In late 2012, the Company fully commissioned the Lucerne Mine and began pouring gold and silver. Metal sold in the fourth quarter 2012 totaled 2,583 ounces of gold and 27,008 ounces of silver.
During 2012, the Company crushed and stacked over 294,000 dry tons of mineralized material, delivering 5,764 estimated ounces of recoverable gold and over 51,414 estimated ounces of recoverable silver to the leach pad.
During 2012, the Company realized an average price of $1,744.36 per ounce of gold, including the benefits of the first commemorative bar, and a $32.56 average sales price per ounce of silver.
Since pouring commenced, the Company has averaged approximately 220 gold-equivalent ounces poured per week. The Company has successfully and is continuously adjusting its operations to improve grade, maximize yields and increase tons processed.
We plan on achieving a 400 gold-equivalent ounces poured per week by late April 2013.
On January 31, 2013, the Company published its fourth National Instrument 43-101 (NI 43-101) technical report (the "2013 Report") authored by Behre Dolbear & Company (USA), Ltd. ("Behre Dolbear"). The 2013 Report declared a mineral resource estimate of Measured and Indicated Resources containing 2,150,000 gold equivalent ounces, a 25% increase over the previous Lucerne Measured and Indicated estimate.
On February 13, 2013, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allowed interim use of the existing haul road and providing a more efficient connection to a previously granted, non-exclusive Right-of-Way for access to our processing facility in American Flat. This breakthrough allows for accelerated implementation of production and expansion plans.
On March 13, 2013, the Company raised $10.0 million in gross proceeds through an underwritten public offering of 5,000,000 shares of common stock, accelerating expansions for the Lucerne and Dayton projects and strengthening our balance sheet.
2012 Financial Results
During 2012, revenues totaled $5.1 million, with gold mining revenues of $4.5 million. Cost applicable to mining revenues totaled $3.6 million, net of silver by-product credits.
Net loss for 2012 was $30.8 million, versus $11.7 million in 2011, an increase of $19.1 million. The increase resulted primarily from increased operating expenses associated with exploration, reclamation and development activities associated with commencement of mining activities in the Lucerne Mine and, to a lesser extent, administrative and consultative activities associated with environmental sampling, permitting and related compliance, somewhat offset from revenues in excess of costs to produce.
Operating expenses for 2012 were $35.5 million, versus $16.0 million in 2011, an increase of $19.5 million. The increase resulted primarily from an increase of $8.8 million in expenses associated with exploration, reclamation and mine development and $6.7 million in administrative and consultative activities for mining commencement.
Interest expense for 2012 was approximately $0.9 million, versus $0.1 million in 2011. The increase resulted from our $5 million working capital revolving credit facility and our $5 million equipment-financing loan, both entered into in 2012.
Net cash used by operating activities in 2012 was $22.4 million compared to $11.6 million in 2011. This primarily resulted from costs applicable to mining revenue of $3.6 million, exploration and mine development expenses of $13.3 million, general administrative expenses of $5.5 million, consulting and professional fees of $3.4 million and a $2.9 million increase in cash used in operating activities from changes in working capital, offset by a source of $4.5 million from sales.
Net cash used in investing activities included $13.4 million for the purchase of property, plant and equipment, including approximately $10.0 million for crushing, processing and lab equipment, $2.2 million for land and buildings and $1.2 million for mining vehicles.
Net cash provided by financing activities in 2012 was $32.3 million, primarily resulting from raising $23.7 million in net proceeds from equity and $9.6 million in net proceeds from debt obligations, offset by $1 million in principal repayments on debt obligations.
Cash and cash equivalents at year-end were $6.0 million.
Total debt at year-end 2012 was $13.7 million as compared to $1.4 million in 2011. From January 1, 2013, through March 14, 2013, the company has repaid $3.0 million in principal payments on debt obligations.
Comstock's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Corrado De Gasperis, commented, "We achieved multiple breakthroughs in late 2012, in production and resource development, including the discovery of the Chute Zone in Lucerne, while strengthening our partnerships with the community and our regulators, especially with the BLM. We are now accelerating prerequisite environmental studies, engineering and permitting for growing production through the commercial development and expansions of both the Lucerne and Dayton Mine plans. We believe that this will enhance our flexibility to maximize the speed of ramping up production and expanding the mines."
During 2012, we strengthened the organization, including adding full operational competencies of project management, environmental and regulatory management, safety, mine planning, mine supervision, metallurgy and maintenance. As of December 31, 2012, we have 73 full-time and one part-time mine employees.
Production Start Up
During 2012, we completed the expansion of the heap leach pad, from its three existing cells to five cells, installed and commissioned the new Crushing and Merrill Crowe facilities and our metallurgical labs. We commenced the haulage, crushing and stacking of material. Once material was stacked, we commenced extraction, processing and poured dore, recording our first revenue from metal sales in the fourth quarter of 2012. Sales in the fourth quarter 2012 totaled $5.1 million, with gold revenues of $4.5 million. In 2012, we sold 2,583 ounces of gold and 27,008 ounces of silver.
During 2012, the Company crushed and stacked over 294,000 dry tons of mineralized material starting from the time that production began, delivering 5,764 estimated ounces of recoverable gold and over 51,414 estimated ounces of recoverable silver to the leach pad, positioning the Company well for growth. Throughout this leaching cycle, the recovery of gold and silver continues, but the most effective economic recovery of gold and silver takes between 45 to 60 days to complete. The Company has recovered 67% of the estimated recoverable gold and 51% of the estimated recoverable silver from the portion of the heap under leach the longest. Preliminary laboratory metallurgical test results suggest that ultimate heap leach recovery will meet or exceed the estimated ounces of recoverable gold and silver.
Through December 31, 2012, the Company realized an average price of $1,744.36 price per ounce of gold, including the benefits of the first commemorative bar, and a $32.56 average sales price per ounce of silver. In comparison, commodity market prices in the fourth quarter of 2012 averaged $1,721.79 per ounce of gold and $32.68 per ounce of silver.
The Company continues ramping up its production and plans to achieve a production rate of 400 gold-equivalent ounces poured per week, or over 20,000 gold-equivalent ounces per annum. Since pouring commenced, the Company has averaged approximately 220 gold-equivalent ounces poured per week. The Company is continuously adjusting its operations to improve grade, maximize yields and increase tons crushed and stacked. The Company continues to advance activities in each of these areas on a weekly basis keeping it on track for achieving the 400 gold-equivalent ounce target rate by late April 2013.
Haulage Breakthrough and the BLM
During February 2013, the Company announced that the United States Department of the Interior - Bureau of Land Management (BLM) made a determination to allow the Company to move forward with a Class 1 Color-of-Title Act claim ("CoT claim") with respect to Lot 51, a 25-acre parcel in Gold Hill, Nevada. As part of this process, the BLM is allowing for the Company's limited interim use of the existing haul road segment that crosses Lot 51, providing a more efficient connection to a previously granted, non-exclusive Right-of-Way ("RoW") for access to its processing facility in American Flat.
In order to comply with the guidelines in the currently authorized RoW grant, the Company will use different, highway-rated vehicles. The vehicles will travel a shorter distance while carrying a larger load, thus decreasing overall traffic on American Flat Road, while also reducing haul truck traffic on the State Route. These vehicles will also un-block the mine area from logistical constraints imposed by the previously used vehicles, increase throughput by increasing the haul per trip and reduce costs significantly by reducing the number of trips. We are renting ten of these highway-rated vehicles for one year, at a cost of $12,000 per month, per vehicle. Each vehicle is rented pursuant to a separate agreement that may be individually terminated by us at our discretion and returned to the lessor, subject to a termination fee, in certain instances. In February 2013, the Company sold five Caterpillar 773 Haul Trucks, a loader, two dozers and a fuel truck for $1.6 million. The company used a portion of the proceeds to pay down $1.0 million in debt.
Operating Costs and 2013 Outlook
During the fourth quarter 2012, Lucerne Mine costs applicable to mining revenue were $4.5 million ($3.6 million, net of silver credits) (or approximately $18 million annualized). These costs include higher hauling costs due to our inability to use an existing haul road that crosses Lot 51 as discussed above.
The estimated costs do not include corporate administration or other general and administrative costs, nor do they include exploration and mine development costs. The Company is not currently drilling and does not plan on resuming these activities until the latter half of 2013.
During the first quarter of 2013, modifications and optimizations have been engineered into the Company's mine planning, hauling, crushing and recovery systems. The Company has updated its financial analysis for the Lucerne Mine and anticipates annual cash operating expenses, including all mining and processing costs of approximately $15.9 million per annum, excluding approximately $1 million of additional haulage costs, with an anticipated production schedule currently processing at the rate of one million tons per annum, but also including plans for ramping up to a 1.5 million tons per annum run rate. Mine administration costs are anticipated to be approximately $1.5 million. The Company currently anticipates production rates beyond the 400 gold-equivalent ounces per week in the second half of the year, as it ramps up production with the goal of producing between 18,000-20,000 gold-equivalent ounces in 2013.
Exploration and Development
In January 2012, the Company launched its current exploration and development-drilling program (the "Drill Program"). The Drill Program has been revised to focus on three significant objectives: 1) infill drilling and expansion of the Lucerne Mine; 2) infill drilling in the Dayton Resource Area for the development of our second mine; and 3) step-out and infill drilling in the east-side of the Lucerne Resource Area. The Drill Program does not currently contemplate exploration drilling on the Company's other high priority targets, including Spring Valley, Occidental, Oest and the Northern Target Areas. The Company did complete some exploration drilling in Spring Valley in early 2012.
The majority of the Drill Program activities in 2012 focused on infill and development drilling in the Lucerne Resource area, comprised of 391 holes totaling 146,274 feet. The drilling program consisted of 364 reverse circulation (RC) holes, totaling 138,521 feet, and 27 core holes, totaling 7,754 feet. The drilling totals also included fourteen widely-spaced exploration holes in Spring Valley and 22 step-out and infill holes in the East Side target. The total cost of the program was $4.87 million, with an average cost per foot of $33.26.
The Lucerne Resource Area includes the previously operated Lucerne, Hartford, and Billie the Kid pits; the historic Justice and Keystone surface cuts and underground mines; and the historic Woodville bonanza. The modeled mineralization covers approximately 5,400 feet of strike length. The Lucerne Resource Area is also host to the Company's Lucerne Mine, opened in 2012, with an associated heap leach and Merrill-Crowe processing facility.
Although the Company only drilled a limited number of East-side holes, the results led to the discovery and interpretation of the "Chute Zone" by Company geologists. This intersection, between the northwest striking and northeast dipping Silver City fault, and a series of northeast striking and southeast dipping structures, hosts a zone of enhanced mineralization. The zone currently mapped dimensions of 100 to 150 feet by 100 feet by 450 feet. The Company's geologists have recognized the enhanced grades of precious metals when northeasterly striking mineralized structures intersected the Silver City fault zone.
In February 2013, the Company entered into an option agreement to purchase 212 acres of land at American Flat for $1.5 million, providing property for the next possible phase of expansion of the Lucerne Mine. The property provides sufficient expansion capacity for most options being considered in our next feasibility and engineering study.
Cash and cash equivalents on hand at December 31, 2012 totaled $6.0 million. Gold and silver inventory and accounts receivable for gold and silver sales were $4.9 million and $0.6 million, respectively, at December 31, 2012.
On March 13, 2013, the Company raised $10 million in gross proceeds through an underwritten public offering of 5,000,000 shares of common stock at a price of $2.00 per share. The net proceeds to the Company from the offering will be approximately $9.8 million, after deducting agent fees and estimated offering expenses. The Company intends to use the net proceeds from this offering to accelerate prerequisite environmental studies, engineering and permitting for growing production through the commercial development and expansion of both the Lucerne and Dayton Mine plans. We also intend to use the net proceeds for expansion of our processing facilities associated with this growth, and plans for higher production rates in 2013, potentially up to 1.5 million tons per annum, and related working capital.
During 2012, net cash used in investing activities included $13.4 million for the purchase of property, plant and equipment, including approximately $10.0 million for crushing, processing and lab equipment, $2.2 million for land and buildings and $1.2 million for mining vehicles.
Total debt at year-end 2012 was $13.7 million as compared to $1.4 million in 2011. Through March 14, 2013, the company has repaid $3.0 million of debt obligations.
We anticipate spending about $3 million in capital expenditures for our heap leach expansion and related metal extraction processes in 2013. We also anticipate paying off a total of approximately $9 million in debt obligations in 2013, including our $5 million Auramet Facility, in full, and posting an additional $1.4 million in surety bond collateral during 2013.
At December 31, 2012, the Company calculates federal net operating tax loss carryforwards in excess of $100 million, that do not begin expiring until 2023.
Comstock's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Corrado De Gasperis, commented, "Our liquidity is strong, our cash flow is ramping up and there is a tremendous amount of positive activity throughout the network as we have debugged our new production system and stabilized its capacity. We have commenced pre-planning activities for accelerating expansions for both Lucerne and Dayton projects, including feasibility for the Lucerne expansion in 2013."
About Comstock Mining Inc.
Comstock Mining Inc. is a producing, Nevada-based, gold and silver mining company with extensive, contiguous property in the Comstock District. The Company began acquiring properties in the Comstock District in 2003. Since then, the Company has consolidated a significant portion of the Comstock District, amassed the single largest known repository of historical and current geological data on the Comstock region, secured permits, built an infrastructure and commenced production in 2012. The Company continues acquiring additional properties in the district, expanding its footprint and creating opportunities for further exploration and mining. The near term goal of our business plan is to deliver stockholder value by validating qualified resources (measured and indicated) and reserves (proven and probable) of at least 3,250,000 gold equivalent ounces from our first two resource areas, Lucerne and Dayton, achieve initial commercial mining and processing operations in the Lucerne Mine with annual production rates of approximately 20,000 gold equivalent ounces and significantly grow production through the commercial development and expansions of both the Lucerne and Dayton Mine plans.
This press release and any related calls or discussions may contain forward-looking statements. All statements, other than statements of historical facts, are forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements include statements about matters such as: future prices and sales of and demand for our products; future industry market conditions; future changes in our exploration activities, production capacity and operations; future exploration, production, operating and overhead costs; operational and management restructuring activities (including implementation of methodologies and changes in the board of directors); future employment and contributions of personnel; tax and interest rates; capital expenditures and their impact on us; nature, timing and accounting for restructuring charges, gains or losses on debt extinguishment, derivative liabilities and the impact thereof; productivity, business process, rationalization, restructuring, investment, acquisition, consulting, operational, tax, financial and capital projects and initiatives; contingencies; environmental compliance and changes in the regulatory environment; offerings, sales and other actions regarding debt or equity securities; and future working capital, costs, revenues, business opportunities, debt levels, cash flows, margins, earnings and growth.
The words "believe," "expect," "anticipate," "estimate," "project," "plan," "should," "intend," "may," "will," "would," "potential" and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements, but are not the exclusive means of doing so. These statements are based on assumptions and assessments made by our management in light of their experience and their perception of historical and current trends, current conditions, possible future developments and other factors they believe to be appropriate. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees, representations or warranties and are subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results, developments and business decisions to differ materially from those contemplated by such forward-looking statements. Some of those risks and uncertainties include the risk factors set forth in our SEC filings and the following: the current global economic and capital market uncertainties; the speculative nature of gold or mineral exploration, including risks of diminishing quantities or grades of qualified resources and reserves; operational or technical difficulties in connection with exploration or mining activities; contests over our title to properties; potential dilution to our stockholders from our recapitalization and balance sheet restructuring activities; potential inability to continue to comply with government regulations; adoption of or changes in legislation or regulations adversely affecting our businesses; business opportunities that may be presented to or pursued by us; changes in the United States or other monetary or fiscal policies or regulations; interruptions in our production capabilities due to unexpected equipment failures; fluctuation of prices for gold or certain other commodities (such as silver, copper, diesel fuel, and electricity); changes in generally accepted accounting principles; geopolitical events; potential inability to implement our business strategies; potential inability to grow revenues organically; potential inability to attract and retain key personnel; interruptions in delivery of critical supplies and equipment raw materials due to credit or other limitations imposed by vendors; assertion of claims, lawsuits and proceedings against us; potential inability to maintain an effective system of internal controls over financial reporting; potential inability or failure to timely file periodic reports with the SEC; potential inability to list our securities on any securities exchange or market; and work stoppages or other labor difficulties. Occurrence of such events or circumstances could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations or cash flows or the market price of our securities. All subsequent written and oral forward-looking statements by or attributable to us or persons acting on our behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by these factors. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement.
Neither this press release nor any related calls or discussions constitutes an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any securities.
 Gold equivalent ounces were calculated using January 31, 2013 London PM prices of $1,664.75 per ounce of gold and $32.03 per ounce of silver, as published by kitco.com. This resulted in a ratio of 51.97 ounces of silver per equivalent ounce of gold, without taking into consideration the relative recoveries of gold and silver. The Company's current estimates for heap leach recovery are 70% for gold and 45% for silver.