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AURA Aura Energy Limited

9.00
0.00 (0.00%)
24 Apr 2024 - Closed
Delayed by 15 minutes
Share Name Share Symbol Market Type Share ISIN Share Description
Aura Energy Limited LSE:AURA London Ordinary Share AU000000AEE7 ORD NPV (DI)
  Price Change % Change Share Price Bid Price Offer Price High Price Low Price Open Price Shares Traded Last Trade
  0.00 0.00% 9.00 8.50 9.50 9.00 9.00 9.00 63,512 01:00:00
Industry Sector Turnover Profit EPS - Basic PE Ratio Market Cap
Uranium-radium-vanadium Ores 0 -6.49M -0.0110 -14.55 94.8M

Aura Energy Limited FEED study confirms excellent economics for Tiris

28/02/2024 7:02am

RNS Regulatory News


RNS Number : 7581E
Aura Energy Limited
28 February 2024
 

                                                                                                28 February 2024

FEED study confirms excellent economics for

 the Tiris Uranium Project

Tiris Uranium Project is a near term, low cost, long life mine with exceptional further growth opportunities.

KEY POINTS:

·    Front End Engineering Design ("FEED") study confirms excellent economics and capital efficiency to develop Tiris into a globally significant near-term uranium operation:

o NPV8% of US$366 million

o IRR of 34% post tax and 2.5 year payback

o Uranium price of US$ 80/lb U3O8

·    Average base case production of 1.9Mlbspa U3O8 over a 17-year mine life

·    Shallow free dig open pit mining and beneficiation delivers a low cost, high-grade leach feed averaging 1,997ppm U3O8 for first five years and 1,743ppm U3O8 life of mine

·    Low AISC of US$34.5/lb U3O8 demonstrates strong margins

·    Efficient capital cost of US$230 million supporting a long mine life

·    Final Investment Decision expected late in 2024 for an 18 month construction timeline to first production

·    Processing facility designed for future expansion beyond 2Mlbspa

·    Extensional drill program underway targeting further resource growth

 

Aura Energy Limited (ASX: AEE, AIM: AURA) ("Aura" or "the Company") is pleased to advise that the recently completed FEED study for the Tiris Uranium Project ("Tiris" or the "Project") in Mauritania has confirmed excellent economic returns. The study also updated the technical and financial parameters of the 2023 Enhanced Feasibility Study[1] ("EFS"). 

Importantly, the FEED study has confirmed the adoption of a 2Mlbspa U3O8 processing plant as the base case for the Project development confirming globally significant scale of the operation. The FEED study reinforces that the Project is a near term, low cost and long life mine.

The exploration drilling program currently underway[2], aimed at expanding the Mineral Resources at Tiris East, aims to demonstrate the potential to extend the mine life beyond the initial 17 years, as well as the potential to expand production significantly above the current base case of 2.0 Mlbspa U3O8 production rate.

To view the Company's most recent corporate presentation, please click here:
http://www.rns-pdf.londonstockexchange.com/rns/7581E_1-2024-2-28.pdf

 

Aura's Managing Director and CEO Andrew Grove said,

"The FEED study clearly demonstrates that Tiris will be a low-cost, high value, near-term uranium producer with the ability to scale in a very strong uranium market. The market is in structural deficit and likely to continue that way for an extended period. The strong economics at Tiris are supported by the simple, low risk mining and beneficiation that delivers the high-grade, 1,750ppm to 2,000ppm U3O8, ore to the leach plant and there are no requirements for crushing or grinding the ore. These high grades are only matched by the deep underground mines in Canada and exceeding any current or proposed open pit uranium mines worldwide."

"The Board believes the current exploration drilling is likely to deliver near term resource growth around Tiris East. This will enhance the strong economics delivered in the FEED study, and also provide optionality to further expand the production rate beyond the current design of 2Mlbs pa U3O8 and extend the mine life."

"Mauritania is open for business, and we look forward to working with the government and all our stakeholders to develop the Tiris Uranium Project."

 

Key highlights and outcomes of the FEED Study:

The FEED study progressed the design of the processing plant and infrastructure to enable a detailed capital and operating cost estimate to be prepared, with an accuracy level of between +10% and 15%.

•     Robust base case project financial economics demonstrated by post-tax NPV8 of US$ 366M (A$ 523M) IRR of 34%, and a 2.5 year payback at realised uranium price of US$ 80/lb U3O8

•     At uranium prices of US$ 100/lb U3O8 the economics increase to post-tax NPV8 US$ 596M (A$ 851M) and IRR 49%

•     Initial mine life of 17 years producing an average 1.9Mlbspa U3O8 from the 2.0Mlbspa capacity process plant

•     Life of Mine (LOM) uranium production in this study was 30.1Mlbs U3O8

•     91% Measured and Indicated Mineral Resources in mining schedule during the first five years, LOM Inferred material totals 33% mostly beyond ten years in the mining schedule

•     The open pit mining is a simple, low-risk, shallow, free digging operation without the need for crushing and grinding

•     Beneficiation of the ore delivers a high-grade leach feed averaging 1,997ppm U3O8 (first 5 years) and 1,743ppm U3O8 (LOM) at a very low average cost of US$ 8.1/lb U3O8

•     AISC has increased to US$ 34.5/lb U3O8, an escalation of 16% on the 2023 EFS estimate3. This is largely due to a 40% increase in the fuel price

•     CAPEX of US$ 230M, an escalation of 29% on the 2023 EFS estimate6 as a result of industry wide escalation and increasing the filtering and water treatment capacity to allow for greater flexibility and lower risk when operating. CAPEX forecast includes a 12% contingency

•     Uranium production planned within 18 months of Final Investment Decision

•     FEED result confirms and delivers an upgraded process design to de-risk the Project

•     Exploration drilling underway to expand Mineral Resources beyond the current 59Mlbs U3O8[3] with a defined Tiris East Exploration Target of an additional 8-32Mlbs U3O8[4]

•     Modular design provides opportunities for further capital efficient expansion and scalability

•     The construction and operation of the Tiris Uranium Project will deliver significant and ongoing benefits to the people of Mauritania

 


Units

2023 EFS[5]

Base Case

FEED

Base Case

FEED

Spot Price

Uranium Price

US$/lb U3O8

$65

$80

$100

Valuations and Returns


 

 


Post-tax NPV8

US$M

226

366

596

Post-tax IRR

%

28%

34%

49%

Payback period

Years

4.5

2.5

1.8

Cashflow Summary


 

 


Initial Life of Mine

Years

16

17

17

LOM Production

Mlbspa U3O8

25.5

30.1

30.1

Annual Production

Mlbspa U3O8

1.6

1.9

1.9

Gross Revenue (LOM)

US$M

1,562

2,257

2,818

Free Cashflow pre-tax (LOM)

US$M

906

1,327

1,876

Margin (LOM)

%

58%

58%

79%

Free Cashflow post tax (LOM)

US$M

554

1,061

1,486

Unit Operating Costs


 

 


All in Cost

US$/lb U3O8

35.6

42.1

43.2

All-in Sustaining Costs

US$/lb U3O8

28.7

34.5

35.5

C1 Cash Cost

US$/lb U3O8

25.2

30.1

30.2

Capital Cost


 

 


Development Capital

US$M

178

230

230

 

Table 1 - Tiris Uranium Project Financial Summary demonstrates robust economics

 

 Figure 1 - Tiris Uranium Project key operational parameters and systems

 

There is significant potential to grow the 59Mlbs U3O8 of Mineral Resources[6] currently defined at Tiris. Tiris East Exploration targets[7] outline potential for an additional 8-32Mlbs U3O8 and a 15,500m drill program is currently underway targeting extensions to the know mineralisation and testing previously un-drilled radiometric anomalies.

Phase 1 of the current drilling program was completed in late February 2024 with approximately 50% of the planned drilling completed.  Initial results from the Phase 1 program are expected to be published shortly.  Phase 2 drilling is underway and involves infill drilling the Phase 1 targets.  The Phase 2 drilling program is expected to be completed by end of March 2024 followed by an update to the Mineral Resources planned for the second quarter of 2024.

The modular configuration of the processing plant is well suited to capital efficient and simple expansion to accommodate future growth in Mineral Resources as indicated below.

Ø 2.0Mlbspa U3O8 production capacity = US$ 230M development capital (Base Case)

Ø 2.8Mlbspa U3O8 production capacity = US$ 83M expansion capital (from 2 to 2.8Mlbpa)

Ø 3.5Mlbspa U3O8 production capacity = US$ 166M expansion capital (from 2 to 3.5Mlbpa)

Next Steps

The next steps in progressing towards the construction and development of the Project planned for 2024 include:

•             Drilling and update to Mineral Resources - currently underway

•             Project funding inclusive of debt, strategic investors and equity

•             Securing offtake contracts for future production

•             Confirming water infrastructure to support future operations

•             Further geometallurgy, engineering and design work to support development activities

•             Drill results, resource re-estimation and mine plan optimisation

•             Completion of Project Execution Plan

•             Final Investment Decision

 

Authorised for lodgement by the Board of Aura Energy.

This Announcement contains inside information for the purposes of the UK version of the market abuse regulation (EU No. 596/2014) as it forms part of United Kingdom domestic law by virtue of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 ("UK MAR").

For further information, please contact:

Andrew Grove

Managing Director and CEO

Aura Energy Limited

agrove@auraee.com

+61 414 011 383

 

Paul Ryan

Citadel-MAGNUS

Investor & Media Relations

pryan@citadelmagnus.com

+61 409 296 511

 

SP Angel Corporate Finance LLP

Nominated Advisor and Broker

David Hignell

Kasia Brzozowska

+44 (0) 203 470 0470

About Aura Energy (ASX: AEE, AIM: AURA) 

Aura Energy is an Australian-based mineral company with major uranium and polymetallic projects in Africa and Europe.

The Company is focused on developing a uranium mine at the Tiris Uranium Project, a major greenfield uranium discovery in Mauritania. The FEED has confirmed Tiris to be a potential high-value low-cost low-risk commercial scaled near term uranium mine.

Aura plans to transition from a uranium explorer to a uranium producer to capitalise on the rapidly growing demand for nuclear power as the world shifts towards a decarbonised energy sector.

Beyond the Tiris Project, Aura owns 100% of the Häggån Project in Sweden. Häggån contains a global-scale 2.5Bt vanadium, sulphate of potash ("SOP") and uranium resource. Utilising only 3% of the resource, a 2023 Scoping Study outlined a 27-year mine life based on mining 3.5Mtpa.

Disclaimer Regarding Forward-Looking Statements 

This ASX announcement (Announcement) contains various forward-looking statements. All statements other than statements of historical fact are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are inherently subject to uncertainties in that they may be affected by a variety of known and unknown risks, variables and factors which could cause actual values or results, performance or achievements to differ materially from the expectations described in such forward-looking statements. The Company does not give any assurance or guarantee that the anticipated results, performance or achievements expressed or implied in those forward-looking statements will be achieved. 

Front End Engineering Design (FEED) Study Summary

The Tiris Uranium Project is a greenfield calcrete uranium project located in Mauritania that was first discovered by Aura Energy in 2008. It represents the first planned development in a significant new global uranium province in Mauritania with a Mineral Resource Estimate of 59Mlbs U3O8[8] and considerable exploration upside and project growth opportunities. The mineralisation is naturally suited to low capital cost development and low operating cost extraction of uranium, presenting an opportunity for near term development of the Project.

The FEED Study scope was to focus on improving engineering definition for each of the three modular circuit components of the Tiris Uranium Project, including the Beneficiation, Concentrate Processing and Precipitation and Packaging Circuits. The scope was defined in this manner to provide scalability to fully utilise additional Resources as they were defined.

All targeted outcomes were achieved by the FEED, including:

•             Finalisation of key technical and strategic project decisions

•             Produce foundation technical documents for detailed design

•             Confirm product specifications

•             Refine budget, scope, and schedule for the project

•             Initiate project procedures and systems

•             Prepare tenders for key long-lead procurement items

The FEED study focused on progressing the design of the processing plant and infrastructure to enable a detailed capital and operating cost estimate to be prepared to a level of accuracy of +10% -15%.

List of FEED Consultants

The independent consultants responsible for the FEED study scope of work have been summarised in Table 2.

Consultant

Scope

METS Engineering

Beneficiation circuit

Infrastructure

Engineering Integration

Wallbridge, Gilbert, Aztec (WGA)

Concentrate processing circuit

Adelaide Control Engineering

Precipitation and Packaging plant

Anandarasa Advisory

Financial modelling

Table 2 - FEED study contributors

Tiris Project Background

The Tiris Uranium Project is 100% owned by Tiris Ressources SARL, which is 85% owned by Aura Energy Ltd and 15% by the Mauritanian Government's Agence Nationale de Recherches Géologiques et du Patrimoine Minier ("ANARPAM").

A Scoping Study was completed in 2014. This was updated into a Feasibility Study ("FS") document in May 2017, to support an application for exploitation licences. FS and an extensive Environmental and Social Impact Assessment ("ESIA") were submitted on 24 May 2017 to the Mauritanian Ministry of Petroleum, Energy and Mines, and formally approved by the Mauritanian Government on 5th October 2017.

A Definitive Feasibility Study ("DFS") for a 1.25Mtpa mine and 230ktpa process plant was completed in 2019[9]. The process plant has been designed to take full advantage of the characteristics of the material which responds well to concentration of uranium by scrubbing and screening, whilst providing a low capital cost and rapid project development and construction.

The Capital Estimate for the DFS was updated in August 2021[10]. In March 2023 an Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study ("EFS") was published including additional Ore Reserves and Mineral Resources defined in ASX and AIM releases, "Major Resource Upgrade at Aura Energy's Tiris Project", 14 February 2023 and ASX Release, "Tiris Uranium Project Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study", 29 March 2023. The EFS presented a staged development approach, including a 2-year ramp up at 1.25Mtpa mined ore, expanding to 4.1Mtpa mined ore in year three to produce an average of 2Mlbspa U3O8.

Exploitation licences (2491C4 and 2492C4) for the Ain Sder and Oued El Foude permits, Figure 2, were granted on the 8 of February 2019[11] and Mining Conventions for these permits were signed in January 2023[12].

Resources and Reserves

The declared Ore Reserve Estimate, at a 110ppm U3O8 cut off is shown in Table 3. The definition of the Ore Reserve Estimate cut-off grade as set out in the ASX release, "Tiris Uranium Project Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study", 29 March 2023. Aura completed numerous metallurgical and geometallurgical studies on composite samples of mineralisation at Tiris, which were summarised in ASX and AIM announcement, "Tiris Uranium Project DFS complete" 29 July 2019. These results together with updated mining and processing costs, and other cost inputs support the application of a marginal cut-off grade of 110ppm U3O8. This cut-off is comparable to peer projects with similar mineralisation types and processing assumptions. Assessment of material assumptions has determined that changes in cost estimates presented in the FEED study were not material to the Ore Reserve Estimate.

 

Description

Mt

U3O8 (ppm)

U3O8 (Mlbs)

Lazare North

0.9

298

0.6

7.9

251

4.4

Lazare South

6.5

264

3.8

2.6

291

1.7

Hippolyte

5.7

270

3.4

7.1

231

3.6

Sadi

6.1

232

3.1

3.3

261

1.9

Total Ore Reserve

19.3

257

11.0

21.3

251

11.6

40.3

254

22.6

Table 3 - Updated Ore Reserve Estimate

Notes to Table 1:

Ore Reserves are a subset of Mineral Resources

               Ore Reserves conform with and use the JORC Code 2012 definitions

               Ore Reserves are calculated using a uranium price of US$65 /lb U3O8.

               Ore Reserves are calculated using a cut-off grade of 110 ppm U3O8.

               Tonnages are reported including mining dilution

               All figures are rounded to reflect appropriate levels of confidence which may result in apparent errors of summation

The Ore Reserve Estimate was generated from the Mineral Resource Estimate produced by H&S Consultants (Sydney) in 2023 with the appropriate modifying factors to apply for mining dilution. This Resource model was used in an open pit optimisation process to produce a range of pit areas using operating costs and other inputs derived from previous studies. Mining costs were built up from estimates derived from equipment supplier and mining contractor submissions and applied to a detailed mine schedule.

 

 

Figure 2 - Tiris East Resource outlines for the Tiris Uranium Project

 

This Ore Reserve is based upon consolidated Mineral Resources reported in the ASX announcement entitled "Major Resource Upgrade at Aura Energy's Tiris Project" released on 14 February 2023 and available to download from asx.com.au (ASX:AEE). In that report, Measured and Indicated Resources were listed at 62.1Mt of ore for 29.6Mlbs U3O8, at 216ppm. The combined Mineral Resources Estimate, including an Inferred Resource Estimate, is 113Mt of ore at 236ppm for 58.9Mlbs U3O8. All resources were reported at a 100ppm grade cut-off and summarised in Table 4.

 

 

 

Area[13], [14]

Class

Tonnes (Mt)

U3O8   (ppm)

U3O8  (Mkg)

U3O8  (Mlb)

Hippolyte North

Measured

8.0

236

1.9

4.2

Indicated

5.8

217

1.3

2.8

Inferred

4.7

212

1.0

2.2

Sub-Total

18.5

224

4.1

9.1

Hippolyte Marie & West

Inferred

8.2

310

2.5

5.6

Hippolyte South

Indicated

4.6

192

0.9

2.0

Inferred

2.7

176

0.5

1.1

Sub-Total

7.4

186

1.4

3.0

Lazare North

Measured

1.0

282

0.3

0.6

Indicated

10.1

229

2.3

5.1

Inferred

3.7

210

0.8

1.7

Sub-Total

14.8

228

3.4

7.4

Lazare South

Measured

8.6

233

2.0

4.4

Indicated

5.2

226

1.2

2.6

Inferred

4.8

222

1.1

2.3

Sub-Total

18.6

228

4.2

9.3

Sadi

Measured

11.5

189

2.2

4.8

Indicated

7.4

200

1.5

3.2

Inferred

10.3

228

2.4

5.2

Sub-Total

29.2

206

6.0

13.2

All Deposits

Measured

29.1

218

6.4

14.0

Indicated

33.0

215

7.1

15.6

Inferred

34.5

237

8.2

18.0

Total Tiris East

96.6

224

21.6

47.7

Total Tiris West:

Oum Ferkik

 

Inferred

16.4

305

5.1

11.2

Total Aura Resources

113.0

236

26.7

58.9

Table 4 - 2023 Mineral Resource Estimate

 

Production Schedule

The sequencing and material inclusions for the proposed production schedule was published in ASX and AIM Release, "Tiris Uranium Project Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study", 29 March 2023, where it was developed based on pit optimisation in the Ore Reserve Estimation. No material change was made to the production schedule, other than acceleration of mining for the first two years of operation.

Base Case Production Schedule

A base case production schedule was developed and initially outlined in ASX and AIM Release, "Tiris Uranium Project Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study", 29 March 2023. The production schedule has been updated, without alteration of the pit shells or mining sequence, to accelerate mining in the first two years of operation to 4.1Mtpa, including a six month ramp up period (Figure 3). In addition, a small proportion of residual material in Inferred Resource category was included at the end of the mining schedule. The accelerated mining schedule includes 9% inferred material in the first five years and 15% in the first ten years of operation, all of which was sourced within existing pit shells. Over the Life of Mine ("LOM") a total of 33% Inferred material was included in the mining schedule. The Project remains strongly viable with removal of Inferred material.

 

Figure 3 - Base Case Mine schedule ore profile by area at average mining rate of 4.1Mtpa ore.

Note: There is a low level of geological confidence associated with Inferred Resources and there is no certainty that further exploration or evaluation work will result in the determination of Indicated Resources or that the production targets reported in this announcement will be realised. The Company confirms that the use of Inferred Resources is not a determining factor to the Tiris Project's economic viability.

The Base Case concentrate grade profile for U3O8 has been presented in Figure 4, demonstrating an average concentrate grade to leaching of 1,743ppm U3O8 life of mine. A full description of concentration of uranium through the beneficiation circuit by scrubbing and screening, including recovery assumptions, can be found in ASX and AIM Release, "Tiris Uranium Project Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study", 29 March 2023.

Figure 4 - Concentrate grade profile for base case mining schedule highlighting higher leach feed grade profile in early years. Average Concentrate production rate of 500,000tpa

The base case U3O8 production profile can be seen in Figure 5. Over the life of mine the average production rate has been estimated as 1.9Mlb U3O8 pa, ranging from 2.3Mlbpa in Year 2 to 1.5Mlb U3O8 in Year 13.

Figure 5 - Uranium oxide production profile for base case scenario.

Process Configuration

The processing of mined material is undertaken in modular circuits, with design throughput capacity defined by the number of modules used in each section. The FEED study focused on improvement of engineering definition for a single train of modules, which may then be combined to achieve target throughput capacity to match the mining schedule.

A detailed process description and summary of module configuration can be found in ASX and AIM Release, "Tiris Uranium Project Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study", 29 March 2023.

The design basis for the FEED study maintained the same design criteria for the beneficiation and precipitation and packaging plants as for the 2019 DFS[15].

Design criteria for the concentrate processing plant was updated to include allowance for the results of the beneficiation pilot plant program[16] and definition of the water source[17]. The outcomes of implementation of these risk mitigation measures were increased dilution within the leach and ion exchange circuits, leading to increased tank volumes. The total filtration capacity was increased based on outcomes of the beneficiation pilot program.

The layout of the Concentrate Processing Facility can be seen in Figure 6.

Additional water treatment capacity was included into the design to allow for processing of raw water sourced from the C22 water target identified in 202111.

 

A computer generated image of a factory Description automatically generated

Figure 6 - 3D FEED layout of concentrate processing facility

Capital Cost Estimate

The FEED Capital Cost Estimate ("CAPEX") for the development of Tiris was completed using a design basis of a single modular processing train, with units combined to generate an Estimate for total production capacity of 2Mlbpa U3O8 in Table 7. The total CAPEX was estimated to be US$230 million (including a contingency allowance of approximately 12%), which is within 29% of the EFS estimate (US$178M) presented 29th March 2023.

The level of confidence in the Capital Estimate has increased with completion of the FEED, summarised in Table 5.

Using the modular design basis allows the Company to efficiently assess multiple growth scenario options with greater confidence.

Circuit

Single train capacity

Single train confidence

Additional train confidence

Beneficiation

1.25Mtpa Run of Mine ore

Class 3 (90-95% confidence)

Class 3 (90-95% confidence)

Concentrate Processing Plant

(Leaching, ion exchange, precipitation)

250ktpa concentrate

Class 3 (90-95% confidence)

Class 4 (65-70% Confidence)

Precipitation and Packaging

3.5Mlb U3O8 pa

Class 3 (90-95% confidence)

NA

Table 5 - Modular circuits available for Tiris project with engineering confidence

The final production scale capital cost estimate was developed based on combining modules to achieve the target capacity. A summary of the module configuration for throughput capacities assessed can be seen in Table 6.

Circuit

4.1Mtpa Base Case

 

2Mlb U3O8 pa

Beneficiation (5Mtpa)

4

Concentrate Processing plant (500ktpa)

2

Precipitation and Packaging (3.5Mlbs pa U3O8)

1

CAPEX

US$230M

Table 6 - Process configuration for Base case mining schedules.

A comparison of the Capital Estimate for the base case scenario between the EFS 2023 and FEED update can be seen in Table 7. This shows escalation of 29% overall, with the most significant variation in processing, infrastructure and EPCM costs.

Area

FEED 2024

EFS 2023


US$M

US$M

Mining

4.3

4.9

Beneficiation

25.6

22.0

Processing

84.2

72.5

Infrastructure

54.1

37.1

EPCM

22.5

8.4

Owner's cost

19.3

21.3

Contingency

20.1

12.1

Total Capital Cost

230.0

178.2

Table 7 - Comparison of Project CAPEX between EFS 2023 and FEED 2024.

 

 

The variance of FEED capital cost to EFS is as shown in Figure 7.

1000

Mining

2000

Process Plant

3100

Transportable Front End Site Services & Utilities

3200

Process Plant Site Services & Utilities

3300

Process Plant Site Infrastructure

3400

Construction/Operations Camp

3500

Off Site Infrastructure

3600

Contractors Distributable

5100

EPCM

5200

Auxiliary items

5300

Freight

6100

Owners Provisions

6200

Contingency


Figure 7 - Tiris Project Capital Estimate

The primary drivers for variance in CAPEX were a combination of the global inflationary environment and several risk mitigation measures that were included in the FEED design. Primarily, based on outcomes of vendor test work on filtration[18], which recommended increasing total filtration area. In addition, more water treatment capacity was included to manage the concentration of chloride anions in ion exchange, corresponding to recommendations from ANSTO Minerals to improve yellowcake purity[19]. These improvements will increase the flexibility of the process in operation, allowing acceleration of throughput increases.

Operating Cost Estimate

The operating cost estimate for the Tiris Project was developed by Aura Energy with input costs generated by METS Engineering, WGA and MiningPlus. The estimate is based on the LOM ore schedule, process design criteria, steady state mass and energy balance and metallurgical test work undertaken as part of the Feasibility Study.

The estimate includes all costs associated with production of an average 1.9Mlbs U3O8 per annum after ramp-up, including:

·    Owner mining

·    Labour

·    Fuel

·    Power

·    Reagents and consumables

·    Maintenance

·    General and administration

·    Product transport

·    Sustaining capital

·    World Bank Community contributions

·    Royalties

The operating cost estimate is presented in US dollars and is considered to have an estimated accuracy level of between +15%  and 10%. A 17-year LOM has been used in development of the operating cost estimate.

Cash costs were broken down into their fixed and variable components to accommodate cash flow scheduling. Variable costs were linked to uranium production.

Mining and key reagent costs, including diesel, sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate were updated for the 2024 FEED study. The mining costs were also validated against four mining contractor submissions allowing for the inclusion of a suitable profit margin.

The operating cost estimate has been summarised in Table 8. The average LOM C1 cash cost will be US$ 30.2/lb U3O8 and LOM AISC, inclusive of royalties, LOM sustaining capital, insurances and product transport will be US$ 34.5/lb U3O8. These costs have been estimated as an average of annualised expenditure.

The FEED operating costs for the first five years of operation have been presented in Table 8. These demonstrate higher efficiency through this period, with AISC of US$ 33.8/lb U3O8.

 

 

FEED

Years 1-5

FEED

Average

EFS

Average

Variation

 

 

Q1 2024

Q1 2023

Absolute

%

 

US$/lb U3O8

US$/lb U3O8

US$/lb U3O8

 

 

Owner Mining

$7.6

$8.1

$8.1

$0.0

0%

Labour

$1.8

$2.0

$2.0

-$0.1

-3%

Reagents

$6.3

$6.9

$6.9

$0.0

1%

Power

$9.3

$8.6

$5.0

$3.6

73%

Maintenance

$1.6

$1.8

$1.7

$0.1

5%

Environment

$0.3

$0.4

$0.3

$0.1

47%

Site G&A

$2.2

$2.5

$2.1

$0.3

15%

CASH COST

$29.2

$30.2

$26.1

$4.2

16%

Transport & Marketing

$0.5

$0.5

$0.5

$-

0%

Royalties

$2.7

$2.7

$2.2

$0.5

22%

Communities

$0.7

$0.7

$0.5

$0.2

37%

Sustaining Capital

$0.7

$0.3

$0.3

$0.0

0%

ALL-IN-SUSTAINING COST

$33.8

$34.5

$29.6

$4.9

16%

Table 8 - FEED Operating Cost estimate, including comparison to EFS average OPEX.

 

A summary of the variance between the FEED study and 2023 EFS can be seen in Figure 8.

Figure 8 - Tiris Project All In Sustaining Costs

Savings were achieved in reagent usage and costs, as well as by optimising the owner mining model.

The increases were mainly in power costs. These were driven by a 40% increase in diesel price from US$ 0.86 to US$ 1.20 per litre following the removal of the government subsidy. In addition, moving to a BOOT power model added capacity charges for lease of power generation plant that were not included in EFS assumptions.

Work will continue in 2024 on the power generation optimisation with a focus on greater renewable energy storage with opportunities to reduce power costs.

Market Analysis

Aura has updated the comprehensive EFS[20] market assessment to develop a pricing forecast for Tiris. This has resulted in 3 pricing scenarios to assess the economic viability of the Tiris Project.

i.           Low case: TradeTech FAM 1 term forecast. Mean forecast term price to 2040 of US$ 70/lb U3O8.

ii.         Base case: Base case price of US$ 80/lb U3O8

iii.         High case: TradeTech FAM 2 term forecast. Mean forecast price to 2040 of US$ 86/lb U3O8.

The FAM 1 based on a 'risk off' approach where published production target volumes are readily achieved, and FAM 2 based on a 'risk on' approach where there is a reduction in production volumes 148Mlbs between 2020 and 2040.

Financial Analysis

Financial analysis of the Tiris Project is inclusive of Mauritanian government royalties and commitments relating to the offtake agreement with Curzon Resources. This is outlined in the ASX announcement "Aura concludes offtake agreement", dated 29 January 2019.

Results are on an after-tax basis in $USD, unless otherwise stated. Financial modelling is inclusive of all capital items, including mining mobilisation, process plant, project infrastructure and LOM sustaining capital.

The project financial analysis has been completed with a valuation date of 9 February 2024.

Table 9 shows the variance in NPV8, IRR, payback period and net cashflows for a range of uranium contract prices, including commitments to Curzon Resources offtake agreement. At a base case uranium price of US$ 80/lb U3O8, the post-tax NPV8 of the Tiris Project is US$ 366M. This is with a post-tax IRR of 34%, and a project payback of 2.5 years from commencement of production. At this price the project generates annual net cashflows (EBITDA) of US$ 78M pa.

 


Units

FEED

FEED

2023 EFS

Base Case

Spot Price

 

Uranium Price

US$ /lbs U3O8

80

$100

$65

Avg Annual Production

Mlbspa U3O8

2

2

2

Post-tax NPV8

US$ M

366

596

227

Post-tax IRR

%

34

49%

28%

Average All-in Sustaining Costs

US$ /lbs U3O8

34.5

35.5

28.7

Annual average EBITDA

US$ M

78

110

64.7

Initial Life of Mine

Years

17

17

15

Capital Expenditure

US$ M

230

230

178

Payback period

Years

2.5

1.75

4.5

Table 9 - Summary of outputs recommended for presentation of FEED update results

Sensitivity Analysis

The sensitivity of the project to market and project factors was examined. Table 10 provides a comparison of project returns (NPV and IRR) at various throughput profiles and U3O8 price. This demonstrated robust returns for a range of pricing scenarios for both the Base and Growth scenarios. This analysis determined that the greatest capital efficiency could be achieved for the base case production profile, targeting 2Mlbs U3O8 pa production.

 

 

Spot U3O8 Price - US$/lb.

 

65

70*

80

86#

90

100

110

NPV8%

192

244

366

424

482

596

711

IRR

22%

25%

34%

36%

41%

49%

56%

Table 10 - Economic comparison at varying U3O8 price for Base Case 2Mlbs U3O8 pa production

* Tradetech Forward Availability Model (FAM) 1 average term price to 2040 (Real). Representing best case project development (supply) scenario.

# Tradetech FAM 2 average term price to 2040 (Real). Representing restricted project development scenario.

The sensitivity of the project to key variables was examined in Figure 9. This showed that the Project was most sensitive to revenue drivers, including mined grade and U3O8 spot price. The Project was least sensitive to operating cost inputs.

 

Figure 9 - Tiris Project Sensitivity analysis

 

Growth Scenario

There is significant potential to grow the 59Mlbs U3O8 of Mineral Resources[21] currently defined at Tiris. Tiris East Exploration targets[22] outlined potential for an additional 8-32 Mlbs U3O8. A 15,000m drill program is currently underway targeting extensions to the know mineralisation.

The modular configuration of the processing plant is well suited to simple expansion as additional Resources are defined. Table 11 shows the incremental Capital requirement to progressively increase capacity in the beneficiation and concentrate processing circuits, to the point where it is expected the precipitation and packaging plant would be fully utilised.

Circuit

4.1Mtpa Base Case

6.25Mtpa Growth

7.0Mtpa Growth

 

2Mlb U3O8 pa

2.8Mlb U3O8 pa

~3.5Mlb U3O8 pa

Beneficiation

4

5

6

Concentrate Processing plant

2

3

4

Precipitation and Packaging

1

1

1

CAPEX

US$230M

US$313M

US$396M

Table 11 - Capital cost estimate for growth configurations of the processing circuits for the Tiris Project

 

In all the above scenarios it is expected that the operating costs would remain similar to the base case AISC of US$ 34.5/lb U3O8, with some cost efficiencies potentially realised through a more efficient workforce and consolidation of mining fleet.

Project Finance

The Tiris Uranium Project funding structure will be one of project financing to minimise risk to the Project, maintaining flexibility and preserving shareholder value. Aura will consider funding total pre-production capital and working capital by some or all of the following:

•             Senior project debt

•             Mezzanine debt

•             Offtake prepayment

•             Equity

•             Royalty or stream funding

The structure will be dependent on general industry and market conditions, specific counterparty appetite and terms and Aura's views on optimal funding mix and balance sheet configuration.

Senior debt may be sourced from several alternate providers including commercial banks, export credit agencies, development financial institutions / multilaterals, credit funds and the project bond market.

The Company's Board and Management have a successful track record of developing and financing mineral resource projects globally.

The Company believes that there is reasonable basis to assume that future funding will be available as and when required. Investors should note that there is no certainty that the Company will be able to raise the amount of funding required to develop the Project when needed. It is also possible that such funding may only be available on terms that are dilutive or otherwise affect the value of the Company's shares, or that the Company may pursue other value realisation strategies such as a sale, partial sale or joint venture of the Project (which may reduce the Company's overall ownership of the Project).

Project Risk

The key risks with their mitigations, are identified as follows:

1.    The Project's success is fundamentally linked to the price for uranium exceeding the operating cost for the project. Aura is in the process of seeking additional offtake agreements with suitable long-term pricing, but the market price risk is largely outside Aura's control.

2.    The estimated capital costs for the project could prove optimistic, requiring additional funding. The Capex estimate was composed of 85% external pricing, so has a strong basis for its pricing. The project will rely on competent Project cost control by the EPC company overviewing the project.

3.    OHS management risk of radioactive dust in the mining and front-end areas. Aura will ensure operators are in dust sealed cabins, use personnel badges and will rotate personnel if necessary.

4.    There are potential risks in obtaining Mauritanian statutory permit approvals, in the time required. Aura would seek a high-level connection between Government authorities and its senior management, to supplement the usual project interfaces between Aura's local permitting supervisor and Government authorities. It is expected given Aura's focus on maximising local employment, that the Mauritanian Government will be quite supportive.

5.    There are risks from terror groups in the Sahel region. Aura has provisionally arranged for military supported security to be permanently based close to the site. Aura will continue with its very close coordination with police/gendarmes/military guarding the area.

6.    A risk remains of insufficient water being available for the project. A program designed to mitigate the risk that includes the drilling and test work of the Taoudeni basin is planned to be completed in 2024. The Taoudeni basin supplies water for the SNIM magnetite iron ore operations in Zouerate and First Quantum's Guelb Morghein Cu/Au/Fe mine in Akjout. Tiris' water requirements are between 2-3ML pa and it expected that there will be more than sufficient quantities of water available.

7.    Aura's hybrid diesel and solar generation plant will be the only power source for the Project. Aura shall undertake rigorous engineering selection of the power generation supply and hire experienced and competent electrical support personnel to maintain the power plant.

Future Activities

The Company plans to undertake a series of activities throughout 2024 to further grow the Tiris project potential and support financing and Final Investment Decision. These will include:

·    Securing offtake contracts for future production from major US utilities to de-risk future cashflows and support funding initiatives

·    Completion of current drilling program and updating the Mineral Resources at Tiris East aimed at extending mine life and potentially increasing the scale of the Project

·    Commencement of trial mining to confirm baseline assumptions for mining fleet and provide inputs for grade control and geometallurgical models

·    Investigation and testing of water targets within the Taoudeni basin target expansion of water resources in line with expanded processing capacity

·    Ongoing baseline environmental and radiation monitoring, along with commencement of community consultation along the product transport route

·    Engineering optimisation for concentrate processing facilities to investigate potential capital cost efficiencies of expanding capacity for a single train circuit

·    Completion of Project Execution Plan

 

 

Cautionary Statement: TIRIS FRONT END ENGINEERING DESIGN (FEED) STUDY

As the Front End Engineering Design ("FEED") analysis for Tiris Uranium Project utilises a portion of Inferred Mineral Resources, the ASX Listing Rules require a cautionary statement to be included in this announcement.

The FEED referred to in this announcement is based on a Mineral Resources Estimate reported in accordance with JORC guidelines 2012 in the ASX announcement entitled "Major Resource Upgrade at Aura Energy's Tiris Project" dated 14 February 2023.

The Company advises that the Tiris East Uranium Production Targets set out in this announcement uses Proved and Probable Ore Reserves, Measured Resources (32%) and Indicated Resources (35%), as well as Inferred Resources in the first 5 years (less than 10%) and over the 17-year life of mine (33%) for the Base Case. The Company is currently drilling a 15,000 metre drill program around the Tiris East mine plan.

In accordance with ASX Listing Rules 5.16 and 5.17, as well as the 2012 JORC Code reporting guidelines, a summary of the information derived from the Tiris FEED analysis is detailed in this report. The FEED analysis also draws on information from the ASX Release, "Tiris Uranium Project Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study", 29th March 2023 which is available to be viewed at auraenergy.com.au/investor-centre/asx-announcements.

The Company confirms that the use of Inferred Resources is not a determining factor to the Tiris Project's economic viability.

There is a low level of geological confidence associated with Inferred Mineral Resources and there is no certainty that further exploration will result in an upgrade to Indicated Mineral Resources, or that the production targets reported in this announcement will be realised.  

The Company confirms that it is not aware of any new information materially affecting the information included in the ASX announcement dated 14 February 2023, "Major Resource Upgrade at Aura Energy's Tiris Project". All material assumptions and technical parameters underpinning the Mineral Resources Estimates continue to apply. The Company confirms that the form and context in which the Competent Person's findings are presented have not been materially modified from the original market announcement.

The Announcement includes forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based on the Company's expectations and beliefs concerning future events. Forward-looking statements are necessarily subject to risks, uncertainties, and other factors, many of which are outside the control of Aura Energy Ltd, which could cause actual results to differ materially from such statements. Aura Energy Ltd makes no undertaking to subsequently update or revise the forward-looking statements made in this announcement, to reflect the circumstances or events after the date of this announcement.

The Company has concluded that it has a reasonable basis for providing the forward-looking statements and production targets included in this announcement. The detailed reasons for this conclusion are outlined throughout this announcement, and in the ASX Release, "Tiris Uranium Project Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study", 29th March 2023.

 



[1] ASX and AIM Release: "Tiris Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study" 29 March 2023

[2] ASX Release: "Commencement of Extensional Drilling Program at Tiris" 5 January 2024

[3] ASX Release: "Major Resource Upgrade at Aura Energy's Tiris Project" 14 February 2023

[4] ASX Release: "Aura identifies new uranium Exploration Target" 17 October 2023

[5] ASX Release: "Tiris Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study" 29 March 2023

Aura Energy ASX releases can be found at auraenergy.com.au/investor-centre/asx-announcements

[6] ASX Release: "Tiris Uranium Project Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study" 29 March 2023

[7] ASX Release: "Aura identifies new uranium Exploration Target" 17 October 2023

[8] ASX and AIM Release: "Major Resource Upgrade at Aura Energy's Tiris Project" 14 February 2023

Aura Energy ASX releases can be found at auraenergy.com.au/investor-centre/asx-announcements

Aura Energy AIM releases can be found at https://auraenergy.com.au/investor-centre/aim-notifications/

[9] ASX and AIM Release: "Tiris Uranium DFS Complete" 29 July 2019

[10] ASX and AIM Release: "Capital Estimate Update Tiris Uranium project" 18 August 2021

[11] ASX and AIM Release: "Tiris Uranium Project Exploitation License Granted" 8 February 2019

[12] ASX and AIM Release: "Transformational Agreements for Tiris Project Mauritania" 31 January 2023

[13] The information in this announcement is extracted from ASX announcement entitled "Major Resource Upgrade at Aura Energy's Tiris Project" released on 14 February 2023 and available to download from asx.com.au ASX:AEE. The Company is not aware of any new information or data that materially affects the information included in the original market announcement and, in the case of estimates of Mineral Resources that all material assumptions and technical parameters underpinning the estimates in the relevant market announcement continue to apply and have not materially changed. The Company confirms that the form and context in which the Competent Person's findings are presented have not been materially modified from the original market announcement

[14] This Tiris Resource Inventory aggregates the 2023 Mineral Resource Estimates by H&S Consultants Pty Ltd on the Lazare North, Lazare South, Hippolyte, and Hippolyte South deposits and the 2011 Mineral Resource Estimates by Coffey Mining on the Sadi, Ferkik West, Ferkik East, Hippolyte West and Marie deposits. The 2011 Resource Estimate was the subject of Aura ASX announcement dated 19 July 2011 "First Uranium Resource in Mauritania". The 2011 Mineral Resource Estimate was produced in compliance with the 2004 edition of the 'Australasian Code for Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources and Ore Reserves'. Aura confirms that all material assumptions and technical parameters underpinning the 2011 Mineral Resource Estimates in the relevant market announcement continue to apply and have not materially changed.

[15] ASX Release: "Tiris Uranium DFS Complete" 29 July 2019

[16] ASX Release: "Tests confirm Average 550% Upgrading of Uranium at Tiris" 23 June 2022

[17] ASX Release: "Liquid Gold in the Sahara - Substantial Water at Tiris" 13 December 2021

[18] ASX Release: "Tests confirm Average 550% Upgrading of Uranium at Tiris" 23 June 2022

[19] ASX Release: "Quality of Tiris Project Uranium Yellowcake Confirmed" 6 December 2022

[20] ASX Release: "Tiris Uranium Project Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study" 29 March 2023

[21] ASX Release: "Tiris Uranium Project Enhanced Definitive Feasibility Study" 29 March 2023

[22] ASX Release: "Aura identifies new uranium Exploration Target" 17 October 2023

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