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Allied Nevada Gold Corp. (NYSEMKT:ANV)

Q1 2012 Earnings Call

May 7, 2012 11:00 am ET

Executives

Scott Caldwell – President, Chief Executive Officer & Director

Stephen Jones – Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer

Tracy Thom – Vice President, Investor Relations

Analysts

Sam Crittenden – RBC Capital Markets

Brian Christie – Desjardins Securities

Mike Kozac – Cormark Securities

Steve Butler – Canaccord Genuity

Sean Campbell – Macquarie Securities

Operator

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Allied Nevada Q1 2012 Financial and Operating Results Conference Call. (Operator instructions.) I would like to remind everyone that this conference call is being recorded today, Monday, May 7, 2012, at 11:00 AM Eastern Time. I will now turn the conference over to Tracy Thom, Vice President Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Tracy Thom

Thanks so much, and thanks everyone for joining us this morning. We issued our Q1 earnings release this morning before market open. On the call today is Scott Caldwell, our President and CEO; and Steve Jones, Executive Vice President and CFO, who will discuss the results of that release. The call will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Before we begin please note that certain statements we make during this call may contain forward-looking information. For additional information we advise listeners to read the cautionary statements regarding forward-looking information contained in our press releases and on our website. I’ll now turn the call over to Scott Caldwell.

Scott Caldwell

Thank you, Tracy. During the quarter the company achieved outstanding performance in the health safety and environmental areas. This excellent performance is a real credit to the men and women that work at Hycroft and our other development projects in the state. Production is expected to trend upward quarter-over-quarter and our adjusted cash cost per ounce will decline quarter-over-quarter. This is the mine plan that was developed last year and refined as we gained more knowledge on our equipment deliveries, and I’ll talk a little bit about that later.

Gold sales continued to lag production as metal inventories continued to build on carbon and other areas of the process stream. Obviously this build up in inventory adversely affected sales and revenue, and therefore earnings. The company is in discussions with third parties to process carbon offsite and we are also finalizing design [capper] cost estimates and we’ve begun the permitting process of our own modular onsite carbon strip circuit. This circuit could be operational in Q2 2013. Permitting is the critical path on that – it’s not equipment delivery or construction, it really is permitting.

Silver production continues to exceed expectations. The mine produced about 166,000 ounces of silver during the quarter, and that works out to a silver to gold ratio of about 5:1. Costs for the quarter were essentially as expected. The mine was in a high waste stripping phase; [striperation] was approximately 3:1. And as you know we’re a US corporation and therefore Allied is required to dispense all costs associated with production waste stripping.

Due to further delays with shipment of the third large hydraulic shovel, the mine was forced to operate smaller, more expensive loading units, increasing mining costs and adversely affecting our productivity of our [Hollis] fleet as well. The final large hydraulic shovel is due to arrive in Los Angeles this week and management believes the shovel will be operational in Q2 2012 – that’ll be sometime probably in June, so late in Q2 2012.

Contracted mining equipment went to work during the quarter and this equipment will ensure that production and capital development stays on track. A 2.5 million square foot leach pad expansion was completed during the quarter and we are now stacking on the new pad and intend to add solution to that ore in the very near future. This expansion of the leach pad will allow the site to increase tonnage on our leach and resulting in increased metal production.

Site personnel began work on the excavation required for the installation of the [gyratory] crusher. Site personnel expects to have the excavation completed in order to begin foundation work during Q3 2012, and the excavation is going very, very well and that’s where the contractor was working last week. The Allied Nevada owner’s team in [floor] are progressing on the engineering required to construct the crushing system and the mill. Engineering is scheduled to be completed as required by equipment deliveries. Environmental permitting continues to proceed well on all fronts. Management expects receipt of all approvals to begin construction of the mill in Q2 2013. And as you’ll recall our future mill is located on private or patented mining claims.

Presently we have two exploration drills working at Hycroft. The primary focus of these drills is combination drilling to the north. This area is required for future dump and leach pad construction. Upon completion of the drilling required for the engineering the drills will move on to an infield program designed to convert waste internal to the current $800 feasibility kit into oil reserves. If this infield program is successful oil reserves will increase and the waste ton [ten] strip ratio will decline associated with the $800 pit.

Our Board of Directors recently approved a modest regional exploration program. Work is scheduled to resume in Hasbrouck/Three Hills later in the year. This program is designed to expand the mineral resource of the district. Management plans to begin drilling at Wildcat during the quarter. Wildcat is located about 20 miles southwest of Hycroft. Field work will begin on the company’s Pony Creek property and nearby claims. The Pony Creek claim block is approximately 60 square miles and is located near the [Rain] deposit that was mined by Newmont a few years ago.

With that as a bit of an update and a bit of an outlook on what’s going to happen, I’ll turn the meeting over to Steve and he’ll discuss the quarter’s financials in some detail.

Stephen Jones

Thank you, Scott. Before I go through the numbers I have had the opportunity to meet a lot of people on this call I think, but I’m looking forward to meeting all of the Allied Nevada stakeholders in the coming months.

Revenue for the quarter increased $7.3 million as compared to the prior-year quarter. Gold sales for the quarter were 20,347 ounces at $1715 an ounce. That compares to the prior-year quarter at 21,341 ounces at $1401 an ounce, and as another point of reference it compares to Q4 of 19,586 ounces at $1786 an ounce. Overall gold revenue was up $5 million of the $7.3 million increase. As Scott mentioned, we continue to see a significant amount of silver. We sold 128,306 ounces at $34 an ounce; that compares to the prior year of 59,566 ounces at $34 an ounce, an overall increase in revenue of $2.3 million; and on the sales side that ratio was actually 6.3:1. So again, we continue to see very good sliver.

Scott mentioned that production during the quarter was significantly higher. We produced 32,473 ounces of gold; 166,000 ounces of silver. Plus on the balance sheet you will see an increase of inventories, up $13.7 million. Of this increase in inventories, $12.1 million is in-process inventory – that’s both in solution and in carbon. We now have a total in-process inventory of 38,570 ounces of which 11,500 was on carbon at the end of March.

Adjusted cash costs for the quarter were $531 an ounce; that compares to $521 an ounce for the prior year quarter. Overall our strip or our waste of ore ratio was 1.86 which was very high. That was part of the mine plan but that was one of the reasons for the higher costs, and that compares with our average life of mine strip of 1.26. Thus we do have high costs and inventory that we expect to see come through the income statement in Q2, so we’re forecasting that costs for Q2 will be higher. But overall for 2012 we continue to forecast adjusted cash costs of between $475 and $495 per ounce.

We spent $1 million on exploration during the quarter; that’s primarily a little bit of work at Hasbrouck and property holding costs. The focus of the exploration work was at Hycroft which I’ll talk about in a little more detail when we get to capital expenditures. Our G&A for the quarter was $5 million versus $7.6 million for the prior-year quarter. The decrease is primarily due to a $2 million reduction in stock-based compensation for our directors on a marked to market basis. We did have a $900,000 expense for the quarter for that stock-based compensation, however the prior year had $2.9 million.

We had $663,000 of other income during this quarter. That is primarily a gain on 3.2 million of shares of stock we hold in International Enexco, which stock we received last year in exchange for some exploration properties. And that’s just a marked to market adjustment on the value of those shares. Our effective tax rate was 25% for the quarter resulting in net income of $12.1 million or $0.13 a share as compared to last year of $181,000. During the quarter we did provide cash from operations. Our overall net cash provided by our operating activities was $2.4 million and that’s despite the big buildup in inventory that I just mentioned previously.

During the quarter we spent $32.7 million for capital additions and what I’m going to call both cash and non-cash. If you look at the bottom of the cash flow statement you’ll see a $10 million number for what’s called accounts payable reduction through capital lease. And what that is is that’s the acquisition of our second 5500 Hitachi loader and also our shovel and also a wheel loader. Those were actually in payables at the end of the year and have been acquired in Q1 through a capital lease, therefore they’re “not on cash.”

You’ll also note that we had $14.3 million in the quarter of deposits. $7.3 million was for our [Rove] shovels expected to be delivered in 2014 and then an additional $7 million prepayment on the crushers and the mills. And when you look at the balance sheet you won’t see the deposits in property, plant and equipment – they’re actually sitting in other assets noncurrent at this point until they actually become property, plant and equipment.

Scott mentioned that we had did significant work on leach pad expansion. We spent $3.9 million there. As Scott mentioned we do have ore on the [Lewis] leach pad and are looking forward to that production here later in Q2. We also spent $1.1 million on the mill expansion and we spent $800,000 on a new ERP system. We turned that system on last week on May 1st and I’m happy to report that everything’s going well with the new system.

During the quarter we spent $8.9 million on mine development. $5 million of that is work that was done by our exploration work doing condemnation drilling as well as engineering support at Hycroft. Additionally we spent $3.9 million on EIS and other permitting studies. During the quarter we actually used $2.8 million in cash from financing activities and that’s simply the repayment of our capital leases. So overall we had a net decrease in cash and cash equivalents of $34.9 million resulting in a cash balance at the end of the quarter of $240 million.

There’s nothing unusual or unique to report in the footnotes or MD&A. We continue to focus our efforts on the expansion. We’re forecasting $225 million of capital expenditures overall in 2012 and we expect to be able to pay for those expenditures with the existing cash that we have on the balance sheet, additional cash provided by operating activities as we increase production and expect to generate significantly more cash from operating activities, as well as additional monies acquired through capital leases. With that, let me turn it back to Scott.

Scott Caldwell

Thanks, Steve. I’ll now open the session up to any questions that people might have.

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, we will now conduct a question-and-answer session. (Operator instructions.) Your first question comes from Sam Crittenden of RBC Capital Markets. Please go ahead.

Sam Crittenden – RBC Capital Markets

Hi, good morning everyone. You guys mentioned that the tons mined this quarter were a little lower than what you were expecting in the mine plan. Can you give us a little bit more color on what happened there?

Steve Caldwell

Sure. The primary reason was the continued delay in the shovel. So we mined less ore tons, less waste tons at a higher unit cost. We were forced to run the smaller loading units and it hurts all your productivity and obviously your costs when you’re running the old loaders as opposed to the new shovel. Regarding the contractor who’s operating now to get us back caught up, his real focus is on the capital program, the crusher excavation. April was a good month; we’re basically back on plan as far as total tons moved which was 5 million, a little under 5 million for the month and that’s kind of our target. We’ll slowly creep up once we get this next large shovel and again, the shovel is supposed to dock in LA this week and it takes about ten days to get it all to site; another ten days to two weeks to put it together and commission, so we’re hoping to have the thing running sometime in June.

Sam Crittenden – RBC Capital Markets

Can you tell us where your per ton mining cost is at these days?

Steve Caldwell

I don’t have the number with me but maybe you can call and talk to Tracy and she can tell you a little bit about that. They’re high because of the smaller loading, well higher than what we’d like to see – well, of course whose aren’t? But Tracy can go through the details with you, Sam. The effects of fuel oil price being over $100 a barrel, it’s below today – I hear it’s about $97 or so in West Texas – and also having to operate the older loading units has really impaired or adversely affected our mining costs.

Sam Crittenden – RBC Capital Markets

Okay, and then just a question on the grades. I mean this isn’t the first time the silver grade has come in higher than expected. Can you comment on why we might be seeing that and what’s going on there?

Steve Caldwell

We’re not quite sure. We know that we’re seeing better-than-expected grades but it also certainly appears that we’re seeing better-than-expected recoveries on the silver on the heap. We’re running a series of column tests right now of course focusing on gold but really focusing on silver. Our typical column tests when you look at gold, really we only run them for about 90 days and then we know how the material’s going to behave with gold. With silver we’re going to have to run them out over a year and we’re about halfway through those tests, and we’re hoping that we’ve got this series of columns to let us know what’s really going on with silver recovery.

But personally I think it’s a function of both better-than-expected grades and better-than-expected recoveries, but we’ll know a lot more on the recovery in another six months or so. Good news but it just continues to get better and better. We’re also operating the heap a little bit differently than they did in the past – they had no interest in recovering silver, so we’re keeping areas under leach, adding cyanide much, much longer than they did historically and the silver just keeps coming out of this ore. The gold is depleted over a little bit after a little bit less than a year, but the silver keeps just pouring out of the thing well over a year later.

Sam Crittenden – RBC Capital Markets

What percentage are you crushing right now?

Steve Caldwell

We’re crushing just right around 10%. We have two small crushers operating out there and that 10% material that’s crushed, we crush it to 80% minus ¾ inch. That material is really used for construction on the heap. Essentially it is placed as over-liner as we construct the leach bed, so we’re crushing all that material and using it in the construction process. So we lay the plastic down, we put a meter of this crushed over-liner over this plastic so the large rocks and the mine material don’t puncture the plastic.

Sam Crittenden – RBC Capital Markets

Okay, thanks guys. I appreciate the update.

Operator

Your next question comes from Brian Christie of Desjardins Securities. Please go ahead.

Brian Christie – Desjardins Securities

Yeah, good morning, Scott. Maybe you can run through the ounces in inventory, it went by pretty quick, and just wondering if I’m trying to do the quick math it looks like there’s about 27,000 ounces not on carbon. I’m just wondering when you expect that to kind of hit the sales line.

Scott Caldwell

Do you want to take that, Steve?

Stephen Jones

Yeah, I’ll give him the ounces. Yeah, we do have 11,500 ounces on carbon at $331 and a total of 28,570. So your numbers are right, Brian.

Scott Caldwell

On the sales part of the thing the carbon, worst case would be twelve months and that inventory will continue to grow by about 2000 ounces. And I say “worst case” – that’s how long it will take us to design, permit and construct our own carbon strip. So you do the math, another twelve months at about 2000 ounces a month so that inventory could increase by 24,000 ounces or so from where it is today – so to 30,000 ounces or 40,000 ounces. The other ounces that are at various stages along the process line, we should start to pour those ounces and sell those ounces later this quarter and continuing out for the rest of the quarters. So we’re hoping to get those ounces sold or at least to the [doree] in the next nine months, so for the remainder of the year.

Brian Christie – Desjardins Securities

Great, thanks.

Operator

Your next question comes from Mike Kozac of Cormark Securities. Please go ahead.

Mike Kozac – Cormark Securities

Yeah, good morning, guys. Thanks for taking my call. Just back on the silver, can you quantify it to your best guess just how far above your plans those grades are (inaudible)?

Scott Caldwell

Our best estimate… To begin we don’t have a lot of history, right? We’ve only been mining for a couple of years. It certainly looks like the silver grade is trending about 30% higher than what the model predicted.

Mike Kozac – Cormark Securities

Okay, great. Thanks. And then just a bit of housekeeping – what do you expect your stripping ratio to go down to in the back half of this year?

Scott Caldwell

That declines to about the old body average, about 1.25:1.

Mike Kozac – Cormark Securities

Okay, thanks. And then I’ve asked this on most of the calls but we’ve discussed debt financing or potential debt financing in the past for the Hycroft expansion. Can you give us an update on what’s going on with that?

Scott Caldwell

Well, I’ll turn it over to Steve. Steve’s knowledgeable of viable, non-equity-related financing options including debt, and Steve, maybe you can just talk about what options are available to us out there.

Stephen Jones

Yeah, we’re continuing to look at the debt financing. As Scott said, we’re not focused on equity but we are focused on looking at some different opportunities on the debt side, and at this point in time that’s probably as much as we can say. But the market is pretty good out there now and we’re obviously focused on that.

Mike Kozac – Cormark Securities

Okay. And I mean I know there’s not an imminent cash need but when would you like to have some sort of package in place – is it a next quarter thing or end of the year thing, or how should we think about that?

Stephen Jones

Yeah, I think certainly we’d like to do something before the end of the year. We’ll keep an eye on the markets and we want to be opportunistic with respect to the timing of that. As you point out we don’t need it today but the markets are better some days than others, or some months than others. So we’ll keep a focus on it and when we think it’s the right time to go we’ll pull the trigger.

Mike Kozac – Cormark Securities

Okay, thanks very much guys. That’s it for me.

Operator

Your next question comes from Steve Butler of Canaccord Genuity. Please go ahead.

Steve Butler – Canaccord Genuity

Good morning, guys. Scott, a question for you: you mentioned quarter-over-quarter sequential increases in production so can you just confirm, I guess, that you expect Q2 production to be ahead of Q1? And maybe Steve or you, Scott, what order of magnitude: would you be looking at cash costs in Q2 to be higher than Q1, i.e. in the range of $50 an ounce higher, or any sort of guidance there would be appreciated knowing that there’s a lot of accounting to your cash costs.

Scott Caldwell

Yeah, I’ll start with that. The quarter-over-quarter numbers, yes we do expect Q2 to be higher than Q1 and more importantly on an ounces sold basis. So production builds quarter-over-quarter, and it’s a grade relation as well as a surface area – it’s just part of the expansion as we get more and more under leach. We’re expanding the [metal crow] plant from 5000 gallons a minute up to 10,000. That kind of stuff takes place over the course of the year to add to our production profile.

Q2 costs per ounce certainly looks like it will be higher than Q1 and $50 an ounce probably isn’t a bad number. Why is it higher? It’s higher because of the higher-than-expected strip ratio that we incurred in Q1 of this year. We will continue that in Q2 and as you know, we expense of all of our stripping. And that’s kind of the bad news – as a US corp we expense all of our non-development stripping

Steve Butler – Canaccord Genuity

Okay, so that answers it. And just coming back to silver, as you say, silver alluded to maybe 30% overall to the question earlier; but 74% I guess was a reconciliation in Q1 which was obviously very favorable. But I thought you ironed out a lot of those kinks in the reserve model but perhaps not, Scott. Any comments here? I know that a lot of the reserves M&I that have been adequately drilled, you still maybe have some zero assays in the historical databases. Is that maybe still part of the influencer?

Scott Caldwell

Yeah, I think you’re right, Steve. On the grades side a part of this material – and it’s a good point, I should have mentioned it a little bit when I was asked the question. Up high in this deposit we did not, in particular Brimstone we did not re-drill for silver. But down lower we have a much higher silver density where the bulk of our silver ore reserve is, and so there’s areas where we have blanks that we’ve been mining. And that’s part of the grade issue. On the recovery side of things, we just have to complete that laboratory test work. With this new heap we’re going to get another chance, this [Lewis] pad will give us another chance to keep some oil isolated for 90 to 100 days. That’ll give us some more data on the gold but a little bit more importantly silver since that’s what we’re talking about.

But as we get deeper, that’s why we’re reluctant to do anything with the oil reserve model even though we are seeing, now we’ve seen for four years a continued underestimation of silver grades in the model. It’s because we’re up high in the system. So we’re kind of waiting and we’ve resisted to adjust the model in any manner based on the silver grades.

Steve Butler – Canaccord Genuity

Alright, thanks Scott. And last question: we looked at the [tech] report filed to report the reserve update filed at year end, as filed in [Sierra], and in there the schedule for your owner/operator, if you will your own autoclave scenario looks to be a bit further out on the timeline of the mine life than I would have expected. Are you sort of indifferent towards your owner/operator own autoclave or any comments there because it seems to be a little later in the timeline than I would have expected.

Scott Caldwell

Sure, a couple of things. So one, we believe that we can place or are very confident that we can place all the concentrate off-site that we may need to sell off-site, and so really the autoclave, you can put it where you want. And then secondly, with the new resource we have quite a bit of oxide and transitional material and so it allowed us, by processing that material upfront it allowed us to shove the autoclave out another couple of years. I think you know my feelings on the autoclave – it’s a very proven, reliable technology but it is complex and it is expensive. And quite frankly later out in the mine life it makes a lot more sense for us.

Steve Butler – Canaccord Genuity

Great, I think that is it. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from Sean Campbell from Macquarie. Please go ahead.

Sean Campbell – Macquarie Securities

Hi, thank you. Two quick questions. The first one is just relative to the technical report in April. The 2012 plan had I guess about 42 million tons of ore and 25 million tons of waste. That’s still what the guidance would be in terms of tons moved for the year?

Scott Caldwell

I think the ore tons are not going to be that high because of the problems we’ve had in Q1 but yes, we are targeting 60 million to 70 million tons of total material moved for the year. Part of that material is going to be the crusher excavation and part of that is ore. So the plan has changed a little bit over the last few weeks as the shovel delivery continued to hamper us.

Sean Campbell – Macquarie Securities

Okay, and then just two other questions: if you are able to find another party to process the gold and silver in carbon, at this point do you have any idea of what sort of charges or payability would be on that type of processing?

Scott Caldwell

No, we really don’t. We’d like to get the metal sold but as Steve pointed out we don’t need the cash, so we’re not really interested in taking some abusive charges. We’re looking for terms similar to what we were paying before, which was total costs including freight, processing and toll charges was less than $100 an ounce. And so if we can get terms in that kind of a range we’ll probably go ahead and sign the agreement. If we can’t we’ll just keep the carbon and we will keep placing gold on carbon and continue to look at other people to process the material as we’re waiting on our permits to build this plant.

I mean this plant is a couple of skid-mounted modules, a very small plant to be designed to process anywhere from 20 to 30 tons of carbonate a month; and a very, very small, very, very simple installation. We don’t really know what the capital cost is yet. We’ve got some preliminary estimates and we’re working through that, but we are going to proceed with the plant so we never end up in this situation again.

Sean Campbell – Macquarie Securities

Okay, that’s great. Thank you.

Operator

Your next question comes from Steve Butler of Canaccord Genuity. Please go ahead.

Steve Butler – Canaccord Genuity

Hi Scott, that was pretty much the question – was it relating to this [upset], why you hadn’t achieved other third party alternatives. And I think you just answered that. What would be your expected cost per ounce of your own onsite processing, any idea?

Scott Caldwell

Yeah, it would be more in the $15 to $20 per ounce and that would take it through [doree], not through… What this plant is, is atmospheric strip so we strip the carbon. It is has a re-gen kiln, an acid wash and a re-gen kiln on the carbon but the solutions, the high-grade solutions, they’ll actually report to the [metal crow] plant. So we’re pour our [doree] off of the [metal crow]. So it’ll end up as [doree] with the rest of the material from the [metal crow] plant.

Steve Butler – Canaccord Genuity

Okay, thanks Scott.

Operator

(Operator instructions.) Gentlemen, there are no further questions at this time, please continue.

Scott Caldwell

This is Caldwell again. In general the country had a good quarter. We had some great health and safety performance. I mean we’ve gone two years without a lost-time accident in the company for that matter, and I give great credit to the men and women working out in the field. Equipment deliveries continue to hamper us and in particular the hydraulic shovel, but the last one should be docking shortly in Los Angeles so that’ll be behind us. The 320 trucks are rolling in; they’re actually a little bit ahead of schedule which is good news.

Management’s continuing to add value to our company through organic growth. We’re excited about continuing to drill out of Hycroft and what that infield program will allow us to do with our ore reserve over the next few months. The Hasbrouck program, which will begin in the June-July timeframe, again has been designed to expand that resource in both Hasbrouck and Three Hills; and Wildcat, which we think may have the possibility to really expand that resource as well, we’ve been drilling on that. And of course Pony Creek near the [Rain] deposit – we intend to get out there and do some field work on that 60 square mile land package that we have out there and hopefully get that ready for drilling later in the year.

Just a note: we intend to hold a series of technical sessions in New York and Toronto and perhaps some other cities. The primary purpose of this program is to talk about Hycroft technical information, whether it be mining or metallurgy or ore reserve – to basically go through the technical report. But we will also talk about the outside exploration property and programs – Hasbrouck, three Hills, Wildcat, etc. That’ll be sometime the week of June 11th and Tracy’s going to put the notification out on that shortly, but we’re really looking forward to sitting down. I hope you can spend a little bit of time with us or at least listen to the webcast and hopefully we can answer a lot of your questions about unit mining rates, etc.

We’re going to go through the mine plan in detail where you can see how big this thing is and how consistent Hycroft is, and what a conservative mine plan we developed. At any rate, thanks again for taking time out of your schedule to spend with us and we look forward to talking with you soon.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, this concludes our conference call for today. Thank you for participating. Please disconnect your lines.

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