Mr. Alex Black reports
RIO2 COMPLETES FEASIBILITY STUDY FOR THE FENIX GOLD PROJECT
Rio2 Ltd. has released the feasibility study (FS) for its 100-per-cent-owned Fenix gold project, located in the Maricunga mineral belt of the Atacama region in Chile. The FS, authored by international mining consultants Mining Plus, includes updated Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve estimates (see Appendix), a run of mine heap leach (ROM) operational plan, and updated capital and operating cost estimates.
The deposit is interpreted as an intrusion related, low sulfidation, quartz-sulphide mineralization of deep epithermal type, lately remobilized by supergene processes facilitated by the permeable fine-grained matrix of the phreatomagmatic breccias. Gold mineralization is hosted mainly by the tuffs, breccias, and the dacitic subvolcanic intrusions from the Phreatomagmatic Unit and, in less extent, by andesites and dacitic domes of the same unit. The high-grade gold is commonly associated with low-temperature black banded quartz veins (BBV) which occur in sheeted veins, stockworks, in subangular fragments in phreatomagmatic breccias, and in hydrothermal injections of silica-magnetite. Extensive metallurgical test work supported by geo-metallurgical studies have shown that the oxide mineralization is amenable to cyanidation via ROM heap leaching.
All amounts in this news release are in US dollars unless otherwise indicated.
1.77 million gold ounces ("oz") of Proven and probable Mineral Reserves grading 0.48 grams per tonne ("g/t") constrained within a $1,650/oz Au gold price pit shell.
High-grade to leach pad - 81.2 million tonnes grading 0.55 g/t Au
Low-grade to stockpile - 33.5 million tonnes grading 0.31 g/t Au
$353.2 million after-tax life of mine ("LOM") cumulative cash flow (unlevered)
- $1,237 / oz Au average LOM all-in sustaining costs ("AISC") - as defined by World Gold Council guidelines
- Life of Mine (LOM) strip ratio - 0.85:1
- Average gold recovery from ROM heap leaching - 75%
- 1.32 million oz Au LOM gold production (17 years)
- 91,000 oz average annual gold production during initial 12 years
- 54,000 oz average annual gold production during final 5 years (4 years 2 months)
- $210.3 million after-tax net present value discounted at 5% ("NPV5")
- 28.5% after-tax internal rate of return ("IRR")
- After-tax payback after start of production - 2.8 years.
- A previously announced gold stream with Wheaton Precious Metals International Ltd. is included in the FS financial estimation.
- Initial capital costs of $117 million with LOM sustaining capital costs of $88 million, which includes adequate contingency at feasibility level.
- Construction timeline of approximately 14 months from receipt of relevant permits and contractor mobilization
Initial capex estimates exclude pre-construction activities completed to date which include construction of a 565-person camp, water loading infrastructure in Copiapo, the purchase of long-lead items such as electrical switchgear, electrical transformers, pumps, prefabricated components of the adsorption/desorption process plant, and preliminary earthworks. This pre-construction capex totaled approximately $29 million.
Robust project economics have been confirmed reflecting a low capital intensity, long life conventional open pit mining and ROM heap leach operation, with moderate operating costs and high rate of return as noted in the FS highlights.
Project after-tax net present value ("NPV5") (5% discount rate) is $210.3 million with an after-tax internal rate of return ("IRR") of 28.5% at a gold price of $1,750 per ounce, and $304.2 million and 37.2% at a gold price of $1,900 per ounce.
A strategic development plan has focused on the shortest possible timeline to production along with an optimally configured mine plan, yielding a lower initial capex and higher grades being mined in the initial production years at a low stripping ratio. Ore mining is scheduled at a rate of 20,000 tonnes per day ("tpd") with water for the Project being trucked from Copiapo (158 km). To maximize cash-flow, high-grade ore will be placed on the leach pad during the initial 12 years of production and low-grade ore will be stockpiled for leaching in the subsequent 5 years of production giving a total mine life of 17 years. Average annual gold production during the first 12 years is estimated to be 91,000 oz and 54,000 oz in years 13 - 17, the final years the stockpiled ore is processed.
Estimated Mineral Resources for Fenix Gold (including Mineral Reserves) which remain open at depth and along strike, are 4.76 million oz of gold in the measured and indicated category and 0.96 million oz of gold in the inferred category constrained within a $1,800/oz gold price pit shell. This large, mineralized resource coupled with the potential for Mineral Resources growth through further drilling, provides an excellent opportunity to increase annual production and extend the mine life of the Fenix Gold Mine.
Rio2 is planning a two-stage development strategy for the Fenix Gold Mine, with this FS representing the first stage of production. Conceptually, the second stage will incorporate the expansion of ore mining from 20,000 tonnes per day to 80,000 - 100,000 tonnes per day with industrial water and/or desalinated water being transported to the site via a pipeline and project power being sourced from the nearby grid with estimated annual gold production rising to more than 250,000 oz. A study into the expansion of the mine will be launched during the construction of the first stage described in the FS to determine the most optimal water sourcing option, the related opex and capex, and the timing of the proposed mine expansion.
EIA (ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT) APPROVAL PROCESS
On June 22, 2022, the Technical Committee, made up of the SEA (Environmental Evaluation Service), two OAECAS ( State Administration Agencies with Environmental Competences), CONADI and CONAF (The National Corporation for Indigenous Development and National Forest Corporation, respectively), and the SEREMI (Regional Representative of the relevant Ministry) of the Environment, met and issued the Consolidated Evaluation Report (ICE-Informe Consolidado de Evaluacion) recommending a rejection of the Project's EIA. It should be noted that prior to the Technical Committee decision, 16 OAECAS had declared in writing their agreement with the contents of the Fenix Gold EIA.
On July 5, 2022, the Atacama Regional Evaluation Commission voted not to approve the Environmental Impact Assessment ("EIA") of the Fenix Gold Project indicating that while the Project complied with all the guides and environmental regulations, there was insufficient information supplied to rule out negative impacts to three species: Guanacos, Vicunas, and Chinchillas.
On August 31, 2022, Fenix Gold decided to exercise its right to file an administrative appeal before the Committee of Ministers, as the EIA study was completed in accordance with the Chilean Environmental Assessment Service (SEA) Guidelines. The Committee of Ministers is comprised of the Ministers of Environment (Chairman), Health, Economy, Agriculture, and Energy and Mining. The national director of the SEA is the secretary of the Committee. The Committee of Ministers is currently evaluating the Project with a decision expected in 2023. To date, the company has not received confirmation from the Chilean authorities as to when the appeal will be heard.
NEXT STEPS AND TIMELINES
The Company will be progressing the following short-term activities in the lead-up to the commencement of construction at the Fenix Gold Project which is targeted for late 2023 pending a positive outcome in the committee of ministers expected in 2023:
Conclusion of the financing package for the construction of the Project;
- Mobilization of key contractors like STRACON (civils and mining) & HLC (process plant);
- Conclusion of the regional permitting required for construction; and
- Restart construction plan.
In respect to the proposed stage two expansion of the mine, the company will:
Continue to investigate the best water and power options for the project and select the most optimal solutions for the future of the Project; and
- Initiate a study for the Fenix Gold stage two expansion based on the water solution identified.
Management's principal focus will be achieving the Project's construction timeline and budget objectives to produce dore as set out in the 14-month project execution plan detailed in the FS.
Alex Black, Executive Chairman of Rio2, stated, "As everyone can imagine, the past twelve months have been particularly frustrating for the Company's management team as it has wound down pre-construction activities in Chile and directed its efforts to deal with the administrative appeal to overturn the Chilean authority's disapproval of the Fenix Gold EIA. The team has done a great job managing financial resources during this extremely difficult time whilst conducting many productive meetings with various ministries. We are hopeful that our collective efforts with our advisors and legal counsel will result in a positive outcome at the appeal hearing in the near term."
Andrew Cox, President & CEO of Rio2 also stated, "I am very proud of the way our management team has handled the challenge of dealing with the administrative appeal over the past twelve months and feel confident that the Company has covered all bases with its advisors and legal counsel to achieve a positive outcome. With the completion of the stage one feasibility study, we are now ready to finalize the financing package to fund the capex required and our technical team is ready to advance permitting and construction of the mine subject to the receipt of approval of the Fenix Gold EIA. Once the Fenix Gold Project achieves commercial production it will be the only gold oxide heap leach gold mine in operation in Chile and represents a significant investment in the gold mining business in Chile by a junior mining company of approximately $205 million of initial and sustaining capital and will generate employment for at least 1,200 people during the construction phase and 550 people during its initial 12 years of operations."
RIO2 2022 ESG REPORT
Rio2 also announces the publication of its 2022 ESG Report. This report represents a comprehensive review of the Company's Environmental, Social, and Governance factors related to Rio2's development activities at its Fenix Gold Project in Chile for the year 2022.
Rio2 is committed to the principles of responsible mining and best practices in corporate governance.
The complete report is available at:
The scientific and technical content of this news release has been reviewed, approved, and verified by Ian Dreyer, B.App.Sc. MAIG, a consultant to Rio2 Limited, who is a QP under NI 43-101.
The Feasibility Study (FS) Report has been completed in accordance with NI 43-101, Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) standards, and best practices.
The qualified persons involved in the preparation of the FS summarized in this press release, and the related technical report, have followed industry accepted practices for verifying that the data used in the study is suitable for the purposes used. The independent Qualified Persons for the FS, Erick Ponce (FAusIMM), Manager Open Pit South America of Mining Plus; Andres Beluzan, Chartered Professional, Mining Engineering and a registered member in good standing of the Chilean Mining Commission, REG# 215; Denys Parra, (Member SME) of ANDDES; and Anthony Maycock, (P.Eng.) of HLC, have prepared the scientific and technical information on the FS and reviewed the information that is summarized in this press release.
The NI 43-101 technical report, supporting the results of the FS included in this release, is in the process of being finalized and is expected to be filed under Rio2's profile on SEDAR+ within 45 days. For readers to fully understand the information in this news release they should read the FS technical report in its entirety when it is available on SEDAR+, including all qualifications, assumptions, exclusions, and risks that relate to the study. The technical report is intended to be read as a whole and sections should not be read or relied upon out of context.
ABOUT RIO2 LIMITED
Rio2 is a mining company with a focus on development and mining operations with a team that has proven technical skills as well as successful capital markets track record. Rio2 is focused on taking its Fenix Gold Project in Chile to production in the shortest possible timeframe based on a staged development strategy. Rio2 and its wholly owned subsidiary, Fenix Gold Limitada, are companies with the highest environmental standards and responsibility with the firm conviction that it is possible to develop mining projects that respect the three axes (Social, Environment, Economics) of sustainable development. As related companies, we reaffirm our commitment to apply environmental standards beyond those that are mandated by regulators, seeking to protect and preserve the environment of the territories that we operate in.
We seek Safe Harbor.
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