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True Gold's Karma Project deposits: View from Goulagou Hill – Looking East. Note the vehicles on the left for scale. From True Gold Corporate Presentation (2013).

True Gold Gets Good Karma from Feasibility Study

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VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA–(Marketwired – Dec. 17, 2013) – True Gold Mining Inc. (TSX VENTURE:TGM) (“True Gold” or the “Company“) is pleased to announce results from an independent Feasibility Study for the Karma Gold Project (“Karma Project“) in Burkina Faso, West Africa. The study supports a technically simple open-pit heap leach project that offers low capital and operating costs, rapid payback and strong financial performance at US$1,250/oz gold.

Please note that this release is quite long so we’ve put some of the relevant info in toggle boxes.

We’ve discussed True Gold’s Karma Project in early November when they announced that they had significantly expanded their Karma Gold Project in Burkina Faso. More recently the company announced that it was exercising an early option to acquire the remaining 10% interest in 2 of the 6 permits that make up the project. This feasibility study establishes 33.2 Mt of probable reserves for the company, including 22.4 Mt of oxide hosted gold. A location map for the project has been included below.

True Gold's projects in Burkina Faso

True Gold’s projects in Burkina Faso

“The Karma Project is an ideal foundation upon which to build a mining company. It is straightforward, financeable, resilient, and has tremendous room to grow. We are delighted to have achieved this important milestone, and feel strongly that our development approach is ideally suited to the attributes of our project,” said Mark O’Dea, Executive Chairman, True Gold. “I am very proud of our team for designing a mine plan that honours the characteristics of our deposits. It maximizes profitability, minimizes technical risk and manages both capital and operating costs.”

BASE CASE OPERATING HIGHLIGHTS AND PROJECT PERFORMANCE:

Gold price: Base case economic evaluation: US$1,250/oz Au
Probable Mineral Reserves: 33.2 Mt @ 0.89 g/t containing 949,000 oz Au
Production: 97,000 oz Au/year (average) over an 8.5-year mine life
Initial CAPEX: US$131.5 million (includes working capital and contingency)
NPV @ 5% (after tax): US$178.2 million
IRR (after tax): 43.1%
Payback (after tax): 1.4 years
Resilience: 21.3% IRR at US$1,000/oz Au

(The economic highlights throughout this release represent True Gold’s effective 90% interest in the Karma Project, after allowing for Burkina Faso’s 10% carried interest and all government and contractual royalties. Karma’s 100% after-tax project value at a US$1,250/oz gold price is US$200.7 million NPV (5%) and an IRR of 46.0%. All results are reflected on an owner-operator basis.)

“The Karma Project stands out in the world of heap-leach gold development projects. With strong gold grades, excellent infrastructure, low power and water requirements, strong recoveries from simple metallurgy and soft, free digging material, our operating and capital requirements are modest and our margins are high,” said Dwayne Melrose, President and CEO, True Gold. “In addition, by design, the Karma Project has been engineered to provide flexibility to scale up and take advantage of the potential to deliver additional ounces as demonstrated by our exploration team’s efforts this year. The building blocks for a growth oriented gold producer are in place today, with a proven management team to lead us forward.”

This probable reserves identified in this study include 22+ Mt of oxide-hosted gold. Oxides minerals include iron oxides like hematite (Fe2O3) and are often the result of the weathering of sulfide minerals like pyrite (FeS2). The weathering of these sulfides effectively liberates the small gold particles trapped within them, making them more available during extraction. Essentially this means that the gold can be extracted using a low-cost heap-leach process.

Keep in mind that feasibility studies usually do not include an entire deposit, but a smaller subset for which there is more complete information and known potential.

The Feasibility Study supports a heap leach mine scenario from currently defined open pit deposits containing 949,000 ounces of probable mineral reserves. The heap leach pad is designed to process oxide and transition ore from the five shallow pits, with a small amount of leachable sulphide ore extracted from two pits. The two pits with the highest-grade mineral reserves would be mined first, providing True Gold with the potential for rapid payback and strong cash flow from the outset of commercial production.

The proposed Karma Project implementation schedule is over a period of 18 months with pre-stripping beginning 12 months prior to the first gold pour, which is anticipated at the end of 2015. The project requires initial capital of US$131.5 M (including onsite working capital and contingency) to support the construction of a mine and associated facilities with a process capacity of 4.0 Mtpa. The mine would produce an average of 97,000 ounces of gold per year over 8.5 years, with direct cash operating costs of approximately US$591 per ounce.

It is anticipated that the Karma Project would employ approximately 500 people during construction, and create approximately 300 permanent local jobs during operations along with significant economic benefits in an area of Burkina Faso that has seen little foreign investment.

View the Summary Financials Here

View the Summary Financials Here

SENET Pty Ltd. (“SENET“) led the Karma Project Feasibility Study, which included input from leading consultants such as P&E Mining Consultants Inc., SRK Consulting, Knight-Piesold (Pty) Ltd., Roche Ltd. Consulting Group, McClelland Laboratories, Inc., and MacCormick International Mining Consultancy.

Base Case Operating Highlights and Project Performance
(US$1,250 per ounce gold)
Financial Analysis
Pre-tax
IRR 47.8%
NPV @5% US$226.3M
After-tax
IRR 43.1%
[email protected]% US$178.2M
Payback 1.4 years
Capital Costs US$M
Pre-production (including working capital and US$8.6M contingency) 131.5
Sustaining 40.0
Total (LOM) 171.5
Operating Costs (Average LOM) US$
Mining ($/t mined) $1.77
Processing ($/t processed) $7.51
General and admin ($/t processed) $1.66
Unit Costs (Average LOM) US$
Direct Cash Operating Costs1 ($/oz) $591
Total Cash Costs2 ($/oz) $672
All-in Sustaining Cash Costs3 ($/oz) $720
1 Includes all mining costs, processing costs, on-site G&A
2 Includes all direct cash operating costs plus refining cost and royalties
3 Includes all total cash costs plus sustaining Capex
Production
Operating Plan
Pre-strip period (yrs) 1.0
Operating life (yrs) 8.5
Mining (days/yr) 350
Process (days/yr) 365
Mining
Average mining rate (tpd) 36,000
Average annual mine production (Mt) 12.7
Total material mined (LOM Mt) 113.8
Overall average Strip ratio (W:O) 2.43:1
Process
Process rate (Mtpa) 4.0
Average annual gold production (oz) 97,000
Total gold production (koz) 828
Metallurgical recovery (Av LOM) 87.2
ECONOMIC SENSITIVITIES
Gold price sensitivity (after-tax US$M)
US$/oz 1,000 1,150 1,200 1,2501 1,300 1,350 1,500
NPV 66.0 128.9 153.5 178.2 195.7 219.7 281.1
IRR (%) 21.3 34.0 38.6 43.1 46.2 50.4 59.8
Payback (years) 2.7 1.8 1.6 1.4 1.3 1.1 0.9
1 Base case
NPV after-tax (US$M)
% -20 -10 01 10 20
Capex (US$) 197.9 192.3 178.2 163.9 149.7
Opex (US$) 235.8 207.0 178.2 148.6 118.3
1 Base case
IRR after-tax (%)
% -20 -10 01 10 20
Capex 56.4 50.2 43.1 37.2 32.2
Opex 51.5 47.4 43.1 38.5 33.4
1 Base case

Study results show that the Karma Project has the potential to remain strongly profitable at lower gold prices as well as at increased prices for key consumables. For example, an increase of 10% in the price of fuel would reduce project NPV by only 7%. Similar increases in the price or consumption of cement or cyanide would result in decreases in project NPV of only 4% or 2% respectively.

MINING

Approximately 113.8 Mt of material would be mined from five open pits over the course of the estimated project life. This will deliver approximately 33.2 Mt of ore to the process facility and 80.6 Mt of waste to storage facilities located near each pit. The overall strip ratio for the project is 2.43:1 with mining being conducted 350 days/yr by an owner-operated fleet at total material movement rates ranging from 35,000 to 45,000 tpd.

The mining operation is planned to employ conventional truck and shovel methods. Two 200t hydraulic excavators configured in backhoe mode will load a fleet of ten 90t trucks for the transport of ore and waste to the primary crusher and respective near pit waste dumps. Four additional 90t trucks will be employed for overland haulage to deliver ore directly from the pits to the process facilities without the need for ore rehandling.

The soft nature of the open pit ore and waste material will allow the majority to be “free-digging” (excavated without blasting). Twenty-five percent of the transition ore and all of the sulphide ore material will be drilled and blasted at low powder factors. This comprises only about 10% of the total material to be excavated over the mine life.

The highly-weathered oxide ore material is soft and poorly-consolidated meaning that it will be removed by shovel without the need for blasting. This is yet another cost-advantage for the project. Once they strip away all the oxide ore material there will eventually be a need for blasting.

METALLURGY

A comprehensive program of metallurgical testing was executed to support the Feasibility Study. Test work included ore characterization, determination of physical and mechanical properties, bottle roll testing to establish the size-recovery relationship, column leach testing to relate bottle roll results and cyanide solubilities to heap leach performance, and load permeability testing to accurately project cement consumption. A total of 832 metallurgical variability samples and 24 columns were tested as part of the feasibility metallurgical test work program.

The program was undertaken for each material type in each of the five deposits. Overall metallurgical recovery was calculated at 87.2% with recovery by material type for oxide 93.3%, transition 75.7%, and sulphide 83.4%. Average consumption for cement of 14.7 kg/t for all material processed was found to be consistent with a design heap height of 20 m.

Average cyanide consumption for all material types was determined to be 0.58 kg/t. Of particular note are the oxide material’s rapid leach kinetics, which indicates gold extraction being substantially complete in a period of 10 days during lab column leach tests with final heap leach recoveries ranging from 90.4% to 95.5%. Figure 1 illustrates column leach performance for the Kao deposit which is typical of all oxide material at the Karma project. Approximately 94% of the mineral reserves at Karma consist of oxide and transition material and exhibit similar leach kinetics.

We recently discussed the gold extraction processes for oxides and sulfide when talking about the metallurgical results from Kaminak’s Coffee Project in the Yukon, Canada. One of the big difference’s between the two projects is the time required for heap leach extraction. True Gold is reporting substantial recovery after 10 days, while Kaminak’s leaching require 40 days in the colder northern environment.

PROCESS

The Karma Project process design is based on the use of conventional heap leach technology with a production capacity of 4.0 Mtpa. Mined ore will be crushed, agglomerated, and conveyed to the leach pad where it will be stacked in two 10 m lifts and irrigated with dilute cyanide solution. Gold dissolved by the cyanide will then be adsorbed onto activated carbon in a carbon-in-column (CIC) circuit. The loaded carbon is then stripped of the gold using Zadra-type elution and the resulting product will be subjected to electrowinning and smelting to produce dore on site.

CAPITAL COSTS

The total pre-production capital cost (capex) is estimated at US$131.5 million, inclusive of onsite working capital and an US$8.6 million contingency. The total life of mine capex is US$171.4 million. Initial capital costs include the design and development of plant and mine infrastructure, such as mobile mining equipment, haul roads, transport, leach pad, ADR plant, ponds, and power plant.

Based on the Feasibility Study results, True Gold is confident of the Karma Project’s long-term success and plans to invest in an owner-operator development model. An owner-operator scenario that includes purchased equipment imposes slightly higher up-front capital expenditures compared to contract mining but offers lower long-term operating costs, greater operational flexibility and healthier LOM cash flow.

Capital costs

Pre-strip $M 12.2
Mining $M 25.0
Processing plant $M 29.7
Leach pad $M 6.4
Infrastructure $M 19.8
Direct costs $M 93.1
Owner’s costs $M 20.6
EPCM $M 9.2
Indirect costs $M 29.8
Contingencies $M 8.6
Total capital costs $M 131.5

 

Capital costs for this project are extremely low at $131.5 million which means that a much smaller reserve and  lower grade would be required to prove up an economically feasible deposit. Even so, at reported grades True Gold is reporting a payback period of 1.4-2.7 years depending on gold prices. By way of comparison consider the recently discussed Strange Lake REE deposit in northern Quebec:  The pre-feasibility study for Quest’s open pit REE mine estimates capital costs at more than $2.5 billion!

OPERATING COSTS

Unit and total operating costs were estimated for the Karma Project over the life of the project. Operating costs were developed from first principles for mining, processing, and administration using operating plans as the bases and considering labour, materials, consumables, and certain contract services.

Primary operating cost drivers are diesel fuel ($1.37/L), cement ($240/t), and sodium cyanide ($3300/t). Labour costs were modeled on existing operations in Burkina Faso employing industry standard work schedules while taking into account local labour legislation. Power costs are all based on diesel-generation despite the potential to have grid power in two to three years.

Camp costs are reduced for the Karma Project relative to other projects because most administrative facilities will be in the city of Ouahigouya, which is 23 kilometres from the project, and employees will travel to and from home every day rather than living in a remote camp on site.

Area Unit Cost Units LOM ($ M)
Mining 1.77 $/t mined 185.5
Process 7.51 $/t processed 248.6
Administration 1.66 $/t processed 55.0

 

A remote work camp will not be required for the mine. Another plus. Also note that power generation costs may be reduced substantially if the mine site is added to the power grid. This may not be necessary in the early-stages of mine life, but if the company eventually begins more aggressive processing of the sulfide ore they will need to be on the power grid.

MINERAL RESOURCES

As part of the Feasibility Study the previous mineral resource estimates on the Karma Project, detailed in the independent Technical Report titled, “Technical Report and Updated Resource Estimate on the Karma Project, Burkina Faso, West Africa”, dated effective October 1, 2012 and filed on SEDAR November 7, 2012, was updated to reflect new engineering data and an updated geological model. The new resource model contains 2.621 million ounces of Indicated mineral resources and 700,000 ounces of Inferred mineral resources within optimized pit shells.

Category Indicated Inferred
Mt Au g/t Au koz Mt Au g/t Au koz
In-Pit (shell-constrained) 75.2 1.08 2,621 17.5 1.25 700
Global Mineral Inventory Sensitivity 82.6 1.04 2,776 28.5 1.05 956
(1) Mineral Resource estimates were based on a gold price of US$1,557 per ounce, a 90%, 80% and 85% respective process recoveries for oxide, transition and sulphide; oxide mining costs of US$1.61/tonne, $US1.94 per tonne for transition and US$2.05 for sulphide ; process costs of US$7.25/tonne for oxide and transition and US$19 per tonne for sulphide; and General & Administrative costs of US$1.35 per tonne were used to determine the respective 0.20, 0.22 and 0.50 oxide, transition and sulphide open pit cut-off grades.
(2) Au grades were estimated in a 5m x 5m x 5m block model (except Rambo at 2.5m x 2.5m x 2.5m blocks) from capped 2.0m composites utilizing inverse distance cubed interpolation. Composites were capped up to 45 g/t depending on the individual mineralized domain.
(3) Mineral resources which are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability. The estimate of mineral resources may be materially affected by environmental, permitting, legal, title, taxation, sociopolitical, marketing, or other relevant issues.
(4) The quantity and grade of reported Inferred mineral resources in this estimation are uncertain in nature and there has been insufficient exploration to define these Inferred mineral resources as an Indicated or Measured mineral resource and it is uncertain if further exploration will result in upgrading them to an Indicated or Measured mineral resource category.
(5) The mineral resources in this press release were estimated using the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM), CIM Standards on Mineral Resources and Reserves, Definitions and Guidelines prepared by the CIM Standing Committee on Reserve Definitions and adopted by CIM Council.
(6) Material within optimized pit shells have engineering mining aspects applied to the global mineral inventory.

 

The company is using engineering and geological model data gained through this feasibility study to update their previously reported mineral resources.

MINERAL RESERVES

Project mineral reserves were derived exclusively from the leachable portion (above the cut-offs listed in the second table below) of the Indicated mineral resource as this represents the lowest cost mineralized material in the Karma Project deposits and has the highest value available for extraction. Mineral reserves were developed using a Lerchs-Grossman pit optimization process; appropriate operating costs, recoveries, and pit slopes; and a gold price of US$1300/oz. Reserves were defined by minable pit designs and incorporate mining losses and dilution.

True Gold has restricted this feasibility study to the resource with the highest potential to be economic, the “low hanging fruit”. Feasibility studies are typically constrained to a portion of a deposit where the most data is available and the economics appear to be favourable. As we’ve discussed before, the difference between a reserve and a resource is a feasibility study that can demonstrate the potential for economic extraction. Once that potential is demonstrated the probable reserve will become a proven reserve.

The Probable mineral reserves were based exclusively on Indicated mineral resources. Inferred mineral resources falling within the pits were treated as waste regardless of its grade. A US$1300/oz gold price was selected because it represented a forward-looking, long-term projection of metal price shared by many financial institutions while providing a resource that performed well even if prices remained low.

Probable Mineral Reserves
Deposit Oxide Transition Sulphide Total
Mt Au
g/t
Au
koz
Mt Au
g/t
Au
koz
Mt Au
g/t
Au
koz
Mt Au
g/t
Au
koz
GG1 6.5 0.59 123 4.3 0.64 86 10.8 0.61 209
GG2 6.1 1.03 200 1.5 1.47 72 7.6 1.12 272
Kao 9.0 0.89 260 1.9 1.32 80 10.9 0.96 340
Rambo 0.3 1.85 16 0.3 1.97 22 0.3 2.10 20 0.9 1.98 58
Nami 0.5 0.87 16 1.0 0.62 21 1.5 0.70 33 3.0 0.71 70
Total 22.4 0.85 615 9.0 0.97 280 1.8 0.95 53 33.2 0.89 949

The Probable mineral reserves are 67% oxide, 27% transition, and 6% sulphide on the basis of ore tonnage. Cut-off grades varied by pit and material type. The following table identifies the various cutoff grades used to define the Karma Project Probable mineral reserve.

Karma Project Cut-off Grades by Deposit and Material Type
GG1 GG2 Kao Rambo Nami
Oxide Au g/t 0.19 0.23 0.32 0.20 0.20
Transition Au g/t 0.21 0.26 0.36 0.21 0.21
Sulphide Au g/t 0.22 0.23

ENVIRONMENT

The Karma Project mining operation plans to conduct progressive reclamation. A bond will be posted with the Burkina Faso government before the development of each pit. When the waste dump from each pit is fully re-sloped and re-vegetated the bond could be recovered. In this way, the bulk of reclamation will be completed by the time operations conclude.

At closure the heap leach pad will be rinsed, re-sloped, and vegetated; all mobile equipment and facilities removed; and fixed infrastructure such as the barrage, pipeline, water ponds with pumps, and haul roads turned over to the local community. A comprehensive monitoring program including surface water quality, noise, as well as climate and air quality is in place and will remain operational throughout the mine life.

Due to the high proportion of oxide and transition ore in the project mineral reserves, there is little potential for acid rock drainage (ARD).

The project has been designed to meet International Cyanide Management Code (ICMC) standards. The leach pad was sited to take advantage of highly impermeable, naturally-occurring laterite which would limit the effects of a leak if the multiple-layer, liner design were damaged during operation.

SOCIAL MANAGEMENT

The project area hosts a number of scattered villages and two well-established towns are situated at the east end of the project area. The primary occupation in the project area is subsistence farming. Water is an important commodity to the region and True Gold has already constructed phase 1 of the water barrage, which will be accessible by the communities for agricultural use.

The project has been designed to minimize impact on the local population with a 250 m buffer zone established between project infrastructure and nearby communities. The proposed project development plan entails two separate relocations: 1) 35 people at Tang-Zugu in the leach pad area will need to be relocated prior to the start of construction and 2) 400 people in the village of Boulonga will need to be relocated in the second year of operations to permit the development of the Kao Pit.

In addition to the resettlement of these communities, compensation is to be paid for disturbance of 520 ha of farm land in the areas of the barrage, GG2, and Kao. Agreements are in place with the community to govern both resettlement and land compensation.

Artisanal miners are widespread throughout Burkina Faso. Artisanal miners working on the Karma Project sites have, however, been moved away without conflict through dialogue and consultation. One of the project objectives is to provide local residents an alternative to artisanal mining, which often employs practices that are typically unsafe and possibly harmful to the environment.

Thankfully for all involved, environmental reclamation and social responsibility have become a standard part of mine planning. Interestingly, “artisinal” mines are often the most environmentally damaging since they are usually unregulated. While the world’s large gold miners have universally adopted the safer cyanide extraction process for gold ore, many artisinal miners still use the highly toxic and environmentally damaging Mercury Amalgam process.

DEVELOPMENT SCHEDULE

The proposed project development allows for 18 months for the project execution, which includes mining pre-strip, procurement, transportation, construction and commissioning. Assuming the project execution starts in July of 2014, the first gold production would be expected in December of 2015.
Key project execution schedule milestones include the following:

Start bulk earthworks month 2
Start mine pre-strip month 7
Complete process water storage ponds month 12
Start ore production month 13
Start Phase 1 leach pad loading month 17
Complete process plant construction month 17
Complete process plant commissioning month 18
First gold production month 18

PERMITTING

The five Karma deposits are to be held within three exploitation (mining) permits: Karma, containing GG1, GG2, and Rambo; Kao, containing the Kao deposit; and Nami, containing the Nami deposit.

An environmental permit was received for Karma in September 2013. This included approval of the project ESIA (Environmental and Social Impact Assessment) and Relocation Action Plan (RAP). A similar permit is pending for Kao. Meanwhile, the recently completed Nami ESIA is expected to be submitted for review in January 2014.

The application for exploitation (mining) permits for Karma and Kao are well advanced. Permits for development of all deposits in the Karma Project are expected to be in hand by the end of Q1 2014. True Gold is already in possession of all permissions required to construct the barrage and water holding ponds.

Once exploitation permits are secured, the terms governing the project over the life of the mine will be set out in a Mining Convention to be signed with the government of Burkina Faso.

OPPORTUNITIES AND NEXT STEPS

The Feasibility Study confirms that the Karma Project is scalable. While the Feasibility Study is based on slightly less than one million ounces of reserves, True Gold’s 2013 exploration success in discoveries demonstrated the potential to add open-pit leachable material at the Karma Project for potential mine life extensions or potential incremental throughput. The Feasibility Study does not take into account Karma Project drilling and exploration in 2013 (Kao North, Rambo West and Watinoma). At Kao North, recent drilling extended gold mineralization 2,000 metres from the existing Kao deposit and more than doubled the potential resource footprint at Kao, the Karma Project’s largest deposit.

An independent NI 43-101 Technical Report for the Feasibility Study Report will be filed on SEDAR within 45 days of the date of this news release.

Again, feasibility studies are typically constrained to a portion of a deposit where the most data is available, but True Gold has good potential for significant expansion of the project resource.

About True Gold

True Gold Mining Inc. is where gold comes to life. We are committed to growing a successful gold exploration, development and production company, by focusing on projects with low costs, low technical risks and solid economics. The Company’s board, management and technical teams have proven track records in gold exploration, development, operations and production worldwide.

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