02 February 2011
Frontier Mining Ltd
("Frontier" or the "Company")
Frontier Mining Ltd (AIM: FML), the AIM listed gold and copper exploration and development company focused on Kazakhstan, today provides an operational update for 2010. Substantial progress was achieved on all the Company's projects with Benkala in particular having accomplished several key milestones during the year. Ensuring initial production occurs on schedule at Benkala in 2011 remains the Company's primary focus.
- Shareholder approval obtained for re-domicile and asset acquisition from Coville Intercorp
- Appointment of Randy Eppler as non-executive director
- Completed equity raise of $6m and secured initial $4m HSBC loan facility
- Koskuduk constructed and operational within first 7 months of 2010
- Confident Baitemir substantial asset with over 500,000 tons of copper at economic grades
- Initial JORC statement on Benkala issued
- Benkala copper production targets of 3,000 tons in 2011, 7,000 in 2012 and 20,000 in 2013
Shareholder approval was obtained on 8 November at a special general meeting for the asset acquisition from Coville Intercorp and re-domicile outlined in the circular of 18 October. All legal matters on behalf of FML and Coville have been concluded and we now await receipt of consent to the transaction from the Kazakhstan Ministry of Industry and New Technology ("MINT").
The board of Frontier was greatly strengthened with the appointment of Randy Eppler in November as an independent director. Mr. Eppler has over 30 years' experience in the natural resources industry and was President and CEO of Coal International, a Vice President of Newmont Mining and Newmont Capital and Managing Director of the Metals & Mining division, for Chemical Securities Inc. a subsidiary of Chemical Bank. His brief is to develop the highest standards of corporate governance and operational excellence at Frontier.
Frontier finished the year with approximately 8,200 ounces of gold stacked on the leaching pads, with actual production of 4,180 ounces of gold and 11,300 ounces of silver. This was only 50% of the Company's original estimate made at the beginning of the year. However, it should be noted that this was the commissioning year for Koskuduk with all construction of operational infrastructure, the pit, plant, and initial production largely achieved within the first seven months of the year.
In addition, the Company encountered a substantial delay in the permitting process for the electrical line connection, involving land that the line had to transit, which delayed the connection of electrical power to the site by several months. This had a major impact on early production as it reduced available crushing capacity by 60%. While disappointed with the production levels achieved in 2010, the Company is pleased with the successful commissioning of the Koskuduk project
The total Koskuduk investment budget came to approximately $4 million. Next year Koskuduk is expected to organically, as the Company will continue to focus on establishing first production at Benkala. The production target for 2011 is projected at 6,000 ounces of gold and silver equivalents. Koskuduk is a profitable venture which pays for FML's overhead expenses and finances the ongoing drilling activity on the Naimanjal license area, primarily focused on defining the Baitemir copper deposit.
Frontier drilled over 8,000 metres on the Baitemir deposit in 2010, bringing total drilling to date at the deposit to in excess of 10,000 metres. 2011's drilling program is set at 2,500 metres. More than 5,000 assay samples were collected and are currently being analysed by an independent lab. The Company plans to produce a scoping study at Baitemir in a first half of 2011 followed by a JORC compliant statement.
Frontier is now confident that Baitemir has the potential to be a substantial copper asset for the Company containing more than 500,000 tons of copper at economic grades. The Company's proposed strategy at this stage is to continue exploration and technical work necessary to advance the project, with the goal of constructing a large flotation plant with a contemplated launch date of 2015. Frontier will also examine the potential to use the other deposits within the Naimanjal licence area as satellite feeders to Baitemir.
Frontier made substantial progress in 2010 to develop the Benkala oxide copper project, with approximately $20 million invested into the project to date. The Company issued an initial JORC statement for Benkala in early December, prepared by Wardell Armstrong International, which confirmed that the current resource estimate is largely in line with previous Soviet estimates. However, in 2010 Frontier was primarily focused on construction and pre-production activities at Benkala in preparation for commencing operations later in 2011. In 2011 the Company will be extending the scope of its work with Wardell Armstrong to improve and increase the reserve base at Benkala.
By the end of 2010 Frontier had removed 3.4 million tonnes of waste to access the ore body and the pit is now at 28 meters below the original surface. With the ore body starting at 35 meters below original surface, the Company should reach the ore body sometime in early March 2011 and is on schedule to start crushing ore in June 2011. With equipment functioning well and operational teams well organised Frontier has been able to reach very efficient performance levels.
There is also a large body of infrastructure work being carried out at present. A 1,300 sq metre, 70 person camp has been built and Frontier is now expanding it to include another 1200 sq meters of living and office space. In addition, 10 kilometres of connecting roads to the main highway and railway, as well as internal roads, are under construction.
Foundations for main plant and support facilities have been laid with construction scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2011. A second electrical line of 10 KvA to support construction operations was brought to the site in June 2010 and the main 110 KvA line (with a budget of $4.8 million) is currently under construction with expected commissioning in April 2011. Also, two 500,000 ton pads for ore placement and leaching are prepared and are waiting to be lined in March. At this point, approximately 90 per cent of all plant equipment has been identified, tendered and contracted and most of the down payments had been made. Some of the equipment, such as the main crushers, were located in Kazakhstan and are in the process of being shipped to site. It is not expected that winter will be a significant factor in slowing construction as most of the work vulnerable to severe weather was carried out prior to initial snow falls.
In terms of funding, the Company was able to secure the first $4 million of its expected $15 million HSBC loan facility during the period. The remaining funds are tied to the completion of the JORC statement, further environmental studies and HSBC's London office approval. The Company continues to work with HSBC and expects the entire funding to become available in due course. Frontier also completed a modest $6 million equity raise in December to ensure that it is able to efficiently maintain its development schedule. The Company is currently in discussions with several parties on copper/gold off-take agreements, with additional funding, which will further enhance the Company's cash position.
Frontier remains on schedule to commission Benkala with first production anticipated for September 2011. The production target for Benkala in 2011 has been set at 3,000 tons of LME grade copper with increasing targets of 7,000 tons in 2012, and 20,000 tons in 2013.
Erlan Sagadiev, CEO of Frontier, commented: "2010 has seen Frontier build on the excellent base we created in 2009. With the corporate structure realignment and excellent progress achieved by the team at Benkala, 2010 has seen a major change in the company's profile. I'm confident that in 2011 we will bring Benkala into production and complete the shift from a development company into a copper and gold producing company."
For further details please contact:
Frontier Mining Ltd
+44 (0) 20 7898 9019
+44 (0) 20 7569 9650
+44 (0) 20 7933 8783
+44 (0) 20 7933 8794
Notes to Editors
About Frontier Mining Ltd
Frontier Mining Ltd. is a mineral exploration and development Company that is incorporated in the Cayman Islands for the purpose of exploring and developing gold and copper deposits in the Republic of Kazakhstan. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, Frontier locates, evaluates, acquires, explores and develops mineral properties.
Frontier currently owns two licenses in Kazakhstan. They are the Naimanjal exploration and mining licence, held by FML Kazakhstan, and, 50% of U.S. Megatech BVI which holds the Benkala licence. FML Kazakhstan is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Frontier Mining Ltd. Frontier has one producing gold mine, Naimanjal; one pre-feasibility stage gold project, Koskuduk; and the recently acquired 50% interest in the Benkala copper mine.
Frontier also has a potential copper porphyry deposit with associated gold and molybdenum, Baitimir; and several copper/gold prospects along a 25-km trend including both VMS and porphyry types. Metallurgical tests on its Beschoku and Yubileiny copper projects confirm the oxide copper ore is amenable to extraction using low cost SX-EW technology.
A Competent Persons Report ("CPR") valuation report on the oxide section of the Benkala project completed by Wardell Armstrong International ("WAI") in June 2010 has resulted in an NPV of $190 million based on 0.5% diluted copper grade, 63% recovery and 185 000 ton of contained metal and 6,000 USD per tonne copper price. The oxide copper project represents development of approximately 10% of the total resource at Benkala and Frontier will use the production platform of the SX-EW project to finance further evaluation and technical studies required to advance development of the significant Benkala sulphide resource.
Frontier maintains an administrative office in Almaty, the former capital city of Kazakhstan and the main business centre in the southeast. The Company also maintains an office in Semipalatinsk, close to the Naimanjal operations, which is the base for all exploration and development personnel with additional administrative support for exploration. Semipalatinsk is 830 kilometres north of Almaty, connected by regular commercial airline services.
Issued Share Capital
Frontier Mining's shares are traded on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange.
Frontier has 1,860,913,973 ordinary shares issued.
For further information please visit: www.frontiermining.com.
This information is provided by RNS