Aya Gold releases update following Morocco earthquake

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Aya Gold & Silver Inc. [AYA-TSX] has released an update on the situation in Morocco following an earthquake on September 8, 2023 that killed almost 2,500 people, according to published reports.

On Monday, the company said employees and contractors a its Zgounder Silver Mine in Morocco are safe and that no injury was recorded at the mine.

Initial inspections have not revealed any infrastructure damage at the Zgounder mine. As a precautionary measure, the company suspended Zgounder operations for 24 hours to facilitate a geotechnical assessment of the mine and its infrastructure.

A BBC report said Friday’s earthquake, the country’s deadliest in 60 years, struck below villages in the High Atlas Mountains south of Marrakesh.

“We are shocked and saddened by the loss of life caused by the earthquake and send our sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the people of Morocco,’’ said Aya President and CEO Benoit La Salle. “Our health and operations team were immediately mobilized and have provided targeted support to the Taroudant area under the direction of local authorities since the disaster occurred.’’

Aya operates mining and milling facilities at its Zgounder Silver Mine, an 85%/15% joint venture between an Aya subsidiary and the Office National de Hydrocarbures et des Mines of the Kingdom of Morocco (ONHYM). Zgounder is forecast to produce 1.7-1.9 million ounces of silver this year.

The company’s mining portfolio also includes the Boumadine polymetallic deposit, which is located in the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Eastern Morocco. This project is also held in a joint venture with ONHYM, with Aya retaining an 85% ownership stake.

Back in February, 2022, Aya announced positive results from a feasibility study which examined a proposed expansion of Zgounder from 700 to 2,700 tonnes per day. The expansion outlines a combined open pit and underground mining operation over the projected 11-year life of mine period.

The study envisaged a 394% increase in annual silver production to 7.9 million ounces by 2024, driving revenue up 364% to US$172 million by 2024 from US$37 million in 2021. With capital expenditures pegged at US$139.4 million, the first gold pour resulting from the expansion is expected by the first quarter of 2024.

The company said the study was supported by an initial proven and probable reserve estimate of 8.59 million tonnes grading 257 g/t silver or 71 million ounces. That material positions Zgounder among the highest-grade silver projects globally, the company has said.

When the study was released, Aya said significant upside potential exits within and surrounding the Zgounder mineralized system, which remains open at depth to the granite. In the short term, Aya said it aims to expand resources at depth and along strike in addition to discovering regional resources within trucking distance of the mine.

On September 8, 2023, Aya shares closed at $7.90. The shares are trading in a 52-week range of $11.39 and $6.59.

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