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Ascendant Resources Reports Fourth Quarter and Full Year 2019 Results Which Include the Recently Disposed El Mochito Mine

2019 Full Year Highlights

  • Contained metal production of 106.2 million ZnEq1 lbs up 16% from 2018
  • Cash operating costs of $0.70/ZnEq lb sold, down 11% from 2018
  • Net loss of $8.21 million or loss per share of $0.11
  • Continued exploration success at Lagoa Salgada provided basis for February 2020 PEA

Q4 2019 Highlights

  • Contained metal production of 29.4 million ZnEq lbs up 27% from Q4 2018
  • Minesite AISC decreased to $1.00/ZnEq lb sold Consolidated AISC decreased to $1.05/ZnEq lb sold
  • Highest average quarterly grade for Ascendant achieved at 8.5% ZnEq

(All dollar amounts are in U.S. dollars (“$”) unless otherwise specified)

TORONTO, May 05, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Ascendant Resources Inc. (ASND.TO) ("Ascendant" or the "Company”) reports fourth quarter and full year 2019 results, highlighted by record grades of 8.5% zinc equivalent (“ZnEq”) and the twelfth consecutive quarter of metal production growth in the fourth quarter with annual total contained metal production of 106.2 million ZnEq pounds at the El Mochito mine in Honduras. Despite the strong operation results achieved, profitability was impacted by ongoing suppressed metal prices and rising external costs resulting in a net loss of $8.21 million, or a loss per share of $0.11 for the full year 2019.

Subsequent to the fourth quarter reporting period, on April 27, 2020, the Company announced the completion of the sale of the El Mochito mine. The sale was the result of a strategic decision by the Company to address its financial liquidity concerns which continued to deteriorate in Q1 2020, and improve its financial position by eliminating operating budget pressures related to the El Mochito mine. The sale allowed the Company to clean up its balance sheet and focus on its highly attractive, high-grade Lagoa Salgada VMS project (the "Lagoa Salgada project") located on the prolific Iberian Pyrite Belt in Portugal.

________________________________

1 ZnEq lbs and grades in ZnEq % represent zinc metal considered together with the lead and silver expressed in zinc equivalent terms of zinc using average spot metal prices and monthly production ratios.

President and CEO Chris Buncic stated: “We are very pleased with the continued improvements achieved at El Mochito in 2019 and the record production growth quarter over quarter since our acquisition of the mine in 2016. Our team’s achievement of twelve consecutive quarters of improved performance and metal production at the mine was formidable despite the macroeconomic challenges we faced globally which have been visibly heightened this year with the impact of COVID-19. The sale of El Mochito and our AMPAC subsidiary has strengthened our balance sheet and set the stage for our future growth as we focus on progressing the Lagoa Salgada project on the Iberian pyrite belt in Portugal.”

He continued, “Lagoa Salgada will be a great driver of future value and growth for the Company based on the continued resource growth and economic potential the project has demonstrated to date. We look forward to being able to allocate all our resources to the project and commence 2020 exploration work aimed at expanding and upgrading the resource base with an update to the Mineral resource Estimate, advancing the project to feasibility stage thereafter.

A summary of key operational and financial performance for the fourth quarter and full year 2019 is provided in the tables below:


        Three months ended Year ended
Key Operating Information     December 31, December 31,
        2019
2018
2019
2018
Total Tonnes Mined   tonnes 191,579   187,533   794,690   758,067  
               
Total Tonnes Milled   tonnes 186,987   184,913   775,559   756,034  
               
Average Head Grades            
  Average Zn grade   % 4.6 % 4.2 % 4.4 % 4.3 %
  Average Pb grade   % 2.3 % 1.9 % 2.0 % 1.7 %
  Average Silver grade   g/t 81   77   70   54  
  ZnEq Head grade (1) % 8.5 % 7.0 % 7.4 % 6.5 %
               
Average Recoveries            
  Zinc   % 86.0 % 84.1 % 85.2 % 88.0 %
  Lead   % 79.9 % 77.6 % 80.4 % 77.8 %
  Silver   % 81.1 % 76.6 % 81.2 % 77.9 %
               
Contained Metal Production            
  Zinc   000's lbs 16,450   14,435   64,426   62,658  
  Lead   000's lbs 7,730   6,023   27,134   21,810  
  Silver   ozs 393,902   347,251   1,401,141   1,001,514  
  ZnEq (1) 000's lbs 29,360   23,173   106,202   91,429  
               
Payable Production            
  Zinc   000's lbs 13,982   12,270   54,762   53,259  
  Lead   000's lbs 7,344   5,722   25,777   20,719  
  Silver   ozs 275,731   243,076   980,798   701,060  
  ZnEq (1) 000's lbs 24,956   19,697   90,271   77,715  
               
Payable Metal Sold            
  Zinc   000's lbs 13,399   14,636   53,274   55,427  
  Lead   000's lbs 6,962   5,231   24,493   22,466  
  Silver   ozs 338,884   243,413   1,201,601   782,960  
  ZnEq (1) 000's lbs 24,796   21,511   90,158   81,871  
               
Average Realized Metal Price            
  Zinc   $/lb $1.08   $1.18   $1.15   $1.31  
  Lead   $/lb $0.95   $0.89   $0.92   $1.00  
  Silver   $/oz $17.36   $14.51   $16.20   $15.34  
               
Cash operating cost per ZnEq payable lb sold (2) $/ZnEq lb $0.61   $0.83   $0.70   $0.79  
AISC per ZnEq payable lb sold - El Mochito (2) $/ZnEq lb $1.00   $1.22   $1.14   $1.23  
AISC per ZnEq payable lb sold - Consolidated (2) $/ZnEq lb $1.01   $1.28   $1.19   $1.31  
Direct operating cost per tonne milled (excl. CAPEX) (2) $/tonne $85.63   $85.38   $83.62   $78.98  
(1 ) Assumes average spot metal prices for the period.            
(2 ) This is a non-IFRS performance measure, see Non-IFRS Performance Measures section of the MD&A.            
               
        Three months ended Year ended
Financial     December 31, December 31,
        2019
2018
2019
2018
  Total revenue   $000's 19,968   21,564   77,816   85,618  
  Mine operating expenses   $000's 16,184   22,009   72,222   74,162  
  Income (loss) from mining operations   $000's 3,784   (444 ) 5,594   11,456  
  Net income (loss)   $000's 3,591   (3,020 ) (8,209 ) 3,005  
  Adjusted EBITDA (2) $000's 5,511   (115 ) 7,822   13,492  
  Operating cash flow before movements in working capital (2) $000's 5,530   (122 ) 11,657   10,868  
  Operating cash flow   $000's 300   (273 ) 7,731   16,276  
  Cash and cash equivalents   $000's 1,684   3,808   1,684   3,808  
  Working capital surplus (deficiency)   $000's (17,054 ) (7,109 ) (17,054 ) (7,109 )
  Capital Expenditures   $000's 3,461   3,620   15,646   21,943  
(1 ) Assumes average spot metal prices for the period.            
(2 ) This is a non-IFRS performance measure, see Non-IFRS Performance Measures section of the MD&A.            
               

Full Year and Fourth Quarter 2019 Operational Performance

Contained metal production for the fourth quarter 2019 (“Q4/19”) was 29.4 million pounds of zinc equivalent (“ZnEq”) metal, comprised of 16.5 million pounds of zinc, 7.7 million pounds of lead and 394k ounces of silver. Total contained metal production for the quarter increased by 27% over the fourth quarter 2018 (“Q4/18”) production of 23.2 million pounds of ZnEq metal and 2% over the third quarter 2019 (“Q3/19”) production of 28.8 million pounds of ZnEq metal, due to higher zinc (6%) and substantially increased lead (11%) and silver grades (17%). Contained metal production for the full year 2019 was 106.2 million pounds of ZnEq metal, in-line with the Company’s production guidance. This was comprised of 64.4 million pounds of zinc, 27.1 million pounds of lead and 1.4 million ounces of silver. Overall production represents a 16% increase over 2018 contained metal production of 91.4 million pounds of ZnEq.

Milled production in Q4/19 of 187 kt demonstrated a marginal improvement over 185 kt in Q4/18 and was 7% lower than the 200 kt in Q3/19, predominantly a result of seasonal holidays. Milled production for 2019 of 775k tonnes demonstrated a marginal improvement over 756k tonnes milled in 2018.

The average head grade in Q4/19 of 8.5% ZnEq for the quarter represents an increase of 22% over Q4/18 and a 9% increase over Q3/19. Milled zinc grades for the quarter were 4.6%, up 10% as compared to Q4/18 and up 6% as compared to Q3/19. Lead head grades of 2.3% demonstrated an increase of 23% over Q4/18 and 11% over the previous quarter. Silver feed grades increased by 17% to 81g/t from the 69g/t achieved in previous quarter and was up 5% from 77g/t in Q4/18. For full year 2019, average recoveries were 85.2% zinc, 80.4% lead and 81.2% silver. Average head grades for the year were 4.4% zinc, 2.0% lead and 70 g/t silver resulting in a ZnEq grade of 7.4% representing a 14% increase over the 6.5% ZnEq grade achieved in 2018. The increase in silver and lead grades in Q4 and year over year ZnEq grade improvement is a direct result of the Company focussing on dilution and improved production from various, small high-grade pillars in the upper historical part of the mine.

Zinc processing recoveries of 86% in Q4/19 were 2% higher than both the Q3/19 and Q4/18 results. Lead recoveries of 80% were marginally down 1% from Q3/19 and up 3% against Q4/18. Overall silver recoveries were 81%, a decrease of 2% from Q3/19 but up 6% from Q4/18. The reduced performance in lead and silver recovery against Q3/19 was a result of reduced capacity in the float cells due to the higher lead head grade in the plant, residence time in these cells being to the low side for the higher-than-average grade lead. For 2019, average recoveries were 85.2% zinc, 80.4% lead and 81.2% silver.

Full Year and Fourth Quarter 2019 Financial Performance

The Company generated revenues of $19.97 million in Q4/19 as a result of the sale of 24.8 million pounds of ZnEq metal, comprised of 13.4 million pounds of payable zinc in concentrates, 6.9 million pounds of payable lead in concentrates and 338,884 ounces of payable silver in concentrates. Average realized metal prices were $1.08 per pound zinc, $0.95 per pound lead and $17.36 per ounce silver. Revenues in Q4/19 were down 7% over Q4/18, and down 9% from Q3/19, as a result of lower metal prices for the comparative quarters, though higher than current spot prices. On a per tonne basis, the company generated a net smelter return (“NSR”) of $107.78 per tonne milled during Q4/19, down 11% from $121.42 per tonne in Q4/18, due to the drop in metal prices year over year. This compares to NSR of $115.68 per tonne milled in Q3/19. Revenue for the full year 2019 was $77.82 million, a decrease of 9% over revenue of $85.62 million in 2018. This is due to the lower year over year average realized metal prices for both zinc and lead as the average zinc price of $1.15/lb was 12% lower than $1.31 in 2018 and the average lead price of $0.92/lb was 8% lower than the $1.00 realized in 2018. NSR per tonne milled was $95.73 in 2019, which was 16% lower than the $113.60 achieved in 2018, due to significantly lower metal prices.

Cash operating cost per zinc equivalent payable pound sold for Q4/19 was $0.61, representing a substantial decrease of 27% from $0.83 in Q4/18 and a decrease of 13% from $0.70 in Q3/19. As well the All-In Sustaining Cost (”AISC”) for Q4/19 of $1.05 per zinc equivalent payable pound sold, demonstrated a 18% decrease from Q4/18 of $1.28 and an decrease of 7% over the previous quarter of $1.13. The significant decrease achieved overall in unit costs on a ZnEq payable pound sold basis is a direct result of the increase in payable pounds sold given Q4/19 represented the Company’s strongest operational quarter yet at El Mochito driven by a significant improvement to the grade profile. Cash operating cost per ZnEq payable pound sold for the year was $0.70, a decrease of 11% from $0.79 per pound in 2018. The AISC on a consolidated basis for the year was $1.21 per ZnEq payable pound sold, down 8%% from $1.31 in 2018.

Direct operating costs per tonne milled for Q4/19 at El Mochito were $85.63, in line with Q4/18 direct operating costs per tonne milled of $85.38, and a 1% decrease compared to Q3/19 direct operating costs per tonne milled of $86.52. This was due to reduced capitalized development, which resulted in a larger than expected amount of fixed costs being allocated to operating costs. While higher than anticipated direct operating costs have persisted, the Company is pleased to demonstrate a small improvement over the previous quarter as we have a strong emphasis on decreasing costs in light of energy, labour cost and concentrate treatment charge pressures. Capital expenditures totaled $3.46 million, or $18.51 per tonne milled in Q4/19, as compared to $3.62 million, or $19.58 per tonne milled, in Q4/18. Capital expenditures totaled $3.25 million, or $16.25 per tonne milled, in Q3/19. Direct operating costs per tonne milled for 2019 averaged $83.62, a 6% increase from the average of $78.98 in 2018. Heading into 2019, the Company worked to offset input cost pressures resulting from the previously disclosed 15% increase in national power rates imposed in September 2018 as well as the 6% increase in labour costs that took place in October 2018. However, with the increased portion of labour intensive conventional mining required to mine the higher grade chimney ore in the upper portion of the mine combined with lower capital expenditure on underground development for the year, resulting in a higher portion of fixed costs being allocated to operating costs, average direct operating costs for the year were high than anticipated. Capital expenditures totaled $15.65 million, or $20.17 per tonne milled in 2019, as compared to $21.94 million, or $29.02 per tonne milled, in 2018.

Net income and basic and diluted earnings per share in Q4/19 were $3.59 million and $0.05 and $0.04 respectively, compared to net loss and basic and diluted loss per share of $3.02 million and $0.04 in Q4/18, and $5.21 million and $0.07 respectively in Q3/19. Income from mining operations in Q4/19 was $3.78 million. The net loss for 2019 was $8.21 million, or a basic and diluted loss per share of $0.11 per share, compared to net income of $3.00 million or a basic and diluted earnings per share of $0.04 for the full year 2018. Income from mining operations was $5.59 million compared to $11.46 million in 2018.

Lagoa Salgada Project

In 2019, the Company continued with its efforts to grow and advance the Lagoa Salgada project located on the Iberian Pyrite Belt in Portugal. Following the successful Mineral Resource Estimate announced on February 13, 2019, the Company executed on its second exploration program at Lagoa Salgada, since acquisition of an interest in the project.

The 2019 exploration program included a diamond drill program consisting of 24 holes totaling 8,164 metres, a grounded Induced Polarization (“IP”) survey covering the 8km gravity anomaly identified in the 2018 program and selected borehole IP. Drilling primarily focused on infill drilling in the North Zone to increase the confidence in the grade and tonnage, while four holes were allocated to test the strong IP chargeability anomaly in the Central and South Zones.

Drill hole highlights from the 2019 drill program include (true thickness):

Gossan
• LS_MS_26- 9.1m at 0.16% Cu, 9.79% Pb, 1.13% Zn, 2.54g/t Au, 37.64g/t Ag and 0.39% Sn (16.52% ZnEq)
• LS_MS_30- 13.4m at 0.06% Cu, 5.99% Pb, 0.33% Zn, 3.95g/t Au, 16.56g/t Ag and 0.61% Sn (13.19% ZnEq)

Massive Sulphide
• LS_MS_33- 24.9m at 0.42% Cu, 6.56% Pb, 5.76% Zn, 1.17g/t Au, 184.84g/t Ag and 0.23% Sn (21.09%ZnEq)
• LS_MS_36- 20.3m at 0.23% Cu, 6.14% Pb, 9.76% Zn, 1.42g/t Au, 104.65g/t Ag and 0.19% Sn (22.61% ZnEq)
• LS_MS_35- 37.6m at 0.25% Cu, 4.10% Pb, 6.87% Zn, 1.19g/t Au, 99.42g/t Ag and 0.17% Sn (17.21% ZnEq)
• LS_MS_22- 60.1m at 0.46% Cu, 2.91% Pb, 3.70% Zn, 0.77g/t Au, 81.04g/t Ag and 0.11% Sn (11.62% ZnEq)
• LS_MS_25- 19.6m at 0.21% Cu, 5.23% Pb, 5.76% Zn, 1.29g/t Au, 137.32g/t Ag and 0.23% Sn (18.32% ZnEq)
• LS_MS_39- 36.2m at 0.39% Cu, 6.26% Pb, 7.30% Zn, 1.37g/t Au, 165.63g/t Ag and 0.20% Sn (21.90% ZnEq)
• LS_MS_38- 35.2m at 0.19% Cu, 2.28% Pb, 4.01% Zn, 0.70g/t Au, 47.98g/t Ag and 0.13% Sn (9.84% ZnEq)

Stockwork
• LS_ST_16- 130.6m at 0.32% Cu, 0.82% Pb, 1.50% Zn, 0.04g/t Au, 12.89g/t Ag and 0.01% Sn (1.33% CuEq)
• Including- 26.7m at 0.58% Cu, 1.13% Pb, 2.66% Zn, 0.03g/t Au, 24.78g/t Ag and 0.01% Sn (2.24% CuEq)

Overall, the drill program at Lagoa Salgada was modest, yet identified significant high-grade mineralization, indicating the extension the North Zone in particular. This success led the company to complete an updated Mineral Resource Estimate for Lagoa Salgada, which the company announced on September 25, 2019.

The updated Mineral Resource Estimate was prepared in accordance with Canadian National Instrument 43-101 with an effective date of September 5, 2019 and was successful in significantly upgrading the resources at Lagoa Salgada. Results demonstrated material growth in the North Zone (the main massive sulphide) with the conversion of significant resources into the Measured & Indicated category. To date the North Zone has been delineated by less than a total of 76 holes.

  • Highlights from the Mineral Resource Estimate are as follows:
  • North Zone: Measured Mineral Resources increased by 57% to 2.8 Mt at 10.7% ZnEq1.
  • North Zone: Measured & Indicated Mineral Resources increased by 71% to 10.3 Mt at 9.1% ZnEq:
    • 170% increase in the precious metal rich gossan zone to 1.7 Mt at 4.6g/t AuEq2.
  • Global NI 43-101Measured and Indicated Resources of 12.8 million tonnes and Inferred Resources of 10.3 million tonnes.
  • Drilling in the Central and South Zones identified Copper rich sulphide mineralization. The new resources in these zones are reported in Copper equivalent grades. Future drill programs will focus on expanding and upgrading the strong potential anticipated in these zones.

1 ZnEq% = ((Zn Grade*25.35)+(Pb Grade*23.15)+(Cu Grade*67.24)+(Au Grade*40.19)+(Ag Grade*0.62) )+(Sn
 Grade*191.75))/25.35
2 AuEq(g/t) = ((Zn Grade*25.35)+(Pb Grade*23.15)+(Cu Grade*67.24)+(Au Grade*40.19)+(Ag Grade*0.62) )+(Sn
 Grade*191.75))/40.19

A summary of the updated Mineral Resource Estimate is set out in the table below:

Lagoa Salgada Mineral Resource Estimate - Effective September 5, 2019

North Zone Mineral Resource Estimate

          Average Grade Contained Metal
Deposit Category Min Cut-off Tonnes Cu Zn Pb Sn Ag Au ZnEq AuEq Cu Zn Pb Sn Ag Au
    Zones ZnEq% (kt) (%) (%) (%) (%) (g/t) (g/t) (%) (g/t) (kt) (kt) (kt) (kt) (koz) (koz)
North Measured(M) GO 2.5 234 0.13 0.70 4.32 0.36 51 1.50 11.38 7.18 0.3 1.6 10.1 0.9 385.2 11.3
  Indicated(I) GO 2.5 1,462 0.08 0.43 2.55 0.26 37 0.51 6.63 4.18 1.2 6.2 37.3 3.8 1,742.1 23.8
  M & I GO 2.5 1,696 0.09  0.47   2.79   0.27 39   0.64   7.28   4.60   1.5   7.9   47.4   4.6   2,127.2   35.1
  Inferred GO 2.5 831 0.08 0.48 2.62 0.17 27 0.37 5.66 3.57 0.7 4.0 21.8 1.4 727.6 9.9
  Measured(M) MS 3.0 2,444 0.40 3.12 2.97 0.15 72 0.74 10.95 6.91 9.7 76.3 72.5 3.7 5,623.9 58.4
  Indicated(I) MS 3.0 5,457 0.45 2.35 2.30 0.13 75 0.67 9.55 6.03 24.5 128.1 125.6 7.3 13,221.5 116.9
  M & I MS 3.0   7,902   0.43   2.59   2.51   0.14 74   0.69   9.98   6.30   34.2   204.4   198.1   10.9   18,845.5   175.2
  Inferred MS 3.0 1,529 0.23 1.96 1.32 0.09 45 0.49 6.36 4.01 3.6 30.0 20.2 1.4 2,219.7 24.0
  Measured(M) Str 2.5 94 0.37 0.88 0.28 0.05 17 0.12 3.08 1.94 0.3 0.8 0.3 0.0 51.0 0.4
  Indicated(I) Str 2.5 643 0.34 0.90 0.23 0.09 17 0.06 3.23 2.04 2.2 5.8 1.5 0.6 354.0 1.3
  M & I Str 2.5 737   0.34   0.90   0.24   0.09 17   0.07   3.21   2.03   2.5   6.6   1.7   0.6   405.0   1.7
  Inferred Str 2.5 142 0.24 1.12 0.39 0.04 17 0.09 2.95 1.86 0.3 1.6 0.6 0.1 75.6 0.4
North M & I All zones 2.9   10,334   0.37   2.12   2.39   0.16 64   0.64   9.06   5.72   38.2   219.0   247.2   16.2   21,377.7   212.0
North Inferred All zones 2.8   2,502   0.18   1.42   1.70   0.12 38   0.43   5.93   3.74   4.6   35.6   42.6   2.9   3,022.8   34.3

Central and South Zones Mineral Resource Estimate

          Average Grade Contained Metal
Deposit Category Min Cut-off Tonnes Cu Zn Pb Sn Ag Au CuEq Cu Zn Pb Sn Ag Au
    Zones CuEq% (kt) (%) (%) (%) (%) (g/t) (g/t) (%) (kt) (kt) (kt) (kt) (koz) (koz)
Central Inferred Str 0.9 1,707 0.15 0.16 0.06 0 12 2.22 1.66 2.5 2.7 1.0 - 635.2 121.9
South Measured(M) Str/Fr 0.9 0            
  Indicated(I) Str/Fr 0.9 2,473 0.47 1.53 0.83 0.00 19 0.06 1.54 11.5 37.9 20.6 0.0 1,484.7 4.7
South M & I Str/Fr 0.9 2,473 0.47 1.53 0.83 0.00 19 0.06 1.54 11.5 37.9 20.6 0.0 1,484.7 4.7
South Inferred Str/Fr 0.9 6,085 0.40 1.34 0.80 0.00 17 0.05 1.37 24.6 81.6 48.7 0.0 3,285.2 10.0

Notes to tables:
(1) Min(eralized) Zones: GO=Gossan, MS=Massive Sulphide, Str=Stringer, Str/Fr=Stockwork
(2) ZnEq% = ((Zn Grade*25.35)+(Pb Grade*23.15)+(Cu Grade*67.24)+(Au Grade*40.19)+(Ag Grade*0.62)+(Sn Grade*191.75))/25.35
(3) CuEq% = ((Zn Grade*25.35)+(Pb Grade*23.15)+(Cu Grade * 67.24)+(Au Grade*40.19)+(Ag Grade*0.62))/67.24
(4) AuEq(g/t) = ((Zn Grade*25.35)+(Pb Grade*23.15)+(Cu Grade * 67.24)+(Au Grade*40.19)+(Ag Grade*0.62) )+(Sn Grade * 191.75))/40.19
(5) Metal Prices: Cu $6,724/t, Zn $2,535/t, Pb $2,315/t, Au $1,250/oz, Ag $19.40/oz, Sn $19,175/t
(6) Densities: GO=3.12, MS=4.76, Str=2.88, Str/Fr=2.88

Based on the significant results of the updated Mineral Resource Estimate, the Company completed a PEA for the Lagoa Salgada project based on the North Zone only. While the work was completed in 2019, the results of the PEA were announced subsequent to the year’s end, on January 14, 2020.

The Technical Report entitled, “Technical Report and PEA for the Lagoa Salgada Property, Setúbal District, Portugal”, supporting the robust results from the maiden Preliminary Economic Assessment (“PEA”) for the North Zone at the Lagoa Salgada VMS project was prepared in accordance with Canadian National Instrument 43-101 (“NI 43-101”) with an effective date of December 19, 2019.

The report outlines a robust and compelling economic assessment for Lagoa Salgada as it assumes a two-stage underground mining development scenario, with single trackless ramp access, transverse sub-level open stoping method with pastefill. Ventilation and secondary escape ways are planned through raise-bored holes to surface. Milling rates of 2,700 tonnes per day in a standard process circuit is anticipated, with primary crushing, grinding, flotation and leaching of tailings to produce concentrates including lead, zinc, copper and tin, as well as gold and silver doré. There is ample opportunity for extensive expansion from future exploration work to define additional resources to extend the mine life or increase the scale of the outlined operation.

Highlights from the PEA for the North Zone include:

  • After-tax IRR of 31% and NPV8% of $106M (C$139M @$1.31CAD/USD)
  • Nine-year mine life with production scenario of 2,700 tpd
  • Average annual EBITDA of $54.2 million
  • Four-year payback period of initial Capex of $162.7 million
  • Average operating costs of $49.43/t milled represents low cost production scenario
  • Low average annual cash costs of $0.44/lb ZnEq and average annual All-In Sustaining Cost (AISC) of $0.66/lb ZnEq
  • Significant upside opportunities remain with near-resource exploration targets identified with multiple deposits open laterally and at depth, and broader targets untested

Highlights of the key project metrics are provided in the following table on a 100% basis:

 

PEA Key Highlights
 
Project IRR pre-tax 37%
NPV8% pre-tax $137 million
Project IRR after-tax 31%
NPV8% after-tax $106 million
Life of mine pre-tax cash flow $ 250 million
Life of mine after-tax cash flow $ 202 million
Construction period 2 years
Payback period 4 years
Life of mine 9 years
Average Annual Production 1.0 million tonnes
Initial Capital Expenditure $ 162.7 million
LOM Sustaining Capital Expenditure & Closure $ 20.2 million
Average annual operating costs $ 49.43 /t milled
Average Annual operating costs (C1) $0.44 /lb ZnEq
Average annual All-In Sustaining Costs (AISC) $0.66 /lb ZnEq
Metal Price Assumptions1  
Zinc $1.20/lb
Lead $1.05/lb
Copper $2.70/lb
Silver $18/oz
Gold $1,400/oz
Tin $7.50/lb
Recovery Assumptions Massive Sulphide
Zn 80%
Pb 65%
Cu 25%
Ag 75%
Au 75%
Sn 30%
Recovery Assumptions Gossan
Pb 65%
Sn 40%
Ag 66%
Au 86%
Average Annual Metal Production  
Zn 12.5kt
Pb 13.7kt
Cu 0.2kt
Ag 1.1Moz
Au 13koz
Sn 0.3kt

Notes to Table:
1 The project economics have been calculated using consensus prices at the time of the Resource Estimate report in September 2019.

The PEA was prepared by AMC Mining Consultants (Canada) Ltd (AMC) with contributions from Resource Development Inc (RDI) for Mineral Processing and Micon International Limited (Micon), who estimated the Mineral Resources.

The PEA is preliminary in nature, as it includes 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, and there is no certainty that the preliminary economic assessment will be realized.

The Technical Report is available for review under the Company’s profile on SEDAR and on the Company’s website.

Other Corporate Highlights

On February 2019, the Company entered into an advance sales transaction pursuant to which, the Company received advanced consideration of $4.0 million in exchange for future quarterly physical deliveries of zinc and lead concentrates from the Company’s El Mochito mine production to the counterparty. The advanced consideration is accounted for as a financial liability to be repaid, as zinc and lead concentrates are delivered to the counterparty. The facility may be immediately renewable upon settlement of the quarterly delivery of zinc and lead concentrate. During the year, the Company repaid the $4.0 million facility and increased the facility to $10.0 million.

At December 31, 2019, the Company had drawn down a total $28.5 million and repaid a total $18.5 million under the revised revolving prepayment facility. As at December 31, 2019 the $10.0 million balance bears interest at the rate of 3 Month LIBOR + 5.50% until repaid. Refer to Note 11 of the consolidated financial statements.

On March 28, 2019, the Company entered into the Silver Stream Arrangement with Maverix Metals Inc. (“Maverix”) whereby the Company received an Initial Advance Payment of $7.5 million against delivery of 22.5% of payable silver over the remainder of El Mochito’s mine life (the “Silver Stream Agreement”). Refer to Note 12 of the consolidated financial statements.

2020 Outlook

2019 was a strong operational year for Ascendant as the El Mochito mine ended the year demonstrating its 12th consecutive quarter of ZnEq metal production growth and achieved record quarterly head grades of 8.5% ZnEq since the Company’s acquisition of the mine. The Company’s financial performance was affected by the tumultuous metals market persisting throughout much of 2019, placing downward pressure on zinc prices particularly in the second half of the year. Also contributing were the high treatment and refining charges as well as costs pressures at the mine site.

Since the acquisition in December 2016, Ascendant has dedicated significant capital and resources to the operations at El Mochito. While the mine has seen continual growth and record production quarter over quarter, as demonstrated by fourth quarter and full year 2019 operating results, it did not meet the Company’s profitability objectives and continued to require additional considerable financial investment. It is for this reason the Company made the strategic decision to divest of the El Mochito mine through a sale transaction as announced in the Company’s press release dated April 17, 2020 and subsequently completed on April 27, 2020. The Company received a cash consideration of $1.0 million and an additional $0.1 in working capital adjustments, as well as a royalty on zinc sales from the El Mochito mine subject to the future price of zinc, wherein Ascendant will receive US$0.0125 per lb of zinc for all sales through December 31, 2029 when the price of zinc is in excess of US$1.15 per lb. The sale effectively eliminated the Company’s direct AMPAC expenses, liabilities and obligations, estimated at approximately $20-25 million, providing for an immediate strengthening of the Company’s financial position.

With the sale of El Mochito completed, Ascendant is now able to focus on its highly attractive, high-grade Lagoa Salgada VMS project located on the prolific Iberian Pyrite Belt in Portugal and devote the desired resources to a project that the Company believes will be a significant driver of growth and value.

For 2020, the Company remains focused on mining high-grade material to maintain and drive elevated metal production levels achieved in the second half of 2019. The Company is assessing operations as the current market situation develops and will provide a more detailed update on 2020 expectations in the future.

Planned exploration work at Lagoa Salgada will include downhole IP and drilling aimed at expanding and upgrading the copper-rich resource in the Central and South Zones with additional  drilling of the southern extension of the high-grade massive sulphide mineralization of the North Zone expected to expand the Indicated Mineral Resources. The program also includes four metallurgical drill holes for further metallurgical testing. All zones remain open along strike and at depth and from the extensive ongoing gravimetric work conducted on the LS West region, there is strong indication mineralization extends in all directions providing confidence in the potential growth potential. More information on the planned exploration program can be found in our April 23rd, 2020 press release.

Based on results from the 2020 drill program at Lagoa Salgada, the Company plans to complete an updated Mineral Resource Estimate in the latter half of the year which will be used as a basis for a Feasibility Study to begin thereafter.

The results of the PEA for Lagoa Salgada, announced on January 14, 2020, highlight the robust potential of the project and outlines a compelling case for the future growth potential of the project. Management expects Lagoa Salgada to be an important value driver for the Company going forward as we seek to rapidly develop the Project towards its mineable potential. The Company is actively engaged with potential strategic and financial partners for funding the advancement and development of the Lagoa Salgada property.

The information provided within this release should be read in conjunction with Ascendant’s unaudited condensed consolidated interim financial statements and management's discussion and analysis for the year ended December 31, 2019, which are available on Ascendant’s website and on SEDAR. As at January 1, 2017, the Company has changed its presentation currency to the U.S. dollar (US). All financial figures are in US dollars unless otherwise stated.

Technical Disclosure/Qualified Person

All technical information contained herein has been reviewed and approved by Robert A. Campbell, M.Sc, P.Geo, a director of the Company. Mr. Campbell is a "qualified person" within the meaning of NI 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects (“NI 43-101”).

About Ascendant Resources Inc.

Ascendant Resources Inc. 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. Through focused exploration and aggressive development plans, the Company aims to unlock the inherent potential of the project, maximizing value creation for shareholders.

Lagoa Salgada contains over 12.8 million tonnes of M&I Resources and over 10.3 million tonnes in Inferred Resources and demonstrates typical mineralization characteristics of Iberian Pyrite Belt VMS deposits containing zinc, copper, lead, tin, silver and gold, and demonstrates. Extensive exploration upside potential lies both near deposit and at prospective step-out targets across the large 10,700ha property concession. The project also demonstrates compelling economics with scalability for future resource growth in the results of the Preliminary Economic Assessment completed in 2020. Located just 80km from Lisbon, Lagoa Salgada is easily accessible by road and surrounded by exceptional Infrastructure. Ascendant holds a 21.25% interest in the Lagoa Salgada project through its 25% position in Redcorp - Empreendimentos Mineiros, Lda, (“Redcorp”) and has an earn-in opportunity to increase its interest in the project to 80%. Mineral & Financial Investments Limited owns the additional 75% of Redcorp. The remaining 15% of the project is held by Empresa de Desenvolvimento Mineiro, S.A. (EDM), a Portuguese Government owned company supporting the strategic development of the country’s mining sector. The Company’s interest in the Lagoa Salgada project offers a low-cost entry to a potentially significant exploration and development opportunity, already demonstrating its mineable scale.

Ascendant Resources is also engaged in the ongoing evaluation of producing and development stage mineral resource opportunities. The Corporation's common shares are principally listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol "ASND". For more information on Ascendant Resources, please visit our website at www.ascendantresources.com.

Neither the Toronto Stock Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

For further information please contact:

Katherine Pryde
Director, Communications & Investor Relations
Tel: 888-723-7413 
info@ascendantresources.com

Forward Looking Information
           
This news release contains "forward-looking statements" and "forward-looking information" (collectively, "forward-looking information") within the meaning of applicable Canadian securities legislation. All information contained in this news release, other than statements of current and historical fact, is forward-looking information. Often, but not always, forward-looking information can be identified by the use of words such as "plans", "expects", "budget", "guidance", "scheduled", "estimates", "forecasts", "strategy", "target", "intends", "objective", "goal", "understands", "anticipates" and "believes" (and variations of these or similar words) and statements that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "should", "might" "occur" or "be achieved" or "will be taken" (and variations of these or similar expressions). Forward-looking information is also identifiable in statements of currently occurring matters which may continue in the future, such as "providing the Company with", "is currently", "allows/allowing for", "will advance" or "continues to" or other statements that may be stated in the present tense with future implications. All of the forward-looking information in this news release is qualified by this cautionary note.

Forward-looking information in this news release includes, but is not limited to, statements regarding exploration and capital expenditures at the Lagoa Salgada project, expanding and upgrading the resource base at Lagoa Salgada and the ability to bring the Lagoa Salgada project to a feasibility stage. Forward-looking information is not, and cannot be, a guarantee of future results or events. Forward-looking information is based on, among other things, opinions, assumptions, estimates and analyses that, while considered reasonable by Ascendant at the date the forward-looking information is provided, inherently are subject to significant risks, uncertainties, contingencies and other factors that may cause actual results and events to be materially different from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking information. The material factors or assumptions that Ascendant identified and were applied by Ascendant in drawing conclusions or making forecasts or projections set out in the forward-looking information include, but are not limited to, the ability of the Company to reduce costs, exploration and capital expenditures, maintain robust adjusted EBITDA and free cash flow and other events that may affect Ascendant's ability to develop its project; and no significant and continuing adverse changes in general economic conditions or conditions in the financial markets.

The risks, uncertainties, contingencies and other factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by the forward-looking information may include, but are not limited to, risks generally associated with the mining industry, such as economic factors (including future commodity prices, currency fluctuations, energy prices and general cost escalation), uncertainties related to the development and operation of Ascendant's projects, dependence on key personnel and employee and union relations, risks related to political or social unrest or change, rights and title claims, operational risks and hazards, including unanticipated environmental, industrial and geological events and developments and the inability to insure against all risks, failure of plant, equipment, processes, transportation and other infrastructure to operate as anticipated, compliance with government and environmental regulations, including permitting requirements and anti-bribery legislation, volatile financial markets that may affect Ascendant's ability to obtain financing on acceptable terms, the failure to obtain required approvals or clearances from government authorities on a timely basis, uncertainties related to the geology, continuity, grade and estimates of mineral reserves and resources, and the potential for variations in grade and recovery rates, uncertain costs of reclamation activities, tax refunds, hedging transactions, as well as the risks discussed in Ascendant's most recent Annual Information Form on file with the Canadian provincial securities regulatory authorities and available at www.sedar.com.

Should one or more risk, uncertainty, contingency, or other factor materialize, or should any factor or assumption prove incorrect, actual results could vary materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking information. Accordingly, the reader should not place undue reliance on forward-looking information. Ascendant does not assume any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking information after the date of this news release or to explain any material difference between subsequent actual events and any forward-looking information, except as required by applicable law.

NON-IFRS PERFORMANCE MEASURES

The non-IFRS performance measures presented do not have any standardized meaning prescribed by IFRS and are therefore unlikely to be directly comparable to similar measures presented by other issuers.

Non-IFRS reconciliation of Adjusted EBITDA

EBITDA is a non-IFRS measure that represents an indication of the Company’s continuing capacity to generate earnings from operations before taking into account management’s financing decisions and costs of consuming capital assets, and management’s estimate of their useful life. EBITDA comprises revenue less operating expenses before interest expense (income), property, plant and equipment amortization and depletion, and income taxes. Adjusted EBITDA has been included in this document. Under IFRS, entities must reflect in compensation expense the cost of share-based payments. In the Company’s circumstances, share-based payments involve a significant accrual of amounts that will not be settled in cash but are settled by the issuance of shares in exchange for cash. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA do not have any standardized meaning prescribed by IFRS and should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for measures of performance prepared in accordance with IFRS. EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA exclude the impact of cash costs of financing activities and taxes, and the effects of changes in operating working capital balances, and therefore are not necessarily indicative of operating profit or cash flow from operations as determined under IFRS. Other companies may calculate EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA differently. As such, the Company has made an entity specific adjustment to EBITDA for these expenses. The Company has also made an entity-specific adjustment to the foreign currency exchange (gain)/loss.

The following table provides a reconciliation of net income (loss) to Adjusted EBITDA:

        Three months ended Year ended
Adjusted EBITDA     December 31, December 31,
        2019
2018
2019
2018
               
Net income (loss)   $000's 3,591   (3,020 ) (8,209 ) 3,005  
               
Adjusted for:            
  Advances to joint venture   $000's 613   2,248   2,639   2,248  
  Gain on remeasurement of environmental obligation   $000's -   (2,788 ) -   (2,788 )
  Depletion and depreciation   $000's 2,020   1,454   7,313   4,724  
  Finance expenses   $000's 812   249   2,669   1,022  
  Accretion expense on rehabilitation liabilities   $000's 80   (333 ) 284   310  
  Charge on termination obligations   $000's (651 ) 1,089   2,842   2,335  
  Share-based payments   $000's 24   152   318   1,022  
  Foreign currency exchange gain/loss   $000's (74 ) (113 ) (34 ) (49 )
  Income taxes   $000's (904 ) 947   -   1,663  
Adjusted EBITDA   $000's 5,511   (115 ) 7,822   13,492  
               

Direct operating cost per tonne milled

The Company uses the non-IFRS measure of direct operating cost per tonne milled to manage and evaluate operating performance. The Company believes that, in addition to conventional measures prepared in accordance with IFRS, certain investors use this information to evaluate the Company’s performance and ability to generate cash flows. Accordingly, it is intended to provide additional information and should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for measures of performance prepared in accordance with IFRS. The Company considers cost of sales per tonne milled to be the most comparable IFRS measure to direct operating cost per tonne milled and has included calculations of this metric in the reconciliations within the applicable tables to follow.

Direct operating cost per tonne milled includes mine direct operating production costs such as mining, processing, administration, indirect charges as surface maintenance and camp expenses, and inventory sales adjustments but does not include, smelting, refining and freight costs, royalties, depreciation, depletion, amortization, reclamation, and capital costs.

The following table provides a reconciliation of direct operating costs to cost of sales, as reported in the Company’s consolidated statement of income (loss) for the year ended December 31, 2019:

        Three months ended Year ended
Direct operating cost per tonne milled     December 31, December 31,
        2019 2018 2019 2018
  Mine operating expenses (from consolidated income statement)   $000's   16,184     22,009     72,222     74,162  
  Add: Termination Liability Payments   $000's   67     257     289     933  
  Add (deduct): Supplies Inventory Obsolescence Adjustment   $000's   -     (266 )   -     (266 )
  Add (deduct): Supplies Inventory Adjustment   $000's   -     (1,391 )   -     (1,391 )
  Deduct (Add): Variation in Finished Inventory   $000's   784     (2,129 )   1,559     (4,641 )
  Deduct: Depreciation in production   $000's   (1,993 )   (1,452 )   (7,204 )   (4,712 )
Total cash costs (including royalties)   $000's   15,042     17,028     66,866     64,085  
  Deduct: Government taxes and royalties   $000's   970     (1,240 )   (2,011 )   (4,375 )
Direct operating costs   $000's   16,012     15,788     64,855     59,710  
  Tonnes Milled   tonnes   186,987     184,913     775,559     756,034  
Direct operating cost per tonne milled   $/tonne $85.63   $85.38   $83.62   $78.98  
               
        Three months ended Year ended
AISC per ZnEq payable pound sold     December 31, December 31,
        2019 2018 2019 2018
               
ZnEq payable pounds sold   000's lbs   24,796     21,511     90,158     81,871  
               
Cash Operating Costs Reconciliation            
  Direct operating costs   $000's   16,012     15,788     64,855     59,710  
  Add (deduct): Variation in Finished Inventory   $000's   (784 )   2,129     (1,559 )   4,641  
Cash operating costs   $000's   15,228     17,917     63,296     64,351  
Cash operating cost per ZnEq payable pound sold   $/ZnEq lb $0.61   $0.83   $0.70   $0.79  
               
All-in Sustaining Costs (AISC) Reconciliation            
  Total cash operating costs   $000's   15,228     17,917     63,296     64,351  
  Add: Government taxes and royalties   $000's   (970 )   1,240     2,011     4,375  
  Add: Adjustment to government taxes and royalties (1) $000's   1,685     -     1,685     -  
  Add: TC & RCs   $000's   5,399     3,996     20,174     14,474  
  Add: G&A, excluding depreciation and amortization   $000's   214     1,328     4,953     5,974  
  Add: Accretion expense on rehabilitation liabilities   $000's   80     (333 )   284     310  
  Add: Sustaining capital expenditure   $000's   3,372     3,437     15,325     17,555  
Total All-in sustaining costs - Consolidated   $000's   25,008     27,585     107,728     107,039  
  Deduct: G&A, excluding depreciation and amortization   $000's   (214 )   (1,328 )   (4,953 )   (5,974 )
Total All-in sustaining costs - El Mochito   $000's   24,794     26,257     102,775     101,065  
AISC per ZnEq payable pound sold - Consolidated   $/ZnEq lb $1.01   $1.28   $1.19   $1.31  
AISC per ZnEq payable pound sold - El Mochito   $/ZnEq lb $1.00   $1.22   $1.14   $1.23  
               

Additional non-IFRS measures

The Company uses other financial measures, the presentation of which is not meant to be a substitute for other subtotals or totals presented in accordance with IFRS, but rather should be evaluated in conjunction with such IFRS measures. The following other financial measures are used:

-  Operating cash flows before movements in working capital - excludes the movement from period-to-period in working capital items including trade and other receivables, prepaid expenses, deposits, inventories, trade and other payables and the effects of foreign exchange rates on these items.

The terms described above do not have a standardized meaning prescribed by IFRS, and therefore the Company’s definitions are unlikely to be comparable to similar measures presented by other companies. The Company’s management believes that their presentation provides useful information to investors because cash flows generated from operations before changes in working capital excludes the movement in working capital items. This, in management’s view, provides useful information of the Company’s cash flows from operations and are considered to be meaningful in evaluating the Company’s past financial performance or its future prospects. The most comparable IFRS measure is cash flows from operating activities.