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DAILY NEWS Oct 25, 2012 11:29 AM - 0 comments

Lower production hurts Alacer Gold

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Alacer Gold (ASR-T) found out just how finicky investors can be given the uneasy economic environment.

The company was punished harshly for narrowly missing its production guidance for the quarter as it saw its market cap shaved by 12% or 68¢ and its stock finished trading on Oct. 24 at $5.28 per share.

The drop came after Alacer reported lower production from two of its key assets: one in Turkey and one in Australia.

In Turkey, at its 80% owned flagship Copler Mine, Alacer reported attributable production of 32,674 oz. of gold, missing its guidance of roughly 35,600 oz.

It blamed the lower totals on the need to mine lower-grade, harder rock that contained less clay-rich ore. The company said, however, that it was in line with a revised mining plan that is mining competent, harder rock from manganese and marble pits and that higher-grade areas are scheduled to be mined during the fourth quarter.

At its wholly owned Higginsville Mine in Australia, the company suffered a 10% drop in production as it fell to 32,357 oz. The total was lower than anticipated and came as a result of lower grades. Alacer says it has now stopped mining low-grade pits and lower-grade ore from the Trident underground mine.

Those overall lower grades could lead to higher operating costs in its upcoming financial statements, which are due out on Nov. 14. BMO Research is forecasting that those cash costs will come in at US$793 per oz. for the quarter.

On the more positive side Alacer did say its underground mine development the Chalice project is ahead of schedule, with the first stope mined in the Atlas Lode during September.

And there was good news on the production front as well, albeit on smaller assets.

Gold production for the quarter from its South Kalgoorlie operations, which includes its 49% stake in Frog’s Leg gold mine, increased by 31% to 25,920 oz. of gold.

The increase came thanks to higher grades from both the Triumph open pit and the Frog's Leg underground mine.

But Alacer will need to put the pedal to the metal if it hopes to meet its year end guidance of 385,000-403,000 oz. as year-to-date production is only at roughly 280,000 oz.

But it says that higher grades from Copler in the coming quarter combined with improving production levels at Kalgoorlie will get it there.

The 385,000 oz to 403,000 oz guidance, however, was lowered in August from an earlier guidance of between 396,000 oz and 410,000 oz. of gold.

To mitigate against the effect of lower grades on costs, Alacer has looked to cut expenses in Australia by demobilizing two mining fleets at South Kalgoorlie and laying off all workers associated with the operation and maintenance of those fleets.

It said it will implement “additional cost-savings measures” in Australia in the coming months but didn’t indicate what those might be.

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