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Edited Transcript of GORO earnings conference call or presentation 6-May-20 3:00pm GMT

Q1 2020 Gold Resource Corp Earnings Call

COLORADO SPRINGS May 28, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Gold Resource Corp earnings conference call or presentation Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 3:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Jason D. Reid

Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Chen Lin;Lin Asset Management;President

* Heiko Felix Ihle

H.C. Wainwright & Co, LLC, Research Division - MD of Equity Research and Senior Metals & Mining Analyst

* Jacob G. Sekelsky

Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - Director & Research Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to your Gold Resource Corporation first quarter conference call.

Joining the call today are Mr. Jason Reid, CEO and President; and Mr. John Labate, CFO. As a reminder, today's call is being recorded. (Operator Instructions)

At this time, it is my pleasure to turn the floor over to Mr. Jason Reid, CEO and President. Sir, the floor is yours.

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Jason D. Reid, Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director [2]

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Thank you. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining Gold Resource Corporation's 2020 First Quarter Conference Call. I expect my comments to run approximately 5 minutes, followed by a question-and-answer period. Joining me on the call today for the Q&A portion will be Mr. John Labate, our Chief Financial Officer.

Let me remind everyone that certain statements made on this call are not historical facts and are considered forward-looking statements. These statements are subject to numerous risks and uncertainties as described in our annual report on Form 10-K, the current quarterly report on 10-Q and other SEC filings, which could cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed in or implied by our comments. Forward-looking statements in the earnings release that we issued yesterday, along with the comments on this call, are made only as of today, and we make -- we undertake no obligation to publicly update any of these forward-looking statements as actual events unfold.

You can find a reconciliation of non-GAAP financial measures referred to in our remarks in our Form 10-K filed with the SEC for the year ended December 31, 2019, as well as this current quarterly report on 10-Q.

The first quarter production was within estimated production ranges at both our Oaxaca Mining Unit and Nevada Mining unit. The company's Nevada Mining Unit, production continues with the Isabella Pearl mine ramp-up phase, which, as previously stated, requires us to move a lot of overburden to access the high-grade Pearl zone while we mine the Isabella zone's lower and varied gold grades. This lower grade Isabella ore outcropped at the surface and was the first ore placed on the heap leach pad. As mining continues on schedule, the back half of 2020, we expect to see gold production ramp-up as we mine deeper into the high-grade Pearl zone.

The model predicted the top of the Pearl zone to have about a 1.5 gram gold per tonne. Mining has now progressed into the very top of the Pearl zone. And the last few days of April, we have seen crusher grades of Pearl ore at over 2.5 grams per tonne gold, along with a few more tonnes than the model expected. This has exceeded our estimates this high up in the deposit. While the available mineralized tonnages of this high-grade ore is still limited at these higher elevations as we continue to mine deeper into lower Pearl benches in the future, we expect high-grade gold to continue, but with greater available tonnages as we ramp up production into the back half of the year. As this much higher-grade Pearl zone is loaded on the pad and given time to leach, we expect to see, by the end of Q3 and more so in Q4, gold production to substantially increase in Nevada.

The company recorded a net loss of $3.1 million or $0.05 per share because of lower revenues and higher noncash depreciation and amortization. The company generated $5 million in operating cash flow and paid $0.7 million to its shareholders in dividends or $0.01 per share during the quarter.

Cash and cash equivalents at quarter end totaled $18.4 million. Lower revenues were directly tied to the steep base metal market price declines, particularly in zinc, along with the higher treatment charges, or TCs, for zinc as compared to years past. 2 years ago, zinc TCs were at attractive multiyear record low levels. Last year, they rose substantially, and they again rose dramatically this year to record high TCs. This has led to numerous zinc mine closures, irrespective of the recent and compounding impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on suspensions to global mine production.

When asked, our concentrate buyer acknowledged the record high TCs being imposed on the market at the time would likely put zinc-exclusive mines out of business, and potentially bring some semblance of balance back into the TC market for 2021. Subsequently, the COVID-19 global mine suspension have added to the impact of taking metals, including zinc out of the market and TC charges are beginning to drop again setting the stage for a much better 2021 year for the company's base metal TCs.

To help counter the high 2020 zinc TCs and depressed base metal prices, the company has revisited its Oaxaca Mining Unit's mine plan to focus less on zinc areas and more on precious metal areas.

While the rise in gold price has helped offset some of the base metal market fallout, it still had an impact on our bottom line. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted large percentages of the world's economy. The company strives to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and safety of our employees, contractors and communities in which we operate. The company has taken precautionary measures, including specialized training, social distancing, a work-from-home mandate where possible and close monitoring of national and regional COVID-19 impacts and government guidelines. To date, the company has not -- is not aware of any cases of COVID-19 at its operations.

At the end of the first quarter, Mexico's Health Minister declared an emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, along with a 30-day suspension of nonessential businesses, including mining, until April 30. In response to this, the company adhered to the mandatory suspension and sent its workforce home and placed its Oaxaca Mining Unit in care and maintenance. In addition, we withdrew our 2020 production outlook. Mexico recently extended the suspension for another 30 days until May -- the end of May. The company has recently submitted its restart proposal to the federal government in hopes it will be granted an early start-up based on Oaxaca being a low impacted COVID-19 zone and the staged reopening proposal focused on utilizing local workers to help mitigate potential COVID-19 infections to its workforce and local communities.

Not knowing the full impact of the pandemic, how long the suspension in Mexico may last, if Nevada would be impacted by a similar work stoppage, and all the global uncertainty around the pandemic, we utilize the existing ATM to raise an additional capital just short of $12 million. If this money is not needed to combat the impacts from suspensions and operations, its use could include being deployed to existing CapEx plans for the year like the thickened tail -- tailings plant or other capital needs. We believe this additional capital will help bridge the potential gap of a possible extended business interruption from COVID-19, and help ensure the company is poised to capitalize on the coming bull market in gold and silver.

The unprecedented creation of trillions of dollars by the U.S. government in a matter of weeks is a quintessential definition of inflation. Additional debt is being added to the already bloated global debt levels, massive and unprecedented job losses, recently announced bankruptcies, oil turning negative and shortages of goods and services add to the dramatic impact of the pandemic. All of this is a recipe for the next bull market in gold.

The company is well positioned to emerge from the pandemic fallout and capitalize on a world, awash in unsound and unprecedented fiat currencies by producing real money and producing real long-term stores of value, which are gold and silver.

With that, I would like to thank everyone for their time today on this conference call. Let's move on to the question-and-answer portion of the call. In an effort to efficiently address the Q&A portion of the call without wasting anyone's time and since we don't screen, filter or limit who can call in, any distracting and antagonistic calls will be terminated and I will simply move on to the next productive caller's question.

Operator, please prepare to open up the lines for the Q&A and take our first question if there is one.

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Questions and Answers

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Jason D. Reid, Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director [1]

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But before we do, I would like to get to the first write-in question, an e-mail question by [Jürgen]. It comes in 3 parts. It's a good -- they're all good questions.

The first one is, is the loss in Q1 all attributed to Nevada? Or is Mexico all in the red?

The loss in Q1 is primarily driven by $7.5 million of noncash dealing with amortization and depreciation, having to do with -- from Mexico, we had 3 projects that we put into service: the tailings, new tailings lift; power generated -- the power plant; and the paste plant. So all 3 of those are in some of the amortization and depreciation. And the ADR in Nevada, we put that in service and started accounting for that in January 1. So that's being amortized. So that's been the primary drivers, the amortization and depreciation, noncash items, driving the loss.

Number two, I think the ATM raise was a smart move, but it was unexpected and, of course, comes with dilution of existing shareholders. Assuming GRC sees better times again, in this gold bull market, does the Board consider reversing the ATM and buying back shares? I believe there's still a facility in existence for this.

You are correct. There is a facility still in place to do this. But there are currently no plans to do that.

Number three, the $6.9 million CapEx is higher than the $5 million cash flow from operations. Is this attributable to timing of the dry stack tailings facility CapEx in Mexico?

There's a lot that goes into that number, $3 million of that is Pearl waste being capitalized. We are capitalizing this waste because we are not into a material amount of ore yet. We just reached the top of the ore body in the Pearl. We've been mining from Isabella. So we will probably or more than likely not capitalizing that anymore in the second quarter. That will actually be an OpEx cost.

But to put this in perspective, we've mined about one half of 1% of the Pearl deposit. That's basically $1 million worth of a $300 million value in the ground. So we are just at the very top of the Pearl ore body. And again, 80% of the ore in the Isabella Pearl deposit is in the Pearl. And what's really exciting, and that's why I led off with it in the conference call, is we're -- we've reached it now, and we're seeing it. And it actually is exceeding our expectations. I don't say that to try to raise expectations, but I'm just saying that as it's a fact that it's higher grade.

Addition -- so coming back to the question of the $6.9 million, $1.5 million of that is in development, mine development in Mexico. $1.5 million is payment of the dry stack tailings project for long lead time equipment. So hopefully, that gives you some insight onto the $6.9 million CapEx.

Okay. So with that, if there's any questions for callers. Operator, if you can open up the line, please?

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Operator [2]

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(Operator Instructions) And we will take our first question from Heiko Ihle with H.C. Wainwright.

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Heiko Felix Ihle, H.C. Wainwright & Co, LLC, Research Division - MD of Equity Research and Senior Metals & Mining Analyst [3]

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First one might be a little bit more of a comment, but I just want to point out, I mean, you guys had $5 million of free cash flow. And if nothing else, I think that shows that the low zinc prices can be more than offset by higher gold prices. And I commend you for that diversification.

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Jason D. Reid, Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director [4]

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Thank you. Yes. Everybody knows we mine from a polymetallic deposit. And that's a great thing. And I want to kind of -- everybody is probably focused right now on, oh zinc, oh zinc, that drove a lot of the quarter. Okay. But let me put it in perspective. Back in the bear market for gold and silver, when the space was struggling, we remained profitable as a company for 9 years now in part during the bear market because of base metals, because they often move countercyclical to the precious metals. And at that time, they helped us remain positive. So it is what it is. I expect the base metal price actually to start coming back. Why do I say that? I'm seeing TC charges lower because a lot of supply has been taken out of the market. So I think this is a short-term thing. It is what it is, but yes. Good comment.

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Heiko Felix Ihle, H.C. Wainwright & Co, LLC, Research Division - MD of Equity Research and Senior Metals & Mining Analyst [5]

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You were talking about a longer term a second ago like the 8-, 9-year period. Actually leads, overall, to my next question. I mean you guys don't really have any debt. Interest rates are low, probably going to be low for a while. At what point in time would that ever change? Or maybe the answer is that will never change, period. I mean can you maybe just provide a little bit of color on that, please?

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Jason D. Reid, Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director [6]

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As far as taking on debt?

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Heiko Felix Ihle, H.C. Wainwright & Co, LLC, Research Division - MD of Equity Research and Senior Metals & Mining Analyst [7]

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Correct.

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Jason D. Reid, Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director [8]

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We would consider it. We did consider it when we were looking to build the Isabella Pearl Project. In large part, it's going to be driven by what the terms are. And the terms in debt that we have seen to date are atrocious. And it's not so much that so many of the debt guys won't get out of bed for less than 20% effective interest rate. It's all the other hooks they put in you. Covenants. I sleep so well during this period right now during the closure. Why? Because we have no debt. And so I don't have any bank or anybody leaning over me saying, "Hey, you're going to trigger these covenants. You're going to get in trouble. You're going to..." None of that.

So generally speaking, and factually, we've been adverse to debt. And I don't imagine we take on debt. But to your point, in the future, if debt terms become very attractive, sure. I mean we'll consider them absolutely. It just depends on the actual terms. But yes. That's just kind of where we stand on debt. We don't have any. So I tell you, it pays huge, it pays dividends, not to mix the fact that we're a dividend payer. In a different context, it pays dividends and not have any debt during times like this.

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Heiko Felix Ihle, H.C. Wainwright & Co, LLC, Research Division - MD of Equity Research and Senior Metals & Mining Analyst [9]

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Fair enough. And then speaking at times like this, I've seen a variety of conflicting reports. I've seen operations reopening end of May. I've seen May 17, I've seen May 18. And then it seems like some guys never even closed. Can you maybe just provide a little bit more color in excess to what you were talking about earlier on what you're seeing in that area, please?

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Jason D. Reid, Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director [10]

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Yes. It's a bit of a mixed bag. I have been told and I believe it's to be the case, that some of the big Mexican miners like Penoles, Frisco, Fresnillo, they all got together and lobbied the President and they never -- and they got a side deal and never stopped. I'm not 100% sure of that, but the word is that, that's the case. For most mining companies, we did the right thing, us included. And when the mandate came, we closed operations. We're -- most mining companies couldn't get side deals with the government. I know several that were trying to lobby the government and didn't succeed, and they were some of the last to come out with their press releases that they shut down. So it's a wide range. There's been some who've ignored it completely. There have been some who got side deals. But for the bulk that I'm aware of, everybody acknowledged the government-mandated shutdown and we shut down.

Now as far as restart, they're kind of walking back some of their earlier statements that, "Hey, you can do an early start if you do this proposal." But now they're just coming out -- so much as recently, I saw the President speak where he said, construction and mining can start on the 17th. So until we actually see that happen, then we'll know for sure. But having said that, when the President, as recently as a couple of days ago, was out there saying, mining companies can start by the 17th, I'm optimistic we can start by the 17th. But we're fully prepared to go to the 30th. Heck, we are fully prepared and can survive many more months, far more than I think most mining companies could, if COVID takes a turn and gets worse and they do with additional lockdown. So it's a -- I mean, it's just a wide, varied scenario. It's ever-changing. It changes almost by the hour. But as I talk to you today, at this point, it looks like we might be able to start up by the 17th.

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Operator [11]

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Our next question comes from Jake Sekelsky with Roth Capital Partners.

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Jacob G. Sekelsky, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - Director & Research Analyst [12]

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So I know you noted higher treatment charges during the quarter. And then you alluded to this briefly earlier, but I'm just curious if you've seen those come down at all in Q2 as we've obviously seen some supply come offline, and if these are the levels you're budgeting for the year or if you're expecting them to come down.

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Jason D. Reid, Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director [13]

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No, Jake, that's a great question. Let me just put some context on zinc. TC charges, as recently as 2018 were $29. In 2019, they were $190. And they were pushing us in 2020 for over $400. We were able to push it down to about $380. But to go in a 3-year period from $29 to $380 is brutal. And I'm -- I don't have the complete picture of why zinc TCs went this direction, but I was being told by the concentrate buyers that it's a supply/demand, in large part, as China is trying to put in these scrubbers and systems that are more environmentally friendly, and they don't have them 100% operating. So they have to operate at less capacity. They can still operate but at less capacity.

So therefore, there's not as much capacity. And on top of that, there's huge supply. So the supply and demand -- and I'm sure there's many other things and other shareholders could probably weigh in on some of the other driving factors, but that's one of them. And so the supply and demand imbalance has been huge. And so like I mentioned on my call, when I'm talking to the concentrate, I said, "You know you're going to pull -- put zinc mines out of business." And he said, "Yes, we know that." And sure enough, I'm not going to call them out, but there's been several zinc mines that just go under. So supply is coming off.

Now on top of that, the pandemic that -- nobody saw that coming, that's taken off huge supply. So I'm -- we're already seeing TC charges cut in half for what they were pushing for. Now that's not going to impact us because we sign a yearly contract. Most mines do. Some mines sign 2-year contracts, but we do yearly. So we're locked into these high TCs. Having said that, we do have optionality in that we have over a year worth of development in our mind in front of us. So we can go and try to poach areas with higher precious metals and being less dependent on zinc. And secondly, I think watching the TCs drop already, like I've heard that some are locked in at $200. And I bet they come down even further. Those are leaders, I believe, to increase in zinc.

So given all that's transpired, the supply and demand, the pandemic, everything, zinc could bounce back. But that could help our focus on trying not to mine the heavy zinc areas, which we have plenty of optionality there to try to make that happen. And the gold price to help offset it. But no, we're locked in and we planned that for the whole year as far as the TC charge. It's just a brutal time. I'm just glad we're not a sole zinc producer, my goodness. We may have been having a completely different call.

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Jacob G. Sekelsky, Roth Capital Partners, LLC, Research Division - Director & Research Analyst [14]

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Yes. That's fair. It's good to hear that you guys are able to remain nimble down in Mexico and try to focus on some more precious metal rich areas.

Right. And then just shifting over to Isabella Pearl, it looks like you guys are making good progress towards accessing a higher grade portion towards the second half of this year. Are you able to just quantify the remaining capital required for stripping there and the removal of overburden until you get into, I guess, the heart of the system?

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Jason D. Reid, Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director [15]

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Well, no, because the heart of the system is much deeper. But we're going to be into a very material amount in the next couple of levels. We call it this high-grade finger, and it's just a function of the way the minerals is situated and it rises at an angle. And we're mining down and we're into the top of it, but it balloons out to the bottom. But I'm more focused on just getting to another lower level because every level we go down, the -- it widens a bit. And obviously, if this grade continues, that's going to be material. So there's not going to be a lot of capital to get down to material amounts of this ore, I don't believe.

I don't have the exact answer to your question on right in this format as far as the capital to get down to the heart. And again, it's how you define the heart of it. But I believe we're going -- to try to answer your question, I believe we are in the process of turning the corner, so to speak. We always knew this mine is not about Isabella. Isabella just helps us generate cash flow early while we're trying to get to the Pearl. That's the long and short of it. And now we're there. And so I think we're turning the corner. And as the next couple of months go by, we're going to put more of this high-grade on the heap, give it some time to leach, and that's why I, stated, we're going to start seeing a bump, I believe, in Q3, but I believe, a big one in Q4. And so that's when our lives change. That -- it's -- so we're going to put more ounces on the pad with less mining as we mine down on this.

So I think we're close. We're very close. And our story hasn't changed from -- as far as this ramp-up. And we're -- right now, we're on track for that. So as long as we continue to take the precautions not to have COVID hit that site, I don't -- COVID would have to be really bad, I believe, in Nevada, for them to do what Mexico did. Nevada, they see mining as essential and Mexico as nonessential. So unless Nevada gets hit very badly, I don't think they're going to change course and shut down mining. So as long as we can keep it off of our -- out of our site, off of our mine site, we should be good to go. In the next couple of months, we're going to start seeing some additional levels with higher grade. Again, it's mining. There's going to be a lag time before you guys see it, but that's why it's coming. It's happening now. I hope that kind of gets to some of your question, but I don't have the CapEx number for you.

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Operator [16]

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Our next question comes from Chen Lin with Lin Assets.

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Chen Lin;Lin Asset Management;President, [17]

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Just out of curiosity, when you restart the Mexican operation, hopefully, sometime this month, is there cost associated with it because you put it on care maintenance last month I believe?

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Jason D. Reid, Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director [18]

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Yes. There's going to be some costs that would be there if you didn't have a stoppage. But having said that, we also saw some revenue as we were winding it down. I mean we had -- it's not this clean break. When we told everybody to go home, we had numerous trucks in transit to the -- going to the buyer. And so we saw additional revenue for that month as well, even though we were closed down. So I think we're in very strong financial position, especially taking the insurance policy, if you will, of the ATM raise. Because, again, nobody knows what's going to happen, both sites could get hit with COVID on site. And I think we can weather many months with that raise.

But starting up in Mexico, it really depends on how we get to start-up. So to your point, there's going to be heavy capital. What I hope happens is that the 17th, which the President just mentioned, that we get to bring everybody back and start at the 17th. But earlier, they were saying, you got to give us a business plan to show us that you're going to do all these things to mitigate, and so we had a whole different business plan, we were going to start with a fraction of the workforce and slowly ramp up. But now it looks like we might be able to start sooner. So it just really depends.

Whatever we do, and if we -- and we already run the numbers on the slower ramp-up, we want to make sure we're cash flow positive. I mean we wouldn't want to start-up and lose more money, so no matter how small we started. But at this point, I'm more optimistic today, and this just recently happened, but today that we can start with maybe the whole team. And at that point, yes, there's going to be costs, but we're in a strong financial position to weather those costs, and we're going to get it back shortly once we get everything up and running.

So yes, these are unprecedented times, and it's tough to give exact figures to these. But I can tell you, we're looking at all these things. It's just -- they're all in flux, and we'll just have to see when we can start, but I don't think it will be damaging as the point to start-up, if that's your question, Chen.

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Chen Lin;Lin Asset Management;President, [19]

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And also, I heard the encouraging news that TC charge of zinc is going down. And unfortunately, you already signed up for the year, that I understand, you sign a yearly contract. Is there a minimum amount of zinc you need to deliver this year because of the stoppage, I'm worrying if you need -- may need to deliver in Q1 of next year of this year's zinc at this year's TC charge. Hopefully, next year it will be much lower.

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Jason D. Reid, Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director [20]

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Yes. It's a good question. I think there's a lot of grounds to stand on force majeure for the equivalent amount of tonnes. And believe me, I will be pushing for that. So that I don't have to deliver the full contract. But we'll see how that goes. It would -- I don't want to have this extend into next year at these terms. I want to get out from one of these terms as soon as possible.

But it's been brutal. And unfortunately, we're a small miner. We stand no chance in really setting the tone or setting the price, the big, big zinc players that drive the whole market, and they're the ones who set the $400 TC that was ridiculous. But yes. I -- we'll see what happens, but I want to close out the year under these terms and be done in respect. I can deliver the tonnage and contractually from here on out once we get to start, but I don't want to be on the hook for pandemic amount. I think that's definitely in the force majeure.

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Operator [21]

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Ladies and gentlemen, that is all the time we have allotted for our questions today. The floor will return to Mr. Jason Reid for closing remarks.

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Jason D. Reid, Gold Resource Corporation - President, CEO & Director [22]

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Well, first, thanks, everybody, for being on the call again. If you were in the queue and you have a question, Greg and I are both around. So call us. We'll be available to answer any and all questions. Thanks, everybody, for being on the call, and I hope everybody is remaining safe and avoiding this pandemic. And hopefully, it impacts less and sooner rather than later. This isn't going to be over anytime soon, but hopefully, it has less impact on all of us soon. So anyway, be safe, and we'll talk to you next quarter. Thank you.

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Operator [23]

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This does conclude today's teleconference. We thank you for your participation. You may disconnect your lines at this time. Have a great day.