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Great Basin Gold Narrows 2011 Loss, Revenues Up 70% On Higher Production, Prices

Gold producer Great Basin Gold (TSE:GBG) (AMEX:GBG) said Monday that full year losses narrowed and revenues jumped 70 percent as gold equivalent ounces sold increased with the price of gold.

For the 12 months that ended December 31, the company posted a net loss of $17.74 million, versus a loss of $27.14 million a year ago. Adjusted loss per share, which excludes fair value adjustments and capitalized interest, narrowed to six cents from 13 cents a year earlier.

The company generated a profit from operating activities of $1.51 million in 2011, up from a loss of $17.91 million in 2010.

Revenue rose to $170.32 million from $99.71 million, as gold equivalent ounces sold increased 29 percent to 114,228 ounces, and the realized gold price jumped 33 percent to $1,491 per ounce.

Great Basin recovered 120,971 ounces of gold equivalent during the year from its Burnstone mine in South Africa and its Hollister project in Nevada, 27 percent more than the 95,186 ounces produced in 2010.

"Our Nevada operations continue to perform in line with their current production potential by delivering a much improved set of results from trial mining for 2011," said president and CEO Ferdi Dippenaar.

"We expect a similar performance for 2012. The planned completion of the EIS during 2012 will allow the project to enter into commercial production which will have a positive impact on cash costs and the manner in which we report our earnings.

"Burnstone, in its first year of production build-up, made significant strides but was constrained by unexpected geological and infrastructural challenges. The continuing additional infill drilling is mitigating the risk in the short to medium term."

Indeed, the company said profit from operating activities is expected to improve as production from its Burnstone mine increases. Burnstone, which started commercial production in February last year, recorded a net operating loss of $15 million in 2011, the first year of its production build-up.

"Significant improvements have been, and are being made to the shaft and permanent underground infrastructure over the last 3 months. The continued improvement in ore development and stoping rates at Burnstone is reassuring, with more improvement expected in the second quarter of 2012 to get to the planned production levels," Dippenaar continued.

At the Burnstone mine, ore development metres more than doubled from the first quarter of 2011 to 2,900 metres in the fourth quarter. Stoping square metres also increased by 77 percent to 6,653 in the last quarter of 2011.

The company said results from the long hole stoping mining method remain positive, "with stoping widths of approximately 80 cm being achieved on a consistent basis".

Improved dilution control on ore development is also benefiting the head grade of material delivered to the mill, the company said.

Last year, infrastructural challenges hampered production, with underground flooding occurring in the latter part of the year. This issue has been resolved, however, as the temporary water handling system was upgraded. Permanent water reticulation infrastructure is under construction for completion in the second quarter.

As a result of the challenges, total gold production for the year for Burnstone came to 23,361 ounces, approximately 6,000 ounces less than the revised guidance of 30,000 ounces, Great Basin said.

The metallurgical plant is performing in line with expectations though, the gold miner added, at an average of 65,000 tonnes per month, with a mill capacity in excess of 145,000 tonnes per month.

As the remaining 12 temporarily flooded ore development ends become available during the first quarter, Burnstone is targeted to meet its first development milestone of 1,500 ore development metres per month in the second quarter, which should allow the mine to reach 22,000 square metres of stoping and a production rate in excess of 10,000 ounces per month early in the third quarter.

The company said it expects Burnstone to produce between 90,000 and 100,000 gold ounces at a cash cost of US$900 to US$1,000 per ounce for the 2012 fiscal year, a marked improvement from the US$1,801 cash cost seen in 2011.

Meanwhile, in-fill drilling will continue at the site over the medium to longer term.

At the Hollister mine in Nevada, 97,610 gold equivalent ounces were produced for the year, just below the forecast of 100,000 ounces, but still up from 2010. Fiscal 2011 was the first year that all material extracted from trial mining activities was processed at the company's Esmeralda mill, which allowed gold recovery rates to improve from 82 percent to 92 percent.

Gold equivalent ounces recovered from Hollister through Esmeralda rose by 42 percent in 2011.

The company said improvements to the regeneration circuit at the mine are expected to be completed this month, while Hollister also undergoes additional emphasis on ore development.

Production from Hollister in 2012 is expected in the range of 90,000 to 100,000 gold equivalent ounces at a cash cost of US$700 to 750 per gold equivalent ounce.

Net cash of $24.2 million was generated from the company's operations during 2011, compared to $3 million utilized by operations in 2010.

Burnstone is expected to be cash flow positive by the third quarter, with its cash contribution to group activities to increase in line with the production build-up, Great Basin concluded.

To ensure enough funds for the ramp up, the gold miner closed a $50 million bought deal financing last month.