Ascot progressing construction on British Columbia project

10th November 2023 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Senior Contributing Editor Online

Canadian mining firm Ascot Resources made considerable progress on outdoor areas such as the tailings storage facility (TSF) earthworks, the new water treatment plant (WTP) and the electrical substation at its Premier gold project (PGP), located on Nisga’a Nation Treaty Lands, in British Columbia, in the third quarter.

“We continue to show excellent safety performance with zero lost-time injuries and with a new quarterly record-low recordable incident frequency,” CEO and president Derek White says in release detailing the unaudited financial results for the three and nine months ended September 30.

“Underground development and ore stockpiling has resumed at the Big Missouri deposit at the PGP, coinciding well with record-high gold grades recently intercepted from drilling in that deposit.

"Additionally, the surface work has been completed for the new Premier portal, and underground development will commence shortly and advance towards the Prew zone by early 2024, which will enable Ascot to source production from two portals when milling operations commence,” White outlines.

He highlights that the 2023 exploration programme has been very successful so far in achieving both short- and long-term goals.  

In-fill drilling at the Prew zone of the Premier deposit, and at Big Missouri, has yielded many high-grade gold intercepts in and around planned stopes.

“For the long-term, our induced polarisation (IP) geophysics programme this year provided promising targets for future step-out drilling across many areas,” White acclaims.

At the end of the third quarter, overall construction, excluding mine development, was 66% complete (73% as of October 31), compared with 48% complete at the end of the second quarter.

Detailed engineering and procurement are substantially complete. The company anticipates the first gold pour to occur by the end of the first quarter in 2024.

On August 8, Ascot entered into a contract with Procon Mining & Tunnelling for underground mining services for an initial term of three years, with the company having the option to renew for two consecutive one-year periods.

In August, excavation work started on the new Premier portal close to the mill, including establishing the start of an access road for waste disposal in the historic Premier pit.

Dewatering of the existing Big Missouri development and re-establishing surface infrastructure also started in August.

The 2023 exploration programme at PGP comprised of 88 holes totalling 11 886 m and included exploration drilling for resource expansion as well as in-fill drilling of initial mining areas at the Big Missouri and Premier deposits.

On November 3, a third batch of assay results was announced which was the initial batch of assay results from the surface drilling at the Big Missouri deposit.

Highlights include 98.84 g/t gold over 6.48 m from a depth of 51.5 m in hole P23-2490, including 691.50 g/t gold over 0.90 m. This is the all-time second-highest-grade drill intercept at Big Missouri and is the company’s highest-grade drill intercept property-wide since 2015.

On July 31, Ascot entered into a master lease agreement with Caterpillar Financial Services for an equipment lease facility up to $15-million on an uncommitted basis for surface mining equipment and construction equipment.

On August 29, the company announced positive results from the 2023 IP geophysics programme at PGP. Highlights of the results included a strong IP anomaly showing potential that the Sebakwe Zone structure extends about 1 000 m beyond the westernmost extent of surface drilling from 2022, Day Zone IP signature continuing about 800 m to the north of previous surface drill results and Dilworth IP showing strong chargeability anomaly to the west and below where most drilling was previously focused.

On September 19, Ascot acquired a full-service laboratory facility in Stewart, British Columbia from Seacan Labs, which will be used to perform the testing required by Ascot for mineral exploration, mining operation and environmental monitoring.

Construction of the new WTP is substantially complete. The commissioning process began in October.

On October 3, the town council of Stewart approved a temporary use permit to install a camp facility in the town to provide additional accommodations for workers at the project.

The company expects an initial capacity of 76 beds to be ready by the end of November. The addition of bed capacity in the near term is expected to alleviate some of the pressure caused by the extended earthworks schedule.

In January, Ascot closed a project financing package comprising $110-million as a deposit in respect of gold and silver streaming agreements and a strategic equity investment of C$45-million.

Upon securing the new project financing, Ascot re-mobilised various contractors to progress activities for the remainder of the construction scope for the project.

Capital costs, including mining costs, incurred as of September 30 were $245-million. As of September 30, the remaining project construction capital required to complete construction and achieve the first gold pour is about $89-million including mine development costs but excluding certain pre-operating costs and working capital.

This implies a total project capital cost of $334-million, which is higher than the most recent total project budget of $310-million as reported last quarter.

The increase is mainly owing to the increase in scope and duration of the earthworks and project indirect costs.

The company is assessing its working capital requirements to progress the project from construction to commissioning, initial production, and ramp-up phases, and is evaluating various potential financing options.

The project continues to have an “excellent” safety record with 865 016 hours of work to the end of the third quarter and zero lost-time incidents.

The total recordable incident frequency has been reduced yet again from 0.95 at the end of the second quarter to 0.69.

Key items for the remainder of the year include completing the earthworks on the TSF and Cascade Creek Diversion Channel by the end of November.

There is also an increase in the number of piping contractors at the mill to finish the piping and systems and controls at the process plant to mitigate the impact of the delay in earthworks at the TSF.

Ascot will also aim to complete the new temporary camp in Stewart; fully commission the WTP; energise the new substation with full connection to the Long Lake power plant in mid-December; advance the mining development at Big Missouri and at Premier; and continue to ramp up the operating team personnel.

It would also focus on ensuring that it has sufficient capital to complete the project and provide the working capital for start up at the end of first quarter 2024.