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Edited Transcript of IMG.TO earnings conference call or presentation 7-Nov-19 1:30pm GMT

Q3 2019 Iamgold Corp Earnings Call

Nov 14, 2019 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Iamgold Corp earnings conference call or presentation Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 1:30:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Carol T. Banducci

IAMGOLD Corporation - Executive VP & CFO

* Craig Stephen MacDougall

IAMGOLD Corporation - SVP of Exploration

* Indi Gopinathan

IAMGOLD Corporation - IR Lead

* Peter Gordon Stothart

IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO

* Stephen Joseph James Letwin

IAMGOLD Corporation - CEO & Director

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Conference Call Participants

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* Anita Soni

CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - Analyst

* Michael Parkin

National Bank Financial, Inc., Research Division - Mining Analyst

* Steven Howard Butler

GMP Securities L.P., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Gold Analyst

* Tanya M. Jakusconek

Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Thank you for standing by. This is the conference operator. Welcome to the IAMGOLD 2019 Third Quarter Operating and Financial Results Conference Call and Webcast. (Operator Instructions)

At this time, I'd like to turn the conference over to Indi Gopinathan, Investor Relations Lead for IAMGOLD. Please go ahead, Ms. Gopinathan.

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Indi Gopinathan, IAMGOLD Corporation - IR Lead [2]

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Thank you very much, and welcome to the IAMGOLD third quarter conference call. Joining me today on the call are Steve Letwin, Chief Executive Officer of IAMGOLD; Gord Stothart, President and Chief Operating Officer; Carol Banducci, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer; Craig MacDougall, Senior Vice President, Exploration; and Jeff Snow, Senior Vice President, Corporate Development and General Counsel.

Our remarks on this call will include forward-looking statements. Please refer to the cautionary language regarding forward-looking information in our disclosure document and be advised that the same cautionary language applies to our remarks during the call. The slides referenced on this call can be viewed on our website.

I will now turn the call over to our chief executive officer, Steve Letwin.

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Stephen Joseph James Letwin, IAMGOLD Corporation - CEO & Director [3]

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Well, thank you, Indi, and Good morning everyone, and thank you for joining us. Before I start, I just want to reach out and extend, on behalf of the board of directors and management of IAMGOLD, our thoughts and prayers to SEMAFO. Obviously, there was a horrific tragedy yesterday with the attack on their convoy. I've reached out to Benoit to offer assistance and help, if he requires it. But, in the mining business, we're all brothers and sisters, and this was a tragedy that, obviously, we're very, very concerned about, and we're very, very sorry to hear about the news from our good friends at SEMAFO. So, thoughts and prayers, Benoit and team, from IAMGOLD.

So, we reported a solid third quarter last night, which demonstrates a clear pathway to an improved fourth quarter. I will just tell you that I've been at the sites quite frequently. I think you know I spend a lot of time at the sites. I just want to tell you personally that we confirm our full-year 2019 production and cost guidance. In addition, we announced the appointment of Gord Stothart as president and chief operating officer of IAMGOLD. Congratulations, Gord. Gord's been with the company since late 2007, and we're pleased to promote him to this expanded leadership role.

I'm going to stay here as chief executive officer. I'm going to be focusing on what I would call more strategic opportunities for the company. These would be centered around what we are going to do moving forward with Cote, as an example, in trying to (inaudible) around the company that's going to unlock some of the value that we have currently within our asset base that we don't think is being recognized.

I am now going to make the case for investment in IAMGOLD. We expect improved performance over the coming quarters on a number of catalysts, and I think some of you have probably already seen some of the photos. Saramacca is now online. I was down there last week. We had our first delivery of ore on October 31st. I was in one of the HAULMAXX trucks -- wasn't qualified to drive it, but I was in the cab. We plan to ramp up production levels in 2020, contributing soft rock, higher-grade ounces to the Rosebel Mill.

We will have the Westwood preliminary life-of-mine update completed by the end of the year and the 43-101 report by mid-2020. We expect to showcase a safe, long-life, profitable mine, and Gord can speak to that a little bit later.

We continue to improve productivity through various initiatives, including de-bottlenecking the mill at Essakane and gaining incremental ounces from the Rosebel (inaudible) plant. Essakane is and will continue to be a solid contributor to IAMGOLD's asset base, with operational improvements providing additional upside.

Our free cash flow, as you know, has been an area of focus as well, and we're improving our outlook as we speak. We've also enjoyed wonderful exploration success, including the declaration of Nelligan's initial resource estimate, outlining over 3 million inferred ounces in Canada which, together with our Monster Lake project, is consolidating our presence in the Shagumugamu area, and the new Karita discovery on trend between the Boto and Diakha deposit, which we expect will contribute positively to our future resource base in West Africa.

We are an undervalued story, with many more chapters to come. On Slide 6, we thought we'd talk a little bit about our environmental, social, and governance, (inaudible) we call ESG. We have internalized the zero-harm culture. We remain as an ongoing goal and journey of ours, as we strive to put health and safety above all else, as well as building strong partnership within our communities and respecting the environment. We've always conducted our business with the highest environmental, social, and governance standards. We've implemented the Mining Association of Canada's Towards Sustainable Mining framework, not just as our Canadian operation, but at our global operations, and we are implementing the World Gold Council's Responsible Gold Mining Principles.

Recently, Moody's released its first assessment of corporate governance in the metals and mining sector, wherein IAMGOLD achieved the highest rating, a [GA1], based on an adjusted score of 2.7. This was the second-best score received of the 31 companies profiled. We're [also] recognized for our sustainability efforts. This year we were ranked as one of Canada's top 50 sustainable companies in Canada. Additionally, we were included in the 2019 Bloomberg Gender Equality Index. There are, in addition to our ongoing ESG efforts, including the solar farm commissioned at Essakane last year, our ongoing commitment to education, health, and safety, access to medical care, and our continuing work building relationships with our stakeholders.

And a little bit off-script because this sort of -- you know, feeds into Rosebel, I will tell you, after 9 years in this business, that the relationship with the communities that we have really can't be measured. You know, everybody in the mining space hits headwinds from time to time, and I will tell you, at Rosebel or at Essakane in particular, if we didn't have the relationships that we have, the strong relationships with the communities and the governments, these headwinds would become a lot more challenging. We had some issues, particularly at Rosebel, that we were able to quickly solve, simply because our relationships with the community and the government are so strong, and they shouldn't be underestimated.

So on Slide 7, you will see both northern pits and southern pits at Rosebel, which we are now back actively mining. I was down there again last week. We've been working [with the] government and local stakeholders to ensure we can work safely on the site. I spent the morning with the president of Suriname. I can tell you that things are very positive there. The government has been giving their full support. I feel very comfortable telling you that I believe we have a pathway to ramp Rosebel up, back to full production.

We also have a pathway to seeing Saramacca become the deposit that we've talked about for so long. As you know, Saramacca is located at the southwest of the site of the Rosebel Mill, highlighted on the slide. The main haul road is expected to be completed by the end of Q1. The interim haul route is noted here as well, in blue. We're connecting to the usable portions of the main haul road. So, I was on this haul road, spent a fair amount of time on it. You'll see the pictures up there. It really was a sight to behold. This has been done below budget. It really is a work of art. This will open a pathway for us to new areas to bring ore, not only from Saramacca, but from Sarafina and Brokolonko over the longer term, so this road is really going to be a very important route for us as we move forward.

So, last week, on Slide 8, we (inaudible) in celebration of our first ore delivery from Saramacca to the Rosebel Mill. We have a few pictures that were up there. We had the minister of justice, who handles the security for the concessions. We also had present the minister of resources. So, you can see the HAULMAXX trucks there in the background. They carry about 80 tonnes. Each truck really does a round trip in about 1 hour and 45 minutes. We're going to have 8 trucks working, so we're going to be moving a lot of ore. In the interim, we'll use smaller trucks on the logging road to stockpile the ore from Saramacca, and then pick it up at about the 15-kilometer mark by the HAULMAXX trucks and move it to the mill.

And so, you'll see the celebrations on the slides. These are all village captains, as well as members of the Suriname government, as I mentioned. And on this special occasion, we also presented the inaugural check for our community fund, in the amount of $2.5 million. Grants from this fund are intended for local projects which demonstrate potential for positive economic and social impact. The fund will be managed by our country director, Sharmila Jadnanansing. Sharmila is just an incredible individual that we have down there and has been absolutely outstanding in helping us manage what I've said and repeated is a very, very special relationship with our communities.

On Slide 10, we highlight the road in progress from Saramacca to Rosebel. As I've said earlier, this is our future, starting with ore, and down the road, we're going to be tying in other concessions, which look, from what Craig has been seeing, quite prolific. And on our website, I encourage you to look at the short video clip, which shows Saramacca's progress. So, it's very rare that, after announcing a resource just a couple of years ago, that we would have a haul road in place. And this deposit, I think people really underestimate how much work had to go into this and how much planning, and I really want to congratulate our team at Rosebel. I want to congratulate Gord Stothart for the excellent leadership, Bruno Lemelin. This was a big feat for us. It's very real. You can see it up on the slide. This is a very, very exciting achievement for us and (inaudible) positive news that is going to come from this.

So, we ask your patience. We know this hasn't been an easy year for our shareholders, but I can tell you that, again, I spend a lot of time at the sites. I have a very high level of confidence that we're going to be able to move ahead in a very safe and sustainable and profitable (inaudible).

That takes us to Slide 11. You've heard the term self-funding that's been coming from us for some time now, and we want to emphasize our progress, which we knew would be weighted to the back half of this year. We have now completed the Essakane CIL heap leach feasibility study, which Gord will speak to in a few minutes. We issued the initial [resource] for Nelligan, and we have delivered the first ore from Saramacca. So, what are we focused on? We're focusing on the Westwood redesign, the CIL optimization work at Essakane, the completion of the Saramacca development, and obtaining the exploitation permit for Boto.

I want to reinforce the fact that Cote is not off the shelf. It is sitting there. We're minimizing our expenditures for Cote going forward. We understand the sentiment out there is not in favor of large CapEx. We accept that, and I think, if anything, we have a strong record of listening to our shareholders. That doesn't mean that there isn't some optionality at Cote that we could work to the advantage of our shareholders. There's a lot of interest in Cote from a number of companies around the world. With our deep, deep pipeline and the success that Craig MacDougall and his team have had, there's a lot of hidden value in the company, and there's a lot of value that we can crystallize through other means and methods. So with Gord's promotion to president, he is going to be focusing a lot more on what I've been doing at the sites. I'm going to be focusing a lot more with Carol and Jeff Snow on what I would call the more strategic side of IAMGOLD going forward. So, it's a good combination; we have a good team here.

And on that note, I will now pass the call over to Carol to review our financial results.

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Carol T. Banducci, IAMGOLD Corporation - Executive VP & CFO [4]

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Thank you, Steve, and Good morning, everyone. This next slide presents key performance highlights for the third quarter. Revenues were $274.4 million in the quarter, while cost of sales came in at $251.6 million, resulting in a gross profit of $22.8 million. Adjusted net income before income tax and non-controlling interests was $21.4 million. Adjusted net loss was nil, and this was largely due to recognition of the tax impact from increased profit at our operating mines, while the offsetting recovery from regions with losses, such as our expiration site. Net cash from operating activities before changes in working capital was $65.4 million in the third quarter, 53% higher than in the second quarter.

We continue to hold a strong financial position with cash, cash equivalents, short-term investments, primarily in money market funds, and restricted cash of $677.2 million as of September 30, 2019. We experienced strong improvement in operating cash flows, up 28% from Q2 and 354% from Q3 2018. Our gold margin improved by 38% from Q2. We continue to focus on improving working capital, which was impacted in Q3, primarily due to lower accounts payable, following the temporary cessation of mining activities at Rosebel. Now that we've resumed mining, payments from mining-related supplies will return to normal levels, as will payables.

Our [cash flows] improved in the quarter, with 2 sites, Essakane and Westwood, generating positive cash flows. Rosebel was also back on a positive trend, following the temporary setback caused by the security incident in the summer. This is made possible by the immediate mitigation efforts taken by site personnel, enabling the resumption of mining activities within a short few weeks, with ramp-up to full operations ongoing.

For Q3, (inaudible) the key operating metrics, production and all-in sustaining costs. We are expecting to achieve year-end guidance for gold production of 765,000 to 810,000 ounces. Our all-in sustaining costs demonstrate our commitment to managing operating costs and sustaining capital expenditures. On this metric, we are trending down from $1,132 per ounce in Q2, to $1,118 per ounce in Q3.

Our operating cash flow, before changes in working capital, continued to increase throughout the year, from $33.1 million in Q1 to $65.4 million in Q3. Our gross margin trends positively, as we benefit from a strong gold price environment. Accordingly, our gross margin has increased from a slight negative in Q1 to 8.3% in Q3. We continuously work to manage our cost structure.

We have a strong balance sheet, with cash and cash equivalents of almost $634 million, short-term investments of $16 million, and an unused credit facility of almost $500 million, for a total liquidity of approximately $1.2 billion. This total is before the receipt, in December of this [year], of about $170 million in forward sale funds. We continue to work on improving cash flows and making prudent capital allocations.

I will now pass it over to Gord.

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [5]

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Thanks very much, Carol. So, at IAMGOLD, our top priority is the health and safety of our employees. In Q3, we continued to perform better than target, and improved further from our strong Q2 performance. We work every day to meet or exceed our safety goals, implementing and refreshing a number of initiatives to ensure a safer working environment, [implementing] a new, comprehensive, behavior-based safety program.

As mentioned, total consolidated attributable production for the quarter was at 187,000 ounces. All-in sustaining costs were $1,118 an ounce. And note that all-in sustaining costs at the consolidated level includes corporate G&A costs, and I'll review each operation in turn.

At Essakane, attributable gold production for the third quarter 2019 was 96,000 ounces. We experienced higher total cash costs and all-in sustaining costs, due to overall higher tonnages and increased fuel costs from trucking (inaudible) ore. The results from the carbon-in-leach and heap leach feasibility study at Essakane were released last night, and I will (inaudible) in a moment. Sustaining capital expenditures were $8.6 million, primarily for spare parts and equipment, and non-sustaining capital expenditures of $11.5 million were primarily for capitalized stripping, tailings, liners, and (inaudible) dams. Essakane continues to generate positive cash flows for 2019.

This slide outlines the key results from the carbon-in-leach and heap leach feasibility study. With an after-tax NPV of $874 million at a discount rate of 6%, the feasibility study supports an investment in a mill optimization project, which would increase CIL plant throughput by 6% to 11.7 million tonnes per annum at (inaudible) hard rock, compared to the 2018 run rate of 11 million tonnes per annum. The existing CIL primary and secondary crushing circuits would continue to be used for the heap leach process at the end of CIL operations. The key changes from the pre-feasibility study include optimized mining capacity to tonnage handled; a 4% increase in gold production during CIL; we are about even on the annual heap leach production profile, notwithstanding a reduction of 15% in throughput; a significant increase in heap leach recoveries of 12 percentage points (inaudible); improved average diluted grade by 5% to 1.24 grams per tonne on the CIL material; and optionality at a later date to process the heap leach material through the heap leach plant or, supported by prevailing metal prices and costs at the time, through the CIL plant.

Looking at Slide 23, reserves decreased 12%, primarily due to depletion, the application of our self-funding lends to this project and declassification of some of the highest strip ratio ounces out of reserves. The feasibility study identified opportunities to de-bottleneck the plan in order to increase to steady-state processing at 11.7 million tonnes of equivalent hard rock per annum. These included the primarily screening circuit, the grinding circuit, and modifications to the cyclone underflow, as well as pumps and line descaling. The FS also identified that the gravity concentrators were underfed, leading to underperformance of the gravity circuit. To remedy this, we plan to increase water supply, add an existing spare screen, and replace 2 gravity scalping screens. Test work has demonstrated that improved gravity recovery performance will translate into improved total net overall recovery.

At Rosebel, attributable gold production for the third quarter 2019 was 55,000 ounces, strongly impacted by the security incident in the summer. We are progressing well on our ramp-up to normal production levels, with mining activities ongoing at all of our pits. Total cash costs and all-in sustaining costs were also negatively impacted, and in accordance with IFRS, both metrics were normalized, given the lower production for the quarter. You can reference our [MD&A] for further details on normalization.

The carbon-in-column plant we built in January recovered 1,300 ounces of tailings in the quarter, bringing year-to-date tailings recoveries to 5,600 ounces. I'll remind you here that, as these are recoveries from reprocessing tailings water, the ounces extracted are (inaudible) quarter, and we don't run the plant 100% of the time. Sustaining capital expenditures were $12.4 million in the third quarter, primarily for spare parts and equipment. Non-sustaining capital of $8 million was spent mostly on the Saramacca project.

As Steve mentioned, we achieved an important milestone by delivering our first ore from Saramacca to the Rosebel mill. Our main haul road development is progressing well, and we anticipate completion by the end of Q1 2020, with ramp-up of Saramacca to full production levels through 2020.

Q3 gold production at Westwood is [23,000] ounces. Total cash costs and all-in sustaining costs were slightly higher this quarter relative to Q2, due to the slightly lower production and sales. Sustaining capital expenditures of $2.9 million in the quarter primarily reflected deferred development and underground equipment. Non-sustaining capital expenditures of $2.4 million primarily reflect deferred development and development drilling. Underground tonnage and grades are expected to increase in Q4, and we plan to exploit excess mill capacity with open-pit tonnes from our Grand Duke satellite deposit and currently target positive free cash flow at Westwood in Q4 on 2019 guidance. We continue to study various design approached to Westwood, with a preliminary life-of-mine plan expected in the fourth quarter this year, followed by a plan, in accordance with NI 43-101, in the first half of 2020.

At Boto, we continue to maintain our relationships with stakeholders, while advancing our application for the mining concession. We are also continuing to optimize the design of the project in preparation for a development decision, subsequent to receiving approval from the government. At Cote, we continue to de-risk the project within our capital expenditures guidance, (inaudible) positioning for a future development decision. We are approximately 42% complete on the detailed project engineering, and also continue geotechnical evaluation and modeling of the proposed tailings management facility, as well as delineation drilling to improve the resource block (inaudible). At Monster Lake/Nelligan, we continue our exploration efforts in the region, and we'll work to improve resource inventories.

And I'll now turn the call over to Craig to discuss exploration.

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Craig Stephen MacDougall, IAMGOLD Corporation - SVP of Exploration [6]

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Thank you, Gord, and good morning, everyone. Before I begin, please note that the results I talk about today have been previously disclosed in accordance with security regulations and signed off by the qualified persons within the company reporting them.

Historically, the [third] quarter is a quieter quarter for our global exploration programs, due to seasonal weather conditions at some of our project sites. Despite this, the quarter was noteworthy, with a series of positive exploration results reported from several projects. We also completed approximately 49,600 meters of drilling at our mine sites and exploration projects during the quarter.

Exploration announcements for the quarter included remining drill results from (inaudible) programs completed at Rouyn, Monster Lake, and the Nelligan projects in Quebec, and the Cote Gold project in Ontario, with further positive drilling results from the previously announced Gosselin discovery. Positive drill results were also reported from our deep drilling program evaluating the underground potential of the Saramacca deposit. We announced a new discovery at Karita in Guinea, which I'll speak to shortly. And finally, subsequent (inaudible) our declaration of an initial mineral resource at the Nelligan project awarded the discovery of the year in Quebec, as recognized by the Association De L'Exploration Miniere Du Quebec. I'm especially proud of our exploration team in Quebec for this achievement.

At Karita, it is important to note that the new discovery is strategically located along the prolific Senegal-Mali shear zone between the Bota Gold project and the Senegal to the north, and Diakha-Siribaya project in Mali to the south. Highlights of the results reported from our 2019 drilling program, which was comprised of 16 reverse circulation drill holes totaling just over 1,800 meters, included 29 meters grading 2.96 grams-per-tonne gold, 16 meters grading 3.17 grams-per-tonne gold, and 21 meters grading 9.01 grams-per-tonne gold.

The Nelligan project is located 60 kilometers southwest of Chibougamau in Quebec, with the Monster Lake project located 15 kilometers to the north. Remaining results at Nelligan reported from the 2019 delineation drilling program included 123.7 meters grading 1.26 grams-per-tonne gold, 50.2 meters grading 1.8 grams-per-tonne gold, and 17.3 meters grading 5.5 grams-per-tonne gold. The delineation drilling program supported the completion of an initial mineral resource estimate totaling 3.2 million inferred ounces, comprised of nearly 97 million [grading] 1.02 grams-per-tonne gold at a 0.5 gram-per-tonne cutoff. There remains significant exploration potential to further expand this initial resource, and that will be the target of future programs.

Overall, our exploration program is balanced and continues to advance early-stage projects towards new discoveries, while continuing to support our near mine brownfield exploration to leverage our existing infrastructure.

With that, I will now pass the call back to Steve to conclude.

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Stephen Joseph James Letwin, IAMGOLD Corporation - CEO & Director [7]

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Thank you, Craig, and just (inaudible) reinforce, we have just started to deliver on a number of catalysts, the Essakane CIO and heap leach feasibility study that we talked about, Saramacca production, and the initial Nelligan resource. Q3 had challenges with the incident at Rosebel. Our team has always met that challenge and is well on their way to resolving the unauthorized mining issue, resulting in even stronger stakeholder relations. And, again, I can't reinforce enough how strongly I feel about this being a very big asset for the company, and we live it every day. We are working hard on the Westwood life-of-mine update and await the decision on the mining permit for Boto. In 2020, we're looking forward to achieving full production at Saramacca and assessing its underground potential, doing the work to optimize Essakane, further delineating resources in key exploration projects, and positioning ourselves for a development decision on Boto.

We are building the case for IAMGOLD to improve margins, cost containment initiatives, and ultimately (inaudible) cash flows, while executing on the plan, and safely. We like forward to keeping you updated on our progress, and thank you very much for joining us.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question is from Mike Parkin with National Bank.

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Michael Parkin, National Bank Financial, Inc., Research Division - Mining Analyst [2]

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I was just looking for a bit of color in terms of how Rosebel may be operating in October, if you can give it. Looks historically like you do roughly around 1 million tonnes of ore mined per month. Where are we, kind of relative to that for October? And if you can give color in terms of where you expect to be for the full quarter, that'd be great.

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Stephen Joseph James Letwin, IAMGOLD Corporation - CEO & Director [3]

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Yes, Mike, I actually don't have the total mine tonnes for October handy here, but I will get back to you. I can say, we are mining in all pits. We're close to normal production levels across the operation, notwithstanding that we did lose a bit of equipment as a result of the incident. So, we're in the process of recovering that back, but generally, our production is going full blast.

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Michael Parkin, National Bank Financial, Inc., Research Division - Mining Analyst [4]

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Okay, super. And then, congrats on the first ore from Saramacca. How do you kind of see that ore coming in through the quarter in terms of volume? Is it going to be a fairly marginal amount, or do you expect it to actually contribute fairly significantly, like to a -- I don't know if you want to give a percentage basis or something -- for the quarter?

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Stephen Joseph James Letwin, IAMGOLD Corporation - CEO & Director [5]

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Yes, it will contribute some ounces. We haven't included it in our forecast numbers, but we are looking, well, potentially somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 ounces out of Saramacca for the fourth quarter. So, I mean, the materials that we're mining are part of the ongoing pre-stripping effort, so we have ore right at the surface, and as we're driving the road into the pit there, we're picking up some ore along the way.

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [6]

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Yes, actually, as you travel along the (inaudible), there's gold at the surface. I had my pick out there, Mike. I was helping out, even with my bad knee.

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Michael Parkin, National Bank Financial, Inc., Research Division - Mining Analyst [7]

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Hauling it back in a backpack. Sounds good.

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [8]

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Oh, you got it, man.

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Michael Parkin, National Bank Financial, Inc., Research Division - Mining Analyst [9]

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All right, that's good. Sounds like the fourth quarter is coming along nicely. I'll leave it there for others to ask questions.

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Operator [10]

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The next question is from Steven Butler with GMP Securities.

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Steven Howard Butler, GMP Securities L.P., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Gold Analyst [11]

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Gord, congratulations on your promotion. Well done.

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [12]

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Thank you.

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Steven Howard Butler, GMP Securities L.P., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Gold Analyst [13]

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And then, I want to ask you a question about the study for the CIO and the heap -- the hard rock maximum capacity [fill] or design capacity, 11.7 million tonnes per year. Of course, with some soft rock still in the mine plan, you're milling way above that rate, so maybe, how does the profile look the next couple of years on milling rate for Essakane, and what percentage of the reserves are hard rock [in the field]?

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [14]

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Well, I'll answer in reverse. I think going forward, our reserves are about 92% to 95% hard rock, somewhere in that range. This year, and for the past several years, we've had a pretty strong contribution from our Falagountou satellite pit to the west, but that's really winding down for us in the coming years. In 2020, we do have a second satellite, or (inaudible) satellite, not a second one, immediately south of the existing Essakane main zone, which will contribute some soft rock. We do have some lower grade soft rock stockpiles as well that the site will throw at it. But, generally, we're going to be moving to pretty much full hard rock as we move forward.

You know, Craig's team has been out looking at other satellite opportunities. We have a great land package there, and part of the work in the [coming] months is to evaluate what the business case is for those. Obviously, soft rock scoots through the mill very nicely and certainly adds a lot of incremental gold production to us at a relatively low cost. So, we're aggressively looking for more, but the reality is, most of it's hard rock.

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Steven Howard Butler, GMP Securities L.P., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Gold Analyst [15]

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Sure. And, Gord, this quarter, I mean, how much percentage would have been soft rock, approximately?

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [16]

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This quarter, I think we were writing I want to say about 80 [to 85]% hard rock, probably 10% transition, and 5% to 10% of [satellite].

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Steven Howard Butler, GMP Securities L.P., Research Division - MD of Equity Research & Gold Analyst [17]

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Okay, so do you have certain expectations that you -- is there some conservatism potentially built into this 11.7 million tonnes, or is that a good number you feel comfortable with, I would say?

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [18]

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There's always conservatism in our throughput numbers. I mean, historically, every time we've done an expansion, we have met or exceeded our production levels. We do that on purpose, to make sure that the business case (inaudible) that investment.

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Operator [19]

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The next question is from Tanya Jakusconek with Scotiabank.

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Tanya M. Jakusconek, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Analyst [20]

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Gord, congratulations, again, on your promotion.

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [21]

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Thank you.

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Tanya M. Jakusconek, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Analyst [22]

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You're welcome. I just wanted to circle back on Essakane, and Steve asked a bit about the mix for the next couple of years. We're expecting a stronger Q4 from Essakane, are we not?

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [23]

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Yes, we've got a slightly stronger Q4. We saw somewhat of a grade pickup in October, and we actually saw, for us, exceptional recoveries, as we got into some very low graphite ores. You know, October was okay. The remainder, the next 2 months, November and December are looking (inaudible).

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Tanya M. Jakusconek, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Analyst [24]

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And is that based on grade and improved recovery, that we get the pickup?

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [25]

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It's on grade. The recovery portion is a bonus for us. We're not counting those chickens yet.

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Tanya M. Jakusconek, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Analyst [26]

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Okay, so mainly on grade. Okay, perfect. That's all I have on the technical side. I did want to come back to Steve, if I could. Just, you know, you mentioned, Steve, in your opening remarks that you're going to be focusing more on strategic options for the company and surfacing value, and I think you highlighted Cote. Can you talk a little bit about some of the options for surfacing value at Cote?

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Stephen Joseph James Letwin, IAMGOLD Corporation - CEO & Director [27]

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Yes, I mean, Tanya, you know this better than anybody because you've been around it a long time. I mean, we (inaudible) I think one of the comments we get from our shareholders is that we spend the time to get their feedback, and we actually listen to them. And Cote, representing a very large CapEx project for us, even though it has tremendous transformational capability for the company, it's just a nonstarter the way it's currently structured. So, you know, we have a number of options. Do we sell down additional percentage from the 70 (inaudible) we own? Do we sell all of it? Do we take those proceeds and reduce our debt that's not due to 2025? Do we use it to try and invest in mines -- and I'm just using Boto as an example -- that are smaller CapEx and less risk from an investor standpoint? So, you know, we have a lot of optionality with Cote. I would just tell you that, you know, there always have been expressions of interest in that asset. It's in Canada. It's surrounded by infrastructure. It is a low-grade bulk (inaudible), but it's got a lot of positive attributes that people find of significant interest.

So, my time is going to be more strategically focused on things like Cote, and we have had a long list of very robust discoveries, whether it's Monster Lake and Nelligan, whether it's Boto, Siribaya, Diakha, and then a more recent discovery in Guinea. We have a lot of optionality that I think we need to work to surface for value purposes, and we're not going to fight city hall here. People are interested in cash flow, cash flow, cash flow. They want to see dividends coming out of the operation, just like you would on many businesses. The stock market seems to (inaudible) on yield as opposed to value place, so we're not going to beat a dead horse here. I need to spend less time at the sites. I spend a phenomenal amount of time at the sites, as you know. I'm at Essakane, I'm at Rosebel a lot, at Westwood. Gord is, as well. We're going to increase Gord's time at the sites, and I'm going to be spending a lot more time with Carol and Jeff on these strategic options, which we feel very positive about in terms of being able to deliver value for shareholders.

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Tanya M. Jakusconek, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Analyst [28]

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So, is it safe for me to interpret this as, you know, excluding Cote gold that you talked about some of your options, all of these other ones that you've mentioned, from Nelligan, Monster Lake, et cetera, et cetera, would some of your options be considering selling of these assets to generate that cash flow?

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Stephen Joseph James Letwin, IAMGOLD Corporation - CEO & Director [29]

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Yes, absolutely.

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Tanya M. Jakusconek, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Analyst [30]

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Okay. All right, so that's that role. Can I also ask, on [Boto], you know, we're waiting for the concession approval? You mentioned a development decision in 2020. Steve, what do we need -- what do you need to see to pull the trigger on that asset?

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Stephen Joseph James Letwin, IAMGOLD Corporation - CEO & Director [31]

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Well, we had an agreement in place with the former government before the election, and I was over there with the president and minister of mines, and we were pretty well there. It's a beautiful opportunity for us, $250 million capital expenditure, about a 10-year life-of-mine, very (inaudible) for us, a very expandable resource. With the government -- with the election, we had new players come in, a minister of finance -- and I'm in my 60s now, Tanya, so I call them younger people, young bucks that have come in with new ideas -- and these are manageable, but they're time consuming.

And so, to answer your question, we need to solidify the royalty, the dividend, the tax holiday, the things that we thought we had pretty well (inaudible), and believe they still are, because we still have strong support from the president and minister of mines. We are getting pushback from what I would call new players, so I need to get over there and deal with this youth enthusiasm and get this locked down so that we can move ahead. Because, you know, our board is very excited about it, our shareholders, too -- our top 10 shareholders really (inaudible) project. It's bite-sized for us. It delivers value very quickly.

So, that's another thing that I spend time on, and you've been around this a long time. These things don't happen overnight. You have to make multiple trips. You have to have multiple meetings. So, that's why we've promoted Gord, and that's what I'm going to be focusing on. More time on a plane, unfortunately for me, I guess, but it's part of the business, and we're just seeing a lot of interest. We have a very robust pipeline, as you know, but that doesn't matter today. People really don't care about that. They care about, what are you producing, what's your margin. It's not 2016, it's (inaudible) align ourselves with the sentiment that's currently out there. That may change, like it always does in this space, but right now we need to focus on cash flow, we need to generate margins that are attractive to investors, and we need to make sure that we are funding all of our CapEx, sustainable CapEx and expenses (inaudible) we generate.

So, our goal is to eventually get ourselves into a position where we can pay dividends, where we can be more, what I would call a more attractive operating model that currently exists in the environment. So, that's my job. That's what I'm going to be working on.

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Tanya M. Jakusconek, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Analyst [32]

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So, is it safe for me to understand from what you've said that you don't have, right now, fiscal agreement in place that has defined your royalty, your dividend, your tax holiday, et cetera?

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Stephen Joseph James Letwin, IAMGOLD Corporation - CEO & Director [33]

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Yes, that would be a fair comment. I mean, we do -- we do have it, but [it's not signed].

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Carol T. Banducci, IAMGOLD Corporation - Executive VP & CFO [34]

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It's advanced in terms of the negotiations, Tanya. It's very advanced, so --

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Tanya M. Jakusconek, Scotiabank Global Banking and Markets, Research Division - Analyst [35]

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It's advanced, but you don't have it in place. If you were to have it in place, would you -- does everything else in the project meet your criteria to make a go-forward decision?

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Stephen Joseph James Letwin, IAMGOLD Corporation - CEO & Director [36]

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Yes, it does. It's quite attractive.

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Operator [37]

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The next question is from Anita Soni with CIBC.

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Anita Soni, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - Analyst [38]

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Congratulations, Gord, on your promotion, and my first question, just a little bit focus back onto Westwood. The catalyst, I think you said Q4. When do you plan to put out that plan in Q4?

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [39]

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We'll probably put out something in December. We're looking to provide some ranges around (inaudible) and cost structures, and looking to put it out in December. We're actually looking internally at presentations in the coming weeks on that, and obviously, it needs to go through a lot of internal review and some tweaking to make sure that we're all aligned. But we're still on track to get it out in Q4.

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Anita Soni, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - Analyst [40]

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Are you happy with, I mean, the progress there in terms of -- you know, you did reduce the workforce, so I'm just trying to get an idea of whether or not we're going to be --

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [41]

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Yes.

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Anita Soni, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - Analyst [42]

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-- returning to larger production numbers or sort of sticking with something that's a little bit more a tighter mine plan and perhaps more free cash flow.

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [43]

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Look, I'm extremely happy with the operation there. I was there -- I checked in there twice in the last month and had an opportunity to go underground. It's really good morale. Our safety statistics, which (inaudible) is always a harbinger of what's to come. Our safety statistics are moving aggressively in the right direction. Our productivity numbers are good. You know, it's an underground mine. We'll always have a couple of challenges. But, yes, we're really looking to turn it around. It will be a bit of a ramp-up required. It's not going to be immediate, but we are turning it around.

As I mentioned in my dialogue earlier, we started mining a small satellite pit called Grand Duke, which will provide ounces here in Q4 and through all of 2020, and probably a little bit into 2021, so that's helping supplement us while the operation gets its feet underneath it. Had an opportunity to talk to a lot of the technical people about the study that's coming out and getting into a lot more [granularity] (inaudible). Yes, we'll be coming out with some stuff here.

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Anita Soni, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - Analyst [44]

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Okay, and then just moving on to Saramacca, so I think the last time you guys were evaluating underground versus open pit options. You're delivering ore right now. Can you just give us an idea of how the open pit versus an underground option would play out in terms of timing, if it does go ahead?

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [45]

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Yes, so I mean, right now, in our approved life-of-mine plan, it's an open pit option only. The underground study is progressing well. I've seen some of the preliminary results from that. We're working on financial models and trying to understand, on an integrated basis, how that might sort of hold in. we've got some budgetary quotes on contractors, to really start to understand what the upfront costs for that option would look like. The challenges, some of the -- you guys have some interesting challenges. Obviously, as you convert some of your block model from open pit to underground, it's change of support that you see there, and your definition of what is ore -- or, sorry, what is measured, inferred, and indicated changes, so we're sort of wrestling with that right now.

The work we're doing in the pit, because it's a multi-phase pit, we're not establishing any final walls right now. Really, the pit -- if we do select to go to an underground option, we'd still be mining all of the (inaudible) and most of the transition, and even a little bit of hard rock through the pit. So, the Phase 1 pit -- actually, the Phase 1 and 2 and 3 pits -- are all contained, still, within that original design. If we do go underground, what that gets us away from is some really high stripping that we'd have to start thinking about towards the end of 2020 to open up the phase (inaudible) if we need to go to a solely open pit option.

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Anita Soni, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - Analyst [46]

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Okay, and would you be doing -- I guess drifting away from the pit, or drifting from the bottom of the pit into the underground?

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [47]

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Sorry?

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Anita Soni, CIBC Capital Markets, Research Division - Analyst [48]

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If you're looking at this, would you be drifting from the bottom of the pit into an underground?

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Peter Gordon Stothart, IAMGOLD Corporation - President & COO [49]

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Oh, sorry. We actually have an interesting portal location. If you remember at Saramacca, I mean, we're starting the pit, basically, on the top of the hill. We have locations down closer to the valley floor at the base of the hill where we could put a portal in. And the [portal] designs, you know, it's not quite horizontal, but it's actually a fairly gradual decline to get right into the middle of what you'd call the hard rock portion of the ore body.

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Operator [50]

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This concludes the time allocated for questions on today's call. I'll now hand the call back over to Indi Gopinathan for closing remarks.

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Indi Gopinathan, IAMGOLD Corporation - IR Lead [51]

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Thank you very much, Gaylene, and thanks to everyone for joining us this morning and for your continued interest in IAMGOLD. We look forward to having you join us again for our 2019 year-end conference call in February. Goodbye.

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Operator [52]

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This concludes today's conference call. Please disconnect your lines. Thank you for participating, and have a pleasant day.