NovaGold Second Quarter Financial Results and Projects Update
July 13, 2010 - Vancouver, British Columbia - NovaGold Resources Inc. (NYSE-AMEX, TSX: NG) today announced the results of its second quarter ended May 31, 2010. Details of the Company's financial results are described in the unaudited consolidated financial statements and Management's Discussion and Analysis which, together with further details on each of the Company's projects, including resource estimates, will be available on the Company's website at www.novagold.net, on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and on EDGAR at www.sec.gov. All amounts are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise stated.
NovaGold will host a conference call and webcast
Monday, July 19 at 1pm PST (4pm EST)
Toll-free 1-877-440-9795 or webcast at www.novagold.net
During the quarter the gold sector has experienced considerable volatility, with junior mining stocks fluctuating greatly on a daily basis. As a gold-focused development-stage company, NovaGold's share price is affected significantly by the prevailing gold price. Global economics also affect the Company's share price, and current concerns over European debt and the Euro are affecting stock markets worldwide. NovaGold's share price is also affected by progress at the Company's projects. Company news during the last quarter has been positive, with progress at Donlin Creek and Galore Creek and the completion of US$175 million in an equity financing. Information on recent developments, progress at the projects and the Company's outlook is summarized below.
Description of business
NovaGold is a growth-focused precious metals company engaged in the exploration and development of mineral properties in Alaska, U.S.A. and British Columbia, Canada. The Company conducts its operations through wholly-owned subsidiaries, partnerships, limited liability companies and joint ventures. Since 1998, the Company has assembled a world-class portfolio of projects, with 50% interests in two of the world's largest undeveloped gold and copper-gold projects, 100% of the Rock Creek gold project, 100% of the Ambler copper-zinc-gold-silver deposit and other exploration-stage properties. The Company is primarily focused on gold properties, some of which also have significant copper, silver and zinc resources. NovaGold has reduced some of the development risk at its two core projects by leveraging the construction and operating expertise of its senior operating partners. In addition, all of NovaGold's current properties are located in Alaska and British Columbia, regions with low geopolitical risk that have a long history of mining, established permitting standards and governments supportive of resource development.
Approach to business
NovaGold's corporate growth strategy has been to acquire or partner in properties with identified resources that have potential for further expansion. NovaGold leverages its exploration and development expertise to bring additional resources and value to shareholders. The Company also recognizes the value of strong partnerships and a strong team, and looks for opportunities to acquire or partner in new projects that can bring value to NovaGold shareholders.
Responsible mining and community collaboration continues to be a trademark of NovaGold's business strategy at all of its projects. The Company has established a framework for sustainability reporting and in May 2010 published its first sustainability report which summarizes activities at its head office and project sites. NovaGold believes that long-lasting social and economic benefits can flow to the communities in which it operates. Through continuous collaboration with Alaskan Native and First Nation groups from the outset at each project, NovaGold considers the long-term impacts and benefits of operations for the stakeholders when developing its projects.
During the second quarter of 2010, NovaGold generated US$175.0million in cash from a non-brokered equity offering. Two respected investors in the gold sector significantly increased their positions in the Company, with several investment funds managed by Paulson & Co. investing a total of US$100 million and Quantum Partners Ltd., a private investment fund managed by Soros Fund Management LLC, investing US$75 million. NovaGold is now financed to meet its existing obligations for the next two to three years, with the additional flexibility to consider other opportunities that could bring value to shareholders.
NovaGold announced development news from its two core properties during the second quarter. At the Donlin Creek project, the gold reserve for the project was increased by 4.3million ounces (a 15% increase) and the Donlin Creek limited liability company ("Donlin Creek LLC”) completed preliminary studies to evaluate the potential of bringing a source of natural gas to the project. Using natural gas rather than diesel to generate on-site power has the potential to significantly reduce power costs, which represent approximately 25% of the projected total operating costs, and will also reduce the project's environmental footprint. Donlin Creek LLC is continuing with the environmental and engineering work required to review the gasline option. If a decision is made to proceed with natural gas, Donlin Creek LLC will revise the feasibility study and mine plan based on the gasline option, with the expectation that permit applications will be filed by the end of 2011. Kevin Francis, P.Geo., Vice President Technical Services of NovaGold and a qualified person as defined by National Instrument 43-101, has reviewed and accepts responsibility for the above technical information relating to Donlin Creek.
At the Galore Creek project, the Galore Creek Mining Corporation ("GCMC”) has selected reputable engineering firms to assist with the completion of the pre-feasibility study for the Galore Creek copper-gold-silver project. GCMC has reviewed a number of optimization scenarios for the Galore Creek project with the objective of maximizing effective throughput and relocating project facilities to simplify construction and allow for potential future expansion. Based on these studies, GCMC has identified a preferred project design and has targeted completion of the pre-feasibility study for the first half of 2011. The pre-feasibility study will provide capital cost estimates, economic analysis using higher copper and gold prices than used in previous studies, as well as permitting, construction and production timelines.
NovaGold published its first sustainability report in May 2010 with the objective of providing an overview of its commitment and approach to sustainability and its goals for future years. The report demonstrates NovaGold's commitment to responsible mining and transparent disclosure and will allow NovaGold to more effectively monitor progress as it strives for continuous improvement and best practices in responsible mining. NovaGold is actively reaching out to its community partners, shareholders and employees to encourage feedback and collaborative engagement.
The Company had several changes to its senior team with the departures of Don MacDonald, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and Greg Johnson, Vice President Strategic Development. Mr.MacDonald and Mr. Johnson provided years of strategic leadership that contributed greatly to NovaGold's development. With the Company well financed and senior partnerships in place at its largest projects, Mr. MacDonald and Mr.Johnson are able to focus their skills and interests on new opportunities, and the Company wishes them well with their future endeavors.
The appointment in July of Dr. Marc Faber and Mr. Igor Levental to NovaGold's Board of Directors brought additional experience and expertise to NovaGold's Board. Dr. Faber has over 35 years of experience in the finance industry and is the Managing Director of Marc Faber Ltd., an investment advisory and fund management firm. He is an advisor to a number of private investment funds and serves as a Director of Ivanhoe Mines and Sprott Asset Management. Dr. Faber publishes a widely read monthly investment newsletter entitled The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report and is the author of several books including Tomorrow's Gold – Asia's Age of Discovery. A renowned commentator on global market trends and developments, he is also a regular contributor to several leading financial publications around the world, including Barron's, where he is a member of the Barron's Roundtable. Dr. Faber received his PhD in Economics magna cum laude from the University of Zurich.
Mr. Levental is President of the Electrum Group of Companies, a leading privately-owned mineral exploration and development group with strategic holdings in private and public precious metals companies, including NovaGold. Mr. Levental is a Director of Gabriel Resources Ltd., which is engaged in the development of major precious metals deposits in Romania; he is also a Director of Taung Gold Limited, a South African-based private gold exploration and development company. With more than 30 years of experience across a broad cross-section of the international mining industry, Mr. Levental has held senior positions with major mining companies including Homestake Mining Company and International Corona Corporation, where he played a major role in these companies' corporate development and merger and acquisition activities. Mr. Levental is a Professional Engineer with a BSc in Chemical Engineering and an MBA from the University of Alberta.
Donlin Creek is one of the world's largest known undeveloped gold deposits, with a feasibility study completed and pre-permitting activities underway. Donlin Creek is operated by Donlin Creek LLC, a limited liability company that is owned 50% by NovaGold and 50% by Barrick Gold U.S. Inc. ("Barrick”), a subsidiary of Barrick Gold Corporation. Located entirely on private, Alaskan Native-owned land, the 80,600 acre (32,600 hectare) property hosts a gold deposit currently estimated at 33.6million ounces of proven and probable reserves averaging 2.2grams per tonne gold, 4.3million ounces of measured and indicated resources and an additional 4.4million ounces of inferred resources. With estimated production of more than onemillion ounces of gold annually for approximately 25 years, Donlin Creek would be one of the world's largest gold-producing mines. Donlin Creek LLC continues to review the mine plan in light of prevailing gold prices. Additional exploration potential remains in the Donlin Creek district.
For 2010, Donlin Creek LLC has approved a budget of approximately US$47million, with US$13.6million spent year to date. During the second quarter of 2010, expenditures at the Donlin Creek project totaled approximately US$8.9million, with 50% contributed by NovaGold. The 2010 work program will complete the majority of the environmental and engineering studies required to review the natural gas pipeline option. If a decision is made to proceed with on-site power generation using natural gas, Donlin Creek LLC will work with reputable engineering firms to revise the project feasibility study, positioning the project to file permit applications by the end of 2011. Donlin Creek LLC will consult with stakeholders as the pipeline studies proceed and solicit feedback from local communities and its Alaskan Native partners as well as State and Federal regulatory agencies.
Due to the accounting rules under AcG-15 NovaGold continues to record its interest in the Donlin project as an equity investment, which results in all of NovaGold's funding being recorded in the income statement as exploration expenses and any unspent funding to Donlin Creek LLC on the balance sheet on the equity investment line.
Galore Creek, a large copper-gold-silver project located in northwestern British Columbia, is held by a partnership in which NovaGold and Teck Resources Limited ("Teck”) each own a 50% interest and is managed by GCMC. The 298,840 acre (118,900 hectare) property holds a large and good-grade undeveloped porphyry-related copper-gold-silver deposit. A resource estimate for the Galore Creek project totals measured and indicated resources of 8.9billion pounds of copper, 7.3million ounces of gold and 123million ounces of silver, with additional inferred resources of 3.5billion pounds of copper, 3.3million ounces of gold and 61million ounces of silver. GCMC has initiated a pre-feasibility study to provide updated capital and operating cost estimates based on an optimized mine plan and using higher copper and gold prices than in previous studies, with completion targeted for the first half of 2011.
The Canadian Federal and British Columbia Provincial Governments have pledged to build a high-capacity 287 kV transmission line ("NTL”) in northwestern British Columbia. The NTL has completed its public comment period with an overwhelmingly positive response, including support from the Tahltan First Nation. Based on the British Columbia Transmission Corporation website, construction of the NTL is expected to start in late 2010 with completion targeted for 2013. The NTL will provide a secure interconnection point for clean generation projects, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by enabling communities now relying on diesel generation to connect to the grid and supply clean electricity to support industrial and resource projects in the area, including the Galore Creek project.
GCMC has budgeted $20million for 2010, with $3.5million spent year to date. During the second quarter of 2010, expenditures at the Galore Creek project totaled approximately $2.1million. Under the terms of the Galore Creek Partnership agreement, Teck is funding all costs for the project until it completes its earn-in obligations, and NovaGold expects to have no near-term funding obligations for the Galore Creek project. At May31,2010, the Galore Creek Partnership had cash of $1.8million and Teck had approximately $25million remaining in project contributions to earn its 50% interest in the project. Certain road construction equipment and facilities are being recovered and sold as the road progresses. The proceeds from the sales directly fund the project's activities and do not reduce Teck's required contributions.
Due to accounting rules under AcG-15 for Variable Interest Entity accounting, NovaGold continues to consolidate 100% of the activities of GCMC on the income statement and the Galore Creek asset and a non-controlling interest for Teck's contributions on the balance sheet.
NovaGold's Nome Operations comprises three properties: Rock Creek, Big Hurrah and Nome Gold. The properties are located on the Seward Peninsula in Alaska, an area with historical gold production and well-maintained roads and infrastructure. The most advanced property is Rock Creek, which is substantially constructed and designed to produce approximately 100,000 ounces of gold annually, based on the existing 0.5million ounces of probable gold reserves. Nome Operations also contains 1.9million ounces of measured and indicated resources and 0.3million ounces of inferred resources at the three properties. Rock Creek is currently in care and maintenance. NovaGold is working with a team of industry experts to assess the development options at Rock Creek to determine the best way to bring value from this project, with a decision expected in Q4-2010.
The Company has made significant improvements to its water management processes at the Rock Creek project. On July 2, 2009, Alaska Gold Company ("AGC”) received a Notice of Violation ("NOV”) from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation ("ADEC”). In the NOV, ADEC alleged that AGC violated the terms of its State Waste Management Permit at the Rock Creek mine by failing to comply with the water treatment and injection requirements of the mine's Temporary Closure Plan. On October6,2009, AGC entered into a Compliance Order by Consent ("COBC”) with ADEC resolving the NOV. As part of the COBC, AGC treated, injected and applied water at an increased rate to reduce water levels behind the mine's tailings storage facility ("TSF”) dam. OnMarch26,2010, the Company notified ADEC that the water elevation in the mine's TSF had been brought below 140 feet above sea level, an achievement required to terminate the COBC. On April1,2010, ADEC notified the Company of ADEC's agreement that AGC had completed all required tasks under the COBC, and that the COBC was terminated effective April2,2010. AGC continues to inject water in accordance with the terms of itsWaste Management Permit and the December31,2009, temporary Certificate of Approval to Operate a Dam ("COA”) issued by the Alaska Department of Natural Resources ("ADNR”).
On March 12, 2010, the Company received an Information Request from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA”) pursuant to federal Clean Water ActSection 308. The Information Request directed AGC to submit a storm water sampling plan for the mine to EPA and ADEC, to provide certain reports and information and to monitor storm water around the mine until December 31, 2010. The Company submitted its updated Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan ("SWPPP”) to EPA and ADEC on February 22, 2010. The Company continues to implement its updated SWPPP and provide information to EPA and ADEC in accordance with the Information Request.
On December 31, 2009, AGC received a renewed temporary COA from ADNR. The COA authorizes AGC's continued operation of the mine's TSF dam. The current term of the renewed COA expires on November 24, 2011. The renewed COA contains conditions AGC must follow to ensure dam safety including the requirement to treat, inject and apply water to manage water levels behind the mine's TSF dam. The renewed COA also requires that AGC notify ADNR by November 1, 2010 of AGC's preliminary, future intentions concerning the mine site which may include (1) entering permanent closure, (2) requesting an extension of the temporary closure period or (3) re-opening the mine. The COA terminated an NOV that had been issued by ADNR in December 2008.
The Company worked diligently in 2009 to improve the project's water management structures to ensure the project continues to meet its permit requirements and environmental responsibilities. The Company has budgeted US$19.1million at Rock Creek for 2010, with US$10.2million spent year to date. During the second quarter of 2010, expenditures at the Rock Creek project totaled approximately US$3.9million. Work at the property is focused on water management and completing a detailed review to determine the best way to bring value from the project for the Company's shareholders.
On January 7, 2010, the Company purchased 100% of the Ambler project, which hosts the high-grade copper-zinc-gold-silver Arctic deposit. To complete the purchase, the Company issued 931,098 common shares with a market value of approximately US$5million, with a commitment for future cash payments to the vendor of US$12million each on January 2011 and January 2012. The vendor retained a 1% net smelter return royalty that the Company can purchase at any time for a one-time payment of US$10million.
Ambler is an exploration-stage property located in Alaska comprising 90,614 acres of Federal patented and unpatented mining claims and State of Alaska mining claims, covering a major portion of the precious-metal-rich Ambler volcanogenic massive sulfide belt. A resource estimate for the Arctic deposit shows a 30million tonne deposit grading 4%copper and 6%zinc for contained metal totaling indicated resources of 1.5billion pounds of copper, 2.2billion pounds of zinc, 450,000 ounces of gold, 32million ounces of silver and 350million pounds of lead, with additional inferred resources of 937million pounds of copper, 1.3billion pounds of zinc, 260,000 ounces of gold, 19million ounces of silver and 210million pounds of lead. NovaGold has a solid record of identifying exploration opportunities and bringing value to shareholders by expanding resources through exploration success. The Company feels there is excellent potential to expand the existing resources at the Arctic deposit and locate new high-quality resources in nearby areas, as well as identify new exploration targets in the district.
The Company has budgeted US$1.5million at Ambler for 2010, with US$0.08million spent year to date and expenditures of US$0.06million during the second quarter of 2010. Work at the property is focused on initiating the environmental and engineering studies necessary to complete a pre-feasibility level study to assess project economics.
The Company holds a portfolio of earlier-stage exploration projects that have not advanced to the resource definition stage. The Company also earns $1 to $3million annually from the sale of sand, gravel and land and royalties from placer gold production, largely from its holdings around Nome, Alaska.
Results of operations
in thousands of Canadian dollars,
except for per share amounts
Three months ended
May 31, 2010
Three months ended
May 31, 2009
May 31, 2010
May 31, 2009
Project care and maintenance
Foreign exchange gain
General and administrative expenses
Interest and accretion
Salaries, severance and payroll taxes
Loss for the period after taxes
Basic and diluted loss per share
For the three-month period ended May31,2010, the Company reported a net loss of $15.8million (or$0.07 basic and diluted loss per share) compared to a net loss of $4.8million (or $0.03 basic and diluted loss per share) for the corresponding period in 2009. This variance is mainly due to the decrease in foreign exchange gain from $3.3million in the three months ended May31,2010 to foreign exchange gain of $16.1million in the same period in 2009. The is caused by the decrease in currency fluctuations in the second quarter of 2010 (CAD to USD foreign exchange rate at February28,2010:1.0525 and May31,2010:1.0435) compared to the second quarter of 2009 (foreign exchange rate at February 28, 2009: 1.2723 and May31,2009:1.0917) that reduced the foreign exchange effect on the Company's U.S. dollar-denominated liabilities. Also, salaries were $2.9million in 2010 compared to $1.0million in the same period in 2009, due primarily to severance payments relating to the departure of two senior executives during the three-month period ended May31,2010.
For the six-month period ended May31,2010, the Company reported a net loss of $34.5million (or$0.17 basic and diluted loss per share) compared to a net loss of $33.3million (or $0.21 basic and diluted loss per share) for the corresponding period in 2009. This variance is mainly due to the $11.6million foreign exchange gain in the six months ended May31,2009 compared with a $3.2million foreign exchange gain in 2010. This was offset by the decrease in interest and accretion for the six months ended May31,2010 of $7.4million from $12.4million in the same period in 2009. The decrease was due to the conversion of the bridge loan in 2009, resulting in no comparable charge in 2010.
Net revenue for the three-month period ended May31,2010 was $0.1million compared to $0.3million in the corresponding period in 2009. The decrease was primarily due to lower land and gravel sales.
Net revenue for the six-month period ended May31,2010 was $0.2million compared to $0.8million in the corresponding period in 2009. The decrease was primarily due to lower land and gravel sales for the six months ended May31,2010.
Expenses for the three-month period ended May31,2010 were $17.2million compared to $9.1million for the same period in 2009. This was primarily due to the large foreign exchange gain of $16.1million the Company experienced during the 2009 second quarter compared to the $3.3million foreign exchange gain for the same period in 2010. The reduction in gain in 2010 is mainly a result of the decrease in currency fluctuations between the Canadian dollar against the U.S. dollar during the second quarter of 2010 on U.S. dollar-denominated convertible notes and the Donlin Creek promissory note. There was also lower project care and maintenance in 2010 of $5.5million compared with $6.9million in 2009, mainly due to the level of activity required to manage spring break-up from higher snowfall levels during the 2008/2009 winter at Rock Creek. The Company recorded an expense of $1.1million compared with $6.0million for stock-based compensation during the same periods in 2010 and 2009, respectively.
Expenses for the six-month period ended May31,2010 were $36.8million compared to $40.9million for the same period in 2009. This was due mainly to the decrease in exploration expenditures at the Donlin Creek project, which incurred $7.9million in the six months ended May31,2010 mainly for engineering studies, compared to $10.8million in 2009 for work performed mainly on environmental studies. Further, the Company's interest and accretion decreased to $7.4million during the six months in 2010 from $12.4million in 2009. The decrease in interest and accretion is due to the conversion of the bridge loan in early 2009 which resulted in no comparable charge in 2010.
For the three-month period ended May31,2010, the Company recorded a future income tax recovery of $0.3million, which resulted mainly from exploration expenditures incurred in Canada and the benefit of an income tax reduction on long-term tax rates in British Columbia.
At May31,2010, the Company had consolidated cash and cash equivalents of $175.5million and working capital of $158million. Of this cash amount, $1.8 million was held by GCMC for Galore Creek related activities.
The Company's material projects are Donlin Creek and Galore Creek. The Company's share of the Donlin Creek 2010 budget is approximately US$14million, part of which will be incurred for permitting activities at the project. During the second quarter of 2010, Donlin Creek approved a supplemental budget of US$18.7million (the Company's share: US$ 9.4million) to complete the majority of the environmental and engineering studies required to review the natural gas pipeline option. The budget for care and maintenance and optimization studies for 2010 at the Galore Creek project is $8million, with a supplementary 2010 budget of $12million for the pre-feasibility study. Under the partnership agreement, Teck is funding 100% of these costs and the Company is not required to fund any project costs until Teck has completed its financial earn-in at the project. The Rock Creek project is in care and maintenance with a 2010 budget of approximately US$19.1million. The Company is completing a detailed review process to evaluate the best way to bring value from this project. The Company has also budgeted US$1.5million in 2010 for environmental and engineering studies at its Ambler project.
On June 23, 2010, the Company entered into an option agreement with Marifil Mines Ltd. ("Marifil”) and its subsidiary company that enables the Company to earn up to a 70% interest in Marifil's San Roque Project in Rio Negro Province, Argentina. The project consists of eleven claims totaling 70,046 hectares. Under the terms of the agreement, NovaGold has an option to acquire a 49% interest by spending US$3million on the project during the first two years of the agreement and paying Marifil US$0.1million per year. After earning its 49% interest, NovaGold can earn an additional 2% interest by committing to a Phase 2 program. During the Phase 2 program NovaGold would spend an additional US$6,000,000 over three years and pay Marifil US$0.1million per year to earn an additional 19% interest, bringing its total interest to 70%. All further expenditures would be shared 70% NovaGold and 30% Marifil. NovaGold has budgeted US$0.9million for exploration work on this project for 2010.
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NovaGold is a growth-focused precious metals company engaged in the exploration and development of gold and copper-gold properties in Alaska, USA, and British Columbia, Canada. NovaGold offers superior leverage to gold with one of the largest reserve/resource bases of any junior or mid-tier gold company. NovaGold has a strong track record of expanding deposits through exploration success and forging collaborative partnerships, both with local communities and with major mining companies. The Donlin Creek project in Alaska, one of the world's largest undeveloped gold deposits, is held by a limited liability company owned equally by NovaGold and Barrick Gold U.S. Inc. The Galore Creek project in British Columbia, a large copper-gold-silver deposit, is held by a partnership owned equally by NovaGold and Teck Resources Limited. NovaGold also owns a 100% interest in the Rock Creek gold deposit in Nome, Alaska, and in the Ambler copper-zinc-gold-silver exploration-stage deposit in northern Alaska. NovaGold trades on the TSX and NYSE-AMEX under the symbol NG. More information is available at www.novagold.net or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.