Jubilee Metals South African operations deliver a strong performance

Jubilee Metals Group PLC (LON:JLP), a leader in diversified metals processing, with operations in Africa, has published its condensed unaudited Half-Yearly Financial Report for the six-month period ended 31 December 2022.

Overview

Financials

§ Group Revenue of £63.1 m (H1 FY2022: £63.3 m)

o  Revenue contribution from combined PGM and chrome sales of £58 m and copper sales of £5.1 m

o  PGM basket price US$1 453/oz down 11%, partially offset by PGM operational cost management and production output

o  Realised copper price US$ 6 893/t down 28% on H1 FY2022 with strong market recovery post period

§ EBITDA of £10.3 m (H1 FY2022: £13.7 m)

§ Adjusted EBITDA of £11.8 m (H1 FY2022: £14.9 m)

§ Operating expenses of £9.7 m (H1 FY2022: £10.9 m)

§ Strong net cash flows from operating activities of £16.9 m (H1 FY2022: £2.3 m)

§ Continued investment of £24.1 m (US$28.4 m) in copper and cobalt expansions

§ Closing cash position of £11.7 m (30 June 2022: £16 m)

Operations

§ Lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) of 1.0 in South Africa; LTIFR of 2.9 in Zambia

o  Regrettable safety incident, related to an engineering service provider that sadly resulted in a fatality

o  Decisive action taken to take a more direct safety management role of service providers

§ Strong operational performance from the South African PGM and chrome operations despite initial impact of power outages

§ PGM operations recorded 18 208oz all from own operations (H1 FY2022: 20 316oz)

o  PGM oz up 20% from own operations on the back of Inyoni expansion (H1 FY2022: 15 152oz)

o  Initial impact of power outages addressed by increased stock holding and installation of back-up power units at chrome operation in November 2022

§ Chrome production up 2.3% to 634 111 tonnes on track to exceed full year guidance of 1.2 m tonnes despite initial impact of power disruptions

§ Costs remain tightly controlled

o  Net cost per PGM oz net of chrome credits of US$608

o  Net cost per copper tonne of US$5 232

§ Copper production of 1 149 tonnes below expectation as a consequence of the delayed ramp-up of Roan Concentrator, mainly due to power and water disruptions in Zambia, now resolved (H1 FY2022: 1 314 tonnes)

o  Expanded power infrastructure implemented (Feb 2023)

o  New privately owned water infrastructure implemented (Dec 2022)

o  Roan Concentrator resumed ramp-up of operations (end Feb 2023)

o  Successfully delivered first cobalt production through commissioning of cobalt hydroxide circuit at Sable Refinery in Zambia adding to its copper refining capability

Strategy and growth projects

§ Jubilee benefits from its ability to produce multi-commodities providing it with a buffer against market volatility

§ Eastern Limb PGM expansion progressing targeting an additional 25 000 PGM oz per annum

o  Expected to commence construction during Q4 CY2023

§ Ramp-up of copper operations at Roan Concentrator in Zambia recommenced, reaching 80% of capacity at time of announcement, following successful power and water interventions

o  Final phase of ramp-up to commence early April targeting 100% of capacity and full commercialisation of the Southern Copper Refining project during May 2023

§ Roll-out of copper expansion strategy in Zambia refined to align with the security of additional power and water infrastructure

o  Centralised processing footprint offering significant capital savings by enlarging Roan Concentrator and reducing the number of new greenfields operations required for Northern Refinery expansion

§ Discussions well advanced to secure a further refining footprint to serve the targeted Northern Refining expansion strategy

§ Sable Refinery commenced production of cobalt hydroxide achieving export grade with the ability to further expand operations  

Full year Outlook FY2023

§ PGM production of 38 000oz unchanged with potential of upwards revision depending on South Africa’s power supply outlook

§ Chrome operations expected to exceed guidance of 1.2 m tonnes of chrome concentrate with support of stronger chrome prices seen during current period

§ Copper guidance adjusted to 3 000 tonnes, revised to align with the delayed ramp-up of Roan Concentrator and commercialisation of the Southern Copper Refining project

o  Post commercialisation, expected in May 2023, the Southern Copper Refining project, projected to maintain 550 tonnes of copper per month from Roan alone and 130 tonnes from third party supplies

o  Copper prices remain well supported by constrained supply against a strong demand for the metal. Copper price up by 13.6% during January 2023 to date compared with the reporting period

§ The flexibility of Sable Refinery offers Jubilee the ability to pivot between copper and cobalt production to rapidly respond to changing market fundamentals. This flexibility is used at all times to maximise copper equivalent production units. 

o  Cobalt prices have come off sharply during the current period therefore Sable is able to pivot towards increased copper production

Statement from Leon Coetzer, CEO:

“Our South African operations delivered a strong performance, with a 20% increase in PGM oz versus H1 FY2022 from own operations while our chrome operations exceeded guidance, despite the impact of initial power interruptions. Costs remained tightly under control, with PGM unit cost remaining close to US$600 per ounce. This positions our PGM operations at the bottom quartile of the industry’s cost curve which is of key importance during current volatile markets.

“Our Roan copper concentrator is back on track, with the resumption of the ramp-up of the operations reaching 80% of full capacity by the time of this announcement, after an extended period of water and power outages that have been addressed through our various interventions during February this year. 

“Jubilee has shown its resilience, acting speedily to implement solutions that address the infrastructure challenges faced at our operations during the period. The actions taken in South Africa included the implementation of back-up power units at our Windsor operations, which will be expanded over the coming period, while increasing the PGM stock held at our Inyoni operations to buffer against any prolonged power outages at our chrome operations. In Zambia, we expanded our scope and implemented a dedicated, privately owned water infrastructure, to ensure water supply to our Roan operations, while expanding the power infrastructure and entering into a new power arrangement, that significantly enhances the security of supply to our operations. Together, these measures should mitigate against the impact of future power or infrastructure related issues on our operations.

“Our Integrated Southern Copper and Cobalt Refining project has confirmed Jubilee’s capability to produce both copper and cobalt from perceived waste and discard materials. It forms the foundation for our teams to drive forward with confidence the implementation of the refined Northern Copper and Cobalt Refining project as we seek to reach in excess of 35 000 tonnes of copper per annum.

“Jubilee’s exposure to a multi-commodity operational footprint, offers great flexibility and is of key strategic value, especially in current volatile metal markets. Chrome and Copper prices have remained resilient, and we expect this to translate into an increased contribution to earnings and revenues. Green shoots in cobalt demand started emerging post the period driven by encouraging interest from China’s construction sector, which would support a recovery in cobalt demand.”

Analyst conference call and webcast

Jubilee will host a conference call and webcast for analysts at 09:00 am UK time today, 20 March 2023.  To attend the analysts’ call please contact investor relations at jubilee@tavistock.co.uk

Key operational numbers

 OPERATIONAL PERFORMANCE   Unit6 m31 Dec 2022 (H1 FY2023)6 m31 Dec 2021(H1 FY2022)% change 12 m30 Jun 2022 (FY2022)
 UnauditedUnauditedAudited
KEY UNITS OF PRODUCTION
PGM ounces:
–     Jubilee own operationsOz18 20815 15220%35 318
–     Third party joint ventureOz5 164(100%)6 268
Total PGM ozOz18 20820 316(10%)41 586
Chrome tonnesTonne634 111619 9002%1 222 452
Copper tonnes producedTonne1 1491 314(13%)2 593
Copper tonnes soldTonne8681 216(29%)2 604
UNIT REVENUE     
–      PGM revenue per ounceUS$/oz1 4531 632(11%)1 615
–      Chrome revenue per PGM ounceUS$/oz2 2922 04212%2 269
Total PGM revenue per ounceUS$/oz3 7453 6752%3 884
Copper revenue per tonneUS$/t6 8939 527(28%)9 210
UNIT COST
Net cost per PGM ounce (after chrome by-product credits)US$/oz60854013%408
Net cost per copper tonneUS$/t5 232*5 873(11%)5 386
UNIT EARNINGS
Net earnings per PGM ounceUS$/oz8451 092(23%)1 207
Net earnings per copper tonneUS$/t1 661*3 654(55%)3 824

*    Cost and net earnings per copper tonne includes disproportionate copper fixed charges at US$300 per copper tonne produced, to secure full power allocation for Sable at 100% capacity

Key financial numbers

FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE UnitUnaudited
6m to
31 Dec 2022
Unaudited
6m to
31 Dec 2021
Audited
12m to
30 Jun 2022
GROUP 
Revenue£’00063 098 63 265 140 007
Attributable earnings(i)£’00014 31219 54045 337
Adjusted attributable earnings margin(ii)%233132
EBITDA£’00010 28613 66436 774
Adjusted EBITDA (iii)£’00011 80214 91628 657
Adjusted EBITDA margin%192422
PGM
PGM £ revenue£’000 22 505 24 33050 507
PGM US$ revenueUS$’00026 455 33 163 67 135
Attributable PGM £ earnings£’000 10 587 13 06428 404
Attributable PGM US$ earningsUS$’00012 445 17 807  37 755
Attributable PGM US$ earnings margin%47 5456
Total attributable PGM oz soldoz 18 208 20 316  41 586
PGM revenue per ounceUS$/oz1 453 1 6321 615
PGM production unit costUS$/oz608540408
PGM attributable earnings per ounceUS$/oz8451 092    1 207
CHROME
Chrome £ revenue(iv)£’000 35 500 30 436  71 148
Chrome US$ revenueUS$’00041 731 41 487  94 370
Attributable chrome £ earnings£’0002 501 3 217    9 428
Attributable chrome US$ earningsUS$’0002 940 4 385    12 454
Attributable chrome earnings margin% 7.0 10.6          13.3
Attributable chrome tonnes soldtonnes634 111 619 9001 222 452
Chrome earnings per PGM ounceUS$/oz 161 216300
COPPER
Copper £ revenue£’000 5 092 8 49918 352
Copper US$ revenueUS$’000 5 986 11 585  23 983
Attributable copper £ earnings£’000 1 227 3 260    7 505
Attributable copper US$ earningsUS$’0001 442 4 444     9 958
Attributable copper earnings margin% 24.2 38.4           40.9
Attributable copper tonnes soldtonnes868 1 216    2 604
Copper US$ revenue per tonne soldUS$/t6 893 9 5279 210
Copper attributable US$ earnings per tonneUS$/t1 661 3 6543 824

(i)        Attributable earnings refer to earnings attributable to the group based on its contractual rights in each project.

(ii)      The increased production of chrome under a fixed margin contract has the effect of increasing group revenue from the sale of chrome concentrate while impacting overall group margins.

(iii)     Adjusted EBITDA refers to EBITDA adjusted for non-cash expenses including impairments, fair value adjustments

and foreign exchange profits and losses.

(iv)     Chrome revenue is recognised on an ex-works basis after costs of export logistics including freight, shipping and marketing.

Market review

PGM basket prices and chrome metal prices retreated by approximately 18% per PGM ounce and 12% per tonne of chrome concentrate, compared with the previous period. The notoriously volatile chrome markets have seen highly fluctuating metal prices over the past period, with a strong recovery in metal prices post the period under review.

Chrome prices remained resilient post the period with logistical constraints impacting supply. Infrastructure in South Africa, as the largest supplier of chrome to the ferrochrome industry, remains under pressure which is expected to continue in the medium term. PGM prices reflect the forecasted global slowdown of most major economies, which is expected to be balanced by lower PGM output from the industry. Long term PGM prices remain positive supported by a squeeze on supply and an expected slow but steady recovery in demand.   

Copper prices over the reporting period weakened along with other commodities, down 11% for the comparable period. Copper prices have since recovered strongly 13.6% on average compared with the reporting period. Copper fundamentals remain supportive with a constrained supply and buoyant demand.

The cobalt market remains under pressure with prices contracting sharply with little guidance on short term pricing, driven by lacklustre demand. Green shoots in the demand for cobalt have been evident during the current reporting period driven by increasing interest from the Chinese construction sector. Long term cobalt prices remain positive driven by the expected recovery in demand for cobalt in support of the energy transition to battery power and EVs and a recovering Chinese construction sector.

Operational review

South Africa

The South African operations experienced operational downtime relating to a regrettable safety incident involving one of our engineering service providers that sadly resulted in a fatality. The safety of our employees and contractors is of the highest importance to us and following the incident, Jubilee has implemented measures to assume a more direct safety management role for its service providers. The combined South African operations have achieved a lost time injury frequency rate (LTIFR) of 1.0.

The Company’s newly expanded Inyoni Facility continued to perform in line with expectations despite the initial impacts of power outages. The Company achieved 18 208 PGM oz for the six months to December 2022 (100% from own operations). This equates to a 20% increase in PGM ounce from own operations compared with the previous period. Operational cost net of chrome credits remained tightly under control at US$608 per PGM ounce, despite a much lower credit from chrome production due to a softer chrome metal price. Post the period, chrome prices have appreciated strongly which is expected to significantly improve the credits from chrome production.

The chrome operations, as a by-product of the PGM operations, continued to perform strongly, delivering 634 111 tonnes of chrome concentrate over the period against a targeted 600 000 tonnes.

The period under review highlighted the exposure of the Inyoni Facility to unscheduled power downtime and the resultant circuit instability, brought on mainly as a result of interrupted power supply. As a result, Jubilee implemented its first back-up power units at its chrome facilities to ensure a more constant feed supply and stable operational performance. The expansion of the back-up power units is currently under review, with the existing system already delivering 650 hours of backup power to operations since its installation in November 2022.

The increase in chrome operational capacity over the period provided Jubilee with the optionality to increase PGM feed stock levels by 5 016 PGM oz to better buffer the Inyoni PGM Facility from power outages suffered at the chrome operations. 

The newly enlarged PGM and chrome operations have the capacity to deliver up to 44 000 PGM oz and 1.2 million tonnes of chrome concentrate per annum from Jubilee’s own capacity.

Due to the continued uncertainty over stable power supply, and the expected time lag to expand the back-up power supply for operations, and as announced in the Company’s operation update on 15 February 2023, the Company felt it prudent to update its full-year guidance to 38 000 PGM oz from its own production for FY2023, with the continued option to add a further 8 000 PGM oz from third party processing agreements dependent on stock and power availability.

Jubilee has made good progress with discussions to secure a further PGM processing footprint in the Eastern Limb of the Bushveld complex (the north-eastern region of South Africa’s chrome and PGM mining region), with final design reviews completed for the chrome beneficiation facility that will precede the PGM facility in the Eastern Limb. The Company targets to commence with the construction of the chrome beneficiation circuit as soon as regulatory approvals are secured, which is expected during Q3 of the 2023 calendar year. The construction of the circuit is budgeted to be completed over a 6-month period. The Eastern Limb PGM facility offers the opportunity to further increase Jubilee’s PGM operational footprint by 25 000 PGM ounces.

Zambia

Jubilee completed the construction of its new 780 000 tonnes per annum Roan copper concentrator as part of its fully integrated Southern Copper Refining Strategy. The strategy integrates Jubilee’s Sable Refinery with the Roan Concentrator with a total capacity of 12 000 tonnes of copper per annum.

Post completion, the project ramp-up suffered delays brought on mainly by severe power and water disruptions across Zambia. Through a further investment of US$2.5 m into plant and equipment, these infrastructure challenges have been addressed with the project resuming its ramp-up during late February 2023, reaching 80% of capacity by the time of this announcement.

The final phase of the Roan project ramp-up is scheduled for early April 2023 to complete the commercialisation of the Southern Copper Refining project expected during May 2023. Upon reaching commercial production, the Roan copper concentrator is expected to contribute 550 tonnes of copper per month to the production of Sable Refinery with a further 130 tonnes per month of copper from third party supplies.

The water infrastructure was successfully upgraded in December 2022, with the implementation of new private infrastructure under licence from the Zambian authorities, while existing power infrastructure was upgraded, and a new power supply management plan entered into with the authorities.

Copper production was down 10% on the comparable six months to 1 149 tonnes and fell below expectation for the period.

These external challenges have effectively prolonged the Zambian development and ramp-up timeline by an estimated 5 months, with ramp-up now progressing and expected to reach full output and commercialisation by May 2023.

Northern Copper and Cobalt Refining Strategy and Roan expansion

The upgraded and expanded water and power infrastructure at Roan now offers the potential to more than double the capacity of the existing 780 000 tonnes per annum processing capacity allowing it to become a potential central processing facility for the Group’s feed materials. 

The Roan operations can be expanded through a phased approach, similar in concept to the successful expansion implemented at the Inyoni PGM Facility in South Africa. The initial target is the upgrade of the feed material handling and classification circuit at Roan to offer the flexibility to simultaneously process both copper tailings and ROM copper material supplied by third-party miners. Such an upgrade can be completed within an 8-week period immediately facilitating the implementation of the first Northern Refining project tailings project.

Final design reviews are under way by the Jubilee project team, to incorporate the Roan expansion and simplify the expansion of the Northern Refining Strategy. It is envisaged that the completed Northern Copper and Cobalt project will include an expanded Roan Concentrator, along with a new larger copper concentrator to be centrally located at the Kitwe tailings material. (Compared to the 3 new concentrating facilities required under the previous strategy). Smaller satellite upgrade facilities located at the targeted copper and cobalt tailings will prepare the material for transport to the centralised two copper concentrators.   The concentrate from the two facilities will be refined in a dedicated Northern copper and cobalt refinery. An existing refinery is being targeted and discussions have reached an advanced stage to complete such a transaction. The targeted refinery holds an approximate capacity of 40 000 tonnes per annum of copper and 5 000 tonnes of cobalt.

The Company will provide further clarity on expected capital investment and updated timelines for the implementation of the Northern Refining Strategy at completion of the revised capital program expected by the end of the current reporting period.

At Sable, Jubilee successfully completed the first cobalt production runs from waste and looks to increase the capacity to be able to produce 450 tonnes per month of cobalt hydroxide (125 tonnes of contained cobalt) from recycled waste alone by the end of May 2023. This additional capability offers Jubilee the flexibility to pivot between copper and cobalt production guided by prevailing market conditions. 

Outlook

The commercialisation of the completed Southern Copper Refining Strategy has been delayed by approximately 5 months. Guidance for copper is therefore revised to align with this delayed ramp-up and commercialisation, which is expected to reach completion during May 2023.

§ Post commercialisation, Southern Copper Refining projected to maintain 550 tonnes of copper per month from Roan alone and 130 tonnes from third party supplies

§ Copper guidance for the full year to 30 June 2023 adjusted to 3 000 tonnes of copper to end June 2023

§ Copper prices remain well supported due to a constrained supply against strong demand for the metal.  Prices up by 13.6% during current period compared with reporting period.

Financial review

Revenue for the period amounted to £63.1 m (H1 FY2022: £63.3 m) mainly driven by revenue from the PGM operations inclusive of chrome, which was up 5.9% to £58.0 m (92% of total revenue). Copper revenues were lower at £5.1 m (H1 FY2022: £8.5 m) mainly due to a 12.5% lower production of copper and a 27.6% pull back in realised copper revenues per tonne produced.

PGM unit cost remained well under control despite inflationary pressure on power and chemicals, with a unit cost of US$608/oz. This positions the PGM operations well within the bottom quartile of the industry’s PGM cost curve, ensuring the business remains a strong cash generator despite the volatile markets.

Operating expenses are down 11.6% to £9.7 m (H1 FY2022: £10.9 m) driven by strict cost management. The strong operational performance, coupled with tight cost control measures resulted in cash flow generated from operating activities for the group increased to £16.9 m (H1 FY2022: £2.3 m). The South African operations continued to generate strong cashflows during the period with copper expected to contribute on the completion of the commercialisation of the Integrated Southern Copper Refining Strategy.

Finance cost includes an amount of £0.7 m as Jubilee continues to invest in PGM resources and elected to increase its processing stock for its PGM operations as a precautionary measure against potential increased power outages while implementing back up power units at its chrome operations.

EBTIDA for the period amounted to £10.3 m (H1 FY2022: £13.7 m) driven lower mainly by a reduction in metal prices for both PGMs and copper coupled with a delayed ramp up of Roan copper concentrator.  

Adjusted EBITDA for the period amounted to £11.8 m (H1 FY2022: £14.9 m) driven mainly by foreign exchange losses of £1.9 m (H1 FY2022: £1.8m) due to significant foreign currency movements over the period.  

In South Africa, Jubilee continued to invest in securing further PGM-bearing resources and as a precautionary measure against potential increased power outages, elected to increase its processing stock for its PGM operations while implementing back up power units at its chrome operations.  The Company targets to commence construction of its Eastern Limb operational PGM and chrome footprint within the next financial period. Construction will initially focus on the completion of the chrome beneficiation circuit prior to the PGM operations at a budgeted investment of US$5.5 m.

In Zambia, Jubilee continued with its investment programme in delivering its Southern Copper Refining Strategy, while simultaneously progressing its Northern Copper Refining Strategy. As a result of the delay in ramp-up at the Roan operations at our Southern Refinery complex in Zambia, all capital and operating costs (net of revenue realised from the sale of some pre-commercialisation output), have been capitalised in the period under review. We expect to continue to account for such pre-production operating and capital costs in the same way until such time as we achieve commercial-scale production which is expected in May 2023. At Sable the Company brought the cobalt refining line into production with the completion of the cobalt hydroxide circuit adding to the operational flexibility.

During the period the Company invested a total of £28.4 m capital in Zambia which, comprised mostly of the completion of its new 784 000 tonnes per annum Roan copper concentrator, currently being ramped up as well as pre-production operating costs (net of revenues). The Company targets to bring the integrated Southern Copper Refining Strategy into full production during May 2023.

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