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Executives

Kate Wood

Wade K. Dawe - Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Daniel Racine - President and Chief Operating Officer

Jon Legatto - Chief Financial Officer

Howard M. Bird - Senior Vice President of Exploration

Analysts

Eric Winmill - Casimir Capital Limited, Research Division

Richard Gray - Cormark Securities Inc., Research Division

Don M. Blyth - Paradigm Capital, Inc., Research Division

Jeffrey Wright - Global Hunter Securities, LLC, Research Division

Steven Butler - Canaccord Genuity, Research Division

Brigus Gold Corp (BRD) Q4 2012 Earnings Call March 28, 2013 11:00 AM ET

Operator

Greetings and welcome to the Brigus Gold Fourth Quarter and Year-End 2012 Earnings Conference Call. As a reminder, today's presentation is also available on webcast, which may be accessed online at brigusgold.com. As a reminder, all lines of this conference is being recorded [Operator Instructions]. It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Kate Wood. Thank you, Ms. Wood, you may now begin.

Kate Wood

Thank you. Good morning, everyone, and thank you for joining us in our fourth quarter conference call. Joining me from Brigus Gold are Wade Dawe, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer; Daniel Racine, President and Chief Operating Officer; Jon Legatto, Chief Financial Officer; and Howard Bird, Senior Vice President of Exploration.

Brigus' fourth quarter earnings release was distributed last night via newswire. The financial statements and management's discussion and analysis are available on the company's website at brigusgold.com.

We expect the presentation segment to last approximately 20 minutes, after which we will be happy to take questions from analysts and institutional investors. Please note that all amounts are in U.S. dollars unless otherwise stated.

I will also take a moment to remind you that this conference call may contain forward-looking information, which involves certain assumptions and known and unknown risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to be materially different from those that are expressed or implied by the comments.

All statements regarding the ability of the company to achieve its production, total cash costs, steady-state annual production and mining rate estimates, exploration and capital programs for 2013, including the estimated expenditures, increase in gold production, variations in profitability, exploration drill results and resource additions, are forward-looking statements and estimates that involve various risks and uncertainties.

These forward-looking statements include, or may be based upon, estimates, forecasts and statements as to management's expectations with respect to, among other things, the issue of permits, the size and quality of the company's mineral resource, progress and development of mineral properties, future production and sales volumes, capital and mine production costs, demand and market outlook for metals, future metal prices and treatment and refining charges, all the financial results of the company. Additional information with regard to risks can be found under the heading Risk Factors in Brigus' most recent Management Discussion and Analysis.

In addition, please note that this conference is being widely disseminated via live webcast.

And now I will turn the call over to Wade.

Wade K. Dawe

Thank you, Kate. Good day, everyone, and welcome to Brigus' fourth quarter conference call. We appreciate that you took the time today to join us on the call. I will begin with a brief overview of the company while highlighting our accomplishments during the year. Daniel Racine will discuss Brigus' operations and progress and corporate goal, which were detailed during the last conference call. John Legatto will then summarize our Q4 and 2012 earnings and will outline our capital requirements for 2013. Howard Bird will review our exploration efforts at Grey Fox and our plans for the coming year. And finally, before opening up the call to questions, I will provide some guidance for the remainder of the year and additional commentary on our priorities. You can now turn to Slide 2 on the webcast.

I'm very proud of the team we have in place. Their dedication and hard work enabled us to meet our corporate objectives while setting the stage for a highly successful 2013. Over the course of 2012, our team was focused on increasing and optimizing gold production. Annual production was in line with our guidance, and we achieved record production in quarter 4. Gold production levels increased quarter-over-quarter throughout 2012, a trend that is continuing this year. For quarter 1 2013, gold production for the Black Fox Mine will reach a new high. In 2012, the team worked diligently to lower cash costs, achieving an average cash cost of 600 -- or, sorry, $762 per ounce, which came in below our annual guidance. Cash cost for the fourth quarter were $685 per ounce. The Black Fox Mine ore body remains open at depth and along strike and currently includes gold reserves to a depth of 500 meters. Our exploration crews began an underground drilling program in June of 2012, designed to expand the current gold resource through targeted drilling beyond 500 meters. Ore bodies along the Destor-Porcupine Fault in the Timmins Gold camp often extends to a depth in excess of 1,000 meters, and our initial drill results at the Black Fox Mine indicate excellent potential for reserve additions at depth. Results received today have been promising with good gold grade and thicknesses. Brigus will report additional drill results from this drill program in quarter 2 2013. 4 kilometers from Black Fox, our exploration program at Grey Fox had also been successful. An initial National Instrument 43-101 compliance resource for Grey Fox was released during September 2012. Drilling continued at Grey Fox through 2012 and into 2013 with 5 drill rigs working to increase the size of the gold zone. Next quarter, we will publish an updated National Instrument 43-101 resource statement to incorporate all of the recent drilling, and that report will be followed by the release of a full feasibility study during quarter 3 2013. In October 2012, we secured a $10 million flow-through financing at an attractive premium to our share price. As a result of this financing, our exploration program is fully funded through 2013. We also completed a $30-million debt financing, which closed at the end of October. $24.4 million of the proceeds were used to repurchase 4% of the gold stream on the Black Fox Mine, reducing it to 8%. 92% of our current gold production is now sold into the spot market at prevailing gold prices.

I am confident that Brigus will continue to further increase gold production and revenues while carefully managing costs and expenditures at the Black Fox Mine. I will now turn things over to Daniel.

Daniel Racine

Thank you, Wade, and welcome, everyone. You can go now to Slide 3. I would like to start by analyzing the effort of our team to make safety our top priority. To date, we have worked over 1,210 days without a lost time incident, an accomplishment that everyone at the Brigus -- at Brigus are very proud of. On the operation, the company has never been stronger. We met production guidance for 2012, producing a total of 77,374 gold ounces, a 39% increase over 2011. Much of our production success can be attributed to the underground mine. Production from the underground mine has improved on a quarter-over-quarter basis throughout 2012 and has reached a steady state target of over 800 pounds per day. The increase in production in Q4 2012 can be credited to the rich ore body in the West zone long-hole stope and the development of that zone -- the ore zone on the lower east side of that mine. Another significant contributor to our success is the increase of our recoverable gold grade from the underground. Throughout the fourth quarter, we saw a 31.5% increase in recoverable gold grade over reserve grades with 8.13 grams per tonne. We continue to see these numbers today. The open pit is operating as expected, with a grade of 2.66 ounces -- grams per tonne in the fourth quarter. Capital stripping activities declined towards the end of 2012, as we near the end of Phase 2 of the open pit. During Q4 of 2012, we commenced the overburden removal of Phase 3 of the open pit. The overburden removal project is on schedule and on budget. We expect to complete the overburden removal activity at the end of Q1 2013, at which time we will commence production on Phase 3 of the open pit.

The Black Fox Mill optimization project increased throughput by approximately 10% to 2,200 tonnes per day last year. The mill continues to maintain high throughput rate and recovery. During 2012, the company processed 735,560 tonnes of ore at an average grade of 3.43 grams per tonne, and an average recovery of 95%, compared to 725,541 tonnes at the grade of 2.54 and a recovery of 94% in 2011.

We can now go to Slide 4. I would now like to take a few minutes to review the goals we outlined during our last conference call. Our first goal was to increase and optimize production from the underground mine. I'm pleased to say that we have achieved this goal in Q4. With record production level of 2,200 -- 22,672 gold ounces, a 57% increase compared to Q4 2011. Throughout Q1 2013, production continues to increase, and we will have in excess of 25,000 ounces this quarter. Second, we committed to explore below the 500-meter level at Black Fox, which we did. We have had encouraging results from the drilling program, and we will release additional results in the second quarter of 2013.

The company remains on track to produce a new reserve and resources transmission for Black Fox Mine by the end of 2013. Third, we said we will complete a full feasibility study on Grey Fox property during the second half of 2013. Work on the feasibility study is ongoing and we are on track to issue the feasibility study in Q3 2013. An updated reserve report on Grey Fox property will be issued in Q2 2013, which will include approximately 40,000 meters of drilling through that taken place since September 2012. We're optimistic that the result of this drilling will significantly increase the number of indicated ounces in the Grey Fox mine as well as support the development of the the underground mine at Grey Fox.

Fourth, we promised to evaluate the potential of the Stock Mine property. We performed a comprehensive analysis of the historical data related to the Stock Mine. As a result of this review, we have concluded that the previously producing ore body remains open for expansion and potential mining in the future. At this time, we have decided to defer any additional work at the Stock Mine, and we will focus on our resources at the development activities at Grey Fox.

And finally, we said we would analyze the current feasibility study and construction timeline of Goldfields. Since our last call, we have met with a representative from Saskatchewan Power and the provincial government of Saskatchewan. These meetings were well received and all parties expressed significant support for the development of the Goldfields Project. Brigus has concluded that Goldfields is a valuable and attractive development project, which we will evaluate further development activities at Grey Fox project. Over the course of 2013, we will continue to work towards realizing our -- these goals. We are committed to keeping our stakeholder up-to-date on our progress and achievement.

To conclude, Brigus has started 2013 in a strong position. Our management team is committed to deliver shareholders value. We will remain focused on increasing mine tonnage and production levels while continue to lower our cost profile. I'm confident that with the team we have in place, we will achieve our goal. I'll now turn over the stage to Jon.

Jon Legatto

Thank you, Daniel. Q4 2012 was an exceptional quarter for the company, with all of our key financial metrics continued to improve. Please turn to Slide 5. Revenue for the 3 months ended September 31, 2012, totaled $33.3 million compared to $21.2 million in Q4 2011, an increase of 57%. As mentioned, in Q4 2012, Brigus produced 22,672 ounces of gold, compared to 14,457 ounces in Q4 2011. Brigus Gold, 20,175 ounces compared to 14,702 ounces in Q4 2011. The increased production in Q4 2012 is the result of the addition of higher grade underground ore tonnes. Cash cost for the quarter ended December 31, 2012, were $685 per ounce, a 36% reduction from cash cost in Q4 2011, which were $1,066 per ounce. As a result, the significant decrease in cash costs are per ounce operating margin increased by 81% to $964 per ounce, compared to $533 per ounce in Q4 2011. Our operating income for the 3-month period ended December 31, 2012, totaled $2.5 million, an increase of $2.9 million over the $400,000 operating loss during the same 3-month period in 2011. This increase is the result of income from mining operations of $9.7 million, offset by several onetime charges recorded during the period, most notably a $5.6 million charge relating to the repurchase of the gold stream. Cash flow from operations before working capital adjustment and the repurchase of the gold stream generated $17.5 million during Q4 2012, compared to $6.6 million in Q4 2011. The continued increase in cash flow from operations is a result of the increase in production and the implementation of effective cost standard procedures throughout the organization. Please turn to Slide #6.

On an annual basis, revenue for 2012 totaled $117.7 million, compared to $71.9 million for 2011, an increase of $45.8 million or 64%. The increase in revenue is the result of the 29% increase in the ounce of gold, an important increase in realized per ounce. The number of ounces sold in 2012 increased as both Phase 2 of the open pit and the underground mine were in full production throughout 2012 compared to 2011 when the underground mine did not commence commercial production until the fourth quarter. Cash cost for the year ended December 31, 2012, were $762 per ounce, a 21% improvement from cash cost 2011, which totaled $958. The per ounce operating margin for 2012 increased by 45% to $835 per ounce, compared to $570 per ounce in the prior year. In 2012, the company generated positive income from mining operations of $23.3 million, compared to a loss of $4 million in 2011. The company generated cash flow from operations before working capital adjustments of a repurchase of the Sandstorm of agreement of $52.4 million, compared to $20.2 million in 2011. The company ended the year with a cash cow of $29.8 million and has sufficient cash flow to fund all operating capital needs throughout 2013. Please turn to Slide #7.

Capital spending for 2012 totaled $53.5 million, below budget and below 2011 spending levels. Capital spending in 2012 included $29.2 million for underground development, $9.7 million for capital stripping and overburden removal in the open pit and $12.7 million for plant, property and equipment, which included $5 million for the completion of the mill expansion and $1.9 million for underground exploration. The company also incurred $10.5 million associated to the exploration and development efforts at the Grey Fox property. Capital spending for 2013 is forecasted at $43.5 million, consisting of the following: $22 million related to underground sustaining capital and other underground development project; $13 million related to open pit capital stripping and overburden removal and $8.5 million related to plant, property and equipment, which include $2.5 million related to continued underground exploration activity. $12 million has been budgeted for exploration and development of the Grey Fox property, consisting of a $8.5 million for exploration drilling and $3.5 million for project development activity. In conclusion, Brigus is in a strong position to continue our growth and to capitalize on the opportunities ahead. Profitability and cash flow are expected to increase throughout 2013. We are committed to strengthening our balance sheet to provide long-term stability to the company and return to our shareholders.

I will now turn the call over to Howard Bird.

Howard M. Bird

Thank you, John. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'm excited to have this opportunity to share with you our exploration successes from 2012 and our plans for 2013. Please kindly turn to Slide 8. Over the past year, Brigus has led an aggressive exploration program, which has resulted in the discovery of new gold deposits in the Black Fox Complex and continues to provide a pipeline of regional exploration opportunities with great potential to host new gold deposits. On the Grey Fox property, 3.5 kilometers from the Black Fox Mine within the Black Fox Complex, exploration over the last 2 years discovered the high-grade 147 Zone in 2011 and the Grey Fox South Zone in 2012. In addition the viability of the Contact Zone was significantly upgraded due to well-targeted drilling in 2011 and 2012. In September 2012, Brigus reported a new National Instrument 43-101 compliance independent mineral resource, estimated at 480,000 indicated ounces and 91,000 incurred ounces for the Contact and 147 Zones. The drilling program was successful in significantly increasing the Black Fox Complex gold resource by more than 50%. Approximately 84% of the new resource occurs within 200 meters from surface where most of the drilling has taken place, and therefore demonstrating excellent open pit mining potential. Today, we have 5 drill rigs turning at Grey Fox, focused on extending and expanding both the 147 and Contact Zones through systematic drilling below the 200-meter level and a long strike to build a resource suitable for underground mining. We expect to release an updated Grey Fox resource statement in the second quarter followed by a bankable feasibility study in Q3. We are extremely pleased with the year-over-year gold established success rate at the Black Fox Complex. These new zones will have a significant impact on increasing Brigus' total gold resource.

As exploration continues in 2013, we are confident that our Grey Fox property will ultimately host more than 1 million ounces of gold. We will capitalize on our exploration success by taking steps to advance this property for future mining.

Now I turn it back to you, Wade.

Wade K. Dawe

Thank you, Howard. You can turn now to Slide #9. As indicated through the call here, Brigus is off to a good start this year and is on track to meet 2013 gold production guidance of 90,000 to 100,000 ounces. Quarter 1 2013 production, as mentioned, is expected to exceed 25,000 ounces. Cash cost for the year will be in the range of 700 to 750 per ounce. We entered the year with a cash balance of $29.8 million, with cash on hand and positive cash flows from the Black Fox Mine. All operating and capital needs during the year are fully funded.

Brigus will not require external financing in 2013. Capital spending from mining operation is estimated at $43.5 million for the year. Capital spending at the Black Fox Mine has decreased over the past 3 years, and that trend will continue as we enter 2014. During 2013, we will utilize free cash flow to repay $6 million of principal on our senior debt and $12 million related to capital leases. This will further strengthen Brigus' balance sheet. The current capital budget includes $3 million to complete a feasibility study for the Grey Fox Mine. Upon receipt of the study, we will consider development scenarios, but a go-forward decision will not be made until the company is well-positioned to begin construction and development. We are committed to running our business in a manner that protects the equity of our shareholders while maximizing their financial return. Brigus Gold has a valuable portfolio of assets, including a producing mine at Black Fox, a growing gold discovery in future development projects at Grey Fox, the cash producing Stock Mine and over 1 million ounces of gold reserve at the Goldfields property located in the province of Saskatchewan.

As we enter 2013 with the Black Fox Mine generating significant profits and cash flows, we will capitalize on our strength by pursuing measured growth through the advancement and development of our portfolio of assets.

That concludes our commentary and our review of quarter 4 and year-end 2012 operations and finances. Thank you for your time. Operator, we'll now open the call to questions.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] Our first question is from the line of Eric Winmill of Casimir Capital.

Eric Winmill - Casimir Capital Limited, Research Division

Just a quick question here. Can you confirm what the operating strip ratio is for 2013?

Daniel Racine

It's 9:1.

Eric Winmill - Casimir Capital Limited, Research Division

Okay. And in terms of the overburden, I know that program is wrapping up in Q1. Do you see the level sort of consistent with Q4?

Daniel Racine

You mean Saskatchewan overburden?

Eric Winmill - Casimir Capital Limited, Research Division

Yes.

Daniel Racine

Yes, it's almost complete now also. This is why we're saying the end of Q1 because at the end of March, it would be all -- the overburden and the removal will be all completed in those parts mining -- stripping and mining.

Eric Winmill - Casimir Capital Limited, Research Division

Okay. And just a question on the underground here in terms of the long hole. Do you have any sort of estimates in terms of 2013, on a percentage basis, what will be long hole in terms of production?

Daniel Racine

At the beginning of the year -- and our budget was supposed to be around 50%. But as we go deeper on the lower East zones, that will increase to 60% to 70% long hole. And the rest will be mechanized cut and fill, about 20%, and 5% to 10% shrinkage and cut and fill. Black leg [ph] and silver.

Eric Winmill - Casimir Capital Limited, Research Division

Okay. And just following up, on the MD&A there was a mention here on power costs seeing a bit of an increase. Can you shed any further light in terms of what you're seeing at power?

Jon Legatto

Yes. There's a slight change -- a slight increase in the power costs that we had in our budget in a period-over-period basis, but we think it's stabilized now and been incorporated into our 2013 budget.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Richard Gray of Cormark Securities.

Richard Gray - Cormark Securities Inc., Research Division

Just further to the previous question, I mean, what's kind of the approximate breakdown of what you're expecting out of the underground and the open pit for your 2013 total? Just roughly, what's the percentage?

Daniel Racine

Okay. Roughly we've had 800 tonnes per day -- over 800 tonnes per day for the first 3 quarters on the underground, and 1,000 on the last quarter. So the difference, 1,400 tonnes per day for the first 3 quarters on the open pit and then 1,200 in the last quarter. That's our target, but we're achieving more than that right now from the underground.

Richard Gray - Cormark Securities Inc., Research Division

So the strong performance in Q1 been driven by -- just coming off from the underground and sustaining higher grades than reserve grades? Is that...

Daniel Racine

Yes.

Operator

Our next question is coming from the line of Don Blyth of Paradigm Capital.

Don M. Blyth - Paradigm Capital, Inc., Research Division

Love to see you're one of a small number of companies that have been able to show that continued increasing production and declining costs. The underground grade you said was 8.13 in the quarter, that is, well above reserve grade. Can you give us a sense of how sustainable that is over the rest of the year and ultimately over the life of the mine?

Daniel Racine

Since we've started on the West, Don, we had over 8 grams per tonne grade since October. The underground grade has always been about 8 grams. And then what we see in the first quarter is the same also. Lower East is better grade, so the main factor is less dilution than one big factor. And you know -- as you know, we have a nugetty ore body. So actually when we go and mine the West zone and the lower East zone, the high-grade zone that we hit in the drilling, the grade is actually there. So as you know, we have to cut high values when we do our reserves, but when we actually go and mine them, the grade is there and then we can see now we have 6 months in overall assets. There's a grade on underground, it's consistent.

Don M. Blyth - Paradigm Capital, Inc., Research Division

That's very encouraging. I'd also just encourage you to sort of show the breakdown of the open pit and underground concentrate within the MD&A. I mean you've presented here on this call. They're great numbers. You should show them off, don't make them so hard to find.

Daniel Racine

We will, Don.

Don M. Blyth - Paradigm Capital, Inc., Research Division

And secondly, you're saying Q1 production expecting to exceed 25,000 ounces. Costs are likely to come down, further improvement from Q4 just based on the increased tonnage from the underground portion, from the underground. Yet your full-year guidance is 90 to 100 and 700 to 750. So you're either being conservative for the full year or do you expect any pressures on the cost front throughout the rest of the year?

Wade K. Dawe

Don, we're going to leave our guidance where it is right now, and we'll take a look at it mid year. But the guidance will remain at 90,000 to 100,000 ounces at the present time.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Jeff Wright of Global Hunter Securities.

Jeffrey Wright - Global Hunter Securities, LLC, Research Division

Most of my questions have been answered by the previous guys. I had a couple on the breakdown of capital spending, looks like there's about $6 million going into the mill. Any specific items that need replacing or is this expansion? What's the $6 million going into the mill for?

Daniel Racine

The -- that's not necessarily just for the mill. That would be for a number of different plant, property, equipment balances including the major equipment overhauls. The only major capital expenditure at the mill planned for 2013 is the work around the extension of our drilling facility. That's about $1.5 million, maybe $2 million of that balance. But that's the only thing that we have currently planned in the capital structure at the mill.

Jeffrey Wright - Global Hunter Securities, LLC, Research Division

Okay. And I know we've touched on -- earlier on electrical. Could you guys comment on labor inflation? Is there any sign of a significant labor inflation this year?

Daniel Racine

No. No significant signs of labor inflation throughout this year.

Operator

Our next question is from the line of Steven Butler of Canaccord Genuity.

Steven Butler - Canaccord Genuity, Research Division

Probably asked and answered earlier, so not much to say here or wonder about. But in your fourth quarter, the mill -- or the mining underground, guys, is about 540 tonnes per day, which is only a nominal uptick from Q3. An uptick, but a nominal one. I know you're now -- sounds like, Daniel, your -- was December a good month? Question. And also is it really the lower East zone that's now kicking into higher gear as the contribution in the underground that's sustaining you at 800 tonnes per day?

Daniel Racine

Yes. This is what we have said, that we'll achieve over 800 in the last quarter. This is what we achieved at the end of the year and then since the -- since then, same for Q1. So that's it, it's the -- right the quarter average is lower than that, but we said that we'll achieved at the end of the quarter, and this is exactly what we did. We did more than 800 at quarter end.

Wade K. Dawe

We have several weeks of production in December, north of 800 tonnes per day. And that run rate has continued through the first quarter. So we ramped it up through quarter 4, particularly in the latter months of the quarter. And that higher run rate has definitely continued throughout quarter 1.

Steven Butler - Canaccord Genuity, Research Division

Right. Okay. And lastly, on the top cut factor, can you remind us again? I think it's about a 30 gram per tonne top cut factor and would you reevaluate that at the end of this year if you're getting, from the bulk of the ore body depths, better grades? Or would you still leave into your back pocket?

Daniel Racine

Yes. We'll see, but right now we're cutting at an ounce per tonne, 30 grams per tonne. But sure, when we will do the new resource reserve calculation, we have to reevaluate that. But at that time, when they did it in 2010, there was no mining underground. So this is the cutting factor they have used. We'll see when we'll do the new one at the end of the year. But I can tell you, we'll stay conservative.

Steven Butler - Canaccord Genuity, Research Division

Yes. And is your mining costs coming down? They obviously went up a little bit in the fourth quarter, obviously with a lower -- or I heard something about 107 per tonne underground. Are we seeing lower cost in that here in the first couple months of the year, Daniel?

Daniel Racine

Yes. Yes.

Steven Butler - Canaccord Genuity, Research Division

Okay. You can't quantify?

Daniel Racine

No. No. But they're a lot lower.

Steven Butler - Canaccord Genuity, Research Division

Okay. That's fine. Okay. Jon, one for you on the CapEx side. Did you guys -- I can't recall if you've reduced your CapEx guidance for the year at large. And if you did, which categories?

Jon Legatto

Yes. But there was a small decrease over what we've I think included in the initial sort of production release in January. I think it was $2 million or $3 million that came out of general plant, property and equipment.

Operator

We've come to the end of our time for question-and-answer session today. I will now turn the floor back to management for closing comments.

Wade K. Dawe

Thank you, everyone, for your participation. We will release exploration news next week, followed by our Q1 production number during the week of April 8. Thank you very much. Have a nice day. Bye-bye.

Operator

This concludes today's teleconference. You may now disconnect your lines at this time. We thank you for your participation.

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