Claude Resources, Inc's CEO Discusses Q1 2013 Results - Earnings Call Transcript

| About: Claude Resources, (CGR)

Claude Resources, Inc. (NYSEMKT:CGR)

Q1 2013 Earnings Conference Call

May 10, 2013, 11:00 ET


Neil McMillan - President and Chief Executive Officer

Rick Johnson - Chief Financial Officer

Brian Skanderbeg - Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

Peter Longo - Vice President of Mining

Marc Lepage - Investor Relations


Sam Crittenden - RBC Capital Markets


Good morning. My name is Steve and I will be your conference operator today. At this time, I would like to welcome everyone to the Claude Resources Inc First Quarter Results Conference Call. All lines have been placed on mute to prevent any background noise. After the speakers’ remarks, there will be a question-and-answer session. (Operator Instructions) Thank you.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Marc Lepage, Manager, Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Marc Lepage

Thank you, Steve. Good morning and thank you for joining us on our 2013 first quarter earnings call. We would like to welcome all analysts, current and prospective shareholders and the media. On the call today, we have Neil McMillan, President and CEO; Rick Johnson, our Chief Financial Officer; Brian Skanderbeg, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer; and Peter Longo, Vice President of Mining.

I’d like to announce that during today’s call, the company may use forward-looking statements. Such forward-looking statements are based upon current expectations and involve risks and uncertainties. For further information regarding forward-looking statements, you are welcome to read our cautionary note located on page two in today’s presentation. Please note that you can view the 2013 first quarter MD&A and financials on our website on the Investors page under Financial Reporting.

I’d like to turn the call over to Neil McMillan, President and CEO for comments, and then we’ll go to questions.

Neil McMillan

All right. Thanks very much Marc and good morning, everybody. Thank you for taking the time to dial into the call. For those of you that are in through the webcast system and using access to the PowerPoint presentation attached to it, I will be following that in my initial presentation and then we will open it up for questions. Just to remind you that anybody offline that does want to contact us with additional questions, you are more than welcome to do that.

This is a report on our quarterly highlights, as we reported last night, we had a net loss of net loss of $2.5 million, or $0.01 a share for the quarter. Cash flow from operations were positive at $1.4 million. Production was 8100 ounces of gold, which was below our forecast, I will talk about talk about that a bit. Gold sales were 9300 ounces. We had carried over fairly significant in-circuit inventory from the end of December and as you can see, our realized gold price fond memories of these days was $1,643.

Our cash cost per ounce of gold is obviously unsustainably high in the first quarter, but I would point people to the fact that our forecast for cash cost for the year is slightly better than it was last year, which was $900 and some and we did demonstrate in the third and fourth quarter last year, our cash operating cost were in about the $850 range. We expect that sustainable number or one we can even improve on and when we produce that 12,500 to 15,000 ounces per quarter and I can tell you at this point we continue to maintain our forecast for annual production this year at 50,000 to 54,000 ounces. So you could expect our cash operating cost to come down substantially going forward.

The first quarter is a frustration to us and things happen each year and frankly it's a bit systemic across Canada first quarter production is -- always seems to be a challenge for us. Our gold sales in the first quarter of 2013 were exactly the same as they were in 2012, exactly the same as they were in 2011. We are examining why that happens and there is a combination of reasons. Some of it weather related, some of it scheduling, some of it anomalous depending on scheduling of when you are doing capital projects or work that might interrupt your project.

In our case, we did complete our shaft extension in January, which did not disrupt our production. Our returns were fine. Our biggest mess in the first quarter was great. We do have that challenge from time to time. We get changes in our grade on short term basis off of our forecast. Over time we tend to get as many opportunities to produce above our forecast grade and we are confident that that's the case going forward.

I can tell you April was better than the first quarter and May looks better yet and we are confident as I said that we will need our production forecast for the year. Our [2000] end winter road resupply is always another issue for us as you know we don’t have a permanent road into the Seabee Mine, that when extremely well this year, it does balloon our expenditures in the first quarter to $10 million to $15 million and so that is a challenge to us from a liquidity point of view.

On occasion this year, it wasn’t a big problem for us. We had adequate liquidity through the first quarter. We had completed our renewed facility with Canadian Western Bank for a total of $25 million and on April 5th, we closed our previously announced financing with Crown Capital, for an additional $25 million. So we went through the quarter quite successfully in the winter resupply successfully.

Page four gives you a bit of an idea about our gold ounces produced and you can see, we had increasing trend from Q1 2012 through the end of the year. First quarter this year down again. Our expectation is that that trend for increasing production on a quarterly basis will be re-established from the second quarter through the end of this year and as I said, we expect our production to come in as we have forecasted.

Cash cost per ounce chart, you can see it can be fairly volatile, but again the trend that was established through 2012, we believe will be a long term trend. We expect to be able to steadily increase production going forward and do it without increasing in any significant way our expenditure. So the trend we think will be fine. Gold price obviously is a frustration to all of us. We can’t control that at this point in time, but we can deal with is effectively.

On page six you can see the whole utility in our cash flow, that's obvious [the issued] gold production and gold price and again most of you are familiar with that. I would suggest that the bar chart that we show there with Q1 cash flow at just over $1 million assuming we are successful in meeting our production guidelines and the gold price doesn’t change dramatically from where it is, we would expect to see increasing cash flow throughout the balance of the year and again profitability is either side of zero, but again with increasing production and curtailed expenditures going forward, I would think that trend is more likely to be positive than negative. Again the big unknown is what happens to the gold price?

Page seven for our financial position. At the end of the quarter, because we hadn’t booked the Crown Capital $25 million, it looked like we had a difficult situation. We also have included in short term debt, the $9.6 million debenture that is maturing on May the 23rd. That was principally use of funds from Crown Capital. The money [affect] that redemption is sitting is sitting in at term account rate now and there will be no issues with respect to that redemption.

That facility drops off the current liability sheet and obviously makes a big difference to our working capital. In addition to that, we have equipment leases or converted some of them to term debt related to Seabee because there is a demand provision on those leases, they are also shown as a current liability although we don’t expect any issues with respect to the demand provision. For the most part, they will be paid off over the next two years in any event.

So financially as of the 5th of April, we were quite reasonably comfortable. We will pay the debt off. The $9.6 million on April 23rd and it's our view that at current gold prices and with our current production forecast, we have adequate liquidity to operate the company indefinitely. Next, based on the assumption that we will continue to grow our production although carefully and curtail our expenditures and I'll talk to you a bit about what we've done with respect to expenditure reduction.

On slide nine, we talk a bit about what we've done on the reduction, corporate expenditure reduction side. The last bullet point says that year-over-year we expect to reduce expenditures in the company by over 20%. Most of that has been accomplished already. Our budget for 2013, we started this process quite frankly in the third quarter of last year. Our budget for the full year 2013 was down significantly from 2012 and since that budget was put in place in December, we have as it says, identified and implemented an additional $6 million in expenditure cuts and we aren’t done yet.

There is really no part of our operation that hasn’t been affected. Although we've been very careful not to take any action that would jeopardise our production scenario. This amounts to well over $400 an ounce in reduced expenditures year-over-year and as I said, we aren’t done yet.

The things that gave us significant optimism about going forward is really I think brain related and it's one of the things that enables us to hold our production costs flat but increase our production ounces. We have about -- we have two ore bodies that we currently source ore from Seabee. You can see on slide 11, about 60% of our ore coming from Seabee and 40% from Santoy.

At Seabee, we have started to mine out of the parallel structure called L62. We just started into that in February and we started in at -- and end of it that we knew was going to be lowered rate. As we move along that structure, we expect the grade to come up and in fact that's what's been happening and as we continue to increase production from there, the grade of L62 is 7.7 grams and you can compare that to what we were mining in the first quarter and milling, which was I think just under 5.

Our forecast for the year is about 6 grams per ton, so a significant increase and let me tell you how important that is. Every one quarter of a gram increase in our recovered rate is about $3 million in revenue at current gold prices and we have significant potential to increase our grade in our mine plan going forward and I'll talk a little bit about where that's coming from.

We have significantly curtailed exploration for the company in 2013. We've spent about $13.6 million on exploration in 2012 included a fairly big span to finish up the deep drilling program at Madsen, work done at Amisk and then a big regional program at Seabee. We've cut that budget back steadily to -- it's about $1.6 million for full year 2013 now and that includes drill holes that we did accomplish in the first quarter in and around Seabee this year.

So we as everybody else has, I think really curtailed that, but the good news is at Seabee we have enough of our ounces now. We also do fairly significant drilling from underground. We will continue to do that. We budgeted about -- currently about 45,000 meters of underground drilling in Seabee. We do that to aid in production etcetera. The other [technical difficulty] production at Seabee along with the [CBD port] we expect that to result in increase in grade mine.

The big change for the company is additional change will come from the Santoy Gap, part of the Santoy complex and on page 12, there is a long section of a map of where we at there. We are currently mining again about 40% of our feedstock from the Santoy 8 mine. We have discovered in 2011, done extensive drilling in 2012 on Santoy Gap and if you are looking at the map, you can see the yellow section in the middle of Santoy Gap. Last year by the end of the year we had already upgraded that to an indicated resource 281,000 ounces at 8.8 grams.

So that is a grade with a top cut and we are currently engineering that probably done near the end of July, early August laying out the mine plan for that and we will convert it into a reserve at that time. We would expect our reserves to increase by over 200.000 ounces and the grade to come up substantially when we bring that into reserves. It should take our reserves from roughly 300,000 ounces into the 500,000 ounce range, probably the highest level they've ever been at Seabee.

The grade was already up because of L62 was already up 14% at the end of 2012. Our expectation would be by the third quarter when we bring this into reserves, our ounces obviously will be up another significantly 40% and our grade to come up in addition to that.

We are driving a exploration ramp to Santoy Gap. It is already parallel to the start of that structure, 70 meters on the other side of it, if you are looking at the slide. The first drill chamber has been established and we have been drilling off the first drill chamber to outline or etcetera and infill drill it.

So this project is not far from production. We have initially scheduled production out of Santoy Gap in late 2014 in the fourth quarter. We now believe we have the potential to move that production on schedule ahead. Hopefully substantially given the way the work is going now.

That increase in grade and accessibility is important to us and frankly the width -- mining width in Santoy Gap are substantially higher than we are accustomed to and should result in reduced cost per ton, mining cost per ton. So there is great potential for Santoy Gap to contribute increased ounces and reduced unit operating cost.

On page 13, as I referred to our grade went up 14% year-over-year to 6.14 and we expect that to continue to increase with Gap. We replaced almost all of the ounces that we mine in the reserve category and again we will jump that by probably 200,000 plus ounces in the third quarter and our indicated and measured grade in that section of Santoy Gap, you can see how significantly that went up. So we have good news coming. Our reserve production grade over the balance of 2013 is expected to continue to increase and then going forward.

Lastly Amisk and Madsen, both of those projects are effectively suspended in terms of expenditures. We are finishing up a preliminary economic assessment on Amisk that will be the final graph that will here in the next couple of weeks I think. It's intended to give us a real good idea about where we are at, at the moment with the 1.6 million ounces. It's not our expectation that to be able to recommend that we go ahead with and development to put it in production.

So we are not currently planning to do that, but we do have -- we do want to see where we are at with the 1.6 million and whether it's an issue. The increased gold prices increase grade or increase ounces or a combination of all of those things that will ultimately drive Amisk ahead.

Madsen we've started an internal scoping study on that. In January we will be done on that in the next little while [of use internal] in the interim, we have suspended our operations. We have a plan to explore at Madsen this year anyway, but we have suspended the dewatering etcetera. We have one part time caretaker on and we are finishing up the strategic -- the scoping review that we are doing on the property.

So you can see where we cut back expenditures. Actually at Madsen that was not just a function of gold price. We were at a point with the Madsen project where we needed to stop and do an economic assessment of it. Internally you can see we have 1.23 million ounces there frankly at 8.9 grams with nearly fully infrastructure. This is a good property and the scoping study will give us real good idea about what we do in terms of developing or proceeding with that.

Again on page 16, just a reiteration of what I've talked about already. We have a good operation Seabee and one that continues to get better. Our balance sheet is thick enough to enable us to continue to operate successfully going forward. It's never much fun when the gold price does this to us, but we do have the capacity. We are aggressively reducing cost and will continue to do so.

So that's the summary of the quarter and a bit of an outlook going forward and I am happy at this point to stop and take questions.

Question-and-Answer Session


(Operator Instructions) And your first question comes from the line of Sam Crittenden from RBC Capital Markets. Your line is open.

Sam Crittenden - RBC Capital Markets

Hey, good morning, guys. I noticed you have reduced your cost sort of on absolute basis to sort of $11.5 million a quarter range down from something like $13 million. Is that sort of the low hanging fruit that you've trimmed out of the cost and then now it might get a little harder to trim that down further or do you think there is still pretty good opportunity to just trim that back more?

Neil McMillan

Sam, I think you are just referring to the cash or production cost at Seabee Sam, if you are talking about $11.5 million a quarter. I think we will see them come down a bit more, but we are probably -- for us to make a further aggressive move down on those costs would risk our ability to meet our production forecast.

I think the -- two things that are going to happen at Seabee is we are hitting on -- in the first quarter even on every cylinder from a production point of view with the exception grade, which was I said, I think it's already resolving itself. We are ahead of schedule on meters developed. We are on schedule for tons broken. We continue to operate the project better and better all the time, a real credit to the people that we have working there.

I think we -- the gains we will see from here will be related to productivity and grade. I can’t see us bringing our expenditures on production cost. I can’t see that coming down a lot. We are -- I think we are -- if we get into the $45 million range, that's pretty good because we are budgeting to do 300,000 tons this year instead of 275,000 last year. So we are talking about an increase in tons and actually it's slightly lower expenditures and that's a credit to productivity increases.

Sam Crittenden - RBC Capital Markets

Okay. Good. That's helpful and then just on sustaining and development capital, you've got $17 million for development and $9 million for sustaining budgeted for this year. Is that a typical run rate sort of number or is there something unusual this year. Is there anything you can trim out of that.

Neil McMillan

I think that's pretty normal frankly going forward and when do we do lots of forecasting, I think the sustaining capital is going to be between $5 million and $10 million and the development costs are going to be between $15 million and $20 million depending on what level of expansion we are affecting out at Santoy Gap in particular.

So those run rates are probably relatively straightforward and they are probably pretty good for you to budget off of our forecast, but we have the ability I think if things got really tight, to slash our sustaining capital cost in particular in the first quarter of next year. I mean, most of the consumables for those things are brought in over winter road. We've already expended the money on that.

Where we might think our long term sustaining capital numbers would be about $10 million a year, we can probably withstand a year, two years cutting those significantly, but over the long term, we are probably on this operation able to sustain about $10 million and sustaining capital while we increase our production.

Sam Crittenden - RBC Capital Markets

Okay. Thanks Neil. I appreciate the update.

Neil McMillan

Yes, just lastly on development, we really obviously -- we need to at the moment or desire to reduce the amount of development we do because we've been developing L62 and now we are starting with Santoy Gap. So those are -- both of those structures are real wins for us. So we will continue to develop but what we are seeing is that we are becoming much more productive. We are way ahead right now on our -- above our budgeted meters of development. We are well ahead of where we were budgeting and that's purely productivity and management improvement at site. Next question.


(Operator instructions)

Neil McMillan

Now while we are waiting, there is one other thing I will mention to you, our current forecast going forward, which is I said we are confident we have the ability to continue as a going concern that includes paying down significant amounts of debt as we go forward.

So we would expect this year to reduce our principal by $4 million and next year by about $6 million in the normal course of our operation. That both pieces of debt are five-year debt. We have the ability to pay them off early and we will watch for our opportunities to do that as well, but in the midst of this, while we are expanding Seabee, we do expect to continue to pay out debt down.


And your next question comes from the line of [Brian Host]. Your line is now open.

Unidentified analyst

Thank you. Hi Neil, you mentioned that the original plan for Santoy Gap was to bring it into production in late 2014, but you are now possibly seeing an opportunity to move that forward. My question would be, if it does come forward, which is obviously a pleasant surprise, would that leave you no constraint and working sort of backwards, does that mean that you will have to make a sort of a go, no-go decision for mill expansion prior to the next ice road opportunity to upgrade the mill.

Neil McMillan

I'll have Peter Longo, our VP of Mining answer that question that Brian.

Unidentified analyst

Thank you.

Peter Longo

Initially the long term forecast would be to expand the mill and that strategy was built under a much higher gold price scenario. Bringing forward the Santoy Gap, it's still going to be a good transition period to bring that online. It doesn’t happen all of a sudden you are at full production. So over the course of the next few years we would gradually build that up into production. So currently and for the next few years we are not going to be mill constrained under that strategy and in which case we will, as the production rises, we can increase our mill capacity.

Neil McMillan

To put some numbers on that Brian, our mill is currently capable of operating at 1,050 tons a day. In the first quarter we were over 700, through the balance of the year, we expect to average about 850, so we still have -- we could bring an additional 200 tons a day and if we didn’t displace any existing production, we could another 200 tons a day and from Santoy Gap without being mill constrained and again it's one of the reasons that we are comfortable that we have the liquidity in order to manage going forward.

Unidentified analyst

So you run the full 25% to 30% upside capacity in terms of -- in terms of just running the mill at higher utilization?

Peter Longo

Yes 15% to 20%.

Neil McMillan


Unidentified analyst

Okay. That's helpful. Thank you.

Neil McMillan

...opportunities for us. I mean, I didn’t talk about it specifically. We have the ability to adjust our grade in our mill head over a period of time and where we currently use a bottom cut for example of 4 grams or 4.5 grams depending on the structure, we could say, all right we have 8 gram material available to us at Santoy Gap, we will reduce our production in this area of 5 gram material.

We reduced that by 100 tons a day and we will replace it with 100 tons a day of extra production at the Santoy Gap by 8 grams as an example and that's -- the one other thing about our operation. We have a [narrowing] ore body and we have -- we have really good grade in large parts of our mine. So we have the ability to adjust that depending on gold prices. The adjustment takes probably 6 to 12 months to affect, so it's not something you can do in the short term, but at least we have the flexibility to do that and the mill is not going to cause us any problems on that front for the next couple of years.

Unidentified analyst

That's helpful. You also mentioned I believe on your last quarter call that you were mining in less or producing in less places than you would hope to going forward, can you just give us an update on how many of your natural production and where you expect that to go in the near term?

Peter Longo

Sure, in the first quarter, we definitely circle that times to have enough production zones going to ensure the continual production and provide flexibility in case of running through problems. Within a matter of weeks, at our Seabee mine, we are going to be sitting in the four production zone area that provides you basically one area where you are mucking from, one where you are drilling, one where you are back filling and then you have one for more or less back up in case something goes wrong. So that's going to provide an immense amount of flexibility and increase of production more or less from what we are seeing in Q1.

And then at Santoy Gap in Q1 we circle that times to have two zones producing. Right now we are in three, so I expect our production in Q2 and going forward to be significantly better just by the fact that the flexibility you have with having more zones in production.

Neil McMillan

This quarter were running, I think Peter we were running four to five working phases at any given time and we were within the matter over the next couple of weeks will be in that seven. So -- and again that's kind of mine scheduling issues that I talked to about earlier, but yes, it's looking really good.

Peter Longo

And a large part of that is due our development rates at Seabee last year we were averaging about 3.5 meters a day development rate and this year, year-to-year we were well over 5 meters and that's allowing us to get to that fourth production zone and we hope that that development rate continues into the future, which will just improve things.

Unidentified analyst

Super and my last question is your second facility, the one that closed after the quarter, is that funded and drawn at this point or were you only drawing that as needed?

Neil McMillan

No, it's fully drawn, but their money is the biggest of it sitting in the bank.

Unidentified analyst


Neil McMillan



And you have a follow-up from the line of Sam Crittenden from RBC Capital Markets. Your line is open.

Sam Crittenden - RBC Capital Markets

Yes, just one quick one. Neil, I am just wondering if you have a timeframe in mind for doing something with Madsen. Is it a case where you do the scoping study and then run a shale process or really just to hold on to it until something comes along that's favorable?

Neil McMillan

All options are open there Sam. We will be done in the scoping study and have that, we will go through it with our Board. We actually did a bit with that yesterday and once that scoping study is completed, then we will sit down and decide what we want to do. The encouraging thing is we have people who are interested in the project and joint venturing it from us etcetera and we haven’t made a decision yet on what we will do there, but I expect over the course of the summer that issue will be determined and we will decide what we want to do going forward.

Sam Crittenden - RBC Capital Markets

Okay. Sounds good. Thank you.


Your next question comes from the line of [Ronnie Simpson]. Your line is now open.

Unidentified analyst

Yes, Mr. McMillan, I have got two questions. One is the -- can you give an estimate on what your [all in] cost will be this year per ounce and also I don’t think you touched on the share process, so pretty depressed levels you got now. Thank you.

Neil McMillan

Well I will handle the share price Ronnie, because that's the challenging one and I will get Rick Johnson to talk to you about the other issue. Share price wise we are trading at under 0.2 time or under two times trailing cash flow under six times trailing adjusted net earnings and under 0.3 times book value. The numbers are absolutely appalling. I don’t think we've ever been there before with the possible exception of about a 36-hour point in time in 2008.

The only good news is that misery loves company and we got lots of it. So we track our share price performance against a 13-company or 14-company peer group and our share price is tracking identical at this point to our peer group. On occasion we've been above and on occasion below them, but the trend is exactly the same.

We continue to do what we can to try and attract investors but it is really tough. Our personal compensation as executives is tied to the share price performance very directly. A big part of our compensation historically has been our options all of which are currently under water and many of us are also significant shareholders in the company and we've been as our shareholders have, badly damaged.

So we have a huge vested interest in doing exactly what you would like to do and that's to move get the share price up. We can’t control it in the short term and we feel frustrated for our shareholders and damaged ourselves. We do see institutional shareholders as well under significant pressure with redemptions etcetera and we understand that and why they sell, but I am afraid in the short term, we don’t have much control over that.

With respect to our total cost, Rick can give you a very general view at the moment. We don’t typically release our budgets and -- for the year and that's because they do change fairly dramatically, but do you want to cover it on a bigger or high level?

Rick Johnson

Just on a high level, the Seabee breakeven cost are around -- this is based on forecast production around $1500 an ounce and our other costs about $200 an ounce. So all in total $1700, but with some of the initiatives that Neil has talked about in his presentation, we expect to see something better than that.

Neil McMillan

We have budgeted to consume cash this year even at substantially higher prices because we have been investing in Santoy and that project and L62. I think it's safe to say firstly, we mitigated much of the gold price reduction with our total -- our total expenditure reduction and the encouraging thing for us is going forward, we see our expenditure staying the same or coming down and our gold production going up steadily and on that basis, we expect our total cost per ounce to come down and our sustaining cost at Seabee to come down as well.

We can weather whole utility and the gold price going forward. We don’t want to see it go to 1200 or 1250, but we stayed in business in this company when the gold price was under $400 an ounce and I am confident that we have the liquidity and we have the flexibility to continue to meet these volatility challenges in the gold price.


I am showing there are no further questions at this time. I will turn the call back over to Neil McMillan, President and CEO.

Neil McMillan

All right, thanks again everybody for being on the call. We look forward to you joining us again after the second quarter for our call and we will have an opportunity to review our second quarter's going as I said it started out as a significant improvement over the first quarter. We expect that to continue. Thanks for taking the time and again if you have any follow-up questions, feel free to give us a call at the office. Thanks again, bye, bye.


Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes today’s conference call. You may now disconnect.

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