17 February 2009
There have been major changes in the world economic climate over the past few months. These have resulted in continuing downward pressure on commodity demand and prices, particularly in respect of spot iron ore. Nevertheless the group remains well placed to move forward with the development of its assets.
Labrador Iron Mines Holdings Limited in which the group continues to hold a 50% interest has had a very successful period progressing the Schefferville Direct Shipping Ore project in Western Labrador, Canada towards production. Activities have included successful metallurgical testwork leading to the production of high quality product samples that appear to be gaining respect with European steel mills, the continuation of the engineering and resource studies, and the submission of the project Environmental Impact Statement. Subject to timely completion of the permitting process and to satisfactory prices for future iron ore sales, initial production should commence during the second half of 2009. The directors believe that there are sufficient funds to bring the Labrador mining operations into production.
There was disappointment at the termination of discussions on the proposed investment by an Australian group into the Parys Mountain Mine in Anglesey, North Wales, however these assets including the significant resource base remain wholly under the control of the group. At this time of very low base metal prices and demand, the directors believe it will be in the group’s best interests to minimise activity and expenditure at Parys Mountain. The project has therefore been placed on a low level care and maintenance basis, subject to review of the status of future development work in the spring.
In April 2008 LIM submitted the Project Registration Application for the first phase of development of the Schefferville Project to the Department of Environment and Conservation in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. The Project Registration Documentation addresses production from the first phase of the Schefferville Project, being the James North, James South and Redmond properties. These properties have been the subject of prior activity carried out by the Iron Ore Company of Canada and are already partially developed. The development plan as outlined in the Registration Document calls for initial production of iron ore in 2009 building up to three million tonnes by 2012.
In August 2008 the Minister of Environment and Conservation requested an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as part of the Application process. In October 2008 the Minister published for public consultation the draft guidelines for the preparation of the EIS. Following this period of public consultation, during which LIM conducted three public meetings in Labrador and in Schefferville, the Final Guidelines were issued by the Minister and LIM submitted the EIS to the Minister on 22 December 2008 and was registered on 23 December 2008. Public comments on the EIS could be submitted up to 11 February 2009 and the Minister should decide the acceptability of the EIS no later than 3 March 2009.
Upon release of project approval LIM will submit the applications for the necessary operating permits and licences. Assuming these permits and licences are issued during the second quarter of calendar 2009, LIM is currently planning, subject to on-going reviews of future iron ore prices, to commence initial mining operations during the summer of 2009. This program, if achieved, will enable LIM to test all its operational and transport facilities ahead of commercial production in 2010. If the permits are not issued in time to enable initial operations during the summer and fall of 2009, then the start of initial production will be delayed to 2010. This will have an impact on the commissioning and debugging process and this could affect initial commercial production.
A reverse circulation and core drilling program commenced in July 2008 to provide data for a compliant resource estimate on the various deposits, including a resource estimate on the Phase One Properties, and to assist with both short term mine planning and with longer term operational planning. This 4,500 metre program was completed in October 2008 and was supplemented by an exploration trenching program. In addition a detailed program of hydro-geological drilling comprising over 1,000 metres in 18 holes together with associated pump testing was completed.
A test mining program to excavate 6,500 tonnes of bulk ore samples from the Phase One deposits was carried out. This material was crushed and screened to produce samples approximating to the lump ore and sinter ore. The test mining program was successfully carried out and did not encounter any particular problems in mining or processing. Some of this bulk sample material was used in the metallurgical testing program and the remainder is available for market testing by potential iron ore buyers. Some of these samples have been washed offsite to replicate the final expected products. A number of such samples have been dispatched to potential end users, primarily in Europe.
A major Canadian consulting group was awarded a contract for a Resource and Engineering Study, including detailed engineering design and specifications for major items of plant and infrastructure. In addition metallurgical test-work aimed at the design of the process circuit required to meet market specifications for the particular types of iron ore was carried out. These activities are nearing completion and it is anticipated that the engineering report will be received during the first quarter of 2009.
The metallurgical testwork indicated that the direct shipping ore mined during the bulk sampling exercise is readily amenable to a simple washing and screening process. This process removes silica and enhances the grades of both the lump ore and the sinter fines to acceptable levels. In addition the level of deleterious impurities in the samples is generally low and suitable for end users.
An important aspect of the planned operations is the use of the major infrastructure facilities currently in place. The most critical of these facilities are the railroad and the port. The railroad between the site of the planned operations and Sept-Îles has been in continuous operation for over 50 years. It is currently split into three sections each managed by a different operator. Under Canadian Federal legislation each operator is designated as a Common Carrier and is obliged to provide a suitable level of service.
To support the transfer of the bulk sample iron ore to the Port of Sept-Îles in 2008 LIM leased ten 90 tonne gondola ore cars and also rented five ballast cars The gondola cars will become part of the future leased transport fleet that will include additional ore cars as well as main line and shunting locomotives. During the period LIM successfully transported the bulk sample products by rail from Schefferville to Sept-Îles. These were the first iron ore shipments to leave the Schefferville area for over a quarter of a century. LIM has agreed MOUs with the Port of Sept-Îles Authority and stevedoring contractors regarding the use of the Authority’s wharves for the storage and ship-loading of LIM’s products.
Marketing discussions have commenced with a number of potential end users, particularly in Europe, based on the metallurgical test results and on samples that have been supplied. These discussions have indicated a very encouraging level of interest in the LIM products. The high iron grades and the low level of impurities are important and should ensure that LIM will be able to find a market for both its lump ore and its sinter fines products.
Following the termination in October of discussions with Western Metals Limited of Australia regarding a sale to or potential investment by that company in respect of the Parys Mountain project, there has been a minimal level of activity on site. Whilst the relevant commodity prices remain depressed the property has been placed on a care and maintenance basis. An updated geological assessment for the White Rock area based on site work carried out over the period from 2005 to 2008 has been received and is currently being examined; further work on litho-geochemical analysis and interpretation is continuing.
The directors will continue to monitor commodity prices and to investigate all alternatives for the development of Parys Mountain including new forms of external investment.
The group’s 50% owned Labrador operations were funded by the Canadian IPO in December 2007 and January 2008 and are expected to proceed towards production without any further recourse to shareholders. The group has drawn a small additional loan under the long-term facility with its major shareholder to fund day to day corporate activities. The group has no revenues.
Iron ore pricing remains somewhat uncertain. Benchmark prices for 2009 are due to be set during the first half of the year. These new prices will be very significant for Labrador Iron, which will sell its future production based on these benchmark prices. The current outlook for such prices is now more positive than immediately at the end of 2008. Should these expectations be sustained then initial production in 2009 ahead of full commercial production in 2010 can be expected to have a positive effect on the group.
The directors believe that there will a be a relatively sharp rebound in base metal prices once the world economy turns and will continue to monitor economic patterns. Nevertheless present levels of prices are insufficient to justify current capital expenditure to bring the proposed Parys mine to production. In addition to increases in commodity prices, improved equity and debt markets will be necessary ahead of any major developments at Parys Mountain.
Anglesey Mining plc is a UK based company listed on the London Stock Exchange with a 50% interest in a 90 million ton iron ore project in Labrador, Canada, which is under active development towards mining production in 2009. The company also holds the Parys Mountain base metals project with a historical resource of 7.7 million tonnes at 9.3% combined copper, lead and zinc in Anglesey, UK.
For further information:
Bill Hooley, Chief Executive +(44) 1492 541981
Ian Cuthbertson, Finance Director +(44) 1248 361333