Singapore-Based Gold Producer Boroo Sets Sights on Growth
Boroo Pte. Ltd. (Boroo) is focused on becoming a global mid-tier gold producer in the next three to five years through its methodical strategy of acquiring and transforming undervalued brownfield, according to Dulguun Erdenebaatar, the company’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
The privately held, Singapore-based company is pursuing its goal with a proven strategy: first, through the acquisition of mines put on care and maintenance by mid-tiers or majors; then, by restarting these mines with as little capital expenditure as possible, using the cash flow to fund refurbishment and expansion.
This strategy has brought much success to the company with two assets acquired so far. Boroo Gold’s mine and processing facility located in northern Mongolia was purchased from Centerra Gold for US$35 million in 2018. This was followed by the acquisition of Lagunas Norte’s gold mine and processing facility in north-western Peru from Barrick Gold in 2021 for US$81 million and a 2% net smelter return.
“I like to call our company a start-up gold mining company. We don’t consider ourselves a junior. We have considerable producing assets. Running a care and maintenance operation into full production is nothing compared to building a mine from a greenfield project, so it gives us a lot of advantages to achieve good cash flow generation within a short period of time”, Erdenebaatar said.
Dulguun, a specialist in mining sector mergers and acquisitions, was appointed CEO of Boroo in 2018, following the acquisition of the Mongolian assets.
Boroo Gold’s mine in Mongolia commenced production in 2003, producing 1.8 million ounces (Moz) of gold until Centerra Gold put it on care and maintenance in 2015. Boroo succeeded in restarting the heap leach operation within four months of purchasing the asset. Within 10 months, it re-commissioned the 5,500 tonne-per-day carbon-in-leach (CIL) processing plant, enabling it to generate the all-important cash flow.
The success of the Boroo Gold mine restart was all the encouragement the company’s leadership team needed to pursue other assets, eventuating in the Lagunas Norte acquisition.
“Barrick has its tier-one policy of focusing only on the most important assets, so we had the opportunity to acquire the Lagunas Norte asset back in early 2021”, Erdenebaatar said.
“Our business model is quite simple. We’re trying to get assets that are on care and maintenance, because they have great infrastructure, human resources, and are well established. We can achieve net cash positive generation from these assets within a short period of time. That is our strategy that we are trying to copy and replicate in Peru.
“What we have done at the Boroo Gold mine and are trying to do in Lagunas Norte is to try to squeeze the project capex and to optimise the operation costs of the existing operation. Care and maintenance feed our strategy, in that it is getting difficult to build new mines, especially from a social licence perspective. Infrastructure is a big cost for a (greenfield) project, and so (acquiring) a care-and-maintenance operation saves a lot of money. Expansion involves a relatively de-risked approach to restart the project and to try to scale up the production level, so that is what we’re pursuing right now”.
Barrick Gold produced 10 Moz of gold at Lagunas Norte between 2005 and 2019, when it put the mine on care and maintenance. One of the first things Boroo did after acquiring the mine was to update the 43-101 technical report. The new 43-101 outlines an additional 4.2 Moz of gold production over a mine life of 20 to 23 years.
Boroo has already restarted production from the existing heap leach operation at a rate of 60,000 ounces of gold per year. The next phase in its plan for Lagunas Norte is the Carbonaceous Material Optimization Project (CMOP), which will involve the processing of about 15 million tonnes of high-grade gold-bearing oxides that were stockpiled by Barrick over the years, and which Boroo anticipates will increase total annual production to around 160,000–170,000 oz of gold per year.
Test work has indicated that good recovery could be achieved by using a carbon classification system to separate constituent coal from the oxides and thereby prevent a phenomenon known as preg-robbing, which occurs when gold that can be otherwise recovered is lost through adsorption, reduction, or absorption by carbonaceous compounds.
Boroo has tasked Golder Associates, a subsidiary of WSP Global, with managing all the basic and detailed engineering of the CMOP. An update to the CMOP feasibility study by Golder reduced the capital costs of US$220 million outlined in Barrick’s original study to US$140 million. The updated study estimates an internal rate of return of more than 50 percent and a payback period of less than two years.
We are targeting construction of a grinding and CIL circuit in January 2022 and first gold pour from the CMOP by the last quarter of 2022, which would give Boroo “good scale and good cash generation” from the Lagunas Norte operation, according to Erdenebaatar.
“As a small company with an agile approach to execution, we are able to squeeze the costs, which also contributes to improving the economics of the CMOP”, he said.
“The carbonaceous materials that Barrick had mined were not suitable for processing through the existing heap leach plant. That’s why there’s already a mined stockpile which we’re going to feed through the new plant. In terms of the resource and reserve – which is 1.3 Moz Au at 2.4g/t – it’s pretty much de-risked because it’s based on the last drill data, and also in terms of the cost there is no mining needed for the stockpile”.
“What is even more exciting for Boroo is the CMOP project only [comprises around] 25% of this reserve. The remaining reserve of almost 3 Moz of refractory ore will be processed in the subsequent phase, the Refractory Material Project (Proyecto de Minerales Refractarios, or PMR)”.
Boroo has begun working on the PMR project and hopes to have a preliminary economic assessment completed by the second half of this year. Looking at the bigger picture, Erdenebaatar sees the work on the CMOP and PMR projects as critical to fulfilling Boroo’s goal of becoming a mid-tier gold producer within the next three years.
Boroo views Lagunas Norte as its flagship operation and as the key to accomplish their goal. It has 12 exploration properties in the vicinity of the mine and is aiming to discover 1 million ounces of measured resources within three years and with a discovery cost of less than US$10 per ounce.
On the corporate front, Boroo recently published an environmental, social and governance (ESG) report covering both its Peruvian and Mongolian assets. The report notes that the closest community to Lagunas Norte is approximately 500 metres from the perimeter fence, though most are located at more than 2 km distance. Community support strategies will include measures to improve access to employment opportunities, direct healthcare, potable water and improved nutrition.
Dulguun acknowledged that capital raisings would be essential to becoming a mid-tier producer, and he said Boroo was looking at “different strategic opportunities” to go public, such as a possible listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange.
“As a new company we need to show interested investors that we are a team with a proven capability and experience. So, we are trying to bring very tangible results before we go public”.
This article was previously published in Mining Journal on 7 December 2021.
Boroo Pte. Ltd., formally known as OZD Asia, is a privately held investment holding company headquartered in Singapore. Boroo is principally engaged in operating, developing, and acquiring gold properties globally. Boroo owns and operates various production-stage and development-stage assets in Central Asia and South America.
Q&A WITH CEO DULGUUN ERDENEBAATAR
How do you see Singapore fitting into the company’s global growth plans?
As we are all aware that gold is not just only a commodity but a strong financial product and instrument, Singapore is a mature financial and commodity trading hub with good infrastructure and ecosystem to support that. However, there are very few gold mining or producing companies locally. In that regard, Boroo would like to show that Singapore can be as successful as these markets for mining companies to thrive, as we leverage on Singapore’s current established system of commodity trading and financial system. Singapore has a business-friendly environment with reputable and transparent business laws to protect business owners.
What opportunities do you see for Boroo in the near future?
As there are lot of uncertainties around international and geopolitical situation, gold is attracting a lot of attention, whether you are a fund manager, mining company or trading entity. Basically, we are in the right business at the right time and are now focusing on scaling-up efficiently and responsibly. Boroo, as a company, is keen on expanding our operations internationally while focusing on our ESG principles.
What are the company’s focus areas to achieve the 3–5-year target set out?
Our focus areas, to successfully achieve our mid-term strategy, are being transparent and actively engaging with our stakeholders, and adhering to world class standards for environmental stewardship and community relations with a focus on employee health and safety.
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