Preliminary Economic Assessment

Preliminary Economic Assessment

A Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) was completed for the Ootsa Property by P&E Mining Consultants Inc. and is supported in a technical report available on SEDAR or the Company’s website with an effective date of January 2016.  

The conceptual study demonstrates the potential to develop the Ootsa Project by means of contract mining and toll milling at low initial capital cost to deliver a base case after-tax net present value of C$186 million and after tax internal rate of return of 81%.   

BASE CASE OPERATING HIGHLIGHTS AND PROJECT PERFORMANCE:

  • Metal Price:                        US$3.00/lb Cu, US$1260/oz Au, US$10.30/lb Mo, US$17/oz Ag
  • Mill Feed*:                          65 Mt @ 0.37% Cu Eq (0.25% Cu, 0.13 g/t Au, 0.016% Mo, 2.3 g/t Ag)
  • Resource Quality:             94% Measured, 6% Indicated Classification
  • Production:                         324 M lbs Cu, 185 K oz Au, 15.8 M lbs Mo, 3 M oz Ag
  • Mine Life                            12 years
  • Initial CAPEX:                   C$64 million (including contingency)
  • NPV @ 5% (after-tax)**:   C$186 million
  • IRR (after-tax):                  81%
  • Payback:                            1 year
  • Resilience:                           31% IRR at US$2.25/lb Cu

*Consists of 61 M tonnes of the Measured portion of the mineral resource at grades of 0.25% Cu, 0.13 g/t Au, 0.016%Mo, and 2.3 g/t Ag, plus 4 M tonnes of the Indicated portion of the mineral resource at grades of 0.24% Cu, 0.07 g/t Au, 0.015%Mo, and 2.3 g/t Ag.

**NPV includes by-product credits for gold, molybdenum, and silver.  A discount rate of 5% was applied to generate NPV based on the lower risk of the development relative to that of similar projects.  A contingency factor of 30% was included in the initial capital cost estimate.

The PEA is based on the open pit development of the Ootsa Property by a contract miner, toll milling of Ootsa mill feed at the adjacent Huckleberry Mill at the end of current operations, and use of the existing site facilities on a fee-basis.  There are currently no agreements in place to conduct toll milling of Ootsa mill feed at the Huckleberry facilities, nor is there any guarantee that the required agreements can be established on commercially acceptable terms to support the proposed development plan. 

The projected mining method, potential production profile and other Ootsa Project economics referred to are summarized from a PEA available on SEDAR and are conceptual in nature and additional technical studies will need to be completed in order to fully assess the Ootsa Project’s viability. The PEA should not be considered a Pre-feasibility or Feasibility Study, as the economic and technical viability of the project have not been demonstrated to that level. There is no certainty that a potential mining operation will be realized or that a production decision will be made. A mine production decision that is made prior to completing a Feasibility Study carries potential risks that include, but are not limited to, the inclusion of Inferred mineral resources that are considered too speculative geologically to have the economic considerations applied to them that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves. Among other things, mine design and mining schedules, metallurgical flow sheets and process plant designs may require additional detailed work and economic analysis and internal studies to ensure satisfactory operational conditions and decisions regarding future targeted production. Capital cost estimates presented in this news release are preliminary in nature and will require a more detailed assessment in subsequent economic studies. Further, the advancement of the Ootsa Project is subject to requisite consents, permits and approvals, regulatory or otherwise for the Ootsa Project and there is no guarantee that Surge Copper Corp. would be successful in obtaining any or all of them.

Base Case Assumptions used in the PEA are summarized in the table below

BASE CASE SUMMARY

ECONOMICS

  

NPV @ 5%

C$ M

186

IRR

%

81

Simple Payback

Yrs

1.0

Exchange Rate

US$:C$

0.80

   

UNIT COST

  

Direct Cash

US$/lb Cu

1.33

All-In Sustaining Cash

US$/lb Cu

2.09

   

METAL PRICE

  

Cu

US$/lb

3.00

Au

US$/oz

1,260

Mo

US$/lb

10.30

Ag

US$/oz

17.00

   

INITIAL CAPITAL

  

Direct

C$ M

33

Indirect

C$ M

19

Contingency

C$ M

12

Total

C$ M

64

   

OPERATING COSTS

  

Mining

C$/t mined

2.67

Processing

C$/t milled

10.07

G&A

C$/t milled

0.56

   

PRODUCTION

  

Cu

M lbs

324

Au

K oz

185

Mo

M lbs

15.8

Ag

M oz

3.0

 

  

MINING

  

Mill Feed

Mt

65

Waste

Mt

96

Total

Mt

161

Strip Ratio

w:o

1.46

   

HEAD GRADE

  

Cu

%

0.25

Au

g/t

0.13

Mo

%

0.016

Ag

g/t

2.3

 

  

PROCESS

  

Throughput

Mtpa

5.6

Mine life

Yrs

12

 

  

RECOVERY

  

Cu

%

91

Au

%

69

Mo

%

70

Ag

%

62

Operating Plan

The conceptual operating plan for the Ootsa Project is based on the sequential, open pit development of three deposits in close proximity to each other, by a mining contractor.  Crushed mill feed will be transported from Ootsa to the adjacent mill by means of an overland conveyor system employing a series of floating conveyor units to cross an intervening reservoir.  Preliminary metallurgical testwork indicates that the Ootsa feed could be processed at a rate of 5.6 Mtpa achieving copper recoveries of 90-92%.  Processing would be conducted on a toll-basis. 

Mining

The conceptual mining plan uses conventional truck/shovel open pit methods employing an equipment fleet supplied and operated by a mining contractor.  Three pits will be mined sequentially over a period of 12 years including pre-stripping with mill feed conveyed to the nearby mill for processing.  Total mined tonnage will vary from 10-20 Mt annually depending on waste removal requirements. 

The mill feed is contained within an optimized subset of the mineral resource for the project.  Collectively, the three pits contain 65 Mt of mill feed (inclusive of mining dilution and loss factors) averaging 0.37% Cu Eq (0.25% Cu, 0.13 g/t Au, 0.016% Mo, and 2.3 g/t Ag).  The mill feed is associated with 31 Mt of overburden and 65 Mt waste rock resulting in an overall life of mine strip ratio of 1.46:1.  It is notable that all mineral resources considered for mining are classified in the Measured and Indicated categories.

Milling

The nearby mill is expected to be able to process mill feed from the Ootsa Project without modification. Note there is currently no agreement in place to toll mill the Ootsa material at the Huckleberry Mine.  Material will be processed on a toll-basis at a rate of 5.6 Mtpa.  Metallurgical recoveries are based on preliminary testwork and vary by deposit as shown in the table below.

Mill feed will be supplied to the mill via a conveyor system.

Projected Metallurgical Recoveries

 

East Seel

West Seel

Ox

Cu

90%

92%

91%

Au

70%

65%

70%

Mo

---

70%

70%

Ag

60%

60%

65%

Infrastructure

The Ootsa Project lies on the south shore of the Nechako Reservoir, 6 km from the existing Huckleberry copper-molybdenum mine.  As such, road access, process plant, tailings storage, camp, and other support facilities already exist to support development.  Crushing, conveying, and field maintenance infrastructure will be established on the Ootsa side of the reservoir to support mining.  The added electrical load is estimated to be less than 2 MW and is expected to be supplied by the existing power line.

Access across the 1 km wide reservoir for equipment and personnel will be by a barge similar to the one that currently exists to facilitate logging operations on the Ootsa side of the reservoir.  Mill feed will be transferred from the mining areas to the mill via a conveyor system up to 9 km in length.  A series of floating conveyor units (similar to those often utilized by dredging contractors) integrated with the overland components will permit mill feed to move in a seamless, low-impact manner across the reservoir at a nominal average rate of 700 tph.

Capital Costs

The project development requires initial capital of C$64 M to construct the conveyor system, mobilize the contract mining fleet, prepare the first deposit for mining, and cover the cost of reclamation bonding.  An additional C$32 M in sustaining capital is required over the life-of-mine.  A contingency in the amount of 30% has been applied to all direct and indirect costs excluding pre-stripping.  A contingency has also been factored into the reclamation bond estimate separately.

Operating Costs

Unit operating costs used to determine Project value can be found in the table below.  Mining costs vary by material type and pit due to differences in haul distance, drill-blast cost, and the cost to transfer feed to the mill.   Processing costs vary from deposit to deposit based on differences in reagent consumption derived from testwork.  The total premium imposed on mining and milling costs for contract operation is approximately 30% and includes amortization, depreciation, administration, and margin. It is the opinion of P&E that the contract rates are consistent with industry norms and appropriate for the Ootsa Project.

Unit Operating Costs

Cost

Units

East Seel

West Seel

Ox

Contract Mining-Mill Feed

C$/t mined

2.95

3.02

2.90

Contract Mining-Overburden

C$/t mined

2.06

2.06

2.09

Contract Mining-Waste rock

C$/t mined

2.50

2.56

2.67

Toll Milling

C$/t milled

9.03

11.64

10.13

Owner G&A

C$/t milled

0.56

0.56

0.56

Environmental and Social

Total reclamation and closure costs are estimated at $9 M for the Ootsa Project including decommissioning and post-closure monitoring.  Preliminary testwork indicates that water from mining areas will meet discharge requirements without the need for complex treatment.  None of the proposed development is expected to directly alter any potential commercial, recreational, or Aboriginal fisheries within the reservoir.

Construction and mine development are expected to employ about 140 people during the 12 month pre-production period.  More significant, however, is that the development could secure longer term employment for a Huckleberry Mine workforce and the benefits it brings to the local community for an additional 12 years.  First Nations bands in the area are supportive of responsible development and have engaged in positive dialogue with Surge Copper Corp. throughout the exploration phase of the Ootsa Project.

Project Schedule

As contemplated in the PEA, engineering, environmental studies, and permitting of the Ootsa Project are  expected to take 3-4 years.  Construction would last 12 months during which infrastructure will be installed and the first pit pre-stripped.  Mining and processing would commence thereafter and continue for a period of 12 years.  At the end of operations, decommissioning would take 12-18 months followed by a minimum 5-year period of post-closure monitoring.

Economics

Financial performance is evaluated from the start of construction and does not consider the cost of permitting or financing.  The Ootsa Project has been evaluated using a 5% discount rate as, unlike many new mines, the development is premised on a tolling arrangement for the use of the adjacent Huckleberry assets, which obviates the risk associated with establishing access and constructing a mill and tailings facility.

Economics for the Ootsa Project are based on metal prices of US$3.00/lb Cu, $1,260/oz Au, $10.30/lb Mo, and $17.00/oz Ag, and at an exchange rate of C$1.00 = US$ 0.80.  Metal prices applied to the project represent a discount to prices projected for 2020 and beyond by various major financial institutions and forecasters.   

Metal Price – Exchange Rate Sensitivity

Metal Price

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cu

US $/lb

2.25

2.50

2.75

3.00

3.25

3.50

Au

US $/oz

1,140

1,180

1,220

1,260

1,300

1,340

Ag

US $/oz

14.75

15.50

16.25

17.00

17.75

18.50

Mo

US $/lb

6.70

7.90

9.10

10.30

11.50

12.70

Forex

US$:C$

0.73

0.75

0.78

0.80

0.83

0.85

        

NPV @ 5% (after tax)

C$M

21

86

141

186

232

274

IRR (after tax)

%

31

54

69

81

92

103

Payback

yrs

1.6

1.2

1.1

1.0

0.9

0.8

The Ootsa Project has an estimated after-tax net present value (NPV) discounted at 5% of C$186 M, an internal rate of return (IRR) of 81%, and an undiscounted payback of 1 year.  The table above shows how the Ootsa Project value varies with changing metal prices and exchange rate.  The correlation between metal prices and exchange rate is a major contributor to the Ootsa Project’s resilience at lower prices.

Direct and all-in sustaining cash costs are US$1.33/lb Cu and US$2.09/lb Cu respectively.  Direct cash costs refer to all on-site costs of production while all-in sustaining cash costs are all costs of production including sustaining capital.  All cash costs are calculated net of by-product credits.

PEA Conclusions and Recommendations

P&E concludes that the Ootsa Project has economic potential as an open pit mining operation, utilizing the Huckleberry processing plant to produce copper and molybdenum concentrates. The PEA outlines 65 Mt of mill feed (inclusive of mining dilution and loss factors) averaging 0.37% Cu Eq (0.25% Cu, 0.13 g/t Au, 0.016% Mo, and 2.3 g/t Ag) within 3 pits.  The mill feed from the updated mineral resource estimate supporting this tonnage has a high level of confidence with 94% (61 Mt) occurring within the Measured category and 6% (4 Mt) occurring in the Indicated category with no Inferred resources in the mine plan.  The Ootsa Project has a low capital cost at C$64 million, a low strip ratio at 1.46:1, and robust economics with an after-tax NPV of C$186 million, an after tax IRR of 81%, and 1 year payback period using base case metal prices.

In the PEA, P&E recommends that the Company advance the Ootsa Project with extended and advanced technical studies with the intention of moving the project toward a production decision.

PEA QP Statement

The resource update and Preliminary Economic Assessment have been completed by P&E Mining Consultants Inc. in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.  The updated mineral resource estimate has been prepared by Brian Ray, P.Geo. and Eugene Puritch, P.Eng., both Independent Qualified Persons as defined by National Instrument 43-101, and has an effective date of January 1, 2016.  The Preliminary Economic Assessment has been prepared under the supervision of Eugene Puritch, P.Eng, an Independent Qualified Person as defined by National Instrument 43-101, and has an effective date of January 1, 2016.  Eugene Puritch, P.Eng., has reviewed and approved the technical disclosure for P&E Mining Consultants Inc.  Dr. Shane Ebert, Ph.D., P.Geo. is the Qualified Person for Surge Copper and has reviewed and approved this content.  

The current technical report supporting the resource statement and PEA is available on SEDAR or the Company’s website and has an effective date of January 2016.  The resource estimate uses $8.50 per tonne NSR cut-off value.  Mineral resources are not mineral reserves and by definition do not demonstrate economic viability. There is no certainty that all or any part of the mineral resource will be converted into mineral reserves.  A ‘Measured Mineral Resource’ is that part of a mineral resource for which quantity, grade or quality, densities, shape and physical characteristics are so well established that they can be estimated with confidence sufficient to allow the appropriate application of technical and economic parameters, to support production planning and evaluation of the economic viability of the deposit.   An ‘Indicated Mineral Resource’ is that part of a Mineral Resource for which quantity, grade or quality, densities, shape and physical characteristics can be estimated with a level of confidence sufficient to allow the appropriate application of technical and economic parameters, to support mine planning and evaluation of the economic viability of the deposit.  Copper Equivalent (CuEq) calculations are based on base case metal price (US$3/lb Cu, US$1260/oz Au, US$10.30/lb Mo, and US$17/oz Ag) and process recovery assumptions, and take into account smelter payable rates and refining costs.  M&I = measured and indicated. The resource update and Preliminary Economic Assessment was completed by P&E Mining Consultants Inc. in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects.

The $8.50/t NSR resource cut-off value grade was derived from Sep 30/15 three year approximate trailing average US metal prices of: Cu $3.25/lb, Au $1,350/oz, Mo $12/lb and Ag $22/oz and a US$:CDN$ exchange rate of 0.85. Process recoveries used were Cu 90%, Au 70%, Mo 70% and Ag 65% with respective smelter payables of 96%, 96%, 96% and 90%. Refining charges in US$ were Cu $0.05/lb, Au $5/oz and Ag $0.50/oz. C$ operating costs used were $2.25/t for mineralized material and waste mining, $1.50/t for overburden mining, $7.50/t for processing and $1.00/t for G&A. An optimized pit shell was utilized for resource reporting that utilized 45 degree slopes and an average mineralized material bulk density of 2.72 t/m3.

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