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MONTREAL,- “Operationally, the third quarter of 2019 was another strong quarter for the Company from both a production and safety perspective. Our Oyu Tolgoi team has continued to maximize the production from the open pit and as a result, we have once again increased our 2019 gold production with the new target moving from 230,000 to 240,000 ounces,” stated Ulf Quellmann, Turquoise Hill’s Chief Executive Officer. “We also continued to build on our excellent safety track record as Oyu Tolgoi achieved another strong All Injury Frequency Rate of 0.18 per 200,000 hours worked during the nine months ended September 30, 2019. As you know, safety is a top priority for us and is at the heart of everything we do. Safely mining this deposit is central to who we are and is critical to our continued success.”
“Turning to the Underground development, construction of Shaft 2 is now complete and has entered into the final stages of commissioning. The service hoist transports 300 people per cage cycle versus a maximum of 60 people per cage cycle through Shaft 1, and enables us to accelerate the underground development and monetize one of the best undeveloped ore bodies on the planet.”
1 Please refer to Section – NON-GAAP MEASURES – on page 19 of this MD&A for further information.
OPERATIONAL OUTLOOK FOR 2019
2019 operational guidance for gold in concentrates has increased to 240,000 ounces from 230,000 ounces, while copper in concentrates remains in the 125,000 to 155,000 tonnes range. Open-pit operations are expected to continue to mine the lower grade Phase 4B ore and stockpiles through the remainder of 2019 with mill throughput expected to be approximately 40 million tonnes. Average copper mill head grades are also expected to be lower over the remainder of the year, however, the company remains on track to achieve the full year copper and increased gold production guidance.
Operating cash cost expectations for 2019 have decreased to approximately $800 million from an $800 million to $850 million range.
For 2019 underground development, we continue to expect capital expenditures of $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion. Capital expenditures for 2019 on a cash-basis for open-pit operations have decreased to a range of $140 million to $160 million from a range of $150 million to $180 million due to a lower capitalization of deferred stripping costs and the deferral of certain project costs and equipment purchases. Open-pit capital is mainly comprised of deferred stripping, equipment purchases, maintenance componentization and tailings storage facility construction. Underground development capital includes both expansion capital and VAT.
C1 cash costs are now expected to be between $1.50 to $1.70 per pound of copper produced due to the impact of the increase in the gold production guidance provided above, combined with the revised reduction in operating cash cost guidance. The previous 2019 C1 cash cost guidance of $1.75 to $1.95 per pound of copper produced had assumed the midpoint of expected 2019 copper and gold production ranges and a gold price of $1,281 per ounce. Looking at Q3’19 in isolation, C1 cash costs of $2.14 per pound of copper produced were above the full year expected range due to the impact of lower gold sales revenue driven by the 25,600 ounces of gold in concentrates produced in the third quarter of 2019 (against an expected full year production of up to 240,000 ounces).
Turquoise Hill is an international mining company focused on the operation and continued development of the Oyu Tolgoi copper-gold mine in Mongolia, which is the Company’s principal and only material mineral resource property. Turquoise Hill’s ownership of the Oyu Tolgoi mine is held through a 66% interest in Oyu Tolgoi LLC (Oyu Tolgoi); the remaining 34% interest is held by Erdenes Oyu Tolgoi LLC (Erdenes), a Mongolian state-owned entity.
The Oyu Tolgoi mine is located approximately 550 kilometres south of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital city, and 80 kilometres north of the Mongolia–China border. Mineralization on the property consists of porphyry-style copper, gold, silver and molybdenum contained in a linear structural trend (the Oyu Tolgoi Trend) of deposits distributed over a 12 km interval of a 25 km corridor of mineralization. Oyu Tolgoi has the potential to operate for over 100 years from five known mineralized deposits. The first of those (the Oyut deposit) was put into production as an open-pit operation in 2013. A second deposit, Hugo North (Lift One), is under development as an underground operation.
The copper concentrator plant, with related facilities and necessary infrastructure, was originally designed to process approximately 100,000 tonnes of ore per day from the Oyut open pit. However, since 2014, the concentrator has improved operating practices and gained experience, which has helped achieve a consistent throughput of over 105,000 tonnes per day. Concentrator throughput for 2019 is targeted at 110,000 tonnes per day and expected to be approximately 40 million tonnes for the year due to improvements in concentrator performance and ore characteristics.
At the end of Q3’19, Oyu Tolgoi had a total workforce (employees and contractors), including underground project construction, of approximately 14,500 of which 92% were Mongolians.