TORONTO, April 05, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Kirkland Lake Gold Ltd. (“Kirkland Lake Gold” or the “Company”) (TSX:KL) (NYSE:KL) (ASX:KLA) today announced production for the first quarter of 2019 (“Q1 2019”) of 231,879 ounces, an increase of 57% from 147,644 ounces in Q1 2018, with the increase driven by record quarterly production at both Fosterville and Macassa. The Company ended Q1 2019 well positioned to achieve its improved full-year 2019 production guidance of 920,000 – 1,000,000 ounces of gold, with production at Fosterville expected to be weighted to the second half of 2019 as development advances to depth into the high-grade Swan Zone. All dollar amounts are expressed in U.S. dollars, unless otherwise noted.
During Q1 2019, the Company continued to build financial strength with cash increasing $78 million or 23%, to $410 million at March 31, 2019, compared to $332 million at December 31, 2018.
Highlights of Q1 2019 production results:
• Consolidated Q1 2019 production of 231,879 ounces, which compared to 147,644 ounces of production in Q1 2018 and 231,217 ounces in the fourth quarter of 2018 (“Q4 2018”)
• Gold poured in Q1 2019 totaling 230,250 ounces, with total gold sold of 232,929 ounces
• Record production at Fosterville of 128,445 ounces, more than double the 63,843 ounces produced in Q1 2018 and a 3% increase from the previous quarterly record of 124,307 ounces the previous quarter (Strong production growth from Q1 2018 resulted from significantly higher average grades due mainly to the advancement of the mine sequence in the Swan Zone during Q1 2019)
• Record production at Macassa totaling 72,776 ounces, an increase of 35% from 54,038 ounces in Q1 2018 and 4% higher than the previous quarterly record of 69,936 ounces in Q4 2018, (record quarterly production in Q1 2019 reflected significant grade outperformance in the South Mine Complex (“SMC”) from stopes in or around the 5700 Level)
• Production at Holt and Taylor of 17,225 ounces and 12,377 ounces, respectively, which compared to 16,675 ounces and 13,055 ounces, respectively, in Q1 2018 and 16,774 ounces and 19,305 ounces, respectively, the previous quarter.
Other key developments during Q1 2019, include:
• December 31, 2018 Mineral Reserve estimates released •Consolidated Mineral Reserves increased 24% to 5,750,000 ounces @ 15.8 grams per tonne (“g/t”) (total additions of 1,860,000 ounces before depletion of 750,000 ounces)
•Fosterville Mineral Reserves increased 1,020,000 ounces or 60%, to 2,720,000 ounces @ 31.0 g/t, with the Swan Zone Mineral Reserve doubling to 2,340,000 ounces @ 49.6 g/t (total additions of 1,386,000 ounces before depletion of 366,000 ounces)
•Macassa Mineral Reserves at December 31, 2018 increased 11% to 2,250,000 ounces @ 21.9 g/t (total additions of 464,000 ounces before depletion of 244,000 ounces).
• Significant improvements to production and unit-cost guidance announced •Three-year production guidance increased to 920,000 – 1,000,000 ounces for 2019, 930,000 – 1,010,000 ounces for 2020 and 995,000 – 1,055,000 ounces for 2021; Fosterville’s production guidance for 2019 and 2020 improved to 550,000 – 610,000 ounces, with 2021 guidance remaining unchanged at 570,000 – 610,000 ounces.
•Operating cash cost per ounces sold guidance for 2019 improved to $300 – $320 from $360 – $380 previously, with all-in sustaining costs per ounce sold guidance improved to $520 – $560 from $630 – $680 previously.
• Strong growth in earnings and cash flow for full-year 2018 reported •Net earnings in 2018 totaled $273.9 million ($1.30 per basic share), a 107% increase from 2018
•Net cash flow from operating activities of continuing operations totaled $543.1 million, a 73% increase from 2017, while free cash flow increased 40%, to $249.5 million in 2018.
• Continued focus on shareholder returns •Quarterly dividend payment of C$0.04/share paid on January 11, 2019.
Tony Makuch, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kirkland Lake Gold, commented: “Both Fosterville and Macassa achieved record production in Q1 2019, largely reflecting strong grade performance, as well as higher levels of mill throughput at Fosterville. At Fosterville, we continued to advance development and production from the Swan Zone, with stope production advancing on multiple levels. As we develop deeper into the zone, we are targeting higher levels of production from Swan, particularly in the second half of the year. At Macassa, production on the 5600 and 5700 levels continues to generate better than planned grades. Production over the balance of the year will remain largely focused on these areas. We ended the first quarter well positioned to achieve our improved full-year 2019 production guidance of 920,000 – 1,000,000 ounces.
“Turning to our financial performance, we have consistently been an industry leader in per share profitability and expect this trend to continue when we report our Q1 2019 financial results on May 7th. We also continued to generate substantial amounts of cash flow during the quarter, with our cash position increasing by $78 million or 23%, to $410 million at March 31, 2019. Our rapidly growing financial strength is a key differentiator for Kirkland Lake Gold and provides us with a great deal of flexibility in terms of financing our growth and examining additional opportunities for value creation, including returning capital to shareholders.”
Q1 2019 Production Results Q1 2019 Q1 2018 Q4 2018
Ore Milled (tonnes) 140,184 123,669 98,797
Grade (g/t Au) 29.0 16.8 39.7
Recovery (%) 98.3 95.7 98.6
Gold Production (ozs) 128,445 63,843 124,307
Ore Milled (tonnes) 77,990 86,661 85,523
Grade (g/t Au) 29.6 19.9 25.9
Recovery (%) 98.2 97.6 98.0
Gold Production (ozs) 72,776 54,038 69,936
Ore Milled (tonnes) 117,876 122,280 118,347
Grade (g/t Au) 4.8 4.5 4.7
Recovery (%) 95.6 94.8 94.3
Gold Production (ozs) 17,225 16,675 16,774
Ore Milled (tonnes) 75,085 84,464 103,793
Grade (g/t Au) 5.4 5.0 6.1
Recovery (%) 95.6 95.5 95.0
Gold Production (ozs) 12,377 13,055 19,305
Gold Production 1,056 33 895
Total Consolidated Production (ozs)2 231,879 147,644 231,217
Total Consolidated Gold Sales (ozs) 232,929 147,763 225,692
1. The Company’s Cosmo mine in Australia was placed on care and maintenance effective June 30, 2017 (see News Release dated May 4, 2017). The Company’s Holloway mine in Canada was transitioned to care and maintenance effective December 31, 2016 (see News Release dated December 12, 2016). On February 21, 2019, the Company announced plans to resume operations at Holloway following completion of a revised and updated royalty agreement. Production from Holloway is included in the Company’s commercial production effective that date.
2. Production numbers may not add to total due to rounding.
Performance Against Full-Year 2019 Production Guidance
Macassa Holt Taylor Holloway Fosterville Consolidated
2019 Guidance (,000 ozs) 230 – 240 70 – 75 50 – 55 ~20 550 – 610 920 – 1,000
Q1 2019 Production (ozs) 72,776 17,225 12,377 1,056 128,445 231,879
Q1 2019 production totaled 231,879, an increase of 57% from 147,644 ounces in Q1 2018. The main contributor to the strong growth compared to the same period in 2018 was record production at Fosterville and Macassa, mainly due to significant improvements in average grades, as well as the impact of higher processing volumes at Fosterville. The Company’s Holloway mine, which resumed commercial operations as at February 21, 2019, contributed 1,056 ounces of production in Q1 2019 versus 33 ounces in Q1 2018 and 895 ounces in Q4 2018. Production at Holloway is expected to ramp up over the balance of the year. No production was recorded from the Company’s Northern Territory assets, which are currently on care and maintenance, in Q1 2019, or during either of the prior periods.
Review of Operating Mines
The Fosterville Mine produced a record 128,445 ounces in Q1 2019, based on processing 140,184 tonnes at an average grade of 29.0 g/t and average mill recoveries of 98.3%. Q1 2019 production more than doubled from 63,843 ounces in Q1 2018, when the mine processed 137,788 tonnes at an average grade of 11.1 g/t and at average recoveries of 93.7%. The increase in production compared to the same period in 2018 resulted from a 73% increase in the average grade, reflecting the commencement of production from the high-grade Swan Zone during the second half of 2018. Q1 2019 production compared to production of 124,307 ounces the previous quarter when the mine recorded its higher ever average quarterly grade. A total of 98,797 tonnes were processed in Q4 2018 at an average grade of 39.7 g/t and at average recoveries of 98.6%. The quarter-over-quarter change in production mainly reflected a 42% increase in total tonnes processed, reflecting the advancement of the mine sequence in the Lower Phoenix system, including the Swan Zone, and a drawdown in the surface stockpile over the quarter.
The Macassa Mine achieved record quarterly production in Q1 2019 of 72,776 ounces based on processing 77,990 tonnes at an average grade of 29.6 g/t and average recoveries of 98.2%. Q1 2019 production increased 35% from 54,038 ounces in Q1 2018, which resulted from processing 86,661 tonnes at an average grade of 19.9 g/t and average mill recoveries of 97.6%. The increase from Q1 2018 was primarily related to a 49% improvement in the average grade, largely reflecting the impact of favourable grade reconciliations in stopes around the 5700 Level of the SMC. Q1 2019 production increased 4% from 69,936 ounces in Q4 2018, with a higher average grade more than offsetting the impact a lower volume of tonnes processed in Q1 2019. Q4 2018 production resulted from processing a total of 85,523 tonnes at an average grade of 25.9 g/t and at average recoveries of 98.0%.
During Q1 2019, the Holt mine produced 17,225 ounces based on processing 117,876 tonnes at an average grade of 4.8 g/t and at average recoveries of 95.6%. Q1 2019 production compared production of 16,675 ounces in Q1 2018, when a total of 122,280 tonnes were processed at an average grade of 4.5 g/t at average recoveries of 94.8%, and 16,774 ounces the previous quarter when 118,347 tonnes were processed at an average grade of 4.7 g/t and at average recoveries of 94.3%. The change in production from both prior periods mainly reflected improvements in the average grade and average recovery rate, which more than offset the impact of a small reduction in tonnes processed.
Gold production from the Taylor Mine during Q1 2019 totaled 12,377 ounces based on processing 75,085 tonnes at an average grade of 5.4 g/t and at average recoveries of 95.6%. Q1 2019 production compared to 13,055 ounces in Q1 2018, when 84,464 tonnes were processes at an average grade of 5.0 g/t and at average recoveries of 95.5%, and record production of 19,305 ounces in Q4 2018 when 103,793 tonnes were processed at an average grade of 6.1 g/t and average recoveries of 95.0%. The change in production from Q1 2018 reflected reduced tonnes processed, which was partially offset by the impact of higher average grades during Q1 2019. The change from the previous quarter reflected both lower tonnes processed and reduced average grades, with lower grades largely related to mine sequencing.
On February 21, 2019, the Company announced plans to resume operations at the Holloway mine following the completion of a revised royalty with Franco Nevada Corporation. A total of 1,056 ounces were produced at Holloway and processed at the Holt million during Q1 2019, which resulted from processing 7,826 tonnes at an average grade of 4.4 g/t and average recoveries of 95.4%. Production at Holloway is expected to ramp up during 2019 and total approximately 20,000 ounces for the full year.
Henry Heidrich, P.Eng., Director, Technical Services and Ian Holland, FAusIMM, Vice President Australian Operations are “qualified persons” as defined in National Instrument 43-101 and have reviewed and approved disclosure of the technical information and data in this news release.
Scientific and technical disclosures supporting the December 31, 2018 Mineral Reserve estimates are provided in the technical reports (the “Reports”) entitled, “Updated NI 43-101 Technical Report Fosterville Gold Mine in the State of Victoria, Australia” and “Macassa Property, Ontario, Canada, Updated NI 43-101 Technical Report.” The Reports are effective December 31, 2018, are dated April 1, 2019 and are available on SEDAR at www.sedar.com and on the Company’s website at www.klgold.com