Q2 2019 HIGHLIGHTS
Oyu Tolgoi Underground Development Update – Mongolia
The Oyu Tolgoi project in Mongolia includes two separate land holdings: the Oyu Tolgoi mining licence, which is held by Entrée’s joint venture partner Oyu Tolgoi LLC (“OTLLC”) and the Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JV Property, which is a partnership between Entrée and OTLLC. On July 15 and July 31, 2019, Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd. (“Turquoise Hill”) provided an update on underground development on the Oyu Tolgoi mining licence:
Underground development progressed during Q2’19, with 3.2 total equivalent kilometres completed during the quarter. Since the restart of underground development in May 2016, 24.4 total equivalent kilometres and 18.9 equivalent kilometres of lateral development have been completed.
The focus for the construction team remains completing Shaft 2, where works are progressing. The commissioning of Shaft 2 remains on track for October 2019. Other critical infrastructure components such as the control room facility and the jaw crusher system are now complete. Construction on Shafts 3 and 4 is progressing well and as of June 30, 2019 were 52 metres and 80 metres below the shaft collar respectively.
The underground mining team achieved a record performance of over 1,000 metres of lateral development in June. Record monthly development was also achieved in June in the convey-to-surface decline.
Turquoise Hill, in conjunction with Rio Tinto International Holdings Ltd. (“Rio Tinto”) as the project manager, continues to review mine design options for the completion of the underground development of the Oyu Tolgoi mine and assess the impact on overall cost and schedule for the underground development. As previously disclosed by Turquoise Hill, this review will result in a revised development plan reflecting appropriate risk reduction efforts.
Improved rock mass information and geotechnical data modelling has confirmed that there are stability risks associated with components of the existing mine design. Therefore, to address these risks, a number of mine design options are under consideration to complete the project. These options include assessment of the impact of the mid-access drives, location of the on-footprint components of the ore handling system, the sequence of crossing the panel boundaries during mining operations, and an option that alters the panel boundary approach and would leave temporary pillars in ore that would then be recovered later in the mine life, sub-blocking the previously planned three panels into five or more panels.
A number of options are being evaluated to determine the final design of Panel 0, and this work is anticipated to continue into early 2020. Following a period of additional data collection and model updates, two phases of geotechnical modelling work are planned to inform staged mine design updates. The geotechnical modelling is expected to continue into early 2020 with final design decisions to be made at this time. A period of detailed design, schedule and cost estimation will follow resulting in the delivery of a final definitive estimate in the second half of 2020, reflecting the preferred mine design approach.
All options under consideration present a clear pathway to sustainable first production from the Oyu Tolgoi mining licence, albeit with different cost and schedule implications. To date, these have been defined to a level of accuracy associated with a conceptual study or order of magnitude study; therefore, significantly more work is required to complete the final assessment. Critically, all underground development to date has not been impacted at all by pending changes to the mine design, and all infrastructure developed to date remains usable and in the appropriate locations for all of the mine design options under review.
Based on these options, preliminary estimates indicate that sustainable first production from the Oyu Tolgoi mining licence could be delayed by 16 to 30 months compared to Turquoise Hill’s original feasibility study guidance in 2016. This range includes contingency of up to eight months reflecting the unexpected and challenging geotechnical issues, complexities in the construction of Shaft 2, and reflects the detailed work still required to reach a more precise estimate. This results in sustainable first production from the Oyu Tolgoi mining licence now being expected between May 2022 and June 2023 with the first drawbell now expected between October 2021 and September 2022.
Current information indicates that Oyu Tolgoi mineral reserves will not be materially impacted by the mine design options being considered; however, ongoing reviews will be considered as work progresses.
Turquoise Hill will continue to focus on minimizing the impact to the project schedule and cost as it works through the detailed analysis and testing of each mine design option, and work continues concurrently to finalize the critical underground infrastructure and shaft construction.
Additionally, OTLLC is currently undertaking a feasibility study and is in discussions with the Government of Mongolia to progress the construction of a coal-fired power plant and related infrastructure at Tavan Tolgoi.
Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JV Property
Once the preferred mine design approach is determined, Entrée will be able to assess the potential impact on the estimated timing and amount of development production and initial block cave production from the first lift (Lift 1) of the Hugo North Extension deposit on the Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JV Property and any potential change to Entrée’s estimated share of capital and operating costs. Entrée will continue to evaluate any information made available to it by Rio Tinto or OTLLC and will update the market accordingly.
Q2 2019 operating loss was $0.4 million and is comparable to the operating loss of $0.3 million in Q2 2018.
Q2 2019 operating cash outflow after working capital was $0.5 million compared to a $0.6 million operating cash outflow in Q2 2018 and, as at June 30, 2019, cash and short-term investments balance was $6.1 million. The working capital balance as at June 30, 2019 was $6.1 million.
OUTLOOK AND STRATEGY
The Company’s primary objectives for the 2019 year continue to include:
Continuing constructive discussions with the Government of Mongolia; and
Working with other Oyu Tolgoi stakeholders to advance potential amendments to the joint venture agreement (the “Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JVA”) that currently governs the relationship between Entrée and OTLLC. The form of Entrée/Oyu Tolgoi JVA was agreed between the parties in 2004, prior to the execution of the Oyu Tolgoi Investment Agreement and commencement of underground development. The Company believes that amendments that align the interests of all stakeholders as they are now understood, would be in the best interests of the Company and its shareholders provided there is no net erosion of value to Entrée. No agreements have been finalized and there are no assurances agreements may be finalized in the future.
Corporate costs, which include Mongolian site management and compliance costs, are now estimated between $1.4 million and $1.6 million for the full 2019 year. The Company continues to focus its efforts on conserving cash reserves and remaining prudent with its expenditures.