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COVID-19 rains on New Gold's Q1 parade

A 12-day suspension of mining at New Gold’s Rainy River mine, on account of COVID-19-related restrictions, has deepened the company's March-quarter headline loss.
COVID-19 rains on New Gold's Q1 parade COVID-19 rains on New Gold's Q1 parade COVID-19 rains on New Gold's Q1 parade COVID-19 rains on New Gold's Q1 parade COVID-19 rains on New Gold's Q1 parade

New Gold has resumed mining at Rainy River, in Ontario, following a temporary pandemic-related shutdown during the March quarter

The company saw a 16% year-on-year slide in gold-equivalent output during the period to 103,435oz, the result of the northwest Ontario asset producing 16% less gold at 66,790oz and a 5% drop in copper production at 18.5 million pounds.

Rainy River was shut down for 12 days from March 20 to allow the local workforce to self-isolate, and operations resumed on April 3 with a gradual ramp-up ongoing. CEO Renaud Adams said on a call Wednesday the mine now averaged 100,000t/d, or about 70% of productivity prior to the shutdown.

Adams said the focus was now on how quickly the company could get back to full production to avoid having to substitute mined ore with more than planned lower-grade material from stockpile during the current quarter, hence the reason for suspending its annual production guidance.

The adjusted loss was US$18 million, or 3c per share, compared with a loss of $2 million, or nil per share a year earlier. Analyst consensus was looking for a loss of 1c per share.

The net loss for the quarter was $28 million, or 4c per share, compared against the loss of $13 million, or 2c, in the same period of 2019.

Revenues dropped 15% year-on-year to $142.3 million, compared with $167.9 million in the prior-year quarter, which the company attributed to lower gold and copper sales volumes because of the mine suspension. The company said sales volumes in the prior-year period were 10% higher than production because of the timing of shipment and sales.

New Gold reported a higher average realised gold price for the quarter at $1,458/oz, compared with $1,301/oz a year ago, while the average copper price fell 8% to $2.56/lb, from $2.79/lb in the comparable year-earlier period.

Adams said a great deal of effort had gone into repositioning New Gold over the past 12-18 months.

"We're now on a clear path forward to achieve operational profitability and growing free cash flow and closing of our recent strategic [$300 million] deal with the Ontario Teachers' significantly improves our financial position and balance sheet, while exploration and revaluation at Blackwater continue to provide optionality to our shareholders," he said.

Some investors are not so optimistic, however, complaining on several social media forums this week about their frustration with the company seemingly unable to turn a quarterly profit despite gold prices around $1,700/oz.

Shares in the company (NGD:TSX) closed 3.28% lower on Wednesday at C$1.18, which capitalises it at $800 million (US$576 million). The equity has ranged between 55c-$2.03 in the past 12 months.