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Marathon Gold Announces 2020 Fourth Quarter and Year-End Results

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TORONTO, March 25, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Marathon Gold Corporation (“Marathon” or the “Company”; TSX: MOZ) today announces its financial results for the fourth quarter and year ending December 31, 2020 and provides an update on the Company’s activities at the Valentine Gold Project (the “Project”) in Central Newfoundland.

Fourth Quarter Highlights

  • Advanced the Feasibility Study (“FS”) for the Project with lead consultant Ausenco Engineering Canada Inc. The FS is expected to be completed on schedule prior to the end of the first quarter of 2021;

  • Received confirmation that the Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for the Valentine Gold Project has been assessed to be in conformance with guidelines issued by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada in July 2019 and, accordingly, had been accepted into formal federal and provincial technical review processes. These reviews are expected to occur over a period of approximately 12 months and include information requests and submittals, as well as public consultations;

  • Continued infill drilling at the newly discovered Berry Zone, with an additional 14,056 metres of drilling over 67 holes completed in the quarter, and continuing to delineate an important new area of gold mineralization at the Project. The Berry Zone drilling program concluded on November 20, 2020 with a total of 31,722 metres drilled in 2020 in support of a first Mineral Resource estimate, currently under preparation. Overall, 50,726 metres of exploration drilling was completed at the Project in 2020;

  • Completed a strategic flow-through financing with net proceeds of $8.7 million resulting in cash and cash equivalents of $51.7 million at December 31, 2020;

  • Subsequent to the end of the quarter, released details regarding Marathon’s 2021 Exploration Program comprising 52,000 metres of drilling at a budget of $10.5 million; and

  • Subsequent to the end of the quarter, announced the appointment of Cathy Bennett to the Company’s Board of Directors.

Matt Manson, President and CEO commented: “Our objective in 2020 was to advance the Valentine Gold Project in each of the three areas of engineering studies and mine design, environmental assessment, and exploration. Significant progress was made in each area. We will shortly release the results of the Project’s Feasibility Study, our environmental assessment is progressing on schedule through technical review and public consultation, and the first mineral resource estimate on the newly discovered Berry Zone is currently under preparation and expected to be completed soon. In 2020 we also continued to strengthen our management team with several key hires, and we announced the appointments of Jim Gowans and Cathy Bennett to our Board of Directors. With an ending cash balance of $52 million, we are well positioned in 2021 to complete the ongoing engineering, permitting, and project financing activities prior to a potential project construction decision. At the same time, we will continue to remain focused on exploration. Whereas our 2020 exploration work was discovery oriented, our 2021 exploration program is designed to add ounces, with 52,000 metres and $10.5 million committed to a combination of infill drilling at Berry, a return to the Sprite and Victory Deposits, and additional generative projects.”

Financial Performance

The results of operations for the fourth quarter are summarized below (all figures are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise noted):

(Stated in thousands of Canadian dollars)

Three Months Ended
December 31,

For the Years Ended
December 31,

2020

2019

2020

2019

EXPENSES

General and administrative expense

$

2,834

$

1,766

$

7,600

$

3,845

Exploration expense

-

1

25

24

Finance income, net

(187

)

(158

)

(370

)

(183

)

Other (income)/ expense

(61

)

830

(173

)

736

Loss before tax

2,586

2,439

7,082

4,422

Deferred income tax expense / (recovery)

299

255

(53

)

271

Net Loss

$

2,885

$

2,694

$

7,029

$

4,693

Capital expenditures

$

6,547

$

4,888

$

18,707

$

15,721

Three months ended December 31, 2020:

  • General and administrative expenses increased from $1.77 million to $2.83 million. The principal components of this increase are set out below:

    • Salaries and wages increased from $0.64 million to $1.08 million, reflecting higher overall compensation costs as a result of the additions made to the Company’s management team throughout 2020 and higher 2020 bonus expense compared to 2019, offset partially by higher capitalized salaries and wages in the period.

    • Share-based compensation expense increased from $0.74 million to $1.08 million in the quarter, resulting primarily from a $0.81 million increase in the deferred share unit (“DSU”) liability resulting from the increase in the Company’s share price between the end of the third and fourth quarter of 2020, as compared to a $0.43 million increase in the DSU liability in the same period in 2019.

    • Professional fees increased from $0.13 million to $0.42 million reflecting costs for executive recruitment in connection with the appointment of a new Director, the completion of a benchmarking study for management and director compensation, and increased legal and consulting fees related to the Company’s evaluation of project financing alternatives.

    • Investor relations and corporate communications expenses decreased from $0.16 million to $0.02 million, reflecting a shift from in person to virtual investor and corporate communications, including engagement with stakeholders in the local communities around the Valentine Gold Project, due to COVID-19.

  • Finance income, net increased from $0.16 million to $0.19 million, primarily as a result of an increase in interest income from $0.15 million to $0.18 million, as Marathon invested surplus cash from the May 2020 equity financing in interest-bearing deposits.

  • Other (income)/expense increased from an expense of $0.83 million to income of $0.06 million, primarily as a result of a $0.88 million decrease in severance expense, as there were no executive management changes in the fourth quarter of 2020. Royalty income from the Golden Chest Mine, where the Company holds a 2% net smelter returns royalty, was consistent with the comparable period in 2019.

  • Capital expenditures excluding working capital movements, were $1.57 million higher than the prior year primarily as a result of increased activities in the fourth quarter of 2020 related to the advancement of the FS. During the fourth quarter of 2020, exploration drilling continued to be the largest capital expenditure of the Company as Marathon worked to complete its 2020 exploration drill program.

Twelve months ended December 31, 2020:

  • General and administrative expenses increased from $3.85 million to $7.60 million. The principal components of this increase are set out below:

    • Salaries and wages increased from $1.30 million to $3.00 million, reflecting higher overall compensation costs as a result of the additions made to the Company’s management team in the second half of 2019 and throughout 2020 and higher bonus expense in 2020 compared to 2019, offset partially by higher salaries and wages capitalized in the year. In addition, there was $0.50 million severance costs recorded to general and administrative expenses during 2020 compared to $nil in the comparable period in 2019.

    • Share-based compensation expense increased from $1.20 million to $2.50 million, primarily as a result of a $0.83 million increase in the DSU liability resulting from an additional 330,000 DSUs being granted during the year and an increase in the Company’s share price in the twelve months ended December 31, 2020. In addition, there was an increase of $0.46 million in stock option expense, related to vesting of options on completion of the Pre-Feasibility Study as well as 2020 annual employee option grants. A total of 4,675,000 options were granted in the twelve months ended December 31, 2020.

    • Professional fees increased from $0.57 million to $0.82 million, reflecting costs for executive recruitment in connection with the appointment of a new Director and two senior technical roles, increased legal and consulting fees related to the Company’s evaluation of project financing alternatives, increased legal and proxy solicitation costs associated with the Company hosting a virtual Annual and Special Meeting of shareholders in August 2020, and a general increase in legal and consulting fees, as the Company’s breadth of corporate activities has grown.

    • Investor relations and corporate communication expenses increased from $0.28 million to $0.41 million, reflecting increased investor and corporate communication initiatives, including engagement with stakeholders in the local communities around the Valentine Gold Project, and the Company hosting a virtual Annual and Special Meeting of shareholders in August 2020.

  • Finance income, net increased from $0.18 million to $0.37 million, as a result of an increase in interest income from $0.30 million to $0.38 million, as Marathon invested surplus cash from the September 2019 and May 2020 equity financings in interest-bearing deposits.

  • Other income increased from an expense of $0.74 million to income of $0.17 million, primarily as a result of a $0.88 million decrease in severance expense. Royalty income from the Golden Chest Mine, where the Company holds a 2% net smelter returns royalty, was consistent with the comparable period in 2019.

  • Capital expenditures excluding working capital movements, increased from $15.72 million to $18.71 million with the increase reflecting the continued advancement of the Valentine Gold Project including: the completion of the updated January 2020 Mineral Resource Estimate and the April 2020 PFS; the completion of bridging phase activities related to the initiation of the FS; the commencement of FS activities; the completion of the EIS, including various underlying environmental studies and community initiatives; and continued exploration drilling.

Qualified Person

Scientific and technical information contained in this news release was reviewed and approved by James Powell, P.Eng (NL), VP of Regulatory and Government Affairs and Nicholas Capps, P.Geo. (NL), Project Manager for exploration at the Valentine Gold Project. Exploration data quality assurance and control for Marathon is under the supervision of Jessica Borysenko, P.Geo (NL), GIS Manager for Marathon Gold Corporation. Mr. Powell, Mr. Capps and Ms. Borysenko are Qualified Persons in accordance with National Instrument 43-101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects (“NI 43-101”) and have approved the technical content of this MD&A. Marathon’s mineral resources and mineral reserves have been calculated in accordance with the standards of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (“CIM”) and in accordance with the requirements of NI 43-101. Mineral resources which are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability. Mineral resources are reported inclusive of mineral reserves. Information on data verification performed on, and other scientific and technical information relating to, the Valentine Gold Project are contained in the AIF and the current technical report for the Valentine Gold Project prepared in accordance with NI 43-101 titled “NI 43-101 Technical Report & Pre-Feasibility Study on the Valentine Gold Project, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada” dated April 21, 2020 with an effective date of April 18, 2020 and prepared by Ausenco Engineering Canada (the “2020 Valentine Technical Report”) available at www.sedar.com.

Acknowledgments

Marathon acknowledges the financial support of the Junior Exploration Assistance Program, Department of Natural Resources, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

About Marathon

Marathon (TSX:MOZ) is a Toronto based gold company advancing its 100%-owned Valentine Gold Project located in the central region of Newfoundland and Labrador, one of the top mining jurisdictions in the world. The Project comprises a series of four mineralized deposits along a 20-kilometre system. An April 2020 Pre-Feasibility Study outlined an open pit mining and conventional milling operation over a twelve-year mine life with a 36% after-tax rate of return. The Project has estimated Proven Mineral Reserves of 1.3 Moz (26.3 Mt at 1.52 g/t) and Probable Mineral Reserves of 0.6 Moz (14.8 Mt at 1.23 g/t). Total Measured Mineral Resources (inclusive of the Mineral Reserves) comprise 1.9 Moz (31.7 Mt at 1.86 g/t) with Indicated Mineral Resources (inclusive of the Mineral Reserves) of 1.19 Moz (23.2 Mt at 1.60 g/t). Additional Inferred Mineral Resources are 0.96 Moz (16.77 Mt at 1.78 g/t Au). Please see the Technical Report dated April 21, 2020 for further details and assumptions relating to the Valentine Gold Project.

For more information, please contact:

Matt Manson
President & CEO
Tel: 416 987-0711
mmanson@marathon-gold.com

Hannes Portmann
CFO & Business Development
Tel: 416 855-8200
hportmann@marathon-gold.com

Amanda Mallough
Senior Associate, Investor Relations
Tel: 416 855-8202
amallough@marathon-gold.com

To find out more information on Marathon Gold Corporation and the Valentine Gold Project, please visit www.marathon-gold.com.

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information

Certain information contained in this news release constitutes forward-looking information within the meaning of Canadian securities laws (“forward-looking statements”). All statements in this news release, other than statements of historical fact, which address events, results, outcomes or developments that Marathon expects to occur are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements include statements that are predictive in nature, depend upon or refer to future events or conditions, or include words such as “expects”, “anticipates”, “plans”, “believes”, “estimates”, “considers”, “intends”, “targets”, or negative versions thereof and other similar expressions, or future or conditional verbs such as “may”, “will”, “should”, “would” and “could”. We provide forward-looking statements for the purpose of conveying information about our current expectations and plans relating to the future, and readers are cautioned that such statements may not be appropriate for other purposes. More particularly and without restriction, this news release contains forward-looking statements and information about Marathon’s economic analyses for the Valentine Gold Project, capital and operating costs, processing and recovery estimates and strategies, future exploration and mine plans, objectives and expectations and corporate planning of Marathon, future feasibility studies and environmental impact statements and the timetable for completion and content thereof and statements as to management's expectations with respect to, among other things, the matters and activities contemplated in this news release.

Forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and assumptions and accordingly, actual results and future events could differ materially from those expressed or implied in such statements. You are hence cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. A mineral resource that is classified as “inferred” or “indicated” has a great amount of uncertainty as to its existence and economic and legal feasibility. It cannot be assumed that any or part of an “indicated mineral resource” or “inferred mineral resource” will ever be upgraded to a higher category of mineral resource. Investors are cautioned not to assume that all or any part of mineral deposits in these categories will ever be converted into proven and probable mineral reserves.

By its nature, this information is subject to inherent risks and uncertainties that may be general or specific and which give rise to the possibility that expectations, forecasts, predictions, projections or conclusions will not prove to be accurate, that assumptions may not be correct and that objectives, strategic goals and priorities will not be achieved. Factors that could cause future results or events to differ materially from current expectations expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements include availability of financing to fund Marathon’s exploration and development activities, the ability of the current exploration program to identify and expand mineral resources or mineral reserves, operational risks in exploration and development for gold, delays or changes in plans with respect to exploration or development projects or capital expenditures, uncertainty as to calculation of mineral resources or mineral reserves, changes in commodity and power prices, changes in interest and currency exchange rates, the ability to attract and retain qualified personnel, inaccurate geological and metallurgical assumptions (including with respect to the size, grade and recoverability of mineral resources), changes in development or mining plans due to changes in logistical, technical or other factors, title defects, government approvals and permits, cost escalation, changes in general economic conditions or conditions in the financial markets, environmental regulation, operating hazards and risks, delays, taxation rules, competition, public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and other uninsurable risks, liquidity risk, share price volatility, dilution and future sales of common shares, aboriginal claims and consultation, cybersecurity threats, climate change, delays and other risks described in Marathon’s documents filed with Canadian securities regulatory authorities.

You can find further information with respect to these and other risks in Marathon’s Amended and Restated Annual Information Form for the year ended December 31, 2019 ( the “AIF”) and other filings made with Canadian securities regulatory authorities available at www.sedar.com. Other than as specifically required by law, Marathon undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which such statement is made, or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events, whether as a result of new information, future events or results otherwise.