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OceanaGold advises on Didipio Mine FTAA renewal

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Global Mining Review,

OceanaGold Corp. has advised that the Philippine government has renewed the Didipio Mine financial or technical assistance agreement (FTAA) for an additional 25-year period, beginning 19 June 2019. The renewed FTAA reflects similar financial terms and conditions while providing additional benefits to the regional communities and provinces that host the operation.

Michael Holmes, President and CEO of OceanaGold, said: “We are pleased to confirm the renewal of the Didipio Mine’s FTAA and thank the Philippine government for their endorsement and renewal. We have worked through the renewal process in partnership with the government and regulatory agencies. We look forward to commencing restart activities and continuing to work in partnership with our regulators, communities, employees, and all stakeholders to contribute to the Philippines’ post-COVID-19 economic recovery.”

The company has maintained the mine and associated facilities in a state of operational stand-by. The company’s first operational priority is the rehiring and training of its Philippine workforce, which will include a focus on safeguarding workers from the current risks associated with COVID-19. The company expects to provide additional details on the restart and resumption of normal operations at Didipio, including the timeline and an update to company’s 2021 guidance, in due course.

The company plans a staged restart of operations with milling to recommence as soon as possible utilising stockpiled ore of which the operation has approximately 19 million t available. The company aims to achieve full underground production capacity within 12 months. Once fully ramped-up, the company expects Didipio to produce approximately 10 000 gold oz and 1000 tpm of copper at first quartile all-in sustaining costs (AISC).

Didipio is a major direct and indirect employer in the provinces of Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya and a significant contributor of socio-economic benefits for the local and national economies. The Didipio Gold and Copper Mine operates to the highest environmental and social standards and has been recognised as one of the most responsible in the country.

Renewal terms

The FTAA was renewed on substantially the same terms and conditions and includes the following modifications:

  • The equivalent of an additional 1.5% of gross revenue to be allocated to community development.
  • Reclassification of net smelter return to be an allowable deduction and shared 60%/40% rather than wholly included in government share.
  • Listing of at least 10% of the common shares in OceanaGold Philippines Inc. (OGPI), the company’s Philippine operating subsidiary and holder of the FTAA, on the Philippine Stock Exchange within the next 3 years.
  • OGPI shall offer for purchase by the Philippine Central Bank not less than 25% of its annual gold doré production at fair market price and mutually agreed upon terms.
  • Transfer of OGPI’s principal office to a host province within the next 2 years.

The additional 1.5% allocated to community development will take the form of increased contributions to communities in the region and provincial development projects. While the existing fund for Social Development and Management Program will continue to be provided for the host and neighbouring communities, 1% of the additional 1.5% will be allocated to community development for additional communities and 0.5% to the host Provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.

General corporate update

Haile, USA

The Haile operation has delivered a strong second quarter of production as planned. The company continues to expect production in 2H21 to be softer from mine sequencing whereby the operation will be mining and processing lower grade ore. The company remains on track to achieve Haile’s 2021 guidance of 150 000 – 170 000 gold oz.

Whilst 2021 guidance anticipated residual productivity risks associated with weather and COVID, and mining unit rates have trended down during 2Q21, operating costs as well as AISC remain above expectation. Mining efficiencies continue to be adversely impacted by additional costs associated with material re-handling and excess water management, while processing has been impacted by higher reagent usage and maintenance costs to remediate plant blockages. Additional capital was included per 2021 guidance related to the storage of higher than anticipated volumes of potentially acid generating (PAG) material and work continues to develop options to optimise PAG identification and containment to ensure compliance with operating permits while minimising capital and waste management costs.

Management recognises if these trends were to continue it could have a negative impact on the total ounces contained within the opencast(s) and the project life of mine cash flows. While the company believes in the quality of the Haile operation, the performance of Haile to date has not yet met expectations. As such, a site wide review is underway under the oversight of a newly formed Board Technical Committee.

The addition of Mick McMullen and Paul Benson to the Board brings extensive industry specific technical and commercial skills to the company and they will form part of the Board Technical Committee. The Board Technical Committee is working with Management to assess Haile’s performance constraints and to put in place remediation plans to ensure the operation achieves its full potential. The current workstreams include: a review of mining and processing activities to deliver productivity improvements and operating cost reductions, water and waste management opportunities, capital efficiency options, and mining trade-off studies (i.e. potential to convert some planned future open pit cutbacks to underground mining at higher cutoff grades). It will also include the provision of external expert technical support aimed at identifying additional mining and processing efficiencies. The technical studies are expected to be complete in early 2022.

The Haile supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) process continues and the company now expects the Record of Decision and related permits within 4Q21. These permits relate to the expansion of the operating footprint to accommodate waste stockpiles, increased capacity through the water treatment plant, as well as development of the Haile Underground. Engagement with the US Army Corps of Engineers and South Carolina Department of Health and Environment Control remains positive and ongoing. The company is responding to inquiries received post release of the Draft Record of Decision. The delay in finalisation of the SEIS process and associated permits into late 2021 is anticipated to have a modest negative impact on capital and operating costs over the next 2 years due to the management and storage of additional PAG and costs associated with additional in-pit re-handling. Options analysis is underway to mitigate these short-term operational impacts, as well as potential delays to the commencement of the Haile Underground project. The company will continue to update the market on progress as appropriate. Meanwhile, initial surface works for the Haile Underground project are continuing with portal development planned to commence upon completion of the permitting process.

The company also announces that David Londono will commence as Executive General Manager on 15 July 2021, with Jim Whittaker having accepted a new role and departing the company effective 31 July 2021. Londono has over 35 years of experience in the mining industry with his most recent roles being General Manager of the Detour Lake Gold Mine, and later Vice President of Projects for Kirkland Lake Gold post the Detour acquisition. He has worked with Barrick, AngloGold Ashanti and Glencore, and holds Master’s degrees in Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines and Business Administration from Regis University in Denver. During his career, David has spent significant time and work in mine management and optimisation positions, and the company looks forward to David becoming part of the team and leading the performance improvement initiatives at Haile.

Waihi Gold Mine, New Zealand

Continuous milling at Waihi commenced late in the second quarter as planned. Martha Underground (MUG) continues to advance with development rates continuing to improve with May achieving the highest monthly development rates to date. Waihi is on track to deliver its full year production guidance of 35 000 – 45 000 gold oz as it transitions into its first full year production from MUG in 2022.

At Wharekirauponga (WKP), the company is currently drilling three major vein systems: Western, T-Stream and East Graben with promising results to date. A drought period in the region earlier in the year has slowed drilling relative to the company’s expectations, and as a result, the company currently expects to release the pre-feasibility study in early 2022.

Macraes Gold Mine, New Zealand

The company successfully completed the planned autoclave rebrick and mill repairs in 2Q21, and the plant is performing at capacity. Macraes is expected to be able to deliver on its full year production guidance of 155 000 – 165 000 gold oz. Golden Point Underground continues to advance toward first gold production expected in 4Q21.

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