VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - May 10, 2013) -
(All US$ unless otherwise specified)
Mercator Minerals Ltd. (TSX:ML) ("Mercator" or the "Company") today announced its financial results for the three months ended March 31, 2013. For the first quarter 2013, the Company reported revenues of $54.5 million, a gross profit of $0.5 million, and a net income of $1.8 million ($0.01 per share, basic) or an adjusted net loss* after excluding non-cash items of $9.0 million ($0.03 per share). Cash flow used by operations, before non-cash working capital changes, was $3.1 million. As at March 31, 2013, the Company had $25.6 million in cash and restricted cash on hand.
"The optimizations made late in the first quarter on the grinding circuit along with enhanced ore blending options, including the de-watering the Ithaca portion of the mine, provide us confidence that we are positioned to meet our 2013 production goals. Further, with the forecasted production increases through the balance of 2013, we also expect an associated decrease in unit costs," commented Bruce McLeod, Mercator's President and CEO. "Throughout the Company, we remain focused on increasing production, lowering unit costs and eliminating discretionary spending to ensure we remain competitive in these volatile markets."
FIRST QUARTER 2013 HIGHLIGHTS AND SIGNIFICANT ITEMS
- Production for the period was 20.4 million copper equivalent** pounds, comprised of 9.1 million pounds of copper in concentrate and copper cathode, 2.4 million pounds of molybdenum, and 152,130 ounces of silver.
- Copper and molybdenum shipments were 7.9 million pounds and 2.3 million pounds, respectively. Copper shipments were less than production during the quarter due to a 0.8 million pound build-up of inventory levels at the end of March 2013, the balance of which was shipped in April 2013.
- Recoveries were 82.5% and 82.3%, respectively, for copper in concentrates and molybdenum in concentrates, the fourth consecutive quarter that recoveries were over design rates.
- Average throughput was 42,738 tons per day ("tpd"), due to mining in harder ore sections of the pit and extra scheduled maintenance downtime. Since March 21, 2013, when optimizations to the grinding circuit were made, to May 9, 2013, average throughput rates have been 50,000 tpd, or an increase of 22% when compared to the period January 1 to March 20, 2013.
- Due to low production levels, cash costs*, on a co-product accounting basis, were $2.72 per pound of total copper produced and $11.08 per pound of molybdenum produced.
- As at March 31, 2013, working capital deficit was $3.7 million, but was a positive $9.4 million after excluding non-cash current liabilities related to the Company's hedging program and deferred revenue.
- Administration expenses, excluding non-cash stock based compensation expense, were $1.5 million or 35% lower than the same quarter a year ago.
$ millions unless otherwise noted
|Three months ended March 31,|
|Net income (loss)||1.8||(20.5)|
|Earnings (loss) per share, basic||$0.01||$(0.08)|
|Adjusted net income*||(9.0)||1.5|
|Adjusted earnings per share*, basic||$(0.03)||$0.01|
|Cash flow from operations, before non-cash working capital changes||(3.1)||7.1|
|Shipments (million pounds)|
|Production (million pounds)|
|Throughput (tons per day)||42,738||48,666|
|On-site operating costs ($/ton milled)||11.17||9.19|
|Cash costs* on a co-product basis ($/lb)|
|Average realized prices ($/lb)|
|Copper (excluding hedges)||3.58||4.08|
Revenues were 16% lower in Q1 2013 than in Q1 2012, and with metal shipments consistent quarter over quarter, the decline was primarily due to realized copper and molybdenum prices being 12% and 21% lower, respectively. Cash costs* of production, when comparing Q1 2013 to Q1 2012, on a co-product accounting basis, was 18% higher for copper and 6% lower for molybdenum. The higher on-site operating costs on a per ton milled basis were primarily a result of lower throughput rates and lower production levels achieved in Q1 2013 as compared to Q1 2012 (see Mineral Park Mine discussion below for further details). As a result of the above noted operating factors, gross profit was $0.5 million in Q1 2013, as compared to $14.0 million in Q1 2012. In addition to the impact of the mining operations, variations in net income achieved in Q1 2013 of $1.8 million, as compared to Q1 2012, were impacted by cost reductions in administration expenses, realized and unrealized gains/losses on derivative instruments, and non-cash share based compensation and taxes. Administration expenses, excluding non-cash share based compensation expenses, were 35% lower in Q1 2013 when compared to Q1 2012.
MINERAL PARK MINE
For Q1 2013, Mineral Park produced 9.1 million pounds of copper in concentrates and copper cathode and 2.4 million pounds of molybdenum in concentrates. Production during Q1 2013 at Mineral Park was impacted by additional maintenance downtime taken to re-install the Company's repaired natural gas turbine (which, since its reinstallation, has been exceeding operational expectations), and to reconfigure the SAG mills and pebble handling system. Additionally, as planned during the quarter, the Company mined through harder sections of the mineral deposit while also completing the dewatering of the Ithaca pit. The completion of these tasks permitted mining to resume in the Ithaca pit in the second quarter of 2013. Now that the pit has been dewatered, ore from Ithaca, which has higher copper grades than the other areas being mined, has provided, and is expected to continue to provide, additional blending options for the various ore types at the mine.
For Q1 2013, mill throughput averaged 42,738 tpd and recoveries for copper in concentrates and molybdenum in concentrates averaged 82.5% and 82.3%, respectively for Q1 2013, the fourth consecutive quarter that recoveries have been above mill design rates.
As discussed above, average mill throughput rates have recently increased due to optimization of the internal configuration of the two SAG mills and changing the pebble handling processes by feeding a higher proportion of the recycled pebbles directly into the four ball mills. As a result of these optimizations, from March 21, 2013 (when the optimizations to the grinding circuit were completed) to May 9, 2013, average throughput rates, have increased significantly. Over this 49 day period, mill throughput rates, on a sustained basis and at an average ore grind index of 11.3, have averaged 50,000 tpd, the stated design capacity.
Other optimization initiatives that have contributed to the recent increase in average mill throughput include: (1) implementing a hard ore and zinc modeling program that has increased ore blending options to manage hardness and zinc content, (2) implementing a blasting optimization program that has reduced oversize ore going to the primary crusher and to the mill, and (3) the commissioning of two additional haul trucks in March 2013, with a third truck expected to arrive in June 2013.
Mineral Park 2013 Outlook
With the recent increases in throughput rates and mining flexibility, the Company expects Q2 2013 production to exceed Q1 2013 production. As a result of the benefits of these initiatives, Mineral Park continues to be on track to produce between 93.0 million to 102.0 million pounds of copper equivalent* production in 2013, which includes 41.5 million to 46.5 million pounds of copper (38.5 million to 42.5 million pounds copper in concentrates and 3.0 to 4.0 million pounds of copper cathode copper), 11.0 to 12.0 million pounds of molybdenum and 0.6 million ounces of silver.
As a result of the recent throughput improvements, the Company is reviewing the scope and requirement for the $5.0 million pebble crusher included in the previously announced $13.7 million capital expenditures program for 2013. The Company believes that the 2013 capital program, with a majority of the spending to be spent in the second half of 2013, can be financed from cash flow from operations. However, the Company will continue to review the capital program for potential deferrals, should current economic conditions prevail.
EL PILAR PROJECT
During the first quarter 2013, the Company continue to de-risk the El Pilar Project ("Project") with additional metallurgical testing to evaluate the potential to attain the same projected copper recoveries (56.9% over the Project's life-of-mine as noted in the October 2012 El Pilar Project Feasibility Study) while reducing acid consumption, potentially by as much as 20%. These column tests are being conducted by managing solution application rates and raffinate pH.
Meanwhile, the Company continues to explore various value-accretive options to finance the Project. After funding is secured, with a 15-month construction timeline, the Company has the potential for a short cycle to convert its investment into cash flows.
FINANCIAL STATEMENTS and MANAGEMENT DISCUSSION & ANALYSIS ("MD&A")
This news release is prepared as at May 10, 2013 and should be read in conjunction with the MD&A and Financial Statements for the period ended March 31, 2013. These documents have been posted on Mercator's website (www.mercatorminerals.com/s/FinancialStatements.asp) and on SEDAR (www.sedar.com) under the Company's profile.
Mercator's senior management will hold a conference call and a live audio webcast on May 13, 2013 at 8:30 a.m. Pacific time to discuss results for the first quarter 2013. To participate in the call, dial 877-240-9772 (North America) and 800-2787-2090 (International). To listen to the live webcast, visit www.gowebcasting.com/4314. A presentation will accompany the call and will be available on the company's website under investor relations, presentations.
An archived recording of the conference call will be available for playback after the event until April 4, 2013 by dialling 1-800-408-3053 (North America), 905-694-9451 (local) and 800-3366-3052 (overseas) with conference passcode 2945338#.
*Alternative Performance Measures
This press release refers to "cash costs" and "adjusted net income (loss)" which are not performance measures recognized as having a standardized meaning under IFRS. The Company discloses these performance measures, which have been derived from the financial statements on a consistent basis, because the Company believes they are of assistance in understanding the results of Mercator's operations and financial position, and are meant to provide further information about the Company's financial results to the investors. These performance measures may not be comparable to similar data presented by other mining companies. This information should not be considered in isolation or as a substitute for measure of performance prepared in accordance with IFRS. Readers should refer to "Alternative Performance Measures" section on page 17 of the Q1 2013 MD&A for additional information.
**Copper equivalent production
All references to copper equivalent production for 2013 and Q1 2012 is calculated using a molybdenum/copper ratio of 4.65, based on the Company's beginning of year estimated 2013 metals prices, including adjustments for copper hedging.
Quality Assurance/Quality Control
The Technical Information contained in this news release of has been prepared under the supervision of, and its disclosure has been reviewed by the following who are deemed to be Qualified Persons under NI 43-101: Gary Simmerman, BSC, Mining Eng., FAusIMM, Mercator's Vice President, Mineral Park, and Mike Broch, BSC Geology, MSC Economic Geology, FAusIMM, the Company's Vice-President, Exploration and Evaluations.
About Mercator Minerals Ltd.
Mercator Minerals Ltd., a TSX listed Canadian mining company with the potential to have one of the fastest growing base metal profiles in its peer group, is a copper, molybdenum and silver producer with a diversified portfolio of high quality assets in the USA and Mexico. Mercator provides investors exposure to current copper, molybdenum and silver production from the large tonnage long life Mineral Park Mine in Arizona, as well as mid-term exposure to potential copper production from its El Pilar deposit in the State of Sonora in northern Mexico and longer term exposure of molybdenum and copper through the potential development of the El Creston deposit also in the State of Sonora in northern Mexico.
On Behalf of the Board of Directors
MERCATOR MINERALS LTD.
D. Bruce McLeod, P.Eng., President and CEO
National Instrument 43-101 Compliance
Unless otherwise indicated, Mercator has prepared the technical information in this news release ("Technical Information") based on information contained in the technical reports, annual information form, news releases, material change reports and quarterly and annual consolidated financial statements and management discussion and analysis (collectively the "Disclosure Documents") available under Mercator Minerals Ltd.'s company profile on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. Each Disclosure Document was prepared by or under the supervision of a qualified person (a "Qualified Person") as defined in National Instrument 43-101 Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects of the Canadian Securities Administration ("NI 43-101"). Readers are encouraged to review the full text of the Disclosure Documents which qualifies the Technical Information. Readers are advised that mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability. The Disclosure Documents are each intended to be read as a whole, and sections should not be read or relied upon out of context. The Technical Information is subject to the assumptions and qualifications contained in the Disclosure Documents.
This news release contains certain forward-looking information within the meaning of Canadian securities legislation and forward-looking statements within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. This information and these statements, referred to herein as "forward-looking statements", are not historical facts, are made as of the date of this news release and include without limitation, statements regarding discussions of future plans, projections, objectives, estimates and forecasts and statements as to management's expectations with respect to, among other things, the size and quality of the Company's mineral reserves and mineral resources, potential mineralization, and possible extensions of zones. In addition, estimates of mineral reserves and mineral resources may constitute forward looking statements to the extent they involve estimates of the mineralization that will be encountered if a property is developed. These forward-looking statements involve numerous risks and uncertainties and actual results may vary. Important factors that may cause actual results to vary include without limitation, certain transactions, certain approvals, changes in commodity and power prices, changes in interest and currency exchange rates, risks inherent in exploration results, timing and success, inaccurate geological and metallurgical assumptions (including with respect to the size, grade and recoverability of mineral reserves and resources), unanticipated operational difficulties (including failure of plant, equipment or processes to operate in accordance with specifications, cost escalation, unavailability of materials, equipment and third-party contractors, delays in the receipt of government approvals, industrial disturbances or other job action, and unanticipated events related to health, safety and environmental matters), political risk, social unrest, and changes in general economic conditions or conditions in the financial markets. In making the forward-looking statements in this press release, the Company has applied several material assumptions, including without limitation, the assumptions that: (1) market fundamentals will result in sustained copper and molybdenum demand and prices; (2) the current copper leach and milling operations at Mineral Park remain viable, operationally and economically; (3) the milling operations at Mineral Park will continue to be viable, operationally and economically, (4) the financing, construction and operation of the El Pilar Project will proceed as expected; and (5) any additional financing needed will be available on reasonable terms. The Company's ability to progress the El Pilar and El Creston projects towards a construction decision and eventually into production is dependent on the Company's ability to arrange for sufficient funds to cover the capital and start up related costs. There can be no assurance that the Company will be successful in arranging such funding. Statements concerning mineral reserves and mineral resource estimates may also be deemed to constitute forward-looking statements to the extent that they involve estimates of the mineralization that may be encountered during current or future operations. The words "expect", "anticipate", "estimate", "may", "will", "should", "intend", "believe", "target", "budget", "plan", "projection", "forecast" and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Information concerning mineral reserve and mineral resource estimates also may be considered forward-looking statements, as such information constitutes a prediction of what mineralization might be found to be present if and when a project is actually developed. The risks and assumptions are described in more detail in the Company's audited financial statements and MD&A for the year ended December 31, 2012 on the SEDAR website at www.sedar.com. The Company does not assume the obligation to revise or update these forward-looking statements after the date of this news release or to revise them to reflect the occurrence of future unanticipated events, except as may be required under applicable securities laws.