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KEFI Minerals Plc

KEFI Minerals plc Rapid progress for the coming months

Commenting, KEFI and TKGM Chairman, Mr Harry Anagnostaras-Adams, said: “2018 was a year of two halves for KEFI.  Whilst the first half was orientated around consolidation as Ethiopia exited its states of emergency, the second half was one of significant development and progress as the Company formalised its strategic partnerships with the Government of Ethiopia and Ethiopian investors at the asset level of its flagship Tulu Kapi Project. “Accordingly, KEFI now finds itself in the enviable position that, subject to receiving a confirmatory letter from the Ethiopian central bank as regards already-agreed project finance terms, we will have received all regulatory consents and financial commitments to trigger the development program at Tulu Kapi with our project contractors Lycopodium and Ausdrill.. “This may have taken longer than we had hoped, but the management team of KEFI remain resolute in their belief that, despite the historic delays, our Tulu Kapi Project continues to be a very attractive near term production project, with significant additional upside. “As a consequence, KEFI now sits at the forefront of our sector in one of the world’s great under-developed minerals provinces – the Arabian-Nubian Shield. We have established a solid platform to pursue our ambition to discover and develop profitable mining opportunities in Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia and thus build shareholder value.  In particular we look forward to triggering the full development program at Tulu Kapi, with a view to starting commissioning towards the end of 2020, with full gold production from mid-2021. “I look forward to the future with confidence and anticipate that the coming months will be a period of rapid progress for KEFI.”  

KEFI Minerals plc (LON:KEFI), the gold exploration and development company with projects in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, today announced its financial results for the year ended 31 December 2018.  

Notice of AGM and Annual Report

The Annual General Meeting (“AGM”) of the Company will be held at 11am on Friday 28 June 2019 at Marlin Hotel, 111 Westminster Bridge Road, Waterloo, London, SE1 7HR. Information on the resolutions to be considered at the AGM can be found in the Notice of AGM that has been made available to shareholders of the Company as an electronic communication along with forms of proxy and direction (the “AGM materials”) as well as the Annual Report and Accounts for the year ended 31 December 2018 (the “Annual Report”). The AGM materials and Annual Report are available on KEFI’s website at www.kefi-minerals.com.  

Market Abuse Regulation (MAR) Disclosure

Certain information contained in this announcement would have been deemed inside information for the purposes of Article 7 of Regulation (EU) No 596/2014 until the release of this announcement.  

Executive Chairman’s Report

It is with great sorrow that I report the recent passing of our Chairman, Mr Mark Wellesley-Wood. He was a gentleman of the highest integrity and discipline, a true professional who made a great contribution to the industry internationally over decades. Mark also made a significant contribution towards the development of KEFI.

Mark joined our Board of Directors in mid-2016, eighteen months after KEFI entered Ethiopia to take control of the Tulu Kapi Gold Project, which had over US$40 million spent on it by the previous controllers and was in need of an overhaul both technically and financially. Mark made a significant contribution to guiding that overhaul and was also a great morale-builder and supporter. What initially appeared to us to be an 80,000 oz per annum gold project is now planned to be 140,000 per annum gold producer. We progressed the project despite the challenges around us such as the Ethiopian political unrest from late 2015 with States of Emergency introduced in October 2016 and finally lifted in June 2018.

In short, since taking control of Tulu Kapi, we spent a further US$20 million on what is now a robust project. Various development activities have already started – the Government of Ethiopia has committed US$20 million (Ethiopian Birr equivalent) to install the offsite infrastructure in exchange for earning project equity and has started the detailed design and tender preparation process. We expect to shortly see full development programs initiated by the project subsidiary Tulu Kapi Gold Mines Share Company (“TKGM”) with the support of the three project partners – KEFI, the Ethiopian Government and our Ethiopian private sector partner, ANS Mining Share Company (“ANS Mining”), which has committed a total of US$38 million (Ethiopian Birr equivalent) staged in two tranches. The next step is community resettlement and detailed engineering and procurement for the on-site infrastructure. Then full funding can be closed and major construction works can commence.

Subject to receiving a confirmatory letter from the Ethiopian central bank as regards already-agreed project finance terms, we will have received all regulatory consents and financial commitments to trigger the development program (starting with community resettlement and detailed engineering and procurement). What remains then is for TKGM’s next equity funding round to close with ANS Mining. The terms for the first tranche of US$11.4 million (Ethiopian Birr equivalent) have already been agreed and we are assembling the updates to TKGM shareholder agreements on already-agreed terms and liaising with the regional government to grant permission to start the resettlement of the community.  Whilst KEFI remains reliant on the performance of its counterparties, this intertwined set of steps is now in hand.

KEFI now sits at the forefront of our sector in one of the world’s great under-developed minerals provinces – the Arabian-Nubian Shield (“ANS”). We have established a solid platform to pursue our ambition to discover and develop profitable mining opportunities in Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia and thus build shareholder value. This has been done despite a time of weak geopolitics and market cycle. There have been consequential timetable slippages and increases in the cost of capital that has resulted in shareholder dilution.

I would like now to look forward and refer to certain aspects of the environment that we work within, as well as the specifics about our own situation and plans.

Firstly, the wider environment for gold and the companies within the junior gold mining sector: according to the World Gold Council, central banks lifted their gold purchases by 68% in the first quarter of 2019 and we have concurrently seen a sharp recovery in investor sentiment in both equity and debt markets. On the other hand, it is obvious to KEFI shareholders that this recovery has not flowed through to our sector of explorer-developers as indicated by the VanEck Junior Gold Miners ETF – which is still trading at levels of only circa 20% of when the gold price peaked in 2011. So, whilst it appears that the current global macro environment is now conducive for an increase in gold sector indices from current cyclical lows, such an increase has yet to occur.

With regards to the geopolitical environment of the countries within which we operate: – with hindsight we can see that the political and regulatory environment of Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia severely restricted our progress until recently. Not only did we have the States of Emergency in Ethiopia, but in Saudi Arabia minerals tenements were effectively frozen pending an overhaul of many aspects of the Saudi Government.  It is a relief that we can can also see that both countries took major steps forward during 2018, with newly-appointed pro-development Government leadership in both countries making huge improvements including within our sector.

Fortunately KEFI’s standing in both countries is that of a steadfast and respected operator of joint ventures with strong local partners and exciting ground positions. Thus we are well positioned to benefit from this new environment. In our view KEFI has control of the most attractive project in each country : in Ethiopia we control the only ready to develop project which also comes with a reserved area of 1,900 square kilometres of the surrounding district containing many advanced drill-out targets for satellite deposits. In Saudi Arabia we control a 120 kilometre long belt  containing 24 Volcanogenic Massive Sulphide (“VMS”) systems, any one of which has the potential to be a company maker.

Against this improving backdrop of a great land position, improved markets and geopolitics, KEFI will push forward and should, we believe,  be in a more supportive environment than has been evident for some time. We believe that we have the opportunity to make rapid progress and to stand-out in what will sooner or later be a cyclical turnaround for the sector. This targeted success will have resulted from our focus and tenacity over the past years and should be opportune timing for the start up of our first operating unit and for us to also go onto the front foot with exploration in both Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia.

Our first production is planned at Tulu Kapi in the Oromia Region of Western Ethiopia. The planned Tulu Kapi open pit gold mine and processing facility is typical of many such “open-pit-CIL-gold-projects” around the world and uses standard technology and industry practices long-applied in mature highly-regulated mining jurisdictions such as Scandinavia, Australia and North America. Tulu Kapi has a 1.0 million ounce gold ore reserve and 1.7 million ounce mineral resource. Tulu Kapi will also provide an operating base in the heart of Ethiopia’s most prolific gold district where gold has been mined for millenia.

From a social-licence viewpoint, it is notable that the KEFI-controlled licencee and operating company TKGM is a joint Ethiopian-KEFI company with long-standing community support and a strong commitment to maximising local participation in the workforce and supply chain. TKGM, like KEFI, emphasises transparency in all dealings and compliance with leading international standards for social and environmental aspects including World Bank IFC Principles and the Equator Principles. Whenever civil unrest has affected our area, the local community and authorities have protected TKGM.

From a price-risk viewpoint, we have designed the development and finance plans to withstand a flat gold price for the next ten years of US$1,050/oz – which is the lowest gold price experienced in the past five years. The average gold price during the past five years was approximately US$1,300/oz and that has been adopted as KEFI’s base case flat gold price assumption for financial projections for the next ten years.

From an upside maximisation viewpoint, it is notable that KEFI has reserved the exploration rights to an area of 1,900 square kilometres of prospective ground with walk-up drill targets within trucking distance of Tulu Kapi. It is also notable that a 10% increase in either production or gold price above our base case assumption of 140,000 oz p.a. and US$1,300/oz, increases project NPV by c. 50%. And it is also notable that the upside potential of our ground position in Ethiopia is actually surpassed by that in Saudi Arabia, albeit earlier days for those projects.

Our current schedule is to commence the full development program in Ethiopia as soon as possible upon closing of the next project-equity injection and to trigger the first phase of community resettlement when so instructed by the Regional Authorities, to target commissioning Tulu Kapi towards the end of 2020, with full gold production from mid-2021 at an average annual rate of 140,000 ounces from the open pit. Because of recent looting and isolated incidents of inter-ethnic violence, we liaise with the authorities to ensure safe processes at all times commencing with resettlement phase I.

Tulu Kapi – Open Pit Production Targets

KEFI’s financial targets for the Tulu Kapi open-pit include:

·      Gold production of 140,000 ounces per annum for seven years;

·      At a flat average gold price of US$1,300/oz:

o  All-in Sustaining Costs of c. US$800/oz (ignoring financing charges);

o  All-in Costs (“AIC”) c. US$1,000/oz;

o  After-tax, leveraged IRR of 56%;

o  After-tax, leveraged NPV (8% discount rate) of US$117 million at start of construction;

o  After-tax, leveraged NPV (8% discount rate) of US$193 million at start of production;

o  Payback of 3 years; and

o  Average EBITDA of US$80 million per annum and average net cash flow (after debt repayments and all planned commitments) of US$30 million per annum.

·      A circa 50% increase in NPV results from either a 10% increase in gold price or a 10% increase in product output.

Our development plan reflects, among other things, a fixed price, lump-sum processing plant “design and supply contract” with Lycopodium and a warranted ore processing rate of 1.9-2.1 million tonnes per annum. The plant assembly aspect of the development is planned as a reimbursable cost-based arrangement. The overall contractual package for the process plant includes incentives and penalties for performance and ongoing operational support as required. The mining services agreement is a conventional schedule of rates agreement under which Ausdrill subsidiary African Mining Services provides the mining equipment, systems and operators and gets paid for performing according to the KEFI/TKGM plans and directions.

KEFI bases the finance structure on the numbers and schedules in the 2018 Plan, founded on the JORC (2012) based Ore Reserve Report (Snowden 2015), and the refined Definitive Feasibility Study as optimised with the principal contractors. We have then run a range of sensitivity analyses to ensure robust coverage of fixed obligations under a range of scenarios. The plans and sensitivity analyses have then been reviewed by the Independent Technical Expert (Micon 2018).

KEFI’s Exploration Programs

The ANS has been the Company’s primary focus since 2008 when KEFI was invited to be the operator of an exploration joint venture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Our experience since then has reinforced our excitement by the opportunity provided and we have since established our pole position in the region.

KEFI has, through its local-joint venture companies, a nearly 3,000 square kilometre portfolio of exploration properties at various stages within the highly prospective ANS. We have formulated an ambitious exploration program to advance in parallel with the development at Tulu Kapi.

In Saudi Arabia exploration of the Wadi Bidah Mineral District (“WMBD”) is our primary focus as this provides the potential for discovery of world-class gold-copper deposits. The WMBD is a large area with 24 large VMS systems having been identified. Field work has commenced at the Hawiah Exploration Licence with drilling scheduled for later in 2019. Other VMS systems have already been developed within the ANS in recent years, with several being of a scale many times that of our Tulu Kapi Gold Project.

As usual since our entry into Saudi Arabia in 2008, the tenement applications are made by ARTAR on behalf of our joint venture company Gold & Minerals Limited (“G&M”), which is owned 40% by KEFI and 60% by ARTAR. This has proved efficient for a number of reasons and KEFI has the right to instruct that the tenements be transferred to G&M.

Early on, we demonstrated the prospectivity of our tenements by discovering gold at Jibal Qutman in Saudi Arabia and quickly delineated Mineral Resources totalling 733,000 ounces of near-surface gold. That was a good start and further drilling has a very good chance of increasing oxide gold resources on the granted Exploration Licence (“EL”) and surrounding pending ELAs. But, in the meantime, that project is on hold awaiting Mining Licence tenure confirmation whilst we focus on the much bigger play at WBMD.

In Ethiopia, we are also keen to test VMS prospects on our application areas under KEFI subsidiary KEFI Minerals (Ethiopia) Limited (“KME”) in which high-grade copper and gold has been drilled.

The most advanced exploration target is the continuation of the Tulu Kapi deposit below the planned open pit. There is significant potential to expand Tulu Kapi’s Mineral Resource as it remains open along strike, down plunge and at depth. The economic potential is also enhanced by the gold grades increasing with depth as well as the ore lenses thickening, making underground mining potentially attractive. Average grade of the Mineral Resource below the planned open pit is 5.7 grammes per tonne.

A number of other gold prospects have been identified within trucking distance of Tulu Kapi. Proposed exploration activity will be significantly expanded with this focus, as these prospects have the scope and potential to add substantial value by providing additional ore to the Tulu Kapi processing facility.

The potential of the ANS has recently been more widely recognised and the world’s two largest gold companies, Barrick Gold and Newmont Mining, are now active in Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia respectively.

Capital Management

The business model of the Company has always been to raise equity capital to fund the next stage of exploration and development. At the same time, KEFI has worked hard to minimise Tulu Kapi’s development funding requirements through engineering, contracting and project finance, which have been designed to provide an economically robust project and an appropriate financing plan. Nearly all capital requirements are to be met at the project level by the combination of project contractors, partners and financiers.

Looking forward, the Company’s projections show significant value generating upside to shareholders from Tulu Kapi alone, let alone from the pipeline of other value-adding opportunities.

Annual General Meeting

We are extremely grateful for the patience and support of the community in Tulu Kapi, the contractors Ausdrill and Lycopodium, our hard-working small organisation of highly-experienced personnel and, of course, our extremely patient shareholders. We run a tight and low-cost operation with all our key people and their families are themselves shareholders.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet shareholders at the Annual General Meeting at 11am on Friday 28 June 2019 at Marlin Hotel, 111 Westminster Bridge Road, Waterloo, London, SE1 7HR. After the formal meeting, we will have an informal presentation and discussion. Those of you who are unable to attend are encouraged to submit questions to info@kefi-minerals.com.

Yours faithfully,

Harry Anagnostaras-Adams

Executive Chairman.

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Disclaimer: Statements in this article should not be considered investment advice, which is best sought directly from a qualified professional.