Steppe Gold (TSX:STGO) is a precious metals development company and gold producer in Mongolia. The company owns the Altan Tsaagan Ovoo (ATO) and the Uudam Khundii (UK) gold projects in Mongolia.
Steppe Gold has recently commenced gold production at its flagship ATO project. The company has mined, crushed and stacked approximately 715,000 tonnes of ore with an average grade of approximately 2 g/t gold to date. As of June 2020, Steppe Gold has produced and sold a total of 15,389 ounces of gold and 4,978 ounces of silver generating US$25.3 million. The company is on pace to meet its production goal of 60,000 ounces of gold in 2020.
Now that the company has commenced gold production, Steppe Gold intends to continue its feasibility study into the development of the much larger fresh rock resource underlying the current mining operation. The proposed development of a cyanide in leach operation for processing fresh rock is expected to have a life of mine of approximately 12 to 15 years.
Existing defined fresh rock resources are expected to be supplemented by the new discovery of high-grade gold and silver mineralization on the Mungu trend. Steppe Gold’s exploration is showing that the high-grade Mungu discovery is semi-continuous to the structurally-controlled mineralization drilled at the ATO 4 deposit and that significant resource expansion is possible.
The UK project is the first-of-its-kind joint venture (80/20) between Steppe Gold and the Bayankhongor Provincial Government. The company has completed an initial exploration program on this project consisting of IP and magnetic surveys, as well as rock chip and soil geochemical programs. The program resulted in four discoveries that the company plans to further explore with an extensive program of trenching and drilling in the near-term.
Steppe Gold is continuing to asses a number of additional opportunities to acquire exploration licenses and mining projects across Mongolia.
Steppe Gold’s management team has a track record of success in Mongolia. Keeping projects on track and under budget is Steppe Gold’s General Manager of Processing Grant Smith. Smith has experience in constructing and operating heap leach operations and most recently worked on the Tujuh Bukit gold heap leach project in East Java, Indonesia.
- Steppe Gold is a gold producer in Mongolia.
- Initial capital cost of approximately US$20 million, average cash costs less than US$500 per ounce.
- Approximately 875,225 tonnes of ore with an average grade of 2 g/t gold has been mined to date at the ATO project
- On pace to hit 2020 production goal of 60,000 ounces of gold
- Steppe Gold is a gold producer in Mongolia.
- US$28 million gold and silver streaming agreement with Triple Flag Mining Finance Bermuda Ltd. in place.
- Updated resource estimate and feasibility study underway for the larger fresh rock project underlying the current mining project at open cuttable depths. This larger Phase 2 project would involve the construction of a grinding and CIL circuit and would have an expected life of mine of 12 to 15 years and an annual production profile that could reach approximately 150,000 ounces on a gold equivalent basis.
- Joint venture partnership in place for the UK project with the Mongolian government.
- Management has a proven track record of success in Mongolia.
Mining in Mongolia
Mongolia is known as one of the last frontiers for large scale mining projects, offering investors and mining companies alike an interesting opportunity. With the success of Oyu Tolgoi, a tier one producer and one of the largest copper mines in the world, Mongolia has demonstrated the geologic potential for mineral wealth. Mongolia had a GDP of US$11.43 billion in 2017 and has an annual growth rate of approximately six percent. The growth of the economy is supported by commodity exports, such as copper and coal, improved business sentiment and the implementation of a government-led economic adjustment program.
The World Bank believes that Mongolia’s growth outlook is positive and is supported by the mining and manufacturing sectors. Gold exploration accounts for 45 percent of the mining sector and 2.6 percent of the country’s GDP, leading to the implementation of policies and programs to help promote gold mining.
In March 2017, the Mongolian government signed a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with Canada. The agreement provides Canadian investors operating in Mongolia with a legal framework that is expected to help bring greater predictability and certainty to their investments. Canada is a significant investor in Mongolia and has invested approximately $6.4 billion in the country.
Steppe Gold’s ATO Gold-Silver Mine
The 5,493-hectare ATO gold-silver project is located in the Dornod province of eastern Mongolia. Steppe Gold’s mining license for the project is fully-permitted for 30 years.
Steppe Gold commenced production at the ATO project in December 2019. As of July 2020, Steppe Gold has produced and sold a total of 15,389 ounces of gold and 4,978 ounces of silver which generated a net cash flow of US$25.3 million. The company has mined, crushed and stacked approximately 715,000 tonnes of ore where leaching continues.
Steppe Gold remains on pace to produce 60,000 ounces of gold in 2020 at cash costs of circa $500 per ounce from the ATO Mine. The company plans to complete the feasibility study for its Stage 2 expansion project at the ATO mine moving forward. The expansion targets an increase in gold production to 150,000 tonnes per annum from underlying fresh rock ores.
2017 technical report
A 2017 technical report outlined a project development plan for an open-pit heap leach operation at ATO. The project could produce approximately 147,000 ounces of gold and 673,000 ounces of silver from oxide ores over its 4.5-year mine life. Economics are highlighted by an initial capital cost of approximately US$20 million and average cash costs less than US$500 per ounce.
2017 resource estimate
In 2017, Steppe Gold released a resource estimate for ATO. The report outlined a proven and probable mineral reserve of 5.23 million tonnes grading 1.25 g/t gold and 10 g/t silver. It also described a measured and indicated resource of 12.23 million tonnes grading 1.49 g/t gold, 9.99 g/t silver, 0.75 percent lead and 1.34 percent zinc, as well as an inferred resource of 1.05 million tonnes grading 1.03 g/t gold, 25.18 g/t silver, 0.52 percent lead and 1.11 percent zinc.
Centerra Gold (TSX:CG), the prior operator and owner of the ATO project, spent over US$25 million on exploration, including the completion of 67,000 meters of drilling and 28,421 meters of trenching. Since acquiring the property, Steppe Gold has completed an additional 20,000 meters of drilling.
ATO4 & Mungu Discovery
The Mungu discovery is located northeast of the current resource from the ATO 4 deposit. The discovery is located on a 20-kilometer long structurally controlled, north-trending, mid-sulfidation epithermal gold-silver system. Steppe Gold believes that the ATO 4 deposit may be semi-continuous to the mineralization at the Mungu discovery. The ATO 4 Deposit currently remains open along strike to the north and at depth.
Now that the company is in production, Steppe Gold plans to turn its focus towards exploration at the ATO deposits and Mungu discovery. The company is also working towards releasing an updated feasibility study for the fresh rock project that is expected to include the Mungu discovery. Steppe Gold is also looking to complete the following activities at ATO:
- Receive cyanide permit, begin leaching and pour first gold.
- Complete maiden mineral resource on Mungu deposit.
- Restart exploration program at ATO and Mungu deposit.
The UK Gold Project
The 14,397-hectare Uudam Khundii property is comprised of one exploration license and is located 800 kilometers southwest of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The property is an 80/20 joint venture with the Provincial Government of Bayankhongor.
The property is located between Erdene Resource Development Corporation’s (TSX:ERD) Bayan Khundii gold discovery and Altan Nar epithermal gold deposits.
Steppe Gold has completed an initial exploration program on the property that included geological mapping, geochemical sampling and geophysical surveys. The company expects to commence its trenching and drill programs in the near term. Steppe Gold is also looking into expansion opportunities to further consolidate its footprint in the area.
To date the company has completed:
- 1,940 line kilometer ground magnetic survey
- 12 line kilometer IP survey
- 346 rock chip samples
- 8,427 soil geochemical samples
Steppe Gold plans to commence a trenching and drilling program at the UK project by the end of 2019.
Matthew Wood — Chairman
Matthew Wood is a mineral resource explorer and developer with over 25 years of global industry experience in mining and commodities investments. He has managed investment deals in diamonds, coal, energy, ferrous metals, base and precious metals, among other commodities. His unique skills in technical and economic evaluation of resource opportunities have resulted in a record of nurturing resource deals from early-stage, to market listings and exit strategies for his investors.
He was formerly the founder and Executive Chairman of the Mongolian coal company, Hunnu Coal Limited. Hunnu Coal was IPO of the year for all sectors on the ASX in 2010, and its sale for approximately A$500 million in 2011 to Banpu PCL was recognized as the Mines and Money 2012 Deal of the Year. Wood has founded and been involved in many other resource companies and investments over the years. He has extensive experience and many key relationships in Mongolia and was recently awarded the Order of the Polar Star, the highest state honor that can be awarded to a non-citizen of Mongolia. He has an Honours Degree in Geology from the University of New South Wales and a Graduate Certificate in Mineral Economics from the Western Australian School of Mines.
Bataa Tumur-Ochir — President and CEO
Bataa Tumur-Ochir is responsible for new business acquisitions, development, government and community relations and the daily operations in Mongolia. He has strong relationships with all levels of government in Mongolia and was recently appointed independent advisor to the Ministry of Mining and Heavy Industry responsible for foreign investment and promotion.
He is currently a director at GCD Mongolia and CEO and executive director of ASX-listed Wolf Petroleum. Under his guidance, Wolf Petroleum was awarded the “Operator of the Year Award” from the Petroleum Authority of Mongolia, and today, Wolf Petroleum is recognized as the fastest growing petroleum exploration company with the largest petroleum exploration acreage in Mongolia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and graduate certificates in international business and marketing from Australia and Singapore.
Aneel Waraich — Director and Executive VP
Aneel Waraich is the founder of ATMA Capital Markets and ATMACORP LTD. He is a financial service professional with progressive experience in asset management and corporate finance businesses. Waraich focuses primarily on advising public and private companies in the natural resource sector.
In previous roles at Goodman and Company Investment Counsel and Dundee Capital Markets, he worked as an analyst valuing private companies. Most recently he worked as an investment banker focusing on deal origination, going-public transactions and financings for both public and private companies in the resource and technology sectors. He completed his MBA from the Goodman Institute of Investment Management at the John Molson School of Business.
Jeremy South — Senior VP and CFO
Jeremy South has been a director of Steppe Gold since March 2017. He has over 33 years of experience in M&A, capital markets and private equity in Europe, North America and Australia, including senior positions in investment banking at Deutsche Bank, NatWest Markets and Deloitte. For 10 years, he was a Global Leader and Mining M&A Advisor at Deloitte.
Based in Beijing for four years, he advised leading Asian trading houses and financial investors on mining M&A, financing and strategy, and he has worked with some of Asia’s largest companies. He acted as Chairman of Aldridge Minerals Inc. up until it’s recent sale to Trafigura Ventures. South is a Chartered Accountant and holds a Bachelor of Economics degree from Monash University (Australia). He holds the ICD.D designation as a graduate of the Institute of Corporate Directors.
Greg Wood — VP Operations
Gregory Wood is an Australian citizen and was appointed as Vice President Operations of Steppe Gold LLC in 2016. He is responsible for all mining-related operations in Mongolia. Prior to joining Steppe, he held positions as Director and Non-Executive Chairman of Carajas Copper Company, Operations Manager of Harvest Minerals and as CEO of Black Star Petroleum. He has extensive experience in the oil and gas industry through his past family oil business’s and has completed the Petroleum Engineering for non-engineers programmer in Houston, Texas.
Wood was a systems accountant with over 12 years extensive experience in financial reporting, financial analysis, developing key performance indicators and modeling of financial reports over a number of industries including transport, media and infrastructure. He held management positions at Asciano and Patrick Stevedores.
Enkhtuvshin Khishigsuren — VP Exploration
Enkhtuvshin Khishigsuren has over 30 years of Mongolian mineral exploration experience. He spent the first 10 to 12 years of his career at Central Geological Expedition doing regional geological mapping in various areas of Mongolia, followed by seven years as senior exploration manager on the exploration of precious metal in Mongolia for Harrods Minerals.
Since 2005, he has been running his own company, Erdenyn Erel, which provides exploration and consulting services to western exploration and mining companies. He is responsible for identifying targets and properties based on his knowledge and experience. His experience has resulted in the discovery of several prospective gold and copper deposits in Mongolia; such as the multimillion-ounce gold deposit Olon Ovoot, the Zuun mod molybdenum porphyry deposit and the Shand copper porphyry deposit. He holds a bachelor degree in geological exploration from Azerbaijan State University and a Master’s degree in geological science from Shimane University, Japan.
Grant Smith — General Manager of Processing
Grant Smith has over 15 years of heap leach experience beginning with Which Creek Copper in the Pilbara region in Western Australia since 2003. Following that, Smith spent time in Laos, Egypt and Mauritania as well as held consultative roles in Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Armenia. More recently, his extensive experience led him to Indonesia where he was responsible for the construction and operation of the heap leach at Tujuh Bukit gold heap leach in East Java, Indonesia.
Patrick Michaels — Director
Patrick Michaels is the Chairman of Zuri-Invest AG and the Chairman of Asty Capital AG in Zurich, Switzerland. He has been involved in numerous financings of gold mines in North America, among others. He is a well-respected financial adviser and fund manager throughout Europe.
Michaels has extensive experience in the fields of mining finance, fund management and asset allocation. He has a background in law and economics and did his training in the areas of private banking and investment research at UBS in Zurich. Additionally, he attended post-graduate courses at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado.
Dr. Zamba Batjargal — Director
Dr. Zamba Batjargal has over 35 years of experience working for the government in Mongolia, dealing with issues of environmental protection and climate change. He was the Minister of the Environment of Mongolia from 1990 to 1996 and Director General of the National Agency for Meteorology, Hydrology and Environmental Monitoring from 1996 to 2001. Dr. Batjargal has experience in working outside of Mongolia due to his engagement in international bi-and multilateral cooperation activities.
He was Ambassador of Mongolia to Japan from 2001 to 2005. Between 2005 and 2011, he worked in New York as a Representative of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to the UN. Since 2014, he has served as an independent consultant on climate change and the development of green policy for public institutions and non-profit organizations. He was also an advisor at the Office of the President of the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) in Ulaanbaatar (2014 to 2016). He received his Ph.D. in physics and mathematics in 1978 from the Hydrometeorological State University, St.Petersburg, Russia.
Batukhuu Budnyam — Director
Batukhuu Budnyam is a successful entrepreneur and financial expert who has extensive experience in the banking and finance sectors in Mongolia. Until recently, Budnyam served as Advisor to Chinggis Khaan Bank. Prior to joining Chinggis Khaan Bank, he was Managing Director of Organic Solutions Mongolia LLC and previous to that, he was Managing Director of MFS Capital LLC. Budnyam is a Mongolian native and speaks fluent English, Russian and German. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the National University of Mongolia.
Sereenen Jargalan — Director
Sereenen Jargalan has been a professor at the Mongolian University of Science and Technology since September 2003 and head of the Department of Mineral Exploration since 2011 where she teaches ore geology and metallogeny to bachelors, masters and doctorate students and supervises Ph.D. student research projects. She has a Ph.D. and Master’s degree in Earth Science from the Institute of Mineralology, Petrology and Economic Geology at Tohoku University in Japan, focused on petrology of igneous rocks and a Bachelor of Mineral Exploration from the Mongolian Polytechnical University.
She completed post-doctorate work focused on the REE potential in Mongolia at the Mineral Resources Research Group, Institute for Geo-Resources and Environment and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, Japan. She has co-authored or contributed to over 50 academic books, articles and other publications. She has been the recipient of numerous academic awards and honors in both Magnolia and Japan.
Steve Haggarty – Director
Steve Haggarty is the Managing Director of Haggarty Technical Services Corporation and a registered member of the Professional Engineers Ontario. He has over 35 years of industrial experience both on-site and at a corporate level, involving several precious metal and copper producers, with a background in project design, commissioning, start-up, metallurgy, process optimization, project management, reclamation and closure.
With a mining career spanning nearly four decades, Haggarty’s industry experience includes 24 years in operations and 14 years in corporate and EPCM-related roles. Most recently, he was Senior Director for the Metallurgy at Barrick Gold Corp. In this role, he was responsible for operational performance improvements, defining GeoMet models, processing strategy and risk mitigation. Haggarty has worked at multiple mine sites around the world, including as General Manager of Barrick Gold’s Veladero heap leach project in Argentina. He is considered a technical leader in heap leach processing, implementation and optimization.