News

August 15, 2011

Capstone Reports Pre-Feasibility Study Results for Santo Domingo Project in Chile

 

Santo Domingo PFS Generates After-tax NPV (8%) of US$1.1 billion with a 3 year payback


VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - Capstone Mining Corp. (TSX: CS) today announced the results of the Pre-feasibility Study ("PFS") for its Santo Domingo Iron Oxide-Copper-Gold ("IOCG") project ("Santo Domingo" or the "Project") in Region III, Chile. The Project is owned 70% by Capstone and 30% by Korea Resources Corporation ("KORES").

Highlights
(all amounts in U.S. dollars unless otherwise indicated and reflect 100% of the project)

  • Average annual production of 144 million pounds of copper, 4.1 million tonnes of iron concentrate and 15 thousand ounces of gold. Copper production will average 255 million pounds in the first five years of the Project.
  • Base Case1 after-tax net present value (NPV), discounted at 8%, of $1.1 billion. Spot Case2 after-tax NPV (8%) of $4 billion.
  • After-tax internal rate of return (IRR) of 22% with a payback period of 3.0 years (Base Case).
  • Expected life of mine total cash production costs are estimated to be $0.11 per pound of payable copper (net of magnetite iron and gold by-product credits and selling costs); $0.32 in the first five years.
  • Total capital costs estimated to be $1.24 billion, which includes a 14% contingency on total costs.
  • 18 year mine life with operations expected to commence in late-2015.
  • Nominal plant throughput rate of 63,500 tonnes per day; 70,000 tonnes per day in the first five years.
  • Favourably located close to existing infrastructure, with direct access to Asian markets.
  • Off-take agreements (at market pricing) committed for 50% of the copper and 50% of the iron concentrate, life of mine, as part of the strategic partnership with KORES for development of the Project.

1 Base Case at constant $2.50/lb. copper price, $1.00/dmtu iron price ($65/t conc. at 65% Fe), $1,000/oz. gold price. All calculations are Base Case except where otherwise specified.
2 Spot Case at constant $4.00/lb. copper price, $2.00/dmtu iron price ($130/t conc. at 65% Fe), $1,400/oz. gold price.


"The positive Santo Domingo PFS has met our economic expectations," said Darren Pylot, President and CEO of Capstone. "With the buoyancy in the copper market and strong demand for the by-product iron production, we intend to advance this Project towards production. With our $507 million cash balance at June 30, 2011, and the commitment by KORES to arrange debt financing for 65% of the capital costs of the Project, we have the means to move forward rapidly."

"With the PFS and funding in hand, we will proceed to award the contract for the Feasibility Study ("FS") and we have started the permitting process in Chile, as well as Project staffing under the direction of Gregg Bush, Capstone's Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Gregg has over 30 years of experience in large mine operations and development, with over 12 years of that spent in Chile," continued Mr. Pylot. "We are starting immediately to build the team that will see this exciting new Chilean copper project through to production."

Prefeasibility Study

The Santo Domingo PFS was completed by Ausenco, a global leader in engineering and project management services for the resource and energy sectors. With 30 offices in 20 countries, Ausenco specializes in the Energy, Environment & Sustainability, Minerals & Metals, Process Infrastructure and Program Management sectors. Ausenco was chosen for the Santo Domingo PFS because of its expertise and experience with similar sized, large base metal and iron projects, and proven experience with port and slurry pipeline construction. Significant contributions to the report were made by Scott Wilson RPA (subsequently Roscoe Postle Associates Inc.) (resource model), Arthur H. Winckers & Assoc. (metallurgy), Nilsson Mine Services Ltd. (mine design) and Knight Piésold (environmental).

The PFS builds on the Preliminary Assessment ("PA") completed in 20083. Since the PA, considerable work has been done on the project. The mineral resource has been increased from 240 to 486 million tonnes, the metallurgical performance, using seawater for copper and iron recovery, has been proven, and a large data set to support grinding characteristics/throughput estimates has been gathered.

The Santo Domingo Project will be an open pit operation, using conventional drilling, blasting, loading with diesel hydraulic shovels, and truck haulage. The process plant will have an annual average throughput of 63,500 tonnes per day using SAG and ball milling, with conventional flotation utilizing seawater to produce a copper concentrate. Magnetite iron will be recovered from the copper rougher tailings using Low Intensity Magnetic Separation (LIMS). A pipeline will bring seawater from the coast, approximately 74 kilometres from the project, and both copper and iron concentrate will be transported to the coast in a slurry pipeline for export.

3 Far West Mining Ltd. Preliminary Assessment dated May 9, 2008. Available in the Santo Domingo section of Capstone's website or on SEDAR under Far West's profile.

Location

The Santo Domingo Project is located 50 kilometres west of Codelco's El Salvador copper mine, and 130 kilometres north northeast of Copiapó in Region III, Chile, near the town of Diego de Almagro. Elevation at the site ranges from 1,000 to 1,280 metres above sea level, with relatively gentle topographic relief. Access to the project is 1 kilometre off the paved highway C-17 from Diego de Almagro to Copiapó. Regional infrastructure is good and highways connect the site to the main regional towns and cities. Regularly scheduled air services are available between Santiago and El Salvador and the Atacama airport located northwest of Copiapó.

Mineral Resource Estimate

Indicated and Inferred Mineral Resources (May 15, 2010)


 

Zone Mt % CuEq % Cu g/t Au % Fe
Indicated          
SDS 275 0.64 0.41 0.056 27.8
Iris 111 0.50 0.23 0.033 26.3
Iris Norte 99.5 0.47 0.16 0.019 26.4
Total indicated 486 0.57 0.32 0.043 27.2
Inferred          
SDS 30.5 0.46 0.26 0.037 23.7
Iris 5.52 0.47 0.19 0.026 26.0
Iris Norte 25.3 0.47 0.10 0.011 27.9
Total Inferred 61.3 0.46 0.19 0.025 25.7


Notes: CIM definitions were followed for Mineral Resources. Mineral Resources for SDS/Iris are estimated at a cut-off grade of 0.25% CuEq. CuEq grades are calculated using average long-term prices of $2.25/lb Cu, $950/oz Au, and $0.74/dmtu Fe ($50/dmt conc. at 67.5% Fe). CuEq calculations and metallurgical recovery factors are as stated in the Scott Wilson RPA Technical report. Due to rounding, some figures may not add up to the totals shown. Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability. See "Quality Assurance and NI 43-101 Compliance" at the end of this news release for further information.


Mineral Reserves

Santo Domingo Open Pit Probable Mineral Reserve


 

Stage Ore (Mt) Ore Grade Contained Metal
Cu (%) Au (g/t) Cu (Mlbs) Au (kOz) Magnetite
Conc. (Mt)
SDS/Iris            
SDS Stage 1 71.8 0.61 0.08 958 193 11
SDS Stage 2 63.7 0.41 0.06 574 113 10
SDS Stage 3 170.5 0.23 0.03 848 173 32
SDS Stage 4 38.8 0.36 0.05 304 60 3
Subtotal SDS/Iris 344.8 0.35 0.05 2,684 539 57
Iris Norte            
IRN Stage 1 21.4 0.23 0.03 108 20 4
IRN Stage 2 28.0 0.13 0.01 78 12 7
IRN Stage 3 23.7 0.11 0.01 60 8 5
Subtotal Iris Norte 73.1 0.15 0.02 246 41 17
Grand Total 418.0 0.32 0.04 2,930 580 73


Notes: NSR cut-off of $5.79/t (incremental operating cost; does not include mining costs). Mineral Reserves based on Indicated Mineral Resources only. Magnetite concentrate tonnage based on average 65% iron grade. Due to rounding, some figures may not add up to the totals shown.

Life of Mine Production Schedule

The cash flow model is supported by a mine plan developed to an annual level of detail. Approximately

50 million tonnes of material would be pre-stripped in the year prior to start-up of operations. The life of mine plan contemplates mining of 1.7 billion tonnes of material consisting of 1.3 billion tonnes of waste rock and overburden and 0.4 billion tonnes of ore over an 18-year mine life. The overall strip ratio for the project is 3.1.

The plan developed for the project mines higher copper grades in the first five years of the mine life with progressively lower copper grades and higher iron grades for the remaining 13 years.

A detailed mine plan can be accessed at the following link.

Processing

The copper and magnetite recovery plant and associated service facilities will process run of mine (ROM) ore delivered to a primary crusher feeding a conventional process of crushing and grinding of the ROM ore, copper flotation (in seawater), and magnetite recovery from copper rougher tailings. Copper and magnetite concentrates will be thickened on site prior to being pumped via a concentrate pipeline to the port. At the port, the concentrates will be washed, dewatered and loaded onto ships for transportation to third-party smelters.

Grinding and flotation testwork has established mill design parameters and copper recovery estimates for the study. The mill will process a total of 418 million tonnes of ore over an 18-year mine life at an average grade of 0.32% Copper, 0.04 grams per tonne gold, and 27.6% iron. Mill throughput will vary from 70,000 tonnes per day in the first five years, to 60,000 tonnes per day in the latter years. Average mill throughput over the 18-year mine life is 63,500 tonnes per day. Metal recoveries for copper and gold are 88.7% and 46% respectively, averaged over the mine life.

Iron recovery was determined from magnetic separation testing on the copper flotation rougher tailings. Iron recoveries vary directly with the mineralogy of the iron present in the ore. The present study does not consider any process to recover the specular hematite portion of the iron. Therefore iron recovery is presented in terms of the total mill feed mass recovery. For the life of the project this averages 17.5%, and ranges from a low of 10.3% in the first year of the project to a high in excess of 25% in the last two years of the project. Testing indicates that a magnetite concentrate grading 65% iron can be maintained throughout the life of the project. All metallurgical data used in the development of the recovery and concentrate grade estimates for the cash flow models are based on tests conducted using seawater, which produced results equivalent to, or better than, tests performed in fresh water.

An annual production schedule showing tonnes processed, grades, and recoveries can be accessed at the following link.

The tailings storage system consists of a tailings storage facility ("TSF") located north of the proposed mine. The TSF is designed to store approximately 353 Mt of conventional thickened tailings - enough for the approximately 18 years of the project life. Storage of both seawater and process water is proposed in lined ponds near the plant site. Water make-up is proposed to be untreated seawater. Based on the conventional thickened tailings disposal method, the estimated water make-up will be approximately 1,450 m3/h (~400 L/s).

Infrastructure 

Access to the mine site is 6 kilometres to the south of Diego de Almagro on Highway C-17. This section is paved and in good condition. Due to the location of the Iris Norte pit and process facility, approximately 2 kilometres of the existing road will require diversion and an overpass. The overpass will allow vehicle access to the tailings storage facility without crossing Highway C-17.

High-voltage transmission will be achieved using a 220 kV double-circuit overhead line from Diego de Almagro. The high voltage power line will feed a 220/13.8 kV transformer yard at the project main substation. Correspondence with the Chilean government organisation for the coordination of electrical installations, SDEC-SIC, suggests there is sufficient 220 kV power available on the central grid which services the project area to meet the demands of the project.

Due to the scarcity of fresh water in Region III in Chile, the Project will be designed to use seawater, which will be brought to the site via pipeline from the coast.

The PFS is based on the port facility being located near the coastal township of Chañaral, approximately 74 kilometres west of the Santo Domingo project. The port facility will receive magnetite and copper concentrate from the project by pipeline.

Both the concentrate and seawater pipelines are anticipated to run together in a pipeline corridor along the north side of the C-57 road and Route 5. The ground is gravel, clay and sand with no high points and a continuous slope.


Capital Cost Estimate

The total project capital cost estimate is summarized below and has ±25% accuracy as of July 2011. This estimate is based on a foreign exchange rate of 1 US$ = 466 Chilean Pesos (CLP).

Summary of Capital Costs

 

Area $M
Mining equipment 172
Pre-strip 54
Process plant 283
Tailings 29
On-Site Infrastructure 27
Off-Site Infrastructure  
Site Power 6  
Concentrate Pipeline 49  
Seawater Pipeline 76  
Concentrate Dewatering, Storage and Load Out 121  
Off-Site Infrastructure (Total) 253
Total Direct Costs 818
Indirect Costs 186
Owners Cost 89
Total Indirect Costs 275
Contingency 149
Total Project Cost 1,242


Life of mine sustaining capital, estimated at $495 million over the 18-year mine life including mine closure estimates, are not included in the above figure.



Operating Cost Estimate

The total project operating costs, excluding costs associated with concentrate sales, are summarized below. The costs are presented as life-of-mine ("LOM") averages per tonne of ore processed.

Summary of Average LOM Operating Costs

 

Cost Centre $M/a $/t ore
Mining 107 4.62
Process plant 101 4.37
Concentrate pipeline 2 0.09
Seawater pipeline 10 0.43
G&A 13 0.55
Port Facility 11 0.46
Total 244 10.52


The operating costs estimate was prepared with a base date of July 2011 to an accuracy level of ±25%. The estimate excludes sustaining capital expenditure requirements which have been included as part of the financial model.

The estimated total cash production costs for copper over the life of the project are estimated at $0.11 per pound of payable copper, when including gold and iron credits and selling costs. The co-product total cash production costs are estimated at $1.12 per pound of payable copper and $30.46 per tonne of magnetite concentrate.


Economics

The overall economic performance of the project (as measured by the IRR, NPV and payback period) is summarized below. Base case and spot price economic models were developed. These models are based on the commodity prices, and operating and capital costs listed below.

Base Case Economic Analysis 

 

Economic Parameters EBITD&A After Tax
NPV ($M @ 8%) 1,620 1,092
IRR% 29.4 22.0
Simple Payback Period (years) 2.5 3.0
Total Cash Production Costs (per lb of payable Cu) 0.11


 

Notes: Total Cash Production Costs (per lb of payable Cu) are inclusive of by-product credits and selling costs.



Spot Price Case Economic Analysis 

 

Economic Parameters EBITD&A After Tax
NPV ($M @ 8%) 5,472 3,985
IRR% 60.2 45.4
Simple Payback Period (years) 1.5 1.7
Total Cash Production Costs (per lb of payable Cu) negative 1.75


 

Notes: Total Cash Production Costs (per lb of payable Cu) are inclusive of by-product credits and selling costs.



Summary of Inputs into Economic Model
 

Parameter Base Spot
NPV discount rate, % 8
Copper price, $/lb 2.50 4.00
Magnetite price, $/dmtu 1.00* 2.00**
Gold Price, $/oz 1,000 1,400
Capital Cost, $M 1,242
LOM Site Operating Cost, $M 4,403
LOM Sustaining Capital Cost, $M 495
LOM Selling Costs, $M 1,091


*US$65/t conc. at 65% Fe; ** US$130/t conc. at 65% Fe.



Sensitivities
 

PARAMETER   EBITD&A AFTER TAX
OR   IRR NPV IRR NPV
VARIATION VALUE (%) @ 8.0% (%) @ 8.0%
      ($M)   ($M)
           
Copper Price ($/lb)        
-20% $2.00 21.3 967 15.9 589
-10% $2.25 25.4 1,294 19.0 841
Base Case $2.50 29.4 1,620 22.0 1,092
10% $2.75 33.3 1,946 24.9 1,341
20% $3.00 37.1 2,272 27.7 1,589
           
Total Operating Costs ($/t LOM average)        
-20% $8.42 34.1 2,125 25.6 1,469
-10% $9.47 31.8 1,872 23.9 1,282
Base Case $10.52 29.4 1,620 22.0 1,092
10% $11.57 26.9 1,367 20.1 899
20% $12.63 24.3 1,115 17.9 704
           
Initial Capital Costs ($M)        
-20% $994 37.4 1,882 28.2 1,334
-10% $1,118 33.1 1,751 24.8 1,213
Base Case $1,242 29.4 1,620 22.0 1,092
10% $1,366 26.3 1,489 19.6 971
20% $1,491 23.7 1,357 17.6 850
           
Magnetite Iron Price ($/dmtu Fe)        
-20% $0.80 26.2 1,232 19.3 791
-10% $0.90 27.9 1,426 20.7 942
Base Case $1.00 29.4 1,620 22.0 1,092
10% $1.10 31.0 1,814 23.3 1,241
20% $1.20 32.4 2,008 24.5 1,390


Permitting

The land and territory investigations regarding the project's current footprint indicate there would be no impact on natural parks, biodiversity conservation priority sites, or indigenous development land in the Atacama Region. Additional baseline studies are required for the project in order to achieve a proper characterization of the environmental components that should be included in the future Environmental Impact Study ("EIS").

Next Steps

A project implementation schedule has been developed for a FS with additional test work and engineering, to be followed by procurement and construction of the process plant, related facilities, and infrastructure, with commissioning completed in late-2015. The plan includes additional environmental baseline studies and the preparation of the EIS and permitting process for the plant and associated infrastructure. Due to the advanced nature of the testwork, the FS can commence in parallel or slightly ahead of the testwork program and still allow the results to be incorporated in the study. Capstone is in the process of recruiting key personnel in Chile to move the project forward.

The critical, long-lead items for development of the plant are the grinding mills. SAG and ball mills delivery is currently forecast to be in excess of 18 months from manufacture to delivery at port of export and timelines will be monitored closely.

The PFS does not include recovery of the hematite iron in the mill feed or the processing of approximately 30 million tonnes of oxide material in the indicated resource category. The FS has upside potential in the recovery of the hematite iron with an additional processing step. There is also potential to recover copper from the oxide material in a satellite leaching operation. In addition, further geotechnical drilling is planned for the FS with the goal of improving the overall strip ratio.

Technical Report

The full Santo Domingo PFS, prepared as a National Instrument 43-101 compliant Technical Report, will be filed under Capstone's profile on SEDAR at www.sedar.com within 45 days.

Conference Call and Webcast

Capstone will host a conference call on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 to discuss the Santo Domingo PFS and second quarter results. The conference call and webcast details are as follows:

Date: Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Time: 11:30 am Eastern Time (8:30 am Pacific Time)
Dial in: North America -- 1.888.231.8191, International -- 1.647.427.7450
Webcast: http://www.newswire.ca/en/webcast/viewEvent.cgi?eventID=3595240
Replay: North America -- 1.800.642.1687, International -- 1.416.849.0833
Replay Passcode: 81625702

The conference call replay will be available until August 25, 2011. A transcript of the call will also be made available on Capstone's website (http://capstonemining.com/s/ConferenceCalls.asp) within approximately 24 hours of the call.

About Capstone Mining Corp.

Capstone Mining Corp. is a TSX listed Canadian mining company with two producing copper mines in the Americas: the Cozamin copper-silver-zinc-lead mine located in Zacatecas State, Mexico and the Minto copper-gold-silver mine in Yukon, Canada.

Using its operations as a springboard, Capstone aims to grow organically and through acquisitions in politically stable, mining-friendly jurisdictions, with a focus in the Americas: organic growth through continued mineral resource and reserve expansions as well as expanding operations at its operating mines, development of its large scale 70% owned Santo Domingo copper-iron-gold project in Chile in partnership with Korea Resources Corporation, development of its Kutcho copper-zinc-gold-silver project in British Columbia and exploration at properties in Chile, British Columbia and Australia. Capstone's cash flow and strong balance sheet provide the platform to enhance that growth profile. Capstone is included in the S&P/TSX Composite Index and S&P/TSX Global Mining Index. Additional information is available at www.capstonemining.com.


For further information please contact:
Capstone Mining Corp.
Cindy Burnett, VP, Investor Relations
Telephone: 604-637-8157
Email:
Website: www.capstonemining.com

Quality Assurance and NI 43-101 Compliance

The technical information in this news release has been prepared in accordance with Canadian regulatory requirements by, or under the supervision of, David Brimage of Ausenco, (an independent "Qualified Person") as set out in National Instrument 43-101 Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects of the Canadian Securities Administrators ("NI 43-101") and reviewed by John Sagman, P. Eng., a Qualified Person and Vice President, Technical Services, Capstone Mining Corp. In addition, Gregg Bush, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Capstone, reviewed all Technical Information in this news release.

The PFS was prepared with input from the following: David Brimage of Ausenco, Dave Rennie of Scott Wilson RPA, John Nilsson of Nilsson Mine Services Limited, Art Winckers of Arthur H. Winckers & Associates, Robert Braun of Ausenco, and Humberto Rivas of Knight Piésold, who are responsible for certain sections of the PFS as detailed in the PFS and this release.

Readers are advised that mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability. Mineral resource estimates do not account for mineability, selectivity, mining loss and dilution. These mineral resource estimates include inferred mineral resources that are normally considered too speculative geologically to have economic considerations applied to them that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves. Even though test mining has been undertaken in areas with M&I class mineral resources there is no certainty that inferred mineral resources will be converted to measured and indicated categories through further drilling, or into mineral reserves, once economic considerations are applied.

Based on the resource estimate, a standard methodology for pit limit analysis, mining sequence, and cut-off grade optimization, including application of mining dilution, process recovery, economic criteria and physical mine and plant operating constraints, has been followed to design the open pit mines and determine the mineral reserve estimate for each deposit as summarized in the Mineral Reserve table.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Information

This document may contain "forward-looking information" within the meaning of Canadian securities legislation and "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (collectively, "forward-looking statements"). These forward-looking statements are made as of the date of this document and Capstone Mining Corp. (the "Company") does not intend, and does not assume any obligation, to update these forward-looking statements, except as required under applicable securities legislation.

Forward-looking statements relate to future events or future performance and reflect Company management's expectations or beliefs regarding future events and include, but are not limited to, statements with respect to the estimation of mineral reserves and mineral resources, the realization of mineral reserve estimates, the timing and amount of estimated future production, costs of production, capital expenditures, success of mining operations, environmental risks, unanticipated reclamation expenses, title disputes or claims and limitations on insurance coverage. In certain cases, forward-looking statements can be identified by the use of words such as "plans", "expects" or "does not expect", "is expected", "budget", "scheduled", "estimates", "forecasts", "intends", "anticipates" or "does not anticipate", or "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" or the negative of these terms or comparable terminology. By their very nature forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors which may cause the actual results, performance or achievements of the Company to be materially different from any future results, performance or achievements expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Such factors include, among others, risks related to actual results of current exploration activities; changes in project parameters as plans continue to be refined; future prices of mineral resources; possible variations in ore reserves, grade or recovery rates; accidents; dependence on key personnel; labour pool constraints; labour disputes; delays in obtaining governmental approvals or financing or in the completion of development or construction activities; and other risks of the mining industry as well as those factors detailed from time to time in the Company's interim and annual financial statements and management's discussion and analysis of those statements, all of which are filed and available for review under the Company's profile on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. Although the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual actions, events or results to differ materially from those described in forward-looking statements, there may be other factors that cause actions, events or results not to be as anticipated, estimated or intended. There can be no assurance that forward-looking statements will prove to be accurate, as 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.

Alternative Performance Measures

"Cash Production Costs", "Total Cash Production Costs", "Total Project Operating Costs" and "LOM Operating Costs" are Alternative Performance Measures. These performance measures are included because these statistics are key performance measures that management uses to monitor performance. Management uses these statistics to assess how the Company is performing to plan and to assess the overall effectiveness and efficiency of mining operations. These performance measures do not have a meaning within International Financial Reporting Standards ("IFRS") and, therefore, amounts presented may not be comparable to similar data presented by other mining companies. These performance measures should not be considered in isolation as a substitute for measures of performance in accordance with IFRS.