(NYSE Amex: BRD; TSX: BRD)
Dear Fellow Shareholders,
I write today to provide you with an overview of Brigus’ accomplishments and challenges during 2011 and our expectations for 2012. Throughout 2011, we continued the process of building the company that was formed when Linear Gold and Apollo Gold merged in June 2010 to create Brigus Gold.
At the time of the merger, we recognized significant value and future potential in the assets at the Black Fox Mine. We estimated it would take approximately 12 to 15 months to make necessary changes, implement a turnaround, build the underground portion of the mine and begin unlocking the considerable value of the assets. Although this process has taken longer than first estimated, our confidence in the Black Fox Mine, the quality of the ore body and the exploration potential has never been higher. Today, the turnaround is well underway, we are beginning to see results, and we expect this positive trend to continue throughout the year.
Significant accomplishments over the past year have made the company fundamentally stronger and provide Brigus with a solid foundation to support future growth. However, the accomplishments and positive developments during 2011 were overshadowed by gold production levels below our targets and market expectations. During the third and fourth quarters shortfalls in gold production resulted from a slower ramp up of the underground portion of the mine and poor ore dilution practices.
I confirm that we have taken corrective action and we are seeing results. We identified the underlying reasons for the shortfalls, found appropriate solutions and implemented a series of improvements and management changes at the Black Fox Mine. These actions have resulted in measurable and material improvements in performance during the first quarter of 2012, and we are confident problems experienced in the second half of 2011 are now behind us.
We reported strong Q1-2012 gold production from the Black Fox Mine hitting the top end of our guidance. The new operating team has done an excellent job reducing ore dilution and ramping up gold production from the underground. Current production levels put us on track to meet our guidance for the second quarter and we are confident the mine will continue to meet targets and reach a steady state production level of approximately 25,000 ounces per quarter by year-end.
- All surface and infrastructure facilities at the Black Fox Mine were upgraded. Production commenced in Phase Two of the open pit in April. The underground achieved commercial production in October.
- Brigus issued $50.0 million of unsecured convertible debentures in March 2011 to strengthen its balance sheet, and completed an $8.2 million private placement financing of flow-through shares to fund exploration programs in 2012.
- Brigus’ exploration team made a new, significant gold discovery on the southern portion of the Black Fox Complex. An independent 43-101 report, released in December, increased gold resources on the property by more than 50 percent. The new discovery remains open for further expansion and drilling continues.
- A mill enhancement began in the third quarter and is expected to increase ore processing capacity by 5-10% to up to 2,200 tonnes per day.
- The Black Fox Mine was recognized with the Angus D. Campbell award for safety two years in a row, recently reaching a milestone of operating for over 22 months and 1,200,000 person-hours without a lost time injury.
- An independent 43-101 report on the Goldfields development project, located in northern Saskatchewan, was completed and published.
- Non-core assets in Mexico and the Dominican Republic were divested.
These were important milestones along the path to reach our goal of becoming a leading Canadian gold producer.
Black Fox Mine, Ontario
Operations at the Black Fox Mine continue to ramp up and will deliver increased gold production quarter over quarter in 2012, reaching our steady state level of approximately 25,000 ounces per quarter by the end of the year.
The open pit at Black Fox, which commenced production in May 2009, performed well during 2011 and is meeting our expectations.
The underground portion of the mine continues to improve with average grades of approximately 6 grams per tonne (“gpt”) of gold during Q1-2012, consistent with the mine reserves, up from less than 3 gpt during the previous quarter. Daily tonnage from the underground continues to increase and is expected to reach 800 tonnes per day (“tpd”) by the end of the third quarter and 800 to 1,000 tpd by year-end. There are currently 21 underground stopes open and we expect approximately 30 stopes will be open by Q3-2012. The team at Black Fox continues to focus on optimizing underground grades while effectively managing dilution and throughput on an on-going basis.
The Black Fox underground ore body is open for expansion with grades that trend higher at depth. We are confident the mine will prove to be a long-life mining asset for Brigus.
Production Growth - 2012
During the first quarter of 2012 we produced 16,922 ounces of gold, and we expect quarter over quarter production growth through the year. We are forecasting annual production of 77,000 to 85,000 ounces of gold in 2012 and expect to reach a steady state annual production rate of approximately 100,000 ounces at year-end.
Increasing Canadian Gold Reserves and Resources
A key priority for Brigus is to increase our inventory of gold reserves and resources through targeted, systematic exploration. At present we have 1.86 million ounces of gold reserves; 840,000 ounces at the Black Fox Mine in Timmins, Ontario and 1,020,000 ounces at Goldfields in Uranium City, Saskatchewan. Both the Black Fox and Goldfields deposits remain open for expansion with considerable potential for new reserve additions.
At Black Fox we recently began driving an exploration drift from the deepest portion of our east ramp. Exploration drilling from underground drill stations will commence in June with an objective of increasing reserve ounces and extending the mine life. We are excited about the potential and are confident the program will positively impact and expand gold reserves at Black Fox.
Elsewhere on the Black Fox property, Brigus’ ongoing drill program was successful with the discovery of the 147 Zone along with a significant extension of the Contact Zone. Both zones are in close proximity to the Black Fox Mine and remain open for further expansion. In December, we released an initial National Instrument 43-101 resource estimate on these zones resulting in more than a 50 percent increase of gold resources on the Black Fox Complex. An in-fill drilling program is in progress to convert inferred ounces to indicated ounces while continuing to expand the resource with deeper drilling. We look forward to releasing an updated resource statement later in the year.
Simultaneously, we recently commenced a preliminary economic assessment (PEA) on the 147 and Contact zones and expect to release results during the third quarter. We believe these zones have the potential for robust economics. A project manager has been hired to oversee this work and begin the permitting and planning process for a new mine, to be named Grey Fox.
Numerous high priority drill targets remain to be tested and 75 percent of the property remains unexplored.
GoldFields Project, Saskatchewan
The Goldfields Project, located in northern Saskatchewan, is host to 1,020,000 ounces of reserves. Brigus released an updated independent 43-101 report for Goldfields in the fall of 2011, which calls for a 13-year mine life and 100,000 ounces of production for each of the first six years. This mine is permitted and will require a two-year construction period once a production decision is made. The pre-feasibility study indicated a net present value of approximately $144 million at a 5 percent discount rate with an internal rate of return of 19.6 percent, assuming a gold price of $1,250 per ounce. At gold prices of $1,600 per ounce, Goldfields returns a net present value of over $300 million. We will not make a production decision on this mine until Black Fox is operating at its steady state production rate of 25,000 ounces a quarter, and we will fund this project in an optimal manner.
Maintaining a Strong Balance Sheet and Increasing Cash Flow
Since the beginning of 2011, we have strengthened our balance sheet and overall financial position. The Company issued US$50.0 million of unsecured convertible debentures in March 2011, a $8.2 million flow through financing to fund 2012 exploration in December 2011, and a bought deal financing for $15 million in February 2012.
With $34 million on hand today, Brigus is well positioned to capitalize on the growth opportunities before us. Mining operations will be profitable this year with cash flows building as gold production increases quarter over quarter.
We believe in the future of gold bullion and are undeterred by the recent weakness in gold equities across the marketplace. Brigus is well positioned to benefit from strong gold prices, now and in the future.
Increasing production at Black Fox, promising exploration drill results, new gold discoveries and growing cash flows signal Brigus’ evolution to become a mid-tier gold producer.
I want to thank our dedicated team of employees who continue to work tirelessly to build value for Brigus Gold. Their skill and expertise are essential to our success, and I am very proud of their excellent mining safety record. The health and safety of Brigus employees is our top priority.
I would like to thank you for your continued support and look forward to a successful year ahead.
Wade K. Dawe
President and Chief Executive Officer
About Brigus Gold
Brigus is a growing gold producer committed to maximizing shareholder value through a strategy of efficient production, targeted exploration and select acquisitions. The Company operates the wholly owned Black Fox Mine and Mill in the Timmins Gold District of Ontario, Canada. The Black Fox Complex encompasses the Black Fox Mine and adjoining properties in the Township of Black River-Matheson, Ontario, Canada. Brigus is also advancing the Goldfields Project located near Uranium City, Saskatchewan, Canada, which hosts the Box and Athona gold deposits. In Mexico, Brigus has granted Cangold Limited the option to acquire a 75% interest in the Company’s Ixhuatan Project located in the state of Chiapas. In the Dominican Republic, Brigus has signed an agreement to sell its remaining interests in three mineral exploration projects.
Cautionary and Forward-Looking Statements
Statements contained in this news release, which are not historical facts, are forward-looking statements that involve risk, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. All statements regarding the ability of the Company to achieve its production, total cash costs, steady state annual production and mining rate estimates; estimated average gold grades for the open pit and underground operations; increase in gold production; increase in profitability; exploration drill results and resource additions, are forward-looking statements and estimates that involve various risks and uncertainties. This forward-looking statements include, or may be based upon, estimates, forecasts, and statements as to management's expectations with respect to, among other things, the outcome of legal proceedings, the issue of permits, the size and quality of the Company's mineral resources, progress in development of mineral properties, future production and sales volumes, capital and mine production costs, demand and market outlook for metals, future metal prices and treatment and refining charges, and the financial results of the Company.
Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from these forward-looking statements include environmental risks and other factors disclosed under the heading “Risk Factors” in Brigus’ most recent Annual Information Form and Management Discussion and Analysis filed under the Company’s name at www.sedar.com and annual report on Form 40-F filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission at www.sec.gov as well as elsewhere in Brigus’ documents filed from time to time with the Toronto Stock Exchange, the NYSE Amex Equities, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulatory authorities. All forward-looking statements included in this news release are based on information available to the Company on the date hereof. The Company assumes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements, except as required by applicable securities laws.