Dasa Uranium Mine Currently Under Development, Project on Schedule
Stronger Uranium and Zinc Prices Improve Outlook
Global Atomic Corporation (“Global Atomic” or the “Company”), (TSX: GLO, OTCQX: GLATF, FRANKFURT: G12) announced today its operating and financial results for the year ended December 31, 2021.
Dasa Uranium Project
- The Company issued its Dasa Project, Phase 1, Feasibility Study (“Feasibility Study”), based on multiple trade-off studies and pilot plant campaigns.
- The Feasibility Study reported a maiden reserve for the Dasa Project of 4.1 million tonnes grading 5,267 ppm for a total of 47.2 million pounds U3O8.
- The Feasibility Study resulted in an initial, Phase 1, 12-year mine schedule at a production throughput of 1,000 tonnes per day to produce 45.4 million pounds U3O8.
- The Study estimates cash costs, including royalties and all Niger off-site costs, of US$18.91/lb U3O8 and an all-in sustaining cost of US$21.93/lb U3O8.
- Initial capital expenditures are estimated to be US$208 million.
- Based on a U3O8 price of US$35/lb, the after-tax NPV discounted at 8%, is US$157 million for an after-tax IRR of 22.7%. The Feasibility Study sensitivity analysis shows that at a U3O8 price of US$50/lb the after-tax IRR rises to 44.6% and at US$60 the after-tax IRR would be 57.2% for Phase 1 only.
- In Q4 2021, the Company began an infill drill program to upgrade Inferred Resources on strike of the Phase 1 Flank Zone to Indicated Resources in order to begin incorporation of additional Phase 2 resources into an updated mine plan.
- With the mining permit, final Feasibility Study results and Board approval, the Company determined that effective December 30, 2021, the technical feasibility and commercial viability of the Dasa Project were sufficient to support its development decision.
- The development decision resulted in a transfer of $45.2 million previously capitalized expenditures from “exploration and evaluation assets” to “mineral property assets” on the Company’s balance sheet.
- The Company engaged HCF International Advisers Limited as its financial advisors for project financing and, by the end of 2021, a short list of interested project lenders had been identified.
- The Company engaged Fuel Link Limited as its uranium marketing agent and yellowcake offtake discussions have been initiated with utilities.
- The Company began a drill program in Q4 2021 at the Isakanan deposit on the Adrar Emoles 4 permit to recover core for in-situ leach testing.
Turkish Zinc Joint Venture
- The Turkish Zinc Joint Venture (“BST” or the “Turkish JV”) plant processed over 70,000 tonnes EAFD in 2021.
- The Company’s share of the Turkish JV EBITDA was $11.3 million in 2021 ($5.6 million in 2020), an increase of 102%.
- The zinc contained in concentrate shipments in 2021 was 34.8 million pounds and the average realized price was US$1.36/lb.
- Available funds were used to secure adequate supplies of critical materials in case of unforeseen supply disruptions and the planned final payment on the Befesa loan was deferred to Q2 2022.
- The non-recourse Turkish JV debt owing to Befesa was US$4.65 million at the end of 2021 (Global Atomic share – US$2.28 million).
- The revolving credit facility of the Turkish JV had been paid down to US$7.8 million at the end of 2021 from US8.2 million.
- The cash balance of the Turkish JV was US$2.8 million at the end of 2021.
- Global Atomic continues to receive approximately $1 million in management fees and sales commissions annually from the Turkish JV, helping to offset corporate overhead costs.
- The Company completed a Bought Deal private placement of 6,250,000 Units on March 16th at a price of $2.00 per Unit for gross proceeds of $12,500,000. Each Unit comprised one common share and one-half warrant exercisable at $3.00 per common share over an 18-month period.
- The Company completed a Bought Deal private placement of 8,750,000 Units on December 7th at a price of $4.00 per Unit for gross proceeds of $35,000,000. Each Unit comprised one common share and one-half warrant exercisable at $6.00 per common share over an 18-month period.
- In May, the Company announced the appointment of Mr. Dean R. Chambers P.Eng., ICD.D to the Board of Directors and Pierre Hardouin MBA, CPA, CMA joined the Company in September as Vice President Finance.
- Cash balance at December 31, 2021, was $34.2 million.
- 140,000 warrants outstanding at December 31, 2021 were exercised for proceeds of $420,000.
- In the year to date period Global Atomic granted 1,082,000 options to directors, officers and employees of the Company Stock options are exercisable at $3.40 to $4.54 for a period of five years.
Stephen G. Roman, President and CEO commented, “Global Atomic had a very productive year in 2021. The major milestone met during the year was the completion of our Phase 1 Feasibility Study for the Dasa Project, where using a base uranium price of US$35 per pound we determined Phase 1 is able to generate an after-tax 22.7% IRR over a 12-year period.
Uranium is continuing to move higher and is currently trading near US$60 per pound, a price that generates a 57.2% IRR, after tax! It is important for investors to remember the Phase 1 mine plan represents approximately 20% of the known deposit. The Dasa Deposit is the largest, high-grade uranium deposit under development in Africa, and remains open along strike and down dip for further exploration and expansion.”
“The outlook for the Company continues to improve. Higher zinc prices during 2021 helped double EBITDA from our Turkish Zinc JV over the prior year and zinc prices continue to rise in 2022. At the Dasa Project site we continue to make excellent progress with the excavation of the Boxcut and building surface infrastructure in preparation for mining. The Dasa drilling program initiated in the fall of 2021 has shown excellent results and by converting Inferred Resources to the Measured and Indicated categories we expect to increase contiguous Phase 1 mine plan Mineral Reserves and improve Project economics. Demand for uranium is increasing as nuclear power is now recognized as a key contributor of baseload, green power solution that will assist in meeting net zero carbon targets. The Dasa Project remains on schedule to produce Yellowcake at the beginning of 2025, and make a meaningful contribution to world uranium supply.”
Dasa Uranium Project
- The Company expects to finalize the incorporation of its Niger mining company in Q2 2022.
- The Company began the boxcut excavation in February and expects this to be complete in April.
- Surface infrastructure to support mine development activities is under construction.
- Based on an updated mine plan and budget schedule, timing of mining will coincide with mill completion in Q4, 2024. Ore stockpiling will be kept to a minimum by matching the ore development schedule with the mill completion, unless an agreement to transport development ore to Orano Mining is reached.
- Mining equipment has begun to arrive on site and at the Port of Cotonou in Benin. Assembly and commissioning will occur over the summer months and CMAC-Thyssen (CMAC) will begin training programs in Q3, 2022.
- The Company has engaged engineering consultants to complete Value Engineering studies for the mill construction, due by the end of March.
- An EPCM (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction Management) contract is expected to be awarded in Q2 2022.
- Detailed engineering will be initiated immediately following the EPCM contract award to support the start of the processing plant construction in Q1 2023.
- Project financing is expected by the end of the year to support construction of the processing plant.
- The Dasa drilling program has been successful in both indicating an expansion of the resources and upgrading Inferred Resources to Indicated Resources.
- On completion of the Dasa drill program currently scheduled for June, and the receipt of assays, the current Mineral Resource Estimate (“MRE”) will be updated.
- Following the MRE update, a revised mine plan will be developed and the reserve statement updated; it is expected that this will result in an increase in Phase 1 ore reserves and lower operating costs.
- The Company is continuing discussions with Orano Mining relating to direct shipping of development ore to the Somair Mine located 105 kilometers north of the Dasa Project.
- The Isakanan drill program was completed in February and core samples have been shipped to Canada to test for in-situ leach potential.
Turkish Zinc Joint Venture
- The Turkish zinc plant continues to operate at target operating efficiencies.
- Various factors have influenced the zinc price in the current year, which has traded above US$1.60 per pound throughout the year-to-date period.
- Repayment of the remaining Befesa loan is expected to occur in Q2 2022.
- Turkish JV dividend payments will resume following repayment of the Befesa loan.
The following table summarizes comparative results of operations of the Company:
The consolidated financial statements reflect the equity method of accounting for Global Atomic’s interest in the Turkish JV. The Company’s share of net earnings and net assets are disclosed in the notes to the financial statements.
Revenues include management fees and sales commissions received from the joint venture. These are based on joint venture revenues generated and zinc concentrate tonnes sold. Revenues in 2021 have increased with the increased zinc prices and higher sales in the Turkish Zinc JV.
General and administration costs at the corporate level include general office and management expenses, stock option awards, costs related to maintaining a public listing, professional fees, audit, legal, accounting, tax and consultants’ costs, insurance, travel and other miscellaneous office expenses. Stock option expenses, professional fees and salaries have increased in 2021 compared with 2020 due to growth required to support Dasa development.
Share of net earnings from joint venture represents Global Atomic’s equity share of net earnings from the Turkish Zinc JV. The significant growth in 2021 EBITDA of the Turkish Zinc JV has resulted in positive equity income compared to a loss in 2020.
Following completion of the Preliminary Economic Assessment of the Dasa Project in May 2020, the Company initiated various trade-off studies which were followed up by a Feasibility Study. The Feasibility Study was reported with an effective date of November 15, 2021 and the full Feasibility Study was filed on SEDAR on December 30, 2021.
The Feasibility Study was completed at a detailed level of design and engineering to enable an appropriate level of confidence to be applied to the economic viability and outcomes of the project. As a result of the Feasibility Study, the following Mineral Reserves were estimated.
The mining inventory included in the Feasibility Study included a minor amount of Inferred Resources. In Q4 2021, the Company began an infill drilling program to convert the Inferred Resources to Indicated Resources. To date, this drilling program has been very successful and has identified additional resources in these areas as well. The drilling campaign will likely be completed at the end of Q2 2022. Once the assays have been received, the MRE will be updated to reflect both the additional resources and changes in resource categorization.
The expectation is that there will be a significant conversion of Inferred to Indicated Resources. Once the MRE has been updated, the Company will also update its mine plan. The updated mine plan will also result in an update to the reserve estimate, and is expected to be completed before year end.
Phase 1 Feasibility Study Results
The Phase 1 Feasibility Study on the Dasa deposit was completed using a uranium price of US$35/pound U3O8. Key economic and production statistics are as follows:
The economic analysis for the Study was done via a discounted cash flow (“DCF”) model based on the mining inventory from the Feasibility Study Phase 1 mine plan and a price of US$35 per pound of U3O8. Sensitivity analysis was carried out at price intervals from US$35 per pound to US$60 per pound, as shown in the table below. The DCF includes an assessment of the current tax regime and royalty requirements in Niger. Net present value (“NPV”) figures are calculated using a range of discount rates as shown. The discount rate used for the base-case analysis is 8% (“NPV8”).
The plant is designed with a capacity of 1,000 tonnes per day (t/d) or 365,000 tonnes per annum (t/a). The plant layout has been optimized to enable the addition of more processing lines in the future.
The Company is in the process of incorporating a Niger mining company to develop and mine the Dasa deposit. The company’s name has been agreed with the Niger Mines Minister to be Société Minière de Dasa S.A. avec CA (“SOMIDA”). Discussions are on-going about other aspects of the incorporation of SOMIDA. On August 19, 2021, the Mines Minister issued a formal letter to the Company indicating that it would only be participating in the equity of SOMIDA for the 10% free carried interest. Notwithstanding, the Mines Minister could change this position up until the incorporation of SOMIDA.
The Company has entered into an agreement with CMAC-Thyssen International Inc. (“CMAC”), a contract miner based in Val d’Or, Quebec to provide contract mining services in the development of the Dasa underground mine over the first 24 months of mining. Following the March 2020 closure of the Cominak underground uranium mine in Arlit, there is a pool of skilled miners available to the Company in Niger. CMAC will be providing training, development and oversight of the Niger workforce with the new equipment that will be used at site. Initial mining will comprise only ramp development during the first 12 months, followed by access and level. Equipment and mining consumables are being procured and shipped to site. In view of worldwide supply chain disruptions, moving materials to site is taking longer than expected.
The boxcut has been blasted and all preparations should be complete in April. Surface infrastructure is under construction and will continue to be installed throughout the summer. All equipment and supplies should arrive at site by the end of the summer to be ready to start the portal and ramp development thereafter. Although well-funded, the Company has decided to conserve cash and will begin the underground mine development in Q4 2022 rather than in April 2022. Until an agreement to direct ship ore to Orano’s operation in Arlit is finalized, considerable cash can be saved by not stockpiling development ore longer than necessary. This decision has additional benefit of allowing time for more deliveries of equipment and consumables to arrive prior to underground mine development.
Upon completion of the Feasibility Study, the Company has embarked on certain Value Engineering studies to improve on the Feasibility Study processing plant design details. Such studies will be completed by the end of March and an EPCM provider will be selected in Q2 2022. Following the appointment of an EPCM provider, detailed engineering will get underway and surface groundwork preparation will begin in Q4 of this year followed by remaining civils work and construction beginning in 2023. The Company’s plan is to commission the processing plant in Q4 2024 so that yellowcake can be produced at the beginning of 2025.
In 2021, the Company engaged HCF International Advisers Limited (“HCF”) as its financial advisor to secure project finance for the Dasa Project. HCF has succeeded in short-listing a number of interested project lenders who are in the process of due diligence. It is expected that term sheets can be agreed upon in Q2 2022 to be followed by final due diligence and documentation. With this schedule, the project finance could be in place by Q4 2022 with drawdowns to coincide with the start of processing plant construction in 2023.
Interest in long-term contracting among fuel buyers has been increasing, particularly in view of the Ukrainian situation. The Company expects to receive and respond to a number of requests for proposals from fuel buyers over the coming months.
On January 21, 2021, GAFC was awarded a further extension on all 6 Exploration Permits through to December 17, 2023. The Company intends to further explore these permit areas to identify additional deposits which may be developed to feed the Dasa processing facility. All six Exploration Permit areas lie within the Tim Mersoï Basin which has produced uranium for the Republic of Niger for the past 50 years.
With the discovery of the Dasa uranium deposit, the Company’s focus in recent years has been on Dasa, including the development of a uranium processing facility to support commercial production. Within the Adrar Emoles 3 Exploration Permit there remains significant potential to extend the known resources of the high-grade Dasa deposit along both strike and at depth.
Further potential exists along strike of the Isakanan prospect on the adjacent Adrar Emoles 4 Exploration Permit. Historical drilling on the Isakanan prospect outlined a non-compliant resource. A drill program was initiated at Isakanan in October 2021 and was completed in February 2022. Core samples have been sent to Canada to be tested for in-situ recovery (ISR) potential.
Turkish Zinc JV EAFD Operations
The Company’s Turkish EAFD business operates through a joint venture, known as Befesa Silvermet Turkey, S.L. (“BST” or the “Turkish JV”), with Befesa Zinc S.A.U. (“Befesa”), an industry leading Spanish company that operates a number of Waelz kilns throughout Europe, the United States and Asia. Under the terms of a Shareholders Agreement, management fees and sales commissions are distributed pro rata to Befesa and Global Atomic. Net income earned each year in Turkey, less funds needed to fund operations, must be distributed to the partners annually, following the BST annual meeting, which is usually held in the second quarter of the following year.
BST owns and operates an EAFD processing plant in Iskenderun, Turkey. The plant processes EAFD containing 25% to 30% zinc that is obtained from electric arc steel mills, and produces a zinc concentrate grading 67% to 70% zinc that is then sold to zinc smelters.
Global Atomic holds a 49% interest in the Turkish JV and, as such, the investment is accounted for using the equity basis of accounting. Under this basis of accounting, the Company’s share of the BST’s earnings is shown as a single line in its Consolidated Statements of Income (Loss).
The following table summarizes comparative operational metrics of the Iskenderun facility.
Source: Global Atomic Corporation
The average zinc price in 2021 was US$1.36/lb, up from US$1.03/lb in 2020. The zinc price was negatively affected by COVID-19 in Q1 & Q2 2020, but began recovering from the summer 2020 through to the end of the year. The zinc price has continued its upward trend throughout 2021. China has imposed reduced operating hours for smelters and European smelters have reduced production, both the result of higher energy costs and lower availability. Notwithstanding, Waelz oxide concentrates sold by Befesa, including those from the Turkish Zinc JV, continue to be in high demand, so there has been no impact on our business.
A general recovery in the steel industry began in Q3 2020 and has continued into 2021. For the year ended December 31, 2021, global steel production was up 3.7% compared to 2020. Within this, Chinese steel production declined by 3% in 2021 compared with 2020, resulting in a decline in China’s market share from 57% to 53%. Steel production in the rest of the world increased by 12.6% in 2021 when compared to 2020.
The World Steel Association published its short-term outlook for demand in October 2021, which projected 2.2% overall global demand growth in 2022. This demand growth is broadly-based across all countries, with the exception of China, where demand growth is projected to be flat in 2022. In 2021, China experienced adverse weather, a weakened real estate sector, and government caps on steel production due to energy constraints. Reduced Chinese production resulted in an overall decline in global steel production in Q4 2021. Combined with softening global demand, steel prices declined significantly in December 2021, but continued supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine have resulted in significant steel price recovery in early 2022. Global steel production declined by 6.1% in January and 5.7% in February 2022 compared with the prior year. A decrease in Chinese production accounted for the decline, with the rest of the world production at levels similar to the prior year.
The impact of the Ukrainian war on global steel markets is uncertain, however as exports from Russia and Ukraine have historically accounted for 10% of global steel exports, it is likely a material percentage of this supply will be replaced by increased production in other countries.
Turkish steel production increased by 13% in 2021 compared with 2020. Expanding consumer loans and infrastructure projects have helped to drive steel demand. As well, Turkey has increased its exports to offset reduced Chinese exports. The steel producers in Turkey are increasing production capacity. In 2021, a major Electric Arc Steel Mill in the Iskenderun region resumed production in a plant that had been on care and maintenance for a number of years. Another producer has announced plans to begin construction of a new plant in the Iskenderun region. In the Izmir region, two steel producers have announced plans to expand their production facilities. These projects will increase the supply of EAFD in the Turkish market and should enable the Turkish Zinc JV to increase throughput at the Iskenderun plant.
In 2021, BST had a positive year with a 102% increase in the Company’s share of EBITDA as compared with 2020. BST processed marginally more EAFD in 2021, and as in 2020, ran at approximately 64% of its capacity of 110,000 tonnes as local steel mills are not running at full capacity due to COVID and supply chain disruptions.
The following table summarizes comparative results for 2021 and 2020 of the Turkish Zinc JV at 100%.
The Turkish Zinc JV realized significant growth in revenues in 2021 compared to 2020, benefiting from higher zinc prices and reduced treatment charges in 2021. EBITDA increased to $23 million in 2021 (Global Atomic share – $11.3 million) compared with $11.4 million in 2020 (Global Atomic share – $5.6 million).
The cash balance of the Turkish Zinc JV was US$2.8 million at December 31, 2021.
Total debt was reduced to US$12.45 million in 2021 from US$21.8 million at the end of 2020. At December 31, 2021, the Befesa loan totaled US$4.65 million (December 31, 2020 – US$13.6 million) which bears interest at 4.34% with no fixed maturity date (Global Atomic’s share of the Befesa loan was US$2.28 million). The local Turkish revolving credit facility balance was US$7.8 million at December 31, 2021 (December 31, 2020 – US$8.2 million) and bears interest only at 7%. The Turkish revolving credit facility can be rolled forward.
The Befesa loan is expected to be paid off in Q2 2022. Once it has been repaid, dividend payments to the Company will resume.
The scientific and technical disclosures in this news release have been reviewed and approved by Ronald S. Halas, P.Eng. and George A. Flach, P.Geo. who are “qualified persons” under National Instrument 43- 101 – Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Properties.
About Global Atomic
Global Atomic Corporation (www.globalatomiccorp.com) is a publicly listed company that provides a unique combination of high-grade uranium mine development and cash-flowing zinc concentrate production.
The Company’s Uranium Division includes four deposits with the flagship project being the large, high-grade Dasa Project, discovered in 2010 by Global Atomic geologists through grassroots field exploration. With the issuance of the Dasa Mining Permit and an Environmental Compliance Certificate by the Republic of Niger, the Dasa Project is fully permitted for commercial production. The Phase 1 Feasibility Study for Dasa was filed in December 2021 and estimates Yellowcake production to commence by the end of 2024. Mine excavation began in Q1 2022.
Global Atomics’ Base Metals Division holds a 49% interest in the Befesa Silvermet Turkey, S.L. (“BST”) Joint Venture, which operates a modern zinc production plant, located in Iskenderun, Turkey. The plant recovers zinc from Electric Arc Furnace Dust (“EAFD”) to produce a high-grade zinc oxide concentrate which is sold to zinc smelters around the world. The Company’s joint venture partner, Befesa Zinc S.A.U. (“Befesa”) listed on the Frankfurt exchange under ‘BFSA’, holds a 51% interest in and is the operator of the BST Joint Venture. Befesa is a market leader in EAFD recycling, with approximately 50% of the European EAFD market and facilities located throughout Europe, Asia and the United States of America.