ECR Minerals plc, the gold exploration and development company, is pleased to announce unaudited half-yearly financial results for the six months to 31 March 2020 for the Company as consolidated with its subsidiaries (the “Group”), along with a review of significant developments during the period and subsequently.
- Victoria, Australia continues to enjoy a gold exploration boom and interest from third parties in ECR’s projects in Victoria is strong, with several discussions taking place in respect of potential commercial transactions over our Bailieston and Creswick projects.
- Announced results from exploration activities in Victoria included positive findings of an alteration study on RC drill cuttings from the Creswick project (March 2020), and confirmation of very high grade gold mineralisation at Creswick by the completion of ‘full bag’ testing (November 2019).
- In January 2020, MGA, ECR’s 100% owned Australian subsidiary, received a research and development expenditure refund of A$555,212 (approximately £295,515) from the Australian government.
- The Company completed the sale of its Argentine subsidiary Ochre Mining SA in February 2020 and retains an NSR royalty of up to 2% to a maximum of USD 2.7 million in respect of future production from the SLM gold project.
- Post-period end, the Company sold licences comprising the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor gold exploration projects in Victoria, Australia to Fosterville South Exploration Ltd for total potential cash consideration of up to A$2.5 million announced in April 2020.
- Post-period end, the Company’s cash position was strengthened by a £500,000 equity financing and the receipt of A$500,000 from Fosterville South Exploration Ltd in April 2020.
- Group comprehensive expense of £1,846,202 for the six months ended 31 March 2020 (£480,368 for the six months ended 31 March 2019) and net assets of £2,206,211 at 31 March 2020 (£3,876,921 at 31 March 2019).
- The Group Operating Loss for the six months ended 31 March 2020 reduced to £369,102, compared with £438,145 for the six months ended 31 March 2019.
- Despite the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, the Directors’ believe ECR is in a robust financial position and continues to provide shareholders with exposure to an exciting range of gold projects.
For the six months ended 31 March 2020 the unaudited financial statements of the Group record a total comprehensive expense of £1,846,202, including, a one off exceptional item of (£1,602,539) which pertains to the disposal of the Company’s Argentine subsidiary Ochre Mining SA. This amount cannot remain capitalised under applicable accounting standards, although this amount could be recovered from future royalty payments in relation to the SLM gold project in Argentina, which is owned by Ochre Mining SA, if they progress to production.
The Group’s net assets were £2,275,479 at 31 March 2020, compared with £3,876,921 at 31 March 2019. The reduction in net assets has occurred largely due to the disposal of Ochre Mining SA, as explained above.
The Group held £166,852 of cash and cash equivalents at 31 March 2020, compared with £622,457 at 31 March 2019. The current cash position of the Group today is £742,379.
In January 2020, Mercator Gold Australia Pty Ltd (“MGA”), ECR’s 100% owned Australian subsidiary, received a research and development (R&D) refund of A$555,212 (approximately £295,515) from the Australian government. This refund relates to qualifying expenditure incurred by MGA in the year ended 30 September 2019. The qualifying R&D activities pertain to research into turbidite-hosted gold deposits within MGA’s exploration licences in Victoria. Post the period end, the Group’s cash position benefited from a £500,000 equity financing completed by the Company and the receipt of AUD$500,000 from the sale of licences in April 2020.
The financial information included in the 31 March 2019 announcement have been restated due to a change in the accounting treatment of the R&D refunds received by MGA. As well as the refund noted above, a refund of A$318,971.73 (approximately £175,188) was received in May 2019. This was previously categorised as other income in the interims to 31 March 2019. The amount received has been offset against exploration assets following the restatement.
REVIEW OF PRINCIPAL DEVELOPMENTS DURING THE PERIOD AND SUBSEQUENTLY
Sale of Avoca, Moormbool and Timor gold exploration projects (the “Licences”) in Victoria, Australia to Fosterville South Exploration Ltd
In April 2020, ECR announced that Fosterville South Exploration Ltd, which listed on the TSX Venture Exchange that same month, had agreed to acquire MGA’s 100% ownership of the Licences by way of Currawong Resources Pty Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fosterville South, for total potential cash consideration of up to A$2.5 million, as follows:
- A$500,000 in cash, which was paid to MGA immediately;
- A further payment of A$1 for every ounce of gold or gold equivalent of measured resource, indicated resource or inferred resource estimated within the area of one or more of the Licences in any combination or aggregation of the foregoing, up to a maximum of A$1,000,000 in aggregate;
- A further payment of A$1 for every ounce of gold or gold equivalent produced from within the area of one or more of the Licences, up to a maximum of A$1,000,000 in aggregate.
ECR considered the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor licences to be high-potential but non-core to the Company, and the Company maintains exposure to upside from the projects as a result of future resource estimation or production, through a royalty arrangement as set out above.
Alteration Study – Creswick Gold Project
In February 2020, MGA commissioned Dr Dennis Arne to carry out an alteration study of cuttings (chips) generated by the RC drilling at the Creswick project in 2019. Dr Arne is a preeminent consulting geochemist in Victoria, whose experience includes previous and on-going reviews of geochemistry at the highly successful Fosterville gold mine in Central Victoria owned by Kirkland Lake Gold.
The results of the study were announced on 27 March 2020, and showed good indications of hydrothermal fluid flow related to gold mineralisation in a number of drill holes at Creswick. Importantly, the variation in the results, with some areas ‘lighting up’ and others not, is potentially useful for identifying gold-bearing shoots.
‘Full Bag’ Sampling – Creswick Gold Project
In February 2019 MGA completed a total of 1,687 metres of reverse circulation (RC) drilling in 17 holes at Creswick, targeting multiple quartz vein orientations within the Dimocks Main Shale (“DMS”). The drilling identified more extensive quartz than anticipated, in a zone exceeding 60 metres in width (more than twice the 25 metres expected), with quartz identified in more than one third of the 1,687 metres drilled. Gold mineralisation was identified in the majority of holes, with grades in nine holes ranging from 0.6 g/t gold to 44.63 g/t gold (1.44 oz/t).
MGA’s geologists hypothesised an extreme nuggety distribution of gold based on the results of drilling and other observations, including capturing a small 0.27 g nugget in gravity tests conducted on a single sample bag. In order to assess the significance of this effect, MGA’s consultants devised a testing program using gravity and electrostatic concentration (GEC) on full bags of RC drill cuttings, which would constitute the whole sample recovered from each metre of drilling (less sub-samples obtained at the time of drilling via a splitter mounted on the drill rig). In nuggety gold systems, increasing sample size increases the chance of nuggets being captured in the sample, and thus being appreciated as part of the gold endowment of the system.
Using the GEC method on the full bags, MGA was able to subject larger, more representative sample sizes to analysis. A total of 129 ‘full-bag’ samples were analysed using the GEC process. In parallel, 74 duplicate sub-samples obtained at the time of drilling via the rig-mounted splitter were analysed by the Leachwell method at Gekko Systems. This was done to enable comparison with the assay results (obtained by the same method) for the first set of sub-samples, to assist in classifying the nugget effect as extreme, major or minor.
Grade variability due to the nugget effect was demonstrated by the results of the exercise, which were announced in November 2019, but some consistency between results was also seen, and indicates the nugget effect may be less severe than initially thought. Overall, the programme confirmed the presence of nuggety gold mineralisation in the Dimocks Main Shale (DMS) at Creswick, some of which is very high grade.
MGA’s tenement position at Creswick covers approximately 7 kilometres of the DMS trend, and the 2019 drilling only tested approximately 300 metres of this. ECR therefore believes there is significant potential upside in the project.
Sale of SLM Gold Project
In February 2020, the Company sold its wholly owned Argentine subsidiary Ochre Mining SA, which holds the SLM gold project in La Rioja, Argentina, to Hanaq Argentina SA (“Hanaq”). The sale allows ECR to focus on its core gold exploration activities in Australia.
Hanaq is a Chinese-owned company engaged in lithium, base and precious metals exploration in Northwest Argentina including Salta, Jujuy and La Rioja, with a highly experienced management team.
ECR retains an Net Smelter Return (“NSR”) royalty of up to 2% to a maximum of USD 2.7 million in respect of future production from the SLM gold project. ECR believes that Hanaq has the operational capabilities and access to Chinese investment capital necessary to put the SLM project into production, subject to the usual prerequisites such as further exploration and feasibility studies being successfully completed (if deemed necessary by Hanaq) and to the necessary permits for production being obtained.
The founder and CEO of Hanaq Group, of which Hanaq Argentina SA is part, is Mr Xiaohuan (Juan) Tang, who has a substantive track record in Latin America, including responsibility for the successful permitting of the Pampa de Pongo iron ore project in Peru in his former capacity as General Manager of Jinzhao Mining Peru. Pampa de Pongo is one of the largest iron ore deposits in Latin America. Mr Tang has degrees from Tsinghua University in China, and Imperial College, Cambridge University and Oxford University in the UK.
Outlook, Future Prospects and COVID 19
The Directors’ of ECR Minerals plc are very positive regarding the outlook for the Company, gold and the prospectively of the Company’s projects in Victoria, Australia.
As a consequence of COVID 19, governments around the world have imposed restrictions on international travel; restrictions have also been imposed on domestic travel within Australia. These restrictions have meant that the board have been unable to visit the assets. However, the team on the ground in Australia continue the work at site without interruption. Accordingly, there has been no significant negative impact on the Group from the coronavirus.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
ECR Minerals plc
Tel: +44 (0)20 7929 1010
David Tang, Non-Executive Chairman
Craig Brown, Director & CEO
WH Ireland Ltd
Tel: +44 (0)161 832 2174
Katy Mitchell/James Sinclair-Ford
Tel: +44 (0)1483 413500
FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS
This announcement may include forward looking statements. Such statements may be subject to a number of known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from current expectations. There can be no assurance that such statements will prove to be accurate and therefore actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward looking statements. Any forward looking statements contained herein speak only as of the date hereof (unless stated otherwise) and, except as may be required by applicable laws or regulations (including the AIM Rules for Companies), the Company disclaims any obligation to update or modify such forward looking statements as a result of new information, future events or for any other reason.
ABOUT ECR MINERALS PLC
ECR is a mineral exploration and development company. ECR’s wholly owned Australian subsidiary Mercator Gold Australia Pty Ltd has 100% ownership of the Bailieston and Creswick gold projects in central Victoria, Australia.
Following the sale of the Avoca, Moormbool and Timor gold projects in Victoria, Australia to Fosterville South Exploration Ltd (TSX-V: FSX), ECR has the right to receive up to A$2 million in payments subject to future resource estimation or production at those projects.
ECR has earned a 25% interest in the Danglay gold project, an advanced exploration project located in a prolific gold and copper mining district in the north of the Philippines, and holds a royalty on the SLM gold project in La Rioja Province, Argentina.
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