Nevada Copper falls on further delays and woes at Pumpkin Hollow

Share in fledgling producer Nevada Copper fell by almost a third yesterday as the market digested news of a further delay at its Pumpkin Hollow mine, another management change and continuing liquidity woes.

 Nevada Copper’s Pumpkin Hollow operation in Nevada

Nevada Copper’s Pumpkin Hollow operation in Nevada

Nevada Copper said it now expected to reach steady-state production of 5,000 tonnes per day, originally slated for 2020, in the first half of 2022.

"The ramp up to 5,000tpd is taking longer than previously expected due to slower than expected development rates through the water bearing dike structure and delays incurred in underground infrastructure development, including due to COVID-19 related labour and supply chain challenges," it said after market close on Friday.

Last year's planned ramp-up at the new operation in Nevada was hobbled by COVID-19 impacts, the need for a geotechnical review and subsequent financial difficulties.

Its new target of mid-2021 had recently slipped to the third quarter, then the fourth quarter due to slow progress through a water-bearing dike and shipping delays for the final surface ventilation fans. 

Liquidity woes continue

Nevada Copper's working capital deficit blew out from US$117 million at the end of December to $255.7 million at June 30.

It said the most significant driver was the reclassification of its amended $119.8 million KfW Facility to a current liability.

It was renegotiating the timing of the "project completion longstop date" which it hoped to extend to 2023 to enable it to reclassify the facility as long-term debt again.

The company also said it delivered 1,374t of concentrate under its working capital facility during the second quarter but had to make cash repayments of $46.5 million in lieu of deliveries to make up for the production shortfall.

It has drawn a $30 million credit facility from its largest shareholder Pala Investments in full, received a $15 million loan from Pala in June and has since received $19 million of a further $27 million loan from Pala.

The company was this month forgiven a $2.4 million "payroll protection programme loan" from the US government as part of its pandemic assistance.

Nevada Copper reported a cash balance of $9.3 million but a net loss $17.95 million for the six months to June 30.

Ciricillo exits

President and CEO Mike Ciricillo stepped down from the roles on August 14, Nevada Copper said.

The former Glencore executive had been the third CEO to take the reins at Nevada Copper last year, replacing Australian Evan Spencer - who had been appointed to replace Matt Gili but his ability to relocate to the US was impacted by COVID-19. 

Long-serving non-executive director and former Pala executive Mike Brown was named interim president and CEO.

Looking ahead, the company said it had progressed its life-of-mine planning for the underground operation which showed the potential to operate at higher long-term rates of 6,500tpd "once ramped up to steady-state".

In terms of the proposed neighbouring openpit mine, Nevada Copper expected to continue advancing optimisations.

Its shares (TSX: NCU) have spanned C6-31.5c over the past year.

They fell 30.3% yesterday to close at 11.5c, capitalising it at $212.8 million (US$169 million).

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