PEA deomonstrates robust economics for NovaGold's Arctic deposit
May 3, 2011
NovaGold Resources Inc. April 14 announced the results of a preliminary economic assessment for its Ambler volcanogenic massive sulfide project in Northwest Alaska.
NovaGold’s Ambler property comprises 36,670 hectares, or 90,624 acres, of State of Alaska mining claims and Federal patented and unpatented mining claims and hosts a number of deposits, including the high-grade copper-zinc-lead-gold-silver Arctic deposit. Arctic is the focus of the PEA prepared by SRK Consulting (U.S.), Inc.
Highlights from the PEA:
• Indicated mineral resources of 16.8 million metric tons averaging 4.1 percent copper, 6 percent zinc.
• Inferred mineral resources of 12.1million metric tons averaging 3.5 percent copper and 4.9 percent zinc.
• Base case – using long-term metal prices of US$2.50 per pound copper, US$1.05/lb zinc, US$1.00/lb lead, US$1,100 per ounce gold and US$20/oz silver – produces a pre-tax net present value (at an eight percent discount) of US$718 million with an internal rate of return of 30 percent; and a post-tax NPV (eight percent) of US$505 million with an IRR of 25 percent.
• At current metal prices – US$4.31/lb copper, US$1.20/lb zinc, US$1.20/lb lead, US$1,425/oz gold and US$36/oz silver – the project produces a pre-tax NPV (eight percent) of US$2.2 billion with an IRR of 59 percent; and a post-tax NPV (eight percent) of US$1.6 billion with an IRR of 50 percent.
• Underground mining operation with 25-year mine life processing up to 4,000 metric tons per day using a conventional flotation circuit producing three concentrates.
• Average annual payable metal production estimated at 67 million pounds of copper, 80 million pounds of zinc, 12 million pounds of lead, 11,000 ounces of gold and 866,000 ounces of silver
• Life-of-mine payable metal production estimated at 1.7 billion pounds of copper, 2 billion pounds of zinc, 291 million pounds of lead, 266,000 ounces of gold and 22 million ounces of silver.
• Initial startup capital of US$262 million and sustaining capital of US$134 million.
• Operating cost US$99.32/t milled; cash cost US97 cents/lb copper net of byproducts at long-term metal prices. Operating costs include mining and processing costs estimated at $48.6/t milled and $29.7/t milled, respectively.
• Project cash costs – defined as the sum of total operating, freight and marketing, and royalty costs – are estimated at US$132/t milled.
“This preliminary economic assessment demonstrates the robust economics of developing one of the highest-grade VMS deposits in the world,” said NovaGold President and CEO Rick Van Nieuwenhuyse. “This economic study provides the market with additional clarity on Ambler's potential, and we are reviewing options to best realize value from the Ambler project. As we advance the Arctic deposit, we will continue collaborating with our Alaskan Native partner and neighboring landholder, NANA Regional Corporation, to explore and develop the Ambler region.”
Planned field work at the Ambler project during 2011 includes 10,000 meters of exploration and geotechnical drilling. Exploration drilling will focus on in-fill drilling to convert inferred resources to a higher classification and to expand the overall resource base. Geotechnical drilling will provide structural information for a greater understanding of the deposit as well as subsurface hydrologic information. In addition, the 2011 work program will focus on advancing the environmental and engineering studies required to initiate a pre-feasibility study for the project, with geotechnical, metallurgical and hydrological studies as well as environmental baseline data collection.
“Ambler offers an exciting exploration opportunity in a strong base metals market,” said NovaGold Vice President of Exploration Joe Piekenbrock. "”This year we’ll focus on converting inferred resources to measured and indicated classification and increasing the overall resource base, as well as identifying new targets for continued exploration. The Ambler property is a large district with numerous high-grade VMS deposits, and we expect to continue our track record of adding significant value with exploration success.”
Infrastructure required for the project includes building and upgrading an access road connecting the mine site to the village of Kobuk, camp accommodations, administration and maintenance facilities, the mine and plant site area, the tailings facility and diesel power generation. Due to the remote location of the project, primary access is currently by air using both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.
SRK examined various alternatives for improved access to the project area and transport of materials. Of these alternatives, access to the project is proposed to be via a road about 211 miles, or 340 kilometers, long extending west from the Dalton Highway along generally level terrain to the village of Kobuk, where it would connect with existing roads to the proposed project area. NovaGold said it has had constructive discussions with the State of Alaska regarding the concept of a public/private partnership for construction and operation of the road. For this study, SRK has assumed that the road would be designed and constructed by the State of Alaska. NovaGold would then reimburse the state on an agreed-upon basis over the operating life of the mine. A similar arrangement exists between the state and the Red Dog mine in Northwest Alaska for its road and port facility.
Two existing airports at Dahl Creek and Kobuk are suitable to support the fly in/fly out mine camp. Materials and concentrate would travel by truck along the proposed road. Concentrate would be off-loaded onto rail in Fairbanks for transport to the nearest shipping port and subsequently to the contracted smelter. The project is expected to require 10.2 megawatts of power, with on-site diesel generators providing electricity.
Development of the project will include environmental baseline analyses, impact assessment and evaluation, and associated permitting requirements. The project will require significant infrastructure development including the mine, mill, tailings impoundment and ancillary facilities, including an on-site personnel camp. The project will require multiple permits and authorizations from regulatory agencies and other entities at the Federal, State and local levels. As a result of the remoteness of the project and the lack of existing infrastructure, it is likely that a significant permitting effort will also be a part of the development of support infrastructure. Due to the preliminary nature of the PEA, it is difficult to assess what specific permitting requirements will ultimately apply.
While data collection to date has largely been focused on geologic and geochemical studies, in 2010 NovaGold initiated the environmental baseline studies that will form the basis of the permitting process and will expand its data collection efforts during 2011.
NovaGold has worked closely with NANA, its Alaskan Native partner at the Ambler project, since initiating work at the project in 2004. NovaGold continues to work with NANA to establish an agreement for collaborative development of the Ambler district. NANA has a long-term plan to support development of its lands that will bring lasting economic opportunities and a more sustainable future to its people. The NANA region is located in a geologic setting that hosts some of the world's largest base metal deposits and there is a long history of mineral development on NANA lands, including NANA's partnership with Teck Resources Ltd. at Red Dog.
NovaGold believes that mining projects can be developed in a manner that brings tangible benefits to all stakeholders. As an Alaskan Native corporation, NANA values subsistence as the best use of its traditional lands, and all development projects must embrace this perspective. NovaGold is committed to respecting and protecting the culture of its community partners and using traditional knowledge to enhance project development. NovaGold is committed to open and transparent communications with the communities in which it works, and frequently holds community meetings to discuss project development plans, answer questions and solicit feedback on the project.
For more information visit the Petroleum News.