company believes that with additional time now available, the following near-term optimization opportunities exist to further enhance the FS prior to commencing development work over the next six months. The Company's initial focus will be as follows:
- Optimize mine ore sequencing to maximize revenues in the initial years.
- Optimization of the mining and processing rate to optimize NPV and IRR; and
- Undertake further metallurgical test work to enhance metal recoveries above those already achieved in tests to date
The Lagoa Salgada Project is located within the north-western section of the prolific Iberian Pyrite Belt ("IBP") in Portugal, approximately 80km southeast of Lisbon, accessible by national highways and existing roads. The Project is comprised of a single exploration permit covering an area of approximately 7,209 hectares. The Project represents a high-grade, polymetallic zinc-lead-copper development and exploration opportunity in a low risk, established and prolific jurisdiction where the project has been accorded a Project of National Interest ("PIN") status.
Figure 1. Project Location
Table 1. below outlines the initial NI 43-101 Proven and Probable Mineral Reserves Estimate prepared by IGAN Ingenieria upon which the FS was based. Table 2 provides the updated Mineral Resource Estimate, prepared by Micon International Limited, ("Micon") identified for the Lagoa Salgada project to date. Infill drilling in 2022 focused upon upgrading sufficient high-grade mineralization in the North Zone and part of the mineralization in the South Zone to the Measured and Indicated categories to support the completion of the FS.
Future drilling is expected to add additional Resources as the project moves forward to extend the overall mine life and it should be noted both the North and South zones remain open to future expansion along strike and at depth for future exploration. In addition, several regional exploration targets have been identified for future exploration work to further increase the known mineral resources on the property, thereby extending the overall mine life and/or potentially supporting a future expansion.
The estimated Proven and Probable Reserves total 14.6 million metric tons (Mt), with 7.0Mt in the North Zone having an NSR of 84.1 $/t, and 7.6Mt in the South Zone with an NSR of 49.6 $/t, sufficient to support an initial mine life of 14+ years based upon a throughput rate of 1.2Mtpa through the plant as outlined in the FS. Reserves were defined using an NSR calculation based upon current metallurgical recoveries, payability, treatment charges and mining methods.
The project has converted 77% of its Measured and Indicated resources into reserves: additionally there are 0.5Mt at a grade of 6.62% ZnEq in the North Zone and 8.13Mt at a grade of 1.16% CuEq in the South Zone of Inferred Resource. Additional drilling is required to upgrade these additional resources to the Measured and Indicated categories.
Table 1: Mineral Reserves
NSR cut-off grades were established following Mortimer's approach to cut-off grades (Hall, 2014)
Table 1a: NSR cut-off values per mining method and material
Table 2: Mineral Resources (Inclusive of Reserves)
In line with previous studies, the mine is designed using a single access ramp from surface and will target the extraction of ore from the North and South Zones at a rate of 1.2 million tonnes per annum ("Mtpa").
Mining will be undertaken by targeting the various sub domains within the ore deposit to maximize metallurgical recovery. As with most VMS type deposits, the sub domains reflect a precious metal rich gossan layer above a Massive Sulphide layer (further divided into a Transition and Primary layer) and a layer of stockwork mineralization each with its own metallurgical characteristics. The mining methods defined are a combination of transverse sublevel stoping and cut & fill. Paste backfill is to be used for both mining methods to maximize ore recovery and productivity while minimizing surface tailing disposition. The initial years will focus on mining the higher-grade gossan and massive sulphide zones in the North Zone, followed by the South Zone as underground access is developed in the early years of the operation to the South zone. Mining will be conducted using an owner operated electric fleet which will reduce operating costs.
Figure 2. Underground Mine Design
(In blue the main ramps and accesses and in green and violet the ore blocks to be mined)
Metallurgical test work was completed by Grinding Solutions ("GSL") in Cornwall, UK. Confirmatory test work was developed by Maelgwyn Mineral Services, South Africa to confirm metal recoveries and saleable concentrates have been achieved in principal domains. Further testing is required to confirm and improve on current results as fully optimized circuit adjustments are developed. The Company notes that its consultants have indicated that the actual performance of operating mines in the region have typically seen an improvement in concentrate quality once an industrial scale operation is in production as compared to lab testing.
The approach to flowsheet development was to prepare representative master composites for each ore type, then proceed through open circuit to identify and optimize flowsheet conditions and reagent schemes. Locked cycle tests were then conducted on principal master composites to demonstrate the anticipated overall metallurgical performance within a closed circuit.
Tests were completed on blends of Primary Massive Sulphide (PMS), Stockwork (STW), Gossan (GO), Transition Massive Sulphide (TMS) and Stringer (STR) ores to allow comparison with individual composite results and to assess the viability of co‐processing the ore types.
Mineralogical assessments were undertaken to provide information to refine the comminution/beneficiation process during optimization, and to provide reasonable expectations for metallurgical performance versus mineral liberation and association within each ore type. Samples from various open and locked cycle test products were used to characterize final concentrates and tailings.
The developed metallurgical models were applied to mine production schedules as part of the financial modelling process. The resulting average recoveries over the life of the mine (LOM) are presented in the table below:
Table 3. Achieved Recoveries by Metal and Domain
Table 4 below highlights the concentrate grade profile as determined by the various metallurgical testwork. These results are largely inline with other regional producers. The Project will produce four concentrates, namely Zinc, Lead, Copper and a Tin concentrate.
Table 4. Concentrate Technical Specifications
The mineral treatment plant is based on industry standard methods and will mainly consist of different process areas where the mineral will be crushed, ground, and then fed to several flotation processes where Cu, Pb, Zn and Sn concentrates and Au/Ag dore bars will be produced. Other than crushing, grinding, dewatering and auxiliary services, common to all mineral domains, the remaining process areas will be configured depending on the mineral domain being processed. The mined material goes through a grizzly feeder and primary jaw crusher, and then onto a grinding circuit which consists of a SAG mill, ball mill, and vertical mill in a closed circuit with hydrocyclones. The material is discharged into a vibrating screen, with rejected pebbles recirculated to a pebble crusher.
Grinded material will feed the copper and lead flotation circuit, that includes aeration and conditioning tanks, rougher cells, regrinding mill, and cleaning stages. The circuit can produce bulk or separate Cu and Pb concentrates depending on the mineral domain being processed. The zinc flotation circuit, downstream process, consists of conditioning tanks, rougher cells, regrinding mill, and cleaning stages.
Zinc flotation tailings, feed the sulphide flotation circuit to remove sulphides before concentrating tin minerals. It includes conditioning tanks, rougher cells, and cleaner stages. Rougher tailings flow to the next area, while the concentrate is pumped to the tailings management area. The tin recovery circuit will consist of flotation and gravimetric concentration technologies. Flotation includes conditioner and aeration tanks, rougher and cleaner stages, with intermediate tin concentrate being processed using multi-gravity separators to increase the final tin grade. A summary Flowsheet is provided below.
Figure 3. Simplified Process Flow Diagram
The Lagoa Salgada Project will be developed on a greenfield site located in close proximity to the Grândola municipality, in the Setúbal district, which benefits from well-established infrastructure, including road and rail transport, power, and water supply services. Transportation of supplies will be facilitated by trucks from Portugal or Spanish locations, while concentrate products will initially be shipped to the Sines port by road (47km) and subsequently by ship to final destinations.
The project site will have a compact layout that incorporates essential components such as the tailings storage facility, ore and waste dumps, water treatment infrastructure, and various buildings, including administration, warehouse, laboratory, gatehouse, and mobile equipment workshop. The processing facilities will consist of a primary crusher building, ore stockpiles on the ROM pad, a mill building, and a paste plant building.
The mine will be accessed via a portal and the ore will be brought to the surface and stored as stockpiles, while waste stockpiles will be utilized for constructing the embankments of the Tailings Storage Facility.
The mine plan outlines the processing of 14.8 Mt of ore and the generation of 1.9 Mt of waste rock. After accounting for concentrate and underground backfill, a total of 11.3 Mt of tailings, along with 1.0 Mt of development rock, will be deposited in the TSF.
Figure 4 Site Layout
Upfront capital costs are estimated at US$164 million inclusive of US$12 million in contingency. A further US$102.9 million of sustaining capital is planned over the 14.5 year mine life, including closure costs. Pay back is in the order of 2 years with an after-tax IRR of 39%.
Table 5. Capital Costs
Operating costs are summarized in Table 6 below. All costs are based on a mining rate of 1.2Mtpa and relied on recent quotes from various vendors which are consistent with other mines in the region. On a zinc equivalent per pound basis, Life of Mine C1 Cash Costs are estimated at US$0.67/lb and All-In Sustaining Costs are US$0.71/lb over the life of mine.
Table 6. Operating Costs
The chart below highlights the expected production and AISC profile at Venda Nova as per the FS. Production and cash flows are expected to be stronger in the early years as the processing of the higher-grade massive sulphide and gossan material is undertaken.
Production over the mine life is expected to average 77 million lbs of Zinc equivalent production per year but averages approximately 124 million lbs of Zinc equivalent production over the first five years. Similarly, AISC will average US$0.71/lb per year LOM and US$0.59/lb over the first five years on a ZnEq basis.
Figure 5. Production and AISC
The Venda Nova project at Lagoa Salgada shows strong robust economics with a Post-Tax NPV at an 8% discount rate of US$147 million and an IRR of 39% for a payback period of 2 years at long term consensus metal price assumptions. Project economics are based on the current Proven and Probable Reserves only for a mine life of 14.5 years and does not factor in the upgrading of additional resources or potential future exploration success.
Table 7 Economic Summary
The mine is expected to benefit from regional tax incentives in Portugal. Contractual fiscal incentives for productive investment in Portugal offers a validity period of up to 10 years for investment projects with relevant expenditures amounting to €3,000,000 or more. The fiscal benefit corresponds to 10% of the project's relevant expenditures, and this rate can be increased based on factors like the location of the project and the creation of jobs. The benefit takes the form of a tax credit deducted from the corporate income tax liability. Additionally, there are provisions for exemptions or reductions in municipal property tax, property transfer tax, and stamp duty.
These contractual fiscal incentives aim to attract productive investments, boost economic growth, create employment opportunities, and support strategic sectors in Portugal. The incentives provide companies with tax benefits, such as tax credits, deductions, and exemptions, encouraging investment in various sectors and regions.
In the case of Lagoa Salgada, the maximum tax benefit is determined by considering the lower value between €24.75 million (Maximum regional aid intensity applicable) or 15% of the initial investment. The application method for this incentive involves a 50% reduction in income tax (equivalent to 21% of the taxable income) until the maximum amount of tax benefit is attained.
The chart below demonstrates the robust free cash flow generation expected, especially in the first five years of operation. Cash flows during the first five years of production are estimated to average US$56 million per annum.
Figure 6. Free Cash Flow
The chart below highlights the NPV sensitivity to changes in capital costs, various input costs and Zinc price assumptions.
Figure 7. NPV Sensitivity
The completion of the Feasibility study completes the requirements by Ascendant to Earn an 80% ownership in the project as required under the Option Earn-In agreement. The Company believes that with additional time now available, the following near term optimization opportunities exist to further enhance the FS prior to commencing development work over the next six months. The Company's initial focus will be as follows:
- Optimize mine ore sequencing to maximize revenues in the initial years.
- Optimization of the mining and processing rate to optimize NPV and IRR;
- Undertake further metallurgical test work on available material to enhance metal recoveries above those already achieved in tests to date
On a longer-term basis, the Company has identified additional areas to further increase the value of the Lagao Salgada project such as;
- Additional metallurgical test work to continue to enhance recoveries subject to additional new fresh core
- Increase in mineral reserves and resources to enhance the mine life or support a larger scale operation via upgrading additional known resources to the Proven and Probable categories, and the addition of new ore through new exploration to define additional resources on the numerous follow up targets known on the property.
An NI 43-101 Technical Report supporting the DFS is being prepared by Quadrante under the guidance of Mr. João Horta (M.Sc., MIMMM), who serves as Project Director at QUADRANTE and is a "Qualified Person" in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects. Although the Qualified Person was not responsible for the completion of some of the sections of the DFS, such as Geology, Mineral Processing and Metallurgical, Mineral Resource, Reserve, Mining Methods, Recovery Methods, TSF, Paste Fill, and Hydrogeological Study, the Qualified Person at Quadrante has relied on the Qualified Persons listed below who are the specialists in these fields for completion of their respective portions of the DFS.
The scientific and technical information contained in this release relating to the Geology and Mineral Resource Estimate has been approved and verified by Mr. Charley Murahwi (MSc., P.Geo., FAusIMM), Senior Economic Geologist with Micon International Limited, who is a "Qualified Person" in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 - Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects. Sampling, analytical, and test data underlying the Mineral Resource Estimate was also approved and verified by Mr. Charley Murahwi.
The Mineral Reserve calculation and the Mining Methods section was completed by IGAN Ingenieria under the supervision of Mr. Pablo Gancedo Mínguez (CEng, MIMMM), who is a "Qualified Person" in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.
The Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) study was completed by SLR under the supervision of Mr. David Ritchie (P.Eng, Principal Geotechnical Engineer at SLR), who is a "Qualified Person" in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.
Scientific and technical information contained in this release in relation to metallurgical test work and the Recovery Methods section has been approved and verified by Mr. David Castro López (MIMMM), who serves as Process Engineer at Minepro Solutions and is a "Qualified Person" in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.
The Hydrogeological Study was completed by Dr. Rafael Fernández Rubio (PhD, Specialist), which is a Special Consultant at FRASA and is a "Qualified Person" in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.
The Paste Fill study was completed by Mr. Frank Palkovits (P.Eng, B.Eng), Pastefill Specialist at RMS and a "Qualified Person" in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.
The scientific and technical information in this press release has been reviewed and approved by Clinton Swemmer, Chief Technical Officer for Ascendant Resources Ltd, who is a Qualified Person as defined in National Instrument 43-101.
Ascendant Resources is a Toronto-based mining company focused on the exploration and development of the highly prospective Lagoa Salgada VMS project located on the prolific Iberian Pyrite Belt in Portugal. The Lagoa Salgada project is a high-grade polymetallic project, demonstrating a typical mineralization endowment of zinc, copper, lead, tin, silver, and gold. Extensive exploration upside potential lies both near deposit and at prospective step-out targets across the large 7,209-hectare property concession.
Located just 80km from Lisbon and surrounded by exceptional infrastructure, Lagoa Salgada offers a low-cost entry to a significant exploration and development opportunity, already showing its mineable scale and cashflow generation potential.
Ascendant currently holds a 50% interest in the Lagoa Salgada project through its position in Redcorp - Empreendimentos Mineiros, Lda, ("Redcorp") and has an earn-in opportunity to increase its interest in the project to 80%. The Company's common shares are principally listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol "ASND". For more information on Ascendant, please visit our website at http://www.ascendantresources.com/.
Additional information relating to the Company, including the Preliminary Economic Assessment referenced in this news release, is available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com.
This press release contains statements that constitute "forward-looking information" (collectively, "forward-looking statements") within the meaning of the applicable Canadian securities legislation. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, are forward-looking statements and are based on expectations, estimates and projections as at the date of this news release. Any statement that discusses predictions, expectations, beliefs, plans, projections, objectives, assumptions, future events or performance (often but not always using phrases such as "expects", or "does not expect", "is expected", "anticipates" or "does not anticipate", "plans", "budget", "scheduled", "forecasts", "estimates", "believes" or "intends" or variations of such words and phrases or stating that certain actions, events or results "may" or "could", "would", "might" or "will" be taken to occur or be achieved) are not statements of historical fact and may be forward-looking statements.
Forward-looking statements contained in this press release include, without limitation, statements regarding the business, the Lagoa Salgada project and timing of completion of studies. In making the forward- looking statements contained in this press release, Ascendant has made certain assumptions, including, but not limited to its ability to enhance value through further optimisation, the discovery potential of the project and ability to define further deposits and the support for and ability to obtain project financing and commence construction. Although Ascendant believes that the expectations reflected in forward-looking statements are reasonable, it can give no assurance that the expectations of any forward-looking statements will prove to be correct. Known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors which may cause the actual results and future events to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Such factors include, but are not limited to general business, economic, competitive, political and social uncertainties. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements and information contained in this press release. Except as required by law, Ascendant disclaims any intention and assumes no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements to reflect actual results, whether as a result of new information, future events, changes in assumptions, changes in factors affecting such forward-looking statements or otherwise. Forward-looking information is subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual events or results to differ from those reflected in the forward-looking information, including, without limitation, the risks described under the heading "Risks Factors" in the Company's Annual Information Form dated March 31, 2023 and under the heading "Risks and Uncertainties" in the Company's Management's Discussion and Analysis for the years ended December 31, 2022 and 2021 and other risks identified in the Company's filings with Canadian securities regulators, which filings are available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. The risk factors referred to above are not an exhaustive list of the factors that may affect any of the Company's forward-looking information. The Company's statements containing forward-looking information are based on the beliefs, expectations and opinions of management on the date the statements are made, and the Company does not assume any obligation to update such forward-looking information if circumstances or management's beliefs, expectations or opinions should change, other than as required by applicable law. For the reasons set forth above, one should not place undue reliance on forward-looking information.
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