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Equinox Gold Corp  (NYSEMKT:EQX)
Q1 2020 Earnings Call
May. 15, 2020, 5:00 p.m. ET

Contents:

  • Prepared Remarks
  • Questions and Answers
  • Call Participants

Prepared Remarks:

Operator

Welcome to the Equinox Gold's Corporate Update and First Quarter Results Conference Call and Webcast. As a reminder, all participants are in listen-only mode and the conference is being recorded. [Operator Instructions]

I would now like to turn the conference over to Rhylin Bailie, Vice President, Investor Relations for Equinox Gold. Please go ahead.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you very much, operator. Thank you very much for joining us today. We will of course be making a number of forward-looking statements in today's presentation, so please take a moment to visit our continuous disclosure documents on our website on SEDAR and on EDGAR.

I will now turn the conference over to Ross Beaty, our Chairman to discuss the results of the AGM and take you through the presentation.

Ross Beaty -- Chair

Thank you very much, Rhylin, and welcome ladies and gentlemen to this call. I really first of all want to start by apologizing for doing this on a Friday afternoon just before a Canadian long weekend. This is normally what happens when a company wants to deliver bad news, but nothing could be further from the truth for Equinox Gold. We had a great quarter. We are just hitting on all cylinders and I just want to make that front and center for everybody. The reason we are doing this today is to accommodate our accountants. We took about a month longer to close our Leagold deal than we had expected and this put them right up against the wire to get the consolidation done; tremendous amount of accounting to be done and changes that were required, a lot of scrutiny, a lot of review. And they asked us to go to the very last day before they had to file the quarterly statements and that was today.

So we accommodated that; it won't happen again. I acknowledge it's a rotten time to be doing this for everybody and by Tuesday morning when we reopen some people will have forgotten we put out such good results and they'll be moving on to whatever is going on next week. What is good about it is that we are ending the week on a very high note for gold and all the reasons we did the Leagold merger and have had such rapid growth in our gold production or gold reserves is because of our conviction that we are in a secular gold market -- gold bull market and I think all the events that have happened in the last, really the last two years, but particularly in the last month or so have confirmed that that's been a very wise strategy. So what we're going to do now is I'm going to run through a few slides in our presentation that's on our webcast.

To give some kind of high level overviews of what we're up to, some of the things we set out to do in 2019. This is like a report card of how we did. This is the third year we've done this now. We started out -- our first year was in 2018. We did a report card then of what we were hoping to do that year. We did another one a year ago where we said, what we did in 2018 versus our objectives. What we plan to do in 2019 and today I'm going to talk about what we actually did in 2019 versus our objectives, we set out a year ago, and I'm going to tell you what we're planning to do this year so that next year at this time, we can do exactly the same thing. So the first thing I'm going to do is, I'm going to start on page three of our webcast presentation and I'm going to talk about our leadership team because after all, it's the people in a company that build it, not anything else.

If you have great people, you end up with a great company and great results. I'm going to start with our Board of Directors. This is a relatively new Board for many of the traditional Equinox shareholders. Unfortunately we had to lose some of our very valuable board when we did the Leagold deal but we brought in some great new Directors from Leagold. Besides myself, I want to acknowledge Neil Woodyer who was the previous CEO of Leagold, who is our Vice Chair; Christian Milau, of course, who is our brand new Director as of today because he is the new CEO of the combined company. He is of course taking -- transitioning from being CEO of Equinox Gold and he is going to be -- coming on as a Director as of today. Len Boggio who is Independent Board member also who is Chair of our Audit Committee.

And I want to warmly welcome Maryse Belanger to our Board as an Independent Director. Maryse has a long track record of very successful -- as a very successful engineer, miner in many places, she speaks fluent French, of course, fluent Portuguese, and she lives near Vancouver and I'm very happy to be welcoming our first female onto our Board as well. It's overdue, we need more diversity. I'll say that right away and we'll be looking for that in the future as well. But I'm particularly happy to welcome her onto our Board. Tim Breen, a Director who is a representative of Mubadala, whose post conversion of the convertible securities they hold will be our largest shareholder. Tim Breen is an excellent Director and is representing Mubadala in a very competent fashion. Two new Directors who've joined Equinox from Leagold, Gordon Campbell, who I have had the personal pleasure of knowing for many, many years; and General Wesley Clark, both Independent Directors.

And Marshall Koval who is soon going to be Independent. He was the Chair of -- pardon me, the CEO of Anfield Resources, which is one of the three companies that formed Equinox Gold back at the end of 2017, also a dear personal friend and a strong engineer and very, very solid project manager over the last 20 years, 30 years in his career. Peter Marrone, who is the Chair of Yamana Gold; also Independent Board Member. And then on management, our senior top three really but really these three only represent the top of the pyramid and it's a very flat pyramid where we have literally thousands of competent people reporting to these three strong Managers, Greg Smith, our President, heads Business Development as well; Attie Roux, our COO, with a big, big team of Equinox staff that's under his leadership; and then of course, Peter Hardie who is responsible for all the areas -- pardon me, responsible for all our financial statements and of course banking relationships and I can't speak highly enough about Peter and his team.

Moving on to page 4, the 2019 report card; how did we -- what did we say we were going to do and what did we do? Well, we guided the market to production of 200,000 ounces to 235,000 ounces at an all-in-sustaining cost of $940 to $990. We hit both numbers. We built our mine at Aurizona successfully. It opened up more or less on budget, more or less on schedule. We had gold production for -- Aurizona gold production from Mesquite and we produced just over 200,000 ounces and beat cost guidance with all-in-sustaining cost of $931. So I'm going to say, we ticked that up pretty successfully. In exploration, we targeted extending the mine lives of Aurizona and Mesquite, which were the only mines that we owned a year ago.

We had great success at both. We put out a reserve report earlier this week where we demonstrated we'd extended the mine lives at both of those mines and I'm going to tick that one as well. In development we said we wanted to advance Castle Mountain into production and at least start construction in 2019 and open it in 2020 and also develop the Aurizona underground plan. And once again we started construction at Castle Mountain, it's under way. Christian will talk a little bit about -- more about its status, and of course, working on Phase 2 at Castle Mountain, doing the feasibility study, as well as an underground preliminary economic assessment at Aurizona. That gets ticked as well. On the next page, we said we wanted to refinance our balance sheet. We had some high-cost debt.

We got rid of all the high-cost debt from Sprott and we reduced our -- we converted the debt into a package -- a debt package with Scotiabank and a syndicate of banks, as well as $130 million convertible note with Mubadala; retired the high-cost debt and refinanced our balance sheet. So we'll tick that as well. We also said we wanted to improve our liquidity and market visibility. We listed on the New York Stock Exchange in October. We advanced to the TSX main board from the TSX junior board in December and we increased our daily trading value by about 400% in 2019 versus 2018 and we've increased it again very significantly this year. And we'll tick that one as well. And then lastly, we said we wanted to work on an accretive acquisition. We also reminded our investors that we aren't here to grow for growth's sake. We're here to grow and try to make money.

We're trying to add value, not just size, but in the context of the year late in the year, in December, we announced our at-market merger with Leagold Mining and this really has added fuel to our ambition of becoming a major gold producer, accelerating our vision of producing more than a 1 million ounces per year, and we could hit this in the very near future by the end of next year or shortly thereafter. We also put together a $670 million financing package to fully fund our growth to get us to 1 million ounces of gold production per year. So we're going to tick that one as well, and I would say we hit all of our objectives in 2019. So what are we going to do this year? Well, we have a very ambitious plan again this year. We hope to do a lot of development in operations enhancements.

We are going to work hard in the Los Filos expansion. Just today we approved at our annual meeting, pardon me, at our Board meeting the restart of our Santa Luz project, so we're going to get that rolling. We are going to complete Castle Mountain midyear to produce about 45,000 ounces in Phase 1 and we're going to push ahead with Phase 2 as fast as we can. And we set out as an objective completing the PEA for Aurizona underground and we completed that as well announcing the highlights of that a week or so ago. Exploration, our plan is to extend the mine lives at four of our mines and upgrade the Aurizona underground resources to support a preliminary feasibility study. We're working on that right now. In Corporate, we set out as an objective to get included in the GDXJ, I should say and the GDX, which were both successful. We were added in March and April, respectively. We also have been informed that we will be added to the S&P/TSX Indexes in both June and September.

We also want to work hard on our environmental and social governance reporting. We're doing that right now and we're going to publish this on our website quarterly. It's a very important part of our business to make sure we look after our communities, our employees and the environment and that will be a fundamental part of our business plan going forward. And finally, again, if we see value we will seek to exploit it. We are coming from a position of strength and we are going to try to take advantage of that by adding value, not necessarily just growth but ultimately, we aim to be even a bigger company by the end of this year than we are right now. So that's our plan for 2020 and I very much look forward to reporting to you throughout the year as we achieve those different objectives.

Page 7, we show here, what are our growth profile is and will be. I'm going to start with 2018, which is our first year in business. We produced in that year, about 25,000 ounces that came to us in the acquisition of the Mesquite mine in the fall of 2018. In 2019, we added Aurizona. We started producing from Aurizona mid-year and at a full year for Mesquite so we produced about 200,000 ounces in 2019. Our objective in 2020 is to produce just under 600,000 ounces a year and that goes from -- that will be -- that will include operations at Los Filos, which we of course, came to us from the Leagold deal, some smaller Brazilian operations, Pilar, Fazenda, and RDM, our own Aurizona -- a full year at Aurizona and another full year at Mesquite as well as a tag end of production from the first partial year from Castle Mountain Phase 1 and that's going to get us to just under 600,000 ounces in 2020.

Beyond this, you can see we have a very, very ambitious development plan, which will lead to production -- potential production of about 1.1 million ounces by -- in the future when we add Santa Luz mine, Castle Mountain Phase 2, we expand Los Filos and we continue with operations in all of our other mines. So it's a very ambitious growth platform. I don't know of any other gold company in the world that has such a strong growth platform, either in the last couple of years or in the next couple of years from internal growth without needing any new acquisitions. So we're very pleased with that incredible growth outlook. On page 8, this is just sort of a snapshot where the mines are, our reserves, our gold production in 2020, the path to gold production, the growth we have, the different projects. We have just under 22 million ounces of Measured & Indicated gold resources plus -- which include 12.2 million ounces of Proven & Probable gold reserves.

Our estimate for this year, just over $1,000 all-in-sustaining costs, which should give us a fabulous margin; today's gold price at $1,750, it doesn't take too much to figure out how much money we're going to be making for our shareholders in 2020. And we started from -- with a very, very good financial base. We have about $350 million in cash in our bank at today's date and Christian will go into some more details of that shortly. Page 9, this is a kind of a busy chart, but it shows all our peers, or some of our peers and where they rank in terms of their price relative to net asset value -- the price-to-net-asset-value ratio. What we've done is we've moved in terms of our 2021 estimated gold production. So we're going to be estimating producing in the range of 800,000 plus ounces 800,000 plus or minus ounces in 2021, it could be higher and if we don't change our valuation.

We're currently -- our current price-to-net-asset-value is about 0.71 more or less, 0.71 on average, maybe 0.71 to 0.75. So we're going to be a much bigger company. But what the next -- to the right of that you'll see a hashed blue circle with a very strong blue arrow upwards. That's really where we expect to get to. We expect to get to in the next year or so of much, much higher multiple, price-to-net-asset-value multiple. In fact, we should be there today and we would be much higher value. In fact, we've actually and I'm going to say in the last month or two, we probably underperformed our peers, whereas we outperformed our peers for the period since December when we announced the merger and here's why: when you do these mergers, our merger was concluded on March 16, I think, something like that? March 10; almost always you have a lot of churning in the shareholder base.

So the shareholders of both Equinox and Leagold who maybe didn't necessarily want to see the combination or for some reason wanted to exit, this is the normal thing we've had -- lots of people exiting, particularly non-core holdings such as Yamana. Yamana held I think 8 million, they sold 8 million shares, which was a significant stake and that's fine. We accept that. But there was a lot of selling from, it could be Leagold shareholders or Equinox shareholders and fortunately for us, it was taken up by a lot of buying from the Indexes from new shareholders. We've had a wonderful, wonderful group of new shareholders come into us who've actually bought stock, just in the last couple of months. But we've -- because we've had so much of this sort of, you could say overhang pressure and there's been a lot of warrants exercise as well and they're continuing to be exercised today as warrants expire.

So before they expire, they get exercised or they have to be canceled. And in fact, we've got some warrants that are being exercised right now that expire on May 22 so some of that is holding us back. I think when we go through those dates we're going to see a nice pop and we should kind of recover from what I think has been underperformance in the last month or so. And we should get more of that blue arrow heading up toward a more of a 1 to 1 or 1.25 to 1 price-to-net-asset-value and get us more in what I think is a fair place relative to our peers who have the same kind of production we do, the same kind of profitability we do and the same sort of size. Moving to page 10; this is the right time to build a gold company. I say all of us in management and our bard, we're all bullish on gold and I want to remind shareholders this is not -- the gold market -- the gold froth we're seeing this week for example and the optimistic outlook for gold, it's nothing new.

We could see this coming. That's why we started Equinox Gold in late 2017 when we put it all together. The gold market has actually-it actually broke out from a four or five-year low in January of 2016. And so, we were already in a secular bull market. I was confident gold was going to keep doing well and blow through its previous high of $1,900 in this cycle. I didn't know when, I didn't know where it was going to end up at. But I was sure that we are -- the underpinnings, the macro environment in the world is so bullish for gold right now, I was sure that gold was going to do well. What I didn't know that was that a COVID crisis was going to come along and add gasoline to the fire, which is exactly what it's done. And I'll talk about that in just another minute.

But we did know it was a good time to build a gold company. But look at what -- in this chart, look at what gold equities have done relative to the gold price -- they're still undervalued. They're under-owned. We need a lot more generalist investors to own gold stocks. I think it's starting to happen, but there is a long way to go. When gold investors start buying equities, instead of simply the precious metal itself you're going to see what happened back in 2010-2011, you're going to see a tremendous outperformance of the equities relative to gold itself and you're going to see this catch up, which has not yet happened. So I see a lot of opportunity still for higher gold equity valuations and specifically to Equinox, higher share prices.

And I'm going to end on the next slide, page 11 just with a couple of comments about gold. As I said, I felt gold is in a pretty healthy secular bull market for the last two or three years. In that environment, to build a gold company that's successful, you want to build a big one, you want to build a gold company that has big production and big reserves and big resources, and that way you give huge leverage to your shareholders, both on your income statement and on your balance sheet -- in your economic reserves and your resources. And so we've done that; we've built from nothing in just two years, this tremendous amount of leverage and we're going to keep doing that. But this year we've had this very, very unusual, tremendously harmful, costly, deadly in many cases pandemic the COVID-19 crisis.

Well, without talking about all the terrible things that's done to a lot of people's livelihoods and jobs and companies, it's been extremely good for the gold price; why? Because all this easing, all this synchronized stimulus that is happening in every single country in the world to the maximum extent of government's ability to help stimulate the economy, get people back to work, help people who are suffering from this tremendous crisis and economic consequences -- all of that is causing currencies -- Fiat currencies to be debased. Governments are printing money like crazy. They're writing checks to try to get the public to spend money again. It's just, I mean it's like -- it's an orgy of money printing, an orgy of debasing currencies. At the same time, we have zero or even negative interest rates, trillions and trillions of dollars of negative interest rates.

So gold doesn't have a carry but it has at least a zero carry, it doesn't have a negative carry the way some of these bonds have now. And of course with the COVID crisis, we're seeing supply issues. We were seeing supply issues in gold anyway. The average grade of most gold mines was dropping. Gold mining was becoming more difficult, more socially difficult in many, many countries. Countries were increase taxes. It was just getting to be a more and more difficult business. We had for five years declining gold prices down to a price of $1,050 an ounce. Well, most gold mines aren't economic at below $1,100 an ounce and so in that period companies stopped exploring. So you have this tremendous lag time now between discovery and operation of the mine. I'm going to say today it's actually closer to 20 years. So, when people start exploring again, which they're doing now, it's going to take a long, long time for that -- really fill this through to higher mine supply.

And so the COVID crisis is just -- again is just increasing those supply problems. And so, the last comment I'm going to make is, really, I just want everybody to try to use some sense of history. For 5,000 years we've seen every single Empire that's ever existed, from the Greek Empire, the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, like every Empire, Spanish Empire, British Empire and even now the American Empire. Their solution to the problem of spending money and trying to control their budget deficits is to print money and what that means is Fiat currencies they're allowed to print, become less valuable over time, gold keeps its value. It's kept its value for 5,000 years. It's a great place to hold value.

That's why it's money and what we're producing is money for the world to replace or as a substitute for Fiat currency and other forms of investment. More and more people will recognize that gold is a solid store of value. Some of those and that will increase the gold price. Some of that money will flow into equities like solid companies like Equinox Gold. That's why we were built. That's why we exist to provide that gold for those investors and that's why I'm extremely positive about the continuing bull market for gold and the prospects for Equinox Gold itself. And with those comments, I'm going to turn things over now to Peter and Christian to talk about our quarterly results. Thank you again for joining us today.

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

Great, thank you, Ross. It's Christian here. Just want to take one second to say, acknowledge actually our long-term and existing and new shareholders for just the support through this period of growth and buying into and believing in us and the vision and also say thanks to the team and the workforce because it's been a really challenging time and I would never imagine going through a merger and managing -- putting two companies together in a COVID world pandemic and really exceptional performance of people, roll up their sleeves and actually working very closely together. So I'll walk you through a couple of slides here on the operating results. We had a very good and strong first quarter. We're very pleased with it. Both production and costs were ahead of plan and please remember that there is only 20 days of the Leagold assets included in our results. So I'll sort of highlight those as we go through.

From a health and safety perspective, we had a good result. From an operating results perspective, we had about 90,000 ounces of gold produced. On a full three-month basis, we would have done almost 150,000 ounces if you had full three months of the four Leagold assets included. So a real step change over the last few years. And again, on the cost front as Ross mentioned, $968 an ounce, all-in-sustaining cost was below that initial guidance range that we gave out and we're seeing the benefits of FX savings and some cost savings and good cost control in this environment. And traditionally our first and second quarters tend to be a little bit higher than the last quarter or two of the year. So we're really pleased to see that at the beginning of the year.

And just looking through the individual mines, Mesquite produced almost 37,000 ounces, it's not quite as much as it produced in quarter four last year, but again, another strong quarter. It's really hitting its stride at the moment. We continue to process a bunch of the mineralized old dump material, which is fully oxide and we're seeing the results of that at the moment. Just under $1,000 all-in-sustaining costs, which again, is within guidance and it's reflecting also a lower diesel price that we're seeing in the U.S. these days. Aurizona produced just over 32,000 ounces, a good quarter. It's our first quarter in the rainy season and it was great to see that the mine actually produced at $952 all-in-sustaining cost and that's well below our guidance range. So we're appreciative of the -- the grade reconciliation has been strong there. We had benefits from FX costs and as well good cost control.

And then the newly merged assets from Leagold only had 20,000 ounces of contribution, which is on plan, but only for the last 20 days of the quarter. Turning on to slide 14 in terms of financial results; revenue was $130 million but what that translated to were good mine operating earnings of $43 million and EBITDA of $65 million, which is $50 million on an adjusted basis. So we've had good production, good cost control, benefits and tailwinds from FX and diesel costs. So ultimately it translated to some very good earnings for the quarter. Net income was about $11 million with adjusted net income of $17 million. We had a few non-cash items that were impacted there. There's the warrant liability revaluation, some foreign exchange collars and as well as the historical Leagold hedge, there was some unrealized losses in there as well.

In terms of cash from operations, we had a strong cash flow quarter. We did have the impact of some transaction costs and that impacted our overall cash flow. And in terms of a net cash flow basis, we did have about $17 million of gold shipments, particularly from Brazil that went over the quarter end and turn into cash proceeds in the first couple of days of April. Flight delays did impact us right at the end of the quarter there, particularly with the COVID situation in Brazil. So cash came in the door, but it was just after quarter end. So ultimately we ended up was just over $300 million of cash at the end of the quarter and as of May 14, yesterday evening, we had $350 million of cash and that continues to climb. We're seeing the benefits of some warrant exercises and the anti-dilute that was exercised just post the quarter end.

So overall, our net debt position and our balance sheet is in a very strong place. Our net-debt-to-EBITDA type ratio is about 1 times and we have a very strong cash position as we work our way through this COVID situation. Turning to slide 15 in terms of development and corporate highlights, Castle Mountain Phase 1 construction is more than 75% complete now. Continues along, not completely unaffected by COVID but very minimal impact so far. A few staff not being able to make it to site on a couple of days of the week as they're having to look after their children or manage family matters during the COVID situation. But overall, it continues along nicely. We had advanced the Phase 2 feasibility study. It should be done in the second half of this year as well. As the Los Filos expansion activities have continued on, although the actual on the ground activity has stopped for May and April, which I'll touch on in a minute about the Mexico situation.

We continue also to look at the carbon-in-leach plant and the appropriate size when we go to actually constructing it starting probably later this year and I'll touch on that later as well. As well as Santa Luz, the other project down in Brazil. We think it's a very exciting project. We're just at the moment updating the capex and the engineering work, so that we can launch into construction as well at the appropriate time. And obviously corporately the merger was completed on March 10, the refinancing was done and we've been added to both the GDX and the GDXJ just before and after the quarter end. So we've seen 20 million shares of buying in that process. I mentioned earlier, there was extra cash that came in post quarter end, so about $12 million from the anti-dilute right as well as over $42 million from warrants and we continue to see some cash from that exercise.

And I'll touch on the recent updates in reserves and resources and the underground PEA at Aurizona. Looking at slide number 17 in terms of more of an operational update and how the business is going. I don't want to dwell on and stop too much here on the COVID situation. It's been mentioned and talked about a lot in our recent publications, but we're putting everything in place to both protect the people in our areas including workforce and community members, but we're also trying to protect their jobs and the income and keep contributing to the local governments and communities as well. So it's a fine balancing act that we're managing at the moment. On the health and safety front, we have the typical protocols you'd expect under these situations with a very contagious virus as many travel restrictions and remote working policies in place as possible, heightened hygiene protocols.

As well as we're looking at the business continuity side and we put in place contingency plans with suppliers, alternate supplier routes as well. We stockpiled critical supplies, extra supplies on site and as well, of course we've fortified our cash reserves. We now have over $350 million of cash. And then on the workforce support front, we've gone to protect high-risk personnel by asking them to work at home or to stay off site during this higher contagious period of COVID. We're also providing mental health services and some guidance where needed as well. So we're not out of the woods yet. We see the virus case is still continuing in Brazil and Mexico. They're not quite at the top of that curve yet it appears, but we'll do everything we can to manage through this process.

Looking at overall the production for the year on slide number 18, we put out guidance just before the COVID situation hit. Obviously, we'll come out to update that at a practical time here when Los Filos resumes production. So in Mexico, the main impact has been the temporary suspension during April and looks to be that the Mexican government has just come out to say that we can ramp up production around the end of May. So at the moment that's the plan. So we got a few more weeks here of getting ready to go back into production. So we've delayed the underground development at Bermejal. We've also delayed some of the stripping here at Guadalupe. So some of our capex numbers will be adjusted to reflect that lower spend during the last two months. And as well, we'll look at our overall production as well once we have a high certainty of going back to production -- into production at the end of the month.

As well, the other five mines in the portfolio that operate, they continue to operate not completely unaffected. We have different protocols on site and minor impacts. We did have minor shutdowns at both RDM and Pilar in Brazil for anywhere from eight to about 14 days. They're now fully operating. So overall, the portfolio has managed the storm nicely and we see the real benefits of diversity and having multiple jurisdictions in multiple mine sites. Turning over to 19, looking a little more closely at Los Filos; currently it's producing, give or take 180,000 ounces per year and has a nice runway over the next sort of 12 to 18 months to get to 350,000 ounces, 400,000 ounces of production per year. And I have just to say that the Leagold team did a wonderful job of taking this from 1.7 million ounce reserve up to 4.5 million ounces, plus another 6 million ounce resource.

So there's lots of upside here in this sort of complex in Mexico. So currently just a heap leaching operation and when those two expansion projects are done, Guadalupe and Bermejal underground, we'll see the higher grade materials increased production solely using the heap leaching technology, but in the back -- on the back of that with the actual optimization of the CIL plant that we're undergoing at the moment, we plan to have that done by about mid-year this year and we're likely to go from about a 4,000 ton per day plant to something more like a 6,000 ton per day or 8,000 ton per day plant. So we're in the final stages of getting that updated. We're looking at the mine plan to support that and also in this new higher gold price environment we think there's some real opportunity to expand and extend this mine life. And ideally, we'd like to get to the point where we're actually going into construction in the second half of this year for that CIL plant.

Turning to Aurizona in Northern Brazil, just last week we had results out on the Tatajuba or not, sorry, not Tatajuba, the Piaba underground study. We put out a new underground 740,000 ounce PEA study, as well we've added the Tatajuba resource to our Reserve and Resource update that came out just a couple of days ago as well. It's as 112,000 ounces and we're really looking this year to actually continue to test those two areas. Mine extension along strike at Tatajuba, we're investing about $4 million in exploration this year as well. We're going to be spending another $4 million plus in the underground to basically continue to delineate more ounces there. And as well, we'll continue to spend a little bit of effort on regional targets. So this is a really big 1,400 square kilometer property with lots of upside potential, and we're really being able to turn our attention to it now that it's been in production for about three quarters.

When you turn to slide 21, just a quick high-level look at the PEA results from the underground; it's almost 750,000 ounces. And remember, our reserve there is just under a 1 million ounces. So this is a meaningful potential impact. It's over $230 million of net present value and a very nice IRR and with $70 million of initial capital, this is a low capital intensity expansion or increase in our production levels. And the 2.8 grams per tonne is about double our open pit grade so very nice enhancement potential to the grade that would be coming out from underground and as well it would feed about one-third of our plant capacity at 2,800 tonnes per day. And again, it's open at depth and to the east and west and we've got about $8 million this year for exploration at Aurizona. Turning onto 22 and coming back to California now, the next expansion project in our portfolio is really Castle Mountain. Just quick refresher, it's a 3.6 million ounce reserve with a 16-year mine life so a fantastic large Western U.S. based project.

It will produce just under 50,000 ounces a year for the first phase. That phase could go for up to 10 years and it's only $60 million of capital. So again, we're about 75% of the way constructed there. We're in the final stages right now so in the next few months, we'll be in a place to start stacking ore. And in quarter three, we plan to be pouring gold. And on the background, we're also working on a feasibility study for Phase 2, which would take us to 200,000 ounces a year. That should be ready in the second half of this year and we'll be able to look at amending and applying for a permit amendment on the back of that feasibility study when it's ready. And also in the near-term we're also drilling for water for that Phase 2. We need some extra water sources and that drilling work should start this month.

Turning onto slide 23 and back to Brazil and the next project in the pipeline, that's Santa Luz. Really excited about this one, now that we've got a bit of time to get closer to it and understand it better. It's an 11-year mine life. Just over a 1 million ounce reserve. Lots of upside and a very similar fashion to Aurizona. It's got parallel trends and underground potential. It will be 100,000 ounces to 125,000 ounces a year of production at a very attractive cost and all of that for a well under $100 million. So really when we look at this, this could be a $500 million net asset value, net present value type project at current gold prices and foreign exchange rates. It becomes very exciting in this current environment. So we're really looking forward to finishing off the cost update and really launching into construction here this year so that we can have this up in production late 2021 or early 2022 at the latest.

And then slide 24; I'll just quickly go through the other four assets. Mesquite again, it's been producing on and off for 30 years as synergies with Castle Mountain and will actually smelt the gold for Castle Mountain in the early years. Reminder is that we bought this back in 2018 when gold was about $1,200 an ounce for $150 million. This is a 125,000 ounce producer at a good attractive all-in-sustaining cost of just under $1,000 an ounce. We've mined out about a year and a half. We originally had a three-year mine life. We still have probably 2.5 years or more of mine life plus residual leaching left and there's lots of potential upside on site. Scott and the team have done a wonderful job of identifying more of the mineralized dump material and old leach pads with ore grade material. There's another 40 million tonnes that we highlighted in our press release earlier this week that needs to be drilled out this year and Scott's got the money to do it.

So we're really looking forward to the results of that over the next sort of six months or so. Fazenda in Brazil produces about 75,000 ounces a year. It's been operating on and off for 25 years, a low-cost operator. It's actually been performing at or below its all-in-sustaining cost estimate for the year and had a good first quarter. RDM in Brazil; similar size, 75,000 ounces a year on average, all-in costs slightly higher. It's now on grid power and now has a more permanent water source and storage area, so it has a more sustainable cost structure going forward. And as well Pilar is the sixth mine in the group, which is slightly smaller and higher cost but contributes about 30,000 ounces to 40,000 ounces a year. Just touching on a few other areas coming back to the overall company -- since the merger closed in March, as Ross mentioned, we've had extremely good liquidity of anywhere from sort of $20 million to $50 million to $90 million a day of trading.

About 40 new institutions have come into the name -- about a $1 billion in value has been traded since December. So a lot of interest in the story, and we've seen the overall liquidity go from under a $1 million a day, up to numbers that are 25 times more than that. So we've really been pleased with the uptick in the interest in the stock. And turning on to 26, that has translated into a much larger institutional proportional ownership of the stock. But one thing that really, I think sets us apart and makes us very unique to other companies is the unparalleled insider ownership. Almost 11% of the company is owned by insiders. Ross, ourselves as management, and other Board members are very well aligned with long-term shareholders here. We think it's a unique feature of this company. When you look at all of our peers that produce about 300,000 ounces or more there is almost none that are above 2% ownership from the insider so really good selling feature. We're well aligned with shareholders.

And just to summarize on page 27 and bring back to the catalyst for 2020 before I open it up for questions. Operations and development had a lot ongoing. It's all about execution at the moment. We've got expansion projects we're working on. We also have a bunch of exploration and work to do to extend mine lives to look at all the exciting upside at Los Filos, Mesquite, Fazenda and Aurizona and as well corporately, we're looking toward being included in the TSX composites in June and September. It could bring another 10 million shares of buying as well as Ross said, we think on the back of all that there is a real chance for a rerate in the next six to 12 months as we continue to execute. And don't forget, this platform is a fully funded growth platform and that's a unique position to be in, in this kind of market as well. So I just wanted to conclude by saying thanks to the team for managing through a very successful integration and thanks to shareholders for the support through another successful year.

And we'll just pass it back to Ross are open up for questions.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Sure. Operator, could you please remind people how to ask a question?

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Certainly. [Operator Instructions] So we do have a few questions from online. So I'll start with those while people line up on their phone lines. I'm going to combine two questions. They're both talking about how we're managing the COVID virus? So, the U.S. and Brazil have both started responding differently than some of the other countries around the world. What are our plans to mitigate the spread of the virus in these two countries and how do we think it will affect operations in 2020 unfolds?

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

I don't know, Attie, do you want to comment on that and I can add a comment as well.

Attie Roux -- Chief Operating Officer

Okay. Christian. Thanks. If you look at the two countries, we started up fairly early in our COVID prevention program by introducing preventative measures at our gates. These included the normal age [Phonetic] screening, the hand-washing, the social distancing, which we started long before it was promulgated in these countries. We have advanced on that further with activities that came from the methodologies where we get information on what's the best practices in the world at the moment and we're introducing all of that; things like the risk group screening from the mine and to make sure that they don't enter the mine areas.

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

I was just going to add that we've also looked at various rotations and people's travel and obviously, limited that and tried to limit the impacts and introducing any kind of new potential transfer of this virus in any areas that we're working in and working very closely with the local community as well to dialog with them and get their assistance.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Operator, can you please take a question from the phone lines?

Operator

Certainly. Our next question comes from Kerry Smith with Haywood Securities. Please go ahead.

Kerry Smith -- Haywood Securities Inc. -- Analyst

Thanks, operator. Christian, have you seen much cost pressure at the site from the extra measures you've had to influence for the COVID program? Obviously, it costs more money. It's probably slowing your productivity a little bit. I'm just wondering if you are seeing a noticeable increase in cost because of that or if it's either not that big of an increase or it's being offset by the FX?

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I mean, Attie please add a comment after, but I'll have a first go at that. Basically we are seeing small amounts, I'd say of increases. We certainly are looking for extra sort of -- there might be extra cost because of rotations in shifts and people and covering off all the sanitary and hygiene measures that we have in place. I think we're being more than offset at the moment by FX and costs like diesel that's going down very significantly. It's a little early to know, because I think we're seeing in Mexico and Brazil, certainly the virus spread has been increasing, but the U.S. is probably a little more stable where we are anyways. And at the moment, I would say it's been minor or limited in the sense. And the other side of it maybe Kerry, to think about is working capital. We probably put a little extra money into having extra stockpiles and supplies at various sites, although that will translate into cash in due course as well. So I'd call the impact so far pretty minimal.

Kerry Smith -- Haywood Securities Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. And maybe a second question, if I could. Ross was saying in his introductory remarks that the Board had approved the Santa Luz restart today at the Board meeting. Do you have a rough timing for us in terms of when you would expect to start construction?

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I think we want to officially get into construction in sort of in the second half of this year, maybe early second half of this year. We're still finishing off all the final bits of engineering in that to prepare ourselves. And in this current COVID environment we don't want to rush into it either. We want to sort of build up the project team in that. So, as I indicated earlier, I think early second half of this year is a good starting point.

Kerry Smith -- Haywood Securities Inc. -- Analyst

And then I think you said production in late 2021 or early 2022. Correct?

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

Exactly. Once we actually pin that date, then we can give you the exact timing on that but it's give or take a 12-month build process once you get going.

Kerry Smith -- Haywood Securities Inc. -- Analyst

Okay. Okay, that's great, thank you very much.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you, operator. You can take another question from the phone lines, please.

Operator

Certainly. Our next question comes from Andrew Weekly with SmithWeekly Research. Please go ahead.

Andrew Weekly -- SmithWeekly Research -- Analyst

Thanks, operator, and hello to the management team. Can anyone speak to what types of assets are being sought through the M&A activity going forward? I know you can't give much detail for strategic reasons but a few hands as to what is being considered, why are we -- are still in the lower valuations for potential growth deals?

Ross Beaty -- Chair

Sure. Thank you very much Andy. It's hard to be specific. We try to be opportunistic. We want to add value and that's very much easier said than done. We certainly got that with our two deals that we've done. We did our Mesquite purchase at the bottom of the gold market that year when we were able to acquire that as a start-up company from a distressed seller. And we then, of course, combined with Leagold on terms that I think we'll all agree were good terms. We could be looking at acquiring another operating company if combination made sense, although I can say we have absolutely nothing in our horizon right now mostly because we spent the last couple of months integrating the Leagold that's got to happen successfully, and I'd say that's pretty much behind us now and it has gone successfully.

We could look at potentially even the development play if we thought it was going to be a really great long-term asset for us. So, I think the two criteria that I would personally push for us are number one, value; and number two, looking for an asset that's at least as good as anything we've already got. And those are rare, they're hard to come by, they're hard to get wrapped up particularly in a bull market like we're seeing right now. But they are out there and if we can pull something off, we'll do it and if we can't, we are very content with our existing internal growth pipeline. And we'll simply execute that plan, which will lead us to great things as well.

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

And we continue to be focused on the Americas.

Andrew Weekly -- SmithWeekly Research -- Analyst

Yes, very well. I appreciate that Ross and Christian. I certainly agree the two -- the Leagold deal and Mesquite is fantastic. Christian, can you speak a little bit more about Mesquite. I know you had mentioned it, just a moment ago. Can you speak to Mesquite area potential, what does management see as mine life expansion that could be had at Mesquite through exploration? And does it believe that the trend at Mesquite provides sound economic reason to remain in the district?

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

I'm just going to make one comment. I'm going to actually let Scott speak a little bit to that. But basically, when we bought it, we knew we had certain amount of ounces in the ground and a certain mine life that was limited. In that year or so since then, we've really been able to develop both the near pit and waste dump and old mineralized dump material into mine life extension very materially and very profitably and it's already been about 60% of our production last year. And Scott continues to identify more plus, think about the bigger longer term upside across the highway into the east of our property and there's definitely potential there, and we'll wait for drilling permits in that area. But Scott, I don't know if you want to comment on anything that's nearby.

Scott Heffernan -- Executive Vice President, Exploration

Yeah, sure. I see it kind of three-fold with our most recent Mineral Resource and Reserve update there earlier this week. The new resource estimate stated exclusive shows 430,000 ounces M&I. These are exclusive of reserves so these form an immediate exploration target looking to convert these resources to reserves and incorporate them into a mine plan. So obviously, bringing those ounces -- adding ounces to bring forward production faster is a guiding principle, guiding philosophy. So that's one problem. There's the dump material, which has proven to be of fantastic value and big success. We are focused on that currently, testing another 40 million short tons that are identified on site and working quite hard on that. We've drilled up 35,000 meters so far this year. And then thirdly for the upside is the bigger picture and there is Rainbow, which represents several hundred thousand ounces of resource sitting there with expansion potential and it's a little bit slower to permit some of these exploration targets so I'm going to hope [Indecipherable] immediate mine footprint, but there certainly is significant boost side potential unlock in time.

Andrew Weekly -- SmithWeekly Research -- Analyst

Okay. Well, Scott, thank you for that and just one other question, gentlemen and ladies there, appreciate the time. Can you speak briefly to the diesel procurement practices in place and does management see an opportunity to secure additional diesel fuel reserves due to lower prices and uncertainties?

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I mean, we've seen a -- we were budgeting, I think California diesel, it was closer to $3, then the high $2s late last year and we've seeing current prices more in the $1.8 per gallon type range. So we're seeing almost a 30% benefit there. Interestingly in my former life when we owned Mesquite we did do, I can say 50% of the year's cost we actually hedged out and that's something we're certainly looking at the moment. And we've certainly looking at our fuel suppliers and seeing what we can put in place that has a little bit more longevity to it and secure some of that fuel at a very attractive price at well below budgets right now.

Andrew Weekly -- SmithWeekly Research -- Analyst

Okay. Very well. Thank you to you all. Keep up the efforts and stay well.

Ross Beaty -- Chair

Thank you very much.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

We've got quite a few questions from online; all are talking about the same thing. So I'm going to package them into a few different versions. So someone noticed that we've run through ourselves as the premier American gold producer. So I know you already touched on this Christian, but do we intend to stay in the Americas and we'll be considering expanding into other hotspots? And on the back of that I'm going to parcel in, do we think there's any risk of nationalization of the projects in Brazil given the markets weaken?

Ross Beaty -- Chair

Yes. I'll start on this and Christian could add anything he wants. Yes, we really like being in the Americas, their jurisdictions we know very well, they've been very successful for us and for many, many other companies, specifically Mexico, Brazil and North America. We see nothing whatsoever in talk or in even fact, even in reasonable whoever that suggests there's ever going to be a nationalization those days are long past and we just think that's absolutely impossible in this day and age. There could be pressure to increase their tax take, I think that's possibly going to happen everywhere in the world. And that's just kind of a normal battle between producers of wealth like mining companies and consumers of wealth like governments. And there's the rational governments that realize that they can't gore the bull. If they do they'd kill everything and nobody gets anything. So we have always valiant and we will continue that in the periods to come, I think. But, never say never on jurisdiction. We certainly like being in the Americas. But, if there was a great value opportunity just about anywhere we might look at it. I'd like to say, we'll never go outside the Americas you never know. But for the moment, it's not in our plan.

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

I'd just echo Ross's comment there, particularly on Brazil. I've had conversations directly with the Mines Ministry over the last few years. And interestingly, that topic of nationalization came up and they felt a bit aggrieved by that comment. They're a very developed mining country that's very mining friendly, and they see themselves as very much being at the forefront of mining globally and it's just not something that's done there.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you. So a shareholder in Germany would like to know that if we're planning to sell any assets that we currently have on our portfolio and then a shareholder in the UK, would like to know, would we consider selling the entire company is the right offer came along from Barrick or a Newmont?

Ross Beaty -- Chair

Yes. I can address that too. The answer to the question of whether we would sell to anybody. Well, of course, never say never once again. But Equinox Gold has been built to be an acquirer not a seller. We are planning to be in this business for a very long time, we'd like to build ourselves as a household name in the gold business and become one of the world's best gold producers with the best reputation for growth and quality and finance and management and everything else. That's our ambition. And it's not simple to set us ourselves up for sale to someone else. What was the German question?

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Someone else want to know, if we were considering to sell any of our assets?

Ross Beaty -- Chair

Oh, are we selling any of our assets Christian?

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I mean, I think we'll go through that natural process of, as we continue to grow and optimistically sort of enhance the portfolio with larger, longer life. higher quality type assets along the way. We naturally probably won't want to manage some of the smaller assets in the long-term. And I think it's a natural progression of the portfolio. And so, I won't say again, never say never, but we would consider the smaller end of things potentially selling along the way.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you. Operator, can you please take a question from the phone line?

Operator

Certainly. Our next question comes from Robert Zeicher [Phonetic], a Private Investor. Please go ahead.

Robert Zeicher -- Private Investor -- Analyst

Yes. Thank you very much. My question is, I was originally, I'm a U.S. investor, and I was a holder of Castle Mountain which became Equinox Gold. And part of that we received a dividend from Equinox Gold and Solaris Copper, which became Solaris Resources. And as a U.S. investor we -- I have never received any update on what's going on. The only thing I did hear through your conference call last time we had was that the Augusta Group was involved with this company now. Is there any way that a U.S. investor like myself can get information on what's happened since Equinox gave Augusta Gold whatever deal they made, with Augusta Group to run this company to see if there's been any new developments? Has there been any private placements and things like that? And what's in the future? Thank you.

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Thanks for that question. It's a good point. As we've grown, it's become a smaller proportion. We own about 30% of Solaris Resources, as it's called now. And basically, they have a website that you can get that information if you want to see it, it's Solaris Resources, and you'll be able to obviously contact the management there, Richard Warke and Dan Earle are leading that company at this stage. And it basically does continue to progress. It acts like a basically a public company, because you can find all of its press releases and its information on the website, and also on SEDAR. So you can use both those sources and also you can reach out to them, they are based in Vancouver in Toronto. And they are currently not publicly listed, but the intention is, when the market conditions are right, they would like to get back to the public markets. So I think keep an eye out for that. We still continue to be very excited about that as an investor and we own that 30% block and we think it will be a very valuable company one day. They have started drilling there in Ecuador. And we think it's a really interesting situation with COVID ongoing, obviously, to put a little wrinkle in the timing of getting that drilling work done. But keep an eye out on that Solaris Resources website.

Robert Zeicher -- Private Investor -- Analyst

Thank you very much.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you, Robert. We have a question from online and it's from Saudi Arabia. So it makes sense that the question is about oil prices. So how much is Equinox Gold benefiting from the low oil prices and are you considering hedging your oil prices?

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

I was going to just say on oil prices, we're particularly feeling and seeing the benefit in California where I'm going to say about 15% of our costs, give or take are linked to the diesel price and we're seeing roughly a 30% decrease in the diesel price currently will that continue, I don't know. But at the moment, we're benefiting from it. Diesel prices probably more like 10% of our costs. In other jurisdictions, it's not quite as significant. And interestingly, in both Mexico and Brazil, the diesel and oil prices tend to be more government controlled. So they don't tend to oscillate like the open markets like it does in the U.S. as much where instead of getting a 30% benefit right now, we're probably getting more like a 10% to 15% benefit on that 10% of our costs.

Peter Hardie -- Chief Financial Officer

Yes. It's Peter here. I will also add that for operations like Mesquite in the U.S., it does take some time for the costs to reflect that because they work their way through the heap leach, and there's a recovery curve that takes a couple months there. So, for the operations that have plants associated with them, you see the benefit of that cost quicker.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you. Ross, I know you've been asked this question before at previous conferences with Lumina Gold for sale would we consider investing in Ecuador?

Ross Beaty -- Chair

I think I answered that question exactly one year ago. And what I said then was it's very hard for me to be buying and selling at the same time. It's kind of an obvious conflict and I've tried to maintain a pretty good reputation for avoiding those things. And I will do so with that as well. So it's very unlikely, I guess not impossible, but it's extremely unlikely. Unfortunately, it's a great deposit.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

And we have one final question from online just asking about guidance. So do we still have the same guidance targets for 2020?

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, with the guidance we said, we'd update our guidance when practical, when we have the clarity of the start-up in Mexico. I mean, it's looking very much like early June or late May. And we'll basically be able to reassess our plan and update the guidance then. The other five mines so far had call it minimal impact. So at the moment, it's going mostly Mexico but it is a very fluid environments. So we'll update as soon as we can there in the next month or two.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Perfect. Thank you. I'll remind people that this webcast will be archived on the website for three months. And we'll also post the full transcript in a few days. So thanks very much for joining us today and we'll turn it back to Christian and Ross for closing comments.

Ross Beaty -- Chair

Any more questions on the phone?

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

No, there's no more questions.

Ross Beaty -- Chair

No more questions on the phone. Okay. Well, I have no further comments. Thank you all for joining us and apologies again, for doing this on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend. It will not happen again.

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

Thanks very much, everyone.

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Thank you very much. Enjoy your weekend.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

Duration: 62 minutes

Call participants:

Rhylin Bailie -- Vice President, Investor Relations

Ross Beaty -- Chair

Christian Milau -- Chief Executive Officer

Attie Roux -- Chief Operating Officer

Kerry Smith -- Haywood Securities Inc. -- Analyst

Andrew Weekly -- SmithWeekly Research -- Analyst

Scott Heffernan -- Executive Vice President, Exploration

Robert Zeicher -- Private Investor -- Analyst

Peter Hardie -- Chief Financial Officer

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