Established Australian copper and gold producer and explorer, Aeris Resources (ASX: AIS) has provided its annual report for the financial year ended 30 June 2020, and the resource estimates for both the Tritton and Murrawombie deposits at the company’s 100% owned Tritton Copper Operations in NSW.
In his letter to shareholders, Aeris’ executive chairman Andre Labuschange said:
The 2020 financial year truly has been one of the most transformative for Aeris Resources. Some of these notable events include:
The drought in NSW and subsequent water issues felt by many, and managed well at our Tritton Copper Operations in NSW;
The devastating bush fires at the start of FY2020;
COVID-19 – perhaps the most far-reaching event of the past year, but one which I’m proud to say the company managed well and with very little impact; and
The Company’s transformational acquisition of the Cracow Gold Operations in July 2020.
Our Tritton Copper Operations in NSW were not impacted by the bushfires but some of our employees with properties in the region were affected. Fortunately, our employees remained safe, and we are very proud to say that a number of our staff participated in volunteer fire brigades and provided emergency response support to the region. There was widespread devastation however, and Aeris has continued to provide support to employees and local communities recovering from this natural disaster.
While the bushfires raged, and as a result of the drought, we were concerned about the availability of water to continue safe and consistent operations at Tritton. The Burrendong dam, which is Tritton’s main source of fresh water was below 2% capacity at 30 December 2019 and, with water security at critical levels, we saw it fit to construct a water pipeline and pumping facility, drawing from the Nyngan-Cobar pipeline across to our Tritton Copper Operations (approximately 20 kilometres).
This pipeline provided the high security water we needed to continue operating at Tritton. With the assistance from state and local governments, the pipeline was installed by the Tritton team in record time and started pumping water in January 2020. Since the beginning of 2020, consistent rain events in the Macquarie River catchment has resulted in capacity at Burrendong Dam increasing to approximately 42% by the end of August.
COVID-19 has thrust us all into unprecedented circumstances. Globally, we have seen some communities come together, while others fracture and split under the stress of the virus and the corresponding pressure to the economy. Early in March 2020, we began planning how we would continue to operate under a lockdown situation, should that be implemented.
Our workforce at Tritton is largely local, so we did not have to plan for the added complications that those with a predominantly fly-in, fly-out workforce had to consider. We continued operating uninterrupted through the COVID-19 isolation and lockdown periods and did not record any cases onsite. We followed Government guidelines and installed all requisite additional sanitation aids to keep our people safe. We continue to operate under these guidelines and support the NSW and Federal Governments’ push to get the virus under control. We were able to continue operating, meeting targets and did not have to entertain reducing our workforce or their hours.
Last year we told you that Aeris’ strategy was to look for growth both organically and through acquisitions. This year, I am proud to say we have absolutely delivered on both of these strategic objectives. At an operational level, we exceeded our production guidance for the Tritton Copper Operations while dealing with interruptions from water and fire and also COVID-19. We also have had significant exploration success at Tritton in FY2020 through the extension of mineralisation at the Murrawombie mine, and the detection of a bedrock conductor (Anomaly K) from the MLTEM survey.
Our successful acquisition of the Cracow Gold Operations also fulfilled one of our strategic objectives for growth. We said last year that we were looking for either copper or gold operations that fit the company well, and Cracow is a very good fit for Aeris. It has always been a very well managed operation and with a significantly upsized exploration budget of some $13 million over the next two years, we will focus on extending the mine’s life through brownfield and greenfield exploration.
We have added 250 employees at Cracow to our Aeris team. We are delighted to have them on board and are excited to see how their input and expertise will realise the growth opportunities present at Cracow and Tritton.
We are also pleased to have the opportunity to use our operational expertise across the two assets making us stronger and our operations more efficient.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our existing shareholders for their continued support through our acquisition and capital raising. I’d also like to welcome new shareholders to our register. I look forward to seeing as many of you in person as possible, once the COVID-19 situation is under control and we are able to travel freely again.
Over the next year, all shareholders will be updated on our operational performances, our strategy and our plans for continued growth to deliver shareholder value.