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Press release from CNW Group

Stonegate Announces Positive Feasibility Study: Pre-Tax NPV US$477million and 45.9% IRR

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stonegate Announces Positive Feasibility Study: Pre-Tax NPV US$477million and 45.9% IRR06:23 EST Monday, December 10, 2012TSX: ST and ST.WTTORONTO, Dec. 10, 2012 /CNW/ - Stonegate Agricom Ltd. ("Company") (TSX: ST, ST.WT) today announced the results of its Feasibility Study for the development of an underground mine in the Lower Phosphate Zone of its 100% owned Paris Hills Phosphate Project in Idaho, U.S.A. The Feasibility Study was compiled by Agapito Associates Inc. of Grand Junction, Colorado, with design, planning, and cost estimating directed by the Company's wholly-owned subsidiary Paris Hills Agricom, Inc., and technical contributions from Agapito Associates Inc. mining consultants, Sunrise Engineering Inc. civil consultants, Whetstone Associates hydrologic consultants, and Brown & Caldwell environmental and permitting consultants. All amounts are estimates and in U.S. dollars.Feasibility Study Highlights: Life of mine production and Mineral Reserves of 16.7 million tonnes of direct-ship, concentrate-quality phosphate rock (no beneficiation required) with an average life-of-mine grade of 29.5% P2O5Average annual rate of production of 904,000 tonnes of saleable concentrateMine life of 19 yearsInitial project capital of $121.0 million (to commercial production)Cash operating cost of $69.49 per tonne of saleable concentrate (FOB mine site)Assumed average product price of $165 per tonne (FOB mine site)Pre-tax Net Present Value (NPV) of $477.5 millionPre-tax Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 45.9 %Overview"The completion of the Paris Hills Feasibility Study puts Stonegate firmly on the path to becoming an internationally competitive producer of phosphate rock concentrate. The results demonstrate that an underground mine in the Lower Phosphate Zone would have competitive capital and operating costs and would be very profitable as a supplier to North American and/or Asian phosphate rock consumers," said Mark Ashcroft, President and Chief Executive Officer."It has taken Stonegate a relatively short time period of 27 months, from commencement of exploration drilling to the completion of the Feasibility Study, to demonstrate that Paris Hills is the most advanced phosphate rock project in North America and one of the few advanced projects in the world. North America, in particular, has a demonstrated need for new phosphate mines because it is currently a net importer and production and grades have been declining."We have already commenced the permitting work at Paris Hills and expect to receive the required permits and begin mine production in Q4 2014," Mr. Ashcroft stated.The Feasibility Study builds on the Pre-Feasibility Study announced March 26, 2012 and confirms the technical and economic viability of mining the Lower Phosphate Zone at Paris Hills. The Feasibility Study incorporates additional drilling results obtained after the publication of the Pre-Feasibility Study, resulting in a 67% increase in Mineral Reserves and extending the mine life from 14 to 19 years.The Lower Phosphate Zone's high grade is an important advantage for the project because the mined material will be concentrate-quality and can be shipped directly without incurring the capital or operating costs associated with a processing (beneficiation) plant that is typically required at other phosphate mines.The Feasibility Study focused only on the horizontal limb of the Lower Phosphate Zone at Paris Hills and the results do not include the potential of the Upper Phosphate Zone horizontal limb, for which an estimate of Mineral Resources was published in an August 15, 2012 news release. It also does not include the potential of the Upturned Limb, which is regarded as an Exploration Target. See below for details.Feasibility Study ResultsThe Paris Hills Feasibility Study includes a mine plan for the underground room-and-pillar mining of the horizontal limb of the Lower Phosphate Zone. Production is expected to average more than 900,000 tonnes per year of saleable product over the 19 year mine life.The horizontal limb, which dips approximately 7 to 22 degrees to the north-northwest, can be readily accessed where it outcrops on the hillside at the south end of the property near Bloomington Canyon Road. As a result, most of the initially accessed material will be concentrate-quality phosphate rock available for sale to fertilizer manufacturers. Continuous miners, a type of mining equipment utilizing mechanical extraction of the ore, will be used to mine only the high-grade material with minimal waste rock removed from the mine. Operations will begin with two continuous miners and four others will be brought on line as production increases. Production is expected to be approximately 320,000 tonnes of saleable product in the first year and ramp up quickly to commercial production levels of 740,000 tonnes in the second year and 885,000 in the third year.The required permits are expected to be obtained during 2013 and 2014 and initial production is expected to commence in Q4 2014.Base Case Operating Highlights and Project Economics - Lower Phosphate Zone  Financial Analysis   Assumed Average Product Price FOB mine site$165/tonne  Life-of-Mine Revenue$2.76 billion  After-Tax Net Cash Flow$925.9 million  Net Present Value @ 8%, Pre-Tax 1$477 million  Net Present Value @ 8%, After-Tax 1$360 million  Internal Rate of Return (IRR), Pre-Tax 145.9 %  Internal Rate of Return (IRR), After-Tax 140.2 %  Pre-Tax Pay Back Period after commencement of production2.9 years  After-Tax Pay Back Period after commencement of production3.1 years Capital Costs    Initial Project Capital (to commercial production)  $ 121.0 M  Sustaining Capital $ 134.0 M Operating Costs (Average life of mine)  Total Operating Cost/Tonne of saleable concentrate$ 69.49 Production Data   Life-of-Mine Production of saleable concentrate16.7 million tonnes  Mine Production Life19 years  Average Annual Production904,000 tonnes(1)The estimated net present value (NPV) of cash flow and internal rate of return (IRR) assume that an 8% discount rate is applied to cash flows over the project life from Year -2 to Year 21 and discounted back to Year -2.Project InformationThe Paris Hills Phosphate Project is wholly owned and being developed by Idaho-based Paris Hills Agricom Inc., a subsidiary of Stonegate Agricom. The property encompasses an area of approximately 1,010.5 hectares located in Bear Lake County, Idaho, 3.2 kilometres west of the towns of Paris and Bloomington and near electrical power lines and a major highway, and 19 kilometres from rail transportation. The property's sedimentary phosphate deposit is one of the highest-grade deposits in the world and is the highest-grade deposit in the Americas among those phosphate properties that are currently being mined, explored or developed.Stonegate acquired the property in September 2009 and began definition drilling at the property in September 2010, which was completed in July 2012. The Company is currently proceeding with project permitting activities including hydrology studies and other preparatory work.Capital Expenditures and Project Financing The Feasibility Study estimates that for the period from now until the commencement of commercial production, initial project capital expenditure will be $121.0 million, including $4.6 million for cost contingency and $5.2 million for working capital. Subsequent sustaining capital expenditures are estimated to be $134.0 million.Of total capital costs, approximately 60% are related to underground equipment and facilities and the remaining 40% for surface equipment and facilities. The following table provides details of these costs.Capital Cost Summary ($ millions)  Initial Project CapitalYearTotal Initial ProjectCapitalSustainingCapitalProject LifeCategory-2-112   Underground Equipment and Facilities        Production equipment $28.721$15.981$3.013$47.715$32.402$80.117 Outby mobile equipment $3.244$2.457$1.067$6.768$5.570$12.338 Other underground equipment and facilities $0.584$0.490$0.487$1.561$3.693$5.254 Ore handling equipment $3.587$0.050 $3.637 $3.637 Underground electrical, communications, and monitoring $0.006$0.020$0.080$0.106$0.214$0.320Ventilation $0.045  $0.045 $0.045Total underground equipment and facilities $36.187$18.998$4.647$59.832$41.879$101.711Surface Facilities        Mine portals $0.450$1.504$0.872$2.826$0.001$2.827 Surface electrical distribution system$0.074$0.392$4.175$0.439$5.080$0.260$5.340 Other surface facilities $0.672$0.271$0.326$1.269 $1.269 Dewatering injection wells and mine drainage water treatment $0.845$5.566$3.860$10.271$34.830$45.101 Surface mobile equipment—mine $1.795$1.809$1.145$4.749$2.585$7.334 Surface infrastructure$0.701$12.279$3.303$6.626$22.909 $22.908Total Surface Facilities$0.775$16.433$16.628$13.268$47.104$37.676$84.780Capitalized major maintenance / rebuilds     $48.064$48.064Initial warehouse inventory / working capital$0.450$1.336$1.554$1.841$5.181-$5.181 Final reclamation     $2.814$2.814Underground and Surface Capital$1.225$53.956$37.180$19.755$112.117$125.252$237.369Engineering design, procurement and construction management$2.551$0.829$0.575$0.384$4.339$0.279$4.618Cost contingency$0.186$1.656$1.640$1.106$4.588$8.490$13.078Total Underground and Surface Capital$3.962$56.441$39.395$21.245$121.044$134.021$255.065Operating Cost EstimateOperating costs for production at the mine are estimated at $69.49 per tonne of saleable concentrate. The following table provides details of these costs.ItemAverage Costs per TonneLabour$ 32.37Operating Supplies    Ground Control$ 5.40   Other Operating Supplies$ 2.44Underground Repair and Maintenance    Section Cables$ 1.20   Other Maintenance and Repair$ 2.99Surface Mobile Equipment$ 0.81Power and Fuel    Electric Power$ 9.00   Diesel Fuel/Oil/Lube Underground$ 0.66   Propane$ 2.61Receding Face$ 2.73Mine Drainage, Water Well Repair & Maintenance$ 0.31Administrative$ 2.67User/Disposal fee$ 0.05Contract Crushing$ 5.13Surface Structures$ 0.54Underground Rock Work$ 0.57Total Operating Cost (without rail option)$ 69.49Assumed Product PriceTypical commercial grades of phosphate rock concentrate range from about 27.5% to 36.6% P2O5. The grade of phosphate material found in most mines in the world is below the commercial grade range for concentrate and, therefore, requires processing or beneficiation before it can be used or sold. The Feasibility Study estimates that Paris Hills Lower Phosphate Zone will produce, without beneficiation, an average grade of 29.5% P2O5 over the life of the mine, or well within the commercial grade range. The grade is estimated to be approximately 30% P2O5 or higher in six of the 19 years, including 31.8% in the first year, 30.8% in the second and 30.0% in the third.In addition, the Paris Hills Lower Phosphate Zone will meet other industry specifications for phosphate rock concentrate, including Minor Element Ratio (MER) and CaO:P2O5 ratio. The Feasibility Study estimates MER to be 0.06 (less than 0.10 is desirable for phosphate rock concentrate) and the CaO:P2O5 ratio to be 1.54 (less than 1.6 is desirable for phosphate rock concentrate).Since the grade and other key characteristics of the in-situ Lower Phosphate Zone material at Paris Hills will be suitable for ammonium phosphate fertilizer production, beneficiation of the ore will not be required and it will be marketed as crushed phosphate rock concentrate.According to the Feasibility Study, an appropriate sales price for Paris Hills phosphate rock concentrate would be $165/tonne FOB mine site.Transportation costs to potential customers, which would be in addition to the sales price, are estimated approximately as follows:  by truck, in Idaho $11/tonne; by truck to Montpelier, Idaho and then by rail to U.S. West Coast ports in Washington or Oregon $21/tonne, Edmonton, Alberta $31/tonne, Louisiana $47/tonne, and Florida $57/tonne.Concentrate Price Sensitivity Table Concentrate sales price(Per tonne)Pre-Tax NPV(US$ million)After-Tax NPV(US$ million)            $140$292$240            $150$366$289            $160$440$336            $165  (Base Case)$477$360            $175$552$407            $200$737$524Rail Loadout OptionThe option of constructing a rail loadout near Montpelier, Idaho (19 kilometres from the project site), connecting with the Union Pacific mainline, was evaluated. In that scenario, phosphate rock concentrate would be trucked from the mine to Montpelier and loaded into unit trains via a dedicated loading loop track. The loadout facility would add $17.2 million in total capital expenditures. The additional operating costs of $5.33 /tonne without labor and $5.65 with labor, of which $5.05 /tonne would be for trucking, are included in the estimates of transportation costs cited earlier in this news release. The following table provides NPV and IRR for the project including the rail loadout option.NPV and IRR - Including Rail OptionDiscount Rate8%NPV Pre-tax$425.3 millionNPV After-tax$325.5 millionIRR Pre-Tax40.5 %IRR After-tax35.8 %Payback Pre-tax3.3 yearsPayback After-tax3.6 yearsPermitting and Project TimetableIn order to commence production at Paris Hills, the Company will require several permits issued by the State of Idaho. The Company expects to receive all of the required permits and begin mining by Q4 2014.Mineral Reserves and Resources -- Lower Phosphate ZoneThe Feasibility Study provides an update of the Mineral Reserve estimate for the Lower Phosphate Zone Horizontal Limb. The Mineral Reserve estimate is based on assay results from 39 exploration holes drilled on the property and an estimate of Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources published on August 15, 2012 and updated in the Feasibility Study. The Mineral Reserve estimate is comprised of the total saleable concentrate-quality phosphate rock expected to be mined.Proven and Probable Mineral Reserves are estimated at 16.7 million tonnes, a 67% increase from the estimate of 10.0 million tonnes in the March 26, 2012 Pre-Feasibility Study.The calculations presented in this document are compliant with Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum ("CIM") Best Practice Guidelines for Industrial Minerals. The following two tables summarize the Feasibility Study results.Mineral Reserve of the Lower Phosphate Zone - Horizontal Limb  (effective Dec. 10, 2012)       P₂O₅ Fe₂O₃ Al₂O₃ MgO   CaO CaO/P₂O₅  Tonnes †, ‡ Thickness Grade Grade Grade Grade MER Grade Ratio    (meters) (wt %) (wt %) (wt %) (wt %)   (wt %)                     Proven 7,956,329 1.57 29.9 0.53 0.95 0.41 0.06 45.53 1.52Probable 8,747,371 1.55 29.2 0.53 0.87 0.50 0.07 45.54 1.56Reserves 16,703,700 1.56 29.5 0.53 0.91 0.46 0.06 45.54 1.54                   †  Average in-situ bulk dry density of 2.6 t/m3.            ‡  Minimum mining height of 1.5 m + 0.15 m dilution.                              Mineral Resource of the Lower Phosphate Zone - Horizontal Limb2,8 (effective Dec. 10, 2012) In-PlaceTonnes1,2(millions) AverageThickness(metres) P₂O₅Grade(wt %) Fe₂O₃Grade(wt %) Al₂O₃Grade(wt %) MgOGrade(wt %) MER3 CaOGrade(wt %) CaO/P₂O₅4Ratio                   Measured5 15.4 1.8 30.4 0.50 0.93 0.38 0.060 45.9 1.51Indicated6 14.4 1.7 29.6 0.49 0.83 0.49 0.061 45.9 1.55Total M&I 29.8 1.7 30.0 0.50 0.88 0.43 0.061 45.9 1.53Inferred7   4.6 1.6 29.9 0.48 0.81 0.56 0.063 45.8 1.53     1 Average in-situ bulk dry density of 2.6 t/m3.    2 Zone thickness cut-off 0.5 m, composite grade cut-off 24.0% P2O5, excludes out-of-seam dilution.    3 Minor Element Ratio, MER = (Fe2O3 + Al2O3 + MgO)/P2O5, <0.10 desirable for phosphate rock.    4 CaO to P2O5 ratio; <1.60 desirable for phosphate rock.    5 Measured Mineral Resource located within a 200-m radius of an exploration hole.    6 Indicated Mineral Resource located between a 200-m and 400-m radius of an exploration hole.    7 Inferred Mineral Resource located between a 400-m and 800-m radius of an exploration hole.    8 Mineral Resources include Mineral Reserves.             Upper Phosphate Zone Mineral ResourcesThe Mineral Resource estimate for the Upper Phosphate Zone is based on chemical analyses on core samples from 29 of the exploration holes drilled in the horizontal limb of the property. The Upper Phosphate Zone thickness ranges from 2.6 to 5.7 metres with composite grades ranging from 20.2% to 31.4% P2O5. The Upper Phosphate Zone Mineral Resource estimates are not included in the Feasibility Study, but they could represent a potential long-term expansion of the Paris Hills Project.The grade and quality of the Upper Phosphate Zone Mineral Resources are not sufficient, on average, to support the possibility for mining a direct-ship product and some processing (beneficiation) will be required to produce a marketable phosphate rock concentrate.   Laboratory testing of core samples from the Upper Zone demonstrated that beneficiation (involving grinding and flotation) could produce a marketable phosphate rock concentrate with a grade of at least 30% P2O5 and an acceptable (low) CaO/P2O5 ratio and MER and that it would be suitable for producing phosphoric acid and downstream phosphate products.The following table summarizes the Upper Phosphate Zone Mineral Resource estimates.Mineral Resource of the Upper Phosphate Zone - Horizontal Limb2 (effective August 15, 2012)In-PlaceTonnes1,2(millions)AverageThickness(metres)P₂O₅Grade(wt %)     Measured328.43.822.8 Indicated431.83.722.6 Total M&I60.33.722.7 Inferred5  9.43.522.6    1 Average in-situ bulk dry density of 2.6 t/m3.    2 Zone thickness cut-off 1.5 m, composite grade cut-off 20.0% P2O5, excludes out-of-seam dilution    3 Measured Mineral Resource located within a 200-m radius of an exploration hole.    4 Indicated Mineral Resource located between a 200-m and 400-m radius of an exploration hole.    5 Inferred Mineral Resource located between a 400-m and 800-m radius of an exploration hole.     Additional information on exploration, testing and data verification procedures and on Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve estimation can be found in the technical report entitled "NI 43-101 Technical Report, Paris Hills Phosphate Project, Bloomington, Idaho USA" effectively dated August 15, 2012 and available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and on the Company's website at www.stonegateagricom.com.Phosphate Exploration TargetsIn addition to the Mineral Resource estimates above for the horizontal limb of the Paris Hills property, there is potentially additional in-place mineralized phosphate tonnage in the upturned limb of the property as follows:  7 to 10 million tonnes grading 28% to 32% P2O5 in the Lower Zone upturned limb (previously reported); and 14 to 20 million tonnes grading 21% to 25% P2O5 in the Upper Zone upturned limb (previously included in a combined estimate for the horizontal and upturned limbs).At present, insufficient exploration information is available to support the estimation of an NI 43-101 Mineral Resource in the upturned limb, although it is expected to contain significant mineralization. Historical trenching along outcrop and historical test mining confirm the persistence of mineralization in the upturned limb; however, no exploration drill holes penetrate the upturned limb and no information is available at depth. As a result, all estimates for the upturned limb are classified as Exploration Targets until further drilling is completed.The Exploration Targets, as stated, are conceptual in nature and there has been insufficient exploration to define them as Mineral Resources, and it is uncertain if further exploration will result in the determination of a Mineral Resource under NI 43-101. The Exploration Targets are not being reported as part of any Mineral Resource or Mineral Reserve.Report FilingAn NI 43-101 Technical Report on the Feasibility Study will be posted on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and on the Company's website at www.stonegateagricom.com within 45 days following this news release.Qualified PersonsThe Feasibility Study was compiled by Agapito Associates Inc. of Grand Junction, Colorado supervised by Leo J. Gilbride, P.E., Vanessa Santos, P.G., Gary L. Skaggs, P.E., P.Eng., Susan B. Patton, Ph.D., P.E., Eric Dursteler, P.E., C.F.M., Scott Effner, P.G., and Jeff Johnson, P.G., each of whom are independent qualified persons under the standards set forth by National Instrument 43-101 and have reviewed and approved the contents of this news release.The Pre-Feasibility Study (including Mineral Resource and Reserves estimates) announced on March 26, 2012 and the subsequent August 15, 2012 changes to Mineral Resource estimates were compiled by Agapito Associates Inc. of Grand Junction, Colorado supervised by Leo J. Gilbride, P.E., Vanessa Santos, P.G., and Gary L. Skaggs, P.E., P.Eng., each of whom are independent qualified persons under the standards set forth by National Instrument 43-101.The contents of this news release have been reviewed and approved by Daniel Thompson, P.E., Manager, Technical Services, Paris Hills Agricom Inc., who is a qualified person as defined in National Instrument 43-101.About Stonegate AgricomStonegate Agricom, which is actively engaged in acquiring and developing agricultural nutrient projects, is currently focused on the development of two potentially world-class, long-life phosphate deposits, the Paris Hills Phosphate Project located in Idaho and the Mantaro Phosphate Project located in Peru. The Company is confident that the two deposits have sufficient size and grade to become strategic, cost-effective sources of phosphate supply for major fertilizer producers. More information is available at www.stonegateagricom.com.Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements This press release contains "forward-looking statements" and "forward-looking information" within the meaning of applicable law, which include statements herein relating to the potential to increase mineral resource and mineral reserve estimates.  Generally, forward-looking statements and forward-looking information can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as "plans", "expects" or "does not expect", "is expected", "budget", "scheduled", "estimates", "forecasts", "intends", "anticipates" or "does not anticipate", "believes", or variations of such words and phrases or statements that certain actions, events or results "may", "could", "would", "might" or "will be taken", "occur" or "be achieved".  All forward-looking statements and forward-looking information are based on reasonable assumptions that have been made by the Company as at the date of such information.  Forward-looking statements and forward-looking information are subject to known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause the actual results, level of activity, performance or achievements of the Company to be materially different from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements and forward-looking information, including but not limited to: risks relating to assumptions used in preparation of the Feasibility Study and Pre-Feasibility Study on the Lower Phosphate Zone of the Paris Hills Phosphate Project including government regulation, phosphate prices, labour costs and capital costs, and project risks including project location, permitting requirements, project delays, ground control and dilution and water management; the general risks associated with the speculative nature of the Company's business, commodity prices, current global financial conditions, uncertainty of additional capital, price volatility, the Paris Hills Phosphate Project being an advanced exploration stage project, limited operating history, no history of earnings, government regulation in the mining industry, environmental risks and hazards, impending climate change legislation, required approvals and permits, foreign subsidiaries, risks relating to the retention of the Paris Hills project, expiration of leases and permits for the Paris Hills Project, title to mineral properties, obtaining and converting mineral concessions and surface rights, community relations and project support, water rights, exploration, development and operating risks, uncertainty in the estimation of mineral reserves and resources, uncertainty of inferred mineral resources, mineral exploration, reliability of historical exploration work, absence of public trading market, risks associated with having a controlling shareholder, arbitrary offering price, dilution to the common shares, dependence on key personnel, currency fluctuations, insurance and uninsured risks, competition, legal proceedings, conflicts of interest and lack of dividends as well as those factors discussed in the section entitled "Risk Factors" in the Company's most recently filed annual information form available at www.sedar.com.  Although the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in forward-looking statements and forward-looking information, there may be other factors that cause results not to be as anticipated, estimated or intended.  There can be no assurance that such information will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements or information.  Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements or forward-looking information.  The forward-looking statements and forward-looking information contained in this press release are included for the purpose of providing investors with information to assist them in understanding the Company's expected financial and operational performance and may not be appropriate for other purposes.  Stonegate does not undertake to update any forward-looking statement or forward-looking information that is included herein, except in accordance with applicable securities laws.Cautionary Note to United States Investors Concerning Estimates of Mineral ResourcesThis news release uses the terms "Measured Mineral Resources", "Indicated Mineral Resources" and "Inferred Mineral Resources". United States investors are advised that while such terms are recognized and required by Canadian regulations to be disclosed, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission generally does not permit disclosure of mineral resources of any kind in documents filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission. "Inferred Mineral Resources" have a great amount of uncertainty as to their existence, and as to their economic and legal feasibility. It cannot be assumed that all or any part of an Inferred Mineral Resource will ever be upgraded to a higher category. Under Canadian rules, estimates of Inferred Mineral Resources may not form the basis of feasibility or other economic studies. United States investors are cautioned not to assume that all or any part of Measured Mineral Resources or Indicated Mineral Resources will ever be converted into Mineral Reserves. United States investors are also cautioned not to assume that all or any part of an Inferred Mineral Resource exists, or is economically or legally mineable.  SOURCE: Stonegate Agricom LtdFor further information: Wayne Cheveldayoff Vice President, Investor Relations Stonegate Agricom Ltd. Tel: 416-479-4359 wcheveldayoff@stonegateagricom.com  Christine Stewart Renmark Financial Communications Inc. Tel: 416-644-2020 cstewart@renmarkfinancial.com