Western Copper Announces Updated Pre-Feasibility Study on Casino Project
April 7, 2011
Western Copper Announces Updated Pre-Feasibility Study on Casino Project
8.3 million ounces of gold and 4.4 billion pounds of copper plus molybdenum and silver in reserve
Gold production increased to 435,000 ounces per year for the first 4 years
After-Tax IRR 16.2% at long term metal prices
After-Tax NPV (8%) $1.0 billion at long term metal prices
Throughput increased to 120,000 tpd
VANCOUVER, B.C. Western Copper Corporation (“Western Copper” or the “Company”) (TSX:WRN; NYSE Amex:WRN) is pleased to release the results of an updated pre-feasibility study on its wholly-owned Casino copper-gold-molybdenum deposit in the Yukon. This study recommends that the project be built as an open pit mine and a mill processing 120,000 tonnes per day (“tpd”) producing an average of 435,000 ounces of gold, 234 million pounds of copper, 13 million pounds of molybdenum, and 1.6 million ounces of silver per year over the first four years of production.
The study is a major update from the one released by Western Copper in June 2008. The new study incorporates the updated resource announced in November 2010, a 33% increase in throughput to 120,000 tpd, the use of natural gas as a power source, and improved gold recoveries. These modifications are significant factors to the study indicating an after-tax net present value (“NPV”) of $1.0 billion using a discount rate of 8% and an after-tax internal rate of return (“IRR”) of 16.2%.
“We are extremely pleased with the results of the new Casino study”, said Dale Corman, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, “This pre-feasibility study shows that the project can be built and operated with excellent returns based on conservative metal prices. When you combine the current financial results with the massive resource expansion not included in the reserve, Casino is at the forefront of a handful of large, long-life copper-gold porphyries in the world. The Yukon is a mining friendly jurisdiction and we look forward to continuing to advance this project forward.”
|Initial Capital Investment||$2.13 billion|
|Payback period*||3.2 years|
|IRR pre-tax* (100% equity)||19.6%|
|IRR after-tax* (100% equity)||16.2%|
|NPV pre-tax* (8% discount)||$1.6 billion|
|NPV after-tax* (8% discount)||$1.0 billion|
|Mill operation||23 years|
|Heap leach operation||7 years|
|Total Reserve||1,057 million tonnes|
|Mill throughput||120,000 tonnes per day|
*Based on Long Term metal prices
The pre-feasibility study indicates that the economic returns from the project justify further development of the Casino project — development of a full feasibility study and securing the required permits and licenses for operation.
The financial results of the study were developed under three different metal price scenarios. Long term prices (“Long Term”) were based on typical analyst projections of long metal prices and $CAN:$US exchange rates, and adjusted to the current study’s $CAN:$US exchange rate of 1.0. SEC prices (“SEC”) use LME three-year historical rolling average prices as of the end of March 2011. This approach is consistent with the guidance of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. Spot prices (“Spot”) are based on spot prices from March 31, 2011.
The following table summarizes the financial results from using three metal price scenarios:
|Exchange Rate (C$:US$)||1.0||1.0||1.0|
|IRR pre-tax (100% equity)||19.6%||19.8%||32.2%|
|NPV pre-tax (5% discount, $millions)||2,569||2,704||5,860|
|NPV pre-tax (8% discount, $millions)||1,566||1,647||3,927|
|IRR after-tax (100% equity)||16.2%||16.4%||26.8%|
|NPV after-tax (5% discount, $millions)||1,698||1,791||4,004|
|NPV after-tax (8% discount, $millions)||963||1,018||2,621|
|Payback period (years)||3.3||3.3||2.1|
|Net Smelter Return ($/t milled)||19.33||19.80||26.84|
|Copper Cash Cost* (US$/lb)||0.06||0.21||(0.49)|
*Net of byproduct credits
Higher grade ore is fed to the concentrator during the first four years of the concentrator operation. This, combined with the concurrent heap leach facility operation, results in higher yearly cash flows and other metrics during this period and contributes significantly to the project’s financial performance.
|Years 1-4||Life of mine|
|Average Annual Pre-tax Cash Flow ($millions)||623||322|
|Average Annual After-tax Cash Flow ($millions)||567||250|
|Average NSR ($/t ore milled)||26.84||19.33|
|% of Revenue – Copper||46%||45%|
|% of Revenue – Gold||39%||35%|
|% of Revenue – Silver||2%||2%|
|% of Revenue – Molybdenum||13%||18%|
Further sensitivity analyses may be found in the pre-feasibility study executive summary.
CAPITAL AND OPERATING COSTS
Total initial capital investment in the project is estimated to be $2.13 billion, which represents the total direct and indirect cost for the complete development of the project, including associated infrastructure and power plant. The following table shows how the initial capital is distributed between the various components. Sustaining capital for the project is $575 million.
|Mine Capital (Mine, Mill, Heap Leach, etc.)||$1,750|
|Power Capital (Power Plant, LNG Facility)||$260|
|Infrastructure Capital (Road, Port Upgrade, Airstrip)||$120|
|Total Initial Capital||$2,130|
Mining and milling operating costs were calculated to average $9.70/tonne of ore processed over the life of mine and heap leach operating costs were calculated to average $2.96/tonne of ore leached over the life of mine.
|General & Administrative||$0.36|
RESOURCES AND RESERVES
The November 2010 resource estimate was used unmodified for this pre-feasibility study.
The pre-feasibility study estimates a NI 43-101 compliant proven and probable mill ore reserve of 976 million tonnes and a proven and probable heap leach ore reserve of 82 million tonnes as outlined below. Total contained metal in the combined proven & probable reserve is equal to 4.4 billion pounds of copper, 8.3 million ounces of gold, 490 million pounds of molybdenum, and 61 million ounces of silver.
|Tonnes (millions)||Copper %||Gold (g/t)||Moly (%)||Silver (g/t)|
|Proven Mineral Reserve||91||0.337||0.438||0.0276||2.23|
|Probable Mineral Reserve||885||0.189||0.217||0.0225||1.68|
|Total Proven & Probable (Mill)||976||0.202||0.238||0.0229||1.73|
|Heap Leach Reserve|
|Proven Mineral Reserve||30||0.052||0.494||n/a||2.88|
|Probable Mineral Reserve||52||0.035||0.299||n/a||2.37|
|Total Proven & Probable (Heap)||82||0.041||0.370||n/a||2.55|
The pre-feasibility study evaluates the development of the Casino deposit as a conventional, electrified truck-shovel open pit mine. The initial development will focus on the deposit’s oxide cap as a heap leach operation to recover gold and silver in doré form. The main sulphide deposit will be processed using a conventional concentrator to produce copper-gold and molybdenum concentrates. Additionally, a pyrite rich stream from the concentrator will be leached in a CIL circuit for recovery of gold and silver. Key metrics of the processing plant are shown below:
|Years 1-4||Life of mine|
|Average Annual Metal Production|
|Copper (M lbs)||234||157|
|Gold (k ozs)||435||262|
|Silver (k ozs)||1,558||1,369|
|Molybdenum (M lbs)||13||12|
|Average Annual Mill Feed Grade|
|Annual Concentrate Production|
|Cu (dry ktonnes)||375||252|
|Mo (dry ktonnes)||11||10|
|Average Concentrate Grade|
*Includes gold recovery from pyrite CIL
The pre-feasibility study recommends that power be provided by a natural gas power plant, and that the natural gas be supplied to the plant by transport of liquefied natural gas (“LNG”). The study assumes that LNG is sourced from the Kitimat LNG facility scheduled to begin shipping LNG in 2015.
Transportation of concentrate and material will require extending the existing Freegold Road to the east of the mine. Concentrates will be stored and loaded on ships via upgraded facilities provided by the Port of Skagway, Alaska. The project operating cost estimate includes the anticipated concentrate handling service charges based on use of the upgraded facilities.
The economics of the pre-feasibility study do not take into account opportunities for improvement based on:
Inclusion of the 1.7 billion tonnes* of inferred material into the reserve
Increased metallurgical performance
Third party ownership/operation of the power plant
Shared costs on the Freegold Road extension
*See Western Copper news release dated November 1, 2010
Based on the positive results of the Casino Pre-feasibility Study, Western Copper will begin preparations to initiate a full feasibility study.
Western Copper is working towards submitting its application for environmental assessment under the Yukon Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Act (“YESAA”), the first permit required to bring the Casino project into operation.
M3, a full service Engineering, Procurement, Construction & Management firm, is recognized for its experience in copper processing and capabilities in the development and construction of mines and mineral processing plants. The executive summary of the M3 pre-feasibility study will be posted on the Company’s website http://www.westerncoppercorp.com as well as Sedar and Edgar within 45 days.
Conrad Huss, P.E. of M3 is the qualified person responsible for the scientific and technical information in this news release in accordance with NI 43-101. Michael G. Hester, FAusIMM of IMC is the qualified person responsible for the preparation of the reserve estimate in this news release in accordance with NI 43-101.
The following companies also contributed to the pre-feasibility study:
Knight Piésold and Co.: water supply, geotechnical, tailings management facility and heap leach
Associated Engineering Group Ltd.: offsite roads, transportation and ports
Kerr Wood Leidal Associates Ltd: power generation
AECOM: environmental and permitting
Independent Mining Consultants Inc.: mining and reserves
G&T Metallurgical Services Ltd., SGS Minerals Services, Metcon Research: metallurgical test work
Giroux and Casselman: geology and resources.
ABOUT WESTERN COPPER CORPORATION
Western Copper is a Vancouver-based exploration and development company with properties containing significant copper, gold and molybdenum resources and reserves. The Company has 100% ownership of four Canadian properties. The two most advanced projects are the Casino Project and the Carmacks Copper Project, both located in the Yukon Territory. The Casino Project is one of the world’s largest open-pittable gold, copper, silver and molybdenum deposits. For more information, visit http://www.westerncoppercorp.com
On behalf of the board,
F. Dale Corman
Chairman & CEO
Western Copper Corporation
For more information, please contact:
President & COO, Corporate Development
Manager, Investor Relations & Corporate Communications
Call: 1.888.966.9995 or 604.684.9497
Cautionary Disclaimer Regarding Forward-Looking Statements and Information
Certain of the statements and information in this press release constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and “forward-looking information” within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities laws. Forward-looking statements and information generally express predictions, expectations, beliefs, plans, projections, or assumptions of future events or performance and do not constitute historical fact. Forward-looking statements and information tend to include words such as “may,” “expects,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “targets,” “forecasts,” “schedules,” “goals,” “budgets,” or similar terminology. Forward-looking statements and information herein include, but are not limited to, statements with respect to the completion of the Proposed Arrangement and the expected structure thereof; anticipated shareholder, court and regulatory approvals. All forward-looking statements and information are based on Western Copper’s or its consultants’ current beliefs as well as various assumptions made by and information currently available to them. These assumptions include, without limitation that shareholder and court approvals to the Proposed Arrangement will be obtained in a timely manner, and that regulatory approvals will be available on acceptable terms. Although management considers these assumptions to be reasonable based on information currently available to it, they may prove to be incorrect. Forward-looking statements and information are inherently subject to significant business, economic, and competitive uncertainties and contingencies and are subject to important risk factors and uncertainties, both known and unknown, that are beyond Western Copper’s ability to control or predict. Actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in forward-looking statements and information. Examples of potential risks are set forth in Western Copper’s annual report most recently filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Canadian Securities Administrators as of the date of this press release. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements or information. Western Copper expressly disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements and information whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as otherwise required by applicable securities legislation.