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Mining Issuers: Ensure your Websites and Investor Presentations Comply with NI 43-101

Mining issuers have their qualified persons (“QPs”) and occasionally legal counsel review technical disclosure, including news releases and technical reports, to ensure they comply with National Instrument 43-101 Standards of Disclosure for Mineral Projects (“NI 43-101”). Some mining issuers might not realize that information found on their websites and other presentations, including investor relations materials, is captured by the definition of “written disclosure” in NI 43-101 and disclosure requirements apply. Common areas of non-compliant disclosure on mining issuers’ websites include investor presentations, fact sheets, media articles, failure to update material information and links to third party content.

Staff Notice 43-309

On April 9, 2015, the Canadian Securities Administrators published CSA Staff Notice 43-309 Review of Website Investor Presentations (“Staff Notice 43-309”), which highlighted findings from a review of investor presentations on mining issuers’ websites, conducted by staff of the British Columbia Securities Commission, the Ontario Securities Commission, and the Autorité des marchés financiers (collectively, the “Regulators”). This review also included a review of mining issuers’ forward looking information (“FLI”) against the requirements of Part 4A of National Instrument 51-102 Continuous Disclosure Obligations (“NI 51-102”).

The Consequences

Of the 130 mining issuers reviewed, the Regulators sent letters to 49 mining issuers requiring them to amend their investor presentations and correct the non-compliant disclosure, resulting in outcomes from mining issuers confirming future compliance with the requirements, to issuing a corrective news release, to filing or refiling a technical report. The majority of the corrective news releases and technical report filings or refilings resulted from non-compliant disclosure of economic studies, preliminary economic assessments (“PEAs”), mineral resources, mineral reserves, exploration targets, historical estimates, or overly promotional language.

Practical Tips to Avoid Trouble

The take away for mining issuers is to ensure all written disclosure on their website complies with NI 43 101. Fortunately, Staff Notice 43-309 included the following practical advice to assist mining issuers in designing investor presentations and websites that meet their disclosure obligations:

A. Areas where there is a high level of non-compliance

1. Naming the QP: An issuer must include the name of the QP and their relationship to the issuer for all documents containing scientific or technical disclosure, including websites and investor relations materials. All technical information must either be approved by a qualified person or based upon information prepared by or under the supervision of a qualified person. In the latter case, an issuer must ensure that the technical information is consistent with the information provided by the QP. An issuer should consider having the QP review disclosure that summarizes or restates a technical report or technical advice or opinion to ensure that the disclosure is accurate.

2. PEA cautionary statements: Disclosure of the results of a PEA must provide appropriate cautionary statements to ensure the public understands the limitations of the results of the PEA. The following cautionary language, stated with equal prominence, must be included in disclosure of a PEA that includes inferred mineral resources:

“The preliminary economic assessment is preliminary in nature, it includes inferred mineral resources that are considered too speculative geologically to have the economic considerations applied to them that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves, and there is no certainty that the preliminary economic assessment will be realized.”

3. Mineral resources and mineral reserves:

a. Caution that mineral resources are not mineral reserves: The disclosure of results of an economic analysis of mineral resources must include an equally prominent statement that “mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability”.

b. Inclusion or exclusion of mineral reserves in mineral resources: When reporting both mineral resources and mineral reserves, an issuer must include a clear statement whether mineral resources include or exclude mineral reserves. While practices on this matter vary, the CIM Estimation Best Practice Committee from 2003 recommends that mineral resources should be reported separately and exclusive of mineral reserves.

4. Exploration targets: If an issuer discloses an exploration target, both the potential quantity and grade of the exploration target must be expressed as ranges and be accompanied by an equally prominent statement that “the potential quantity and grade is conceptual in nature, there has been insufficient exploration to define a mineral resource” and that “it is uncertain if further exploration will result in the target being delineated as a mineral resource”.

5. Historical estimates: Each time an issuer discloses historical estimates, the issuer must include information about the source, date, reliability, key assumptions and other factors, and the following, equally prominent statements: “a qualified person has not done sufficient work to classify the historical estimate as current mineral resources or mineral reserves” and “the issuer is not treating the historical estimate as current mineral resources or mineral reserves”.

B. Areas for Additional Improvement

1. Taxes in economic studies: Financial results and the cash flow model for an “advanced property” (which includes results of a PEA, pre-feasibility or feasibility study) must include assumptions that have an economic impact such as taxes, royalties, and other government levies. In respect of such tax matters relevant to a technical report, we note that a QP may rely on a report, opinion or statement of another expert who is not a QP, or on information provided by the issuer, and may include a limited disclaimer of responsibility, provided the QP discloses: (i) the source of the information relied upon, including the date, title, and author of any report, opinion, or statement; (ii) the extent of reliance; and (iii) the portions of the technical report to which the disclaimer applies.

2. Metal price assumptions: When reporting mineral resources and mineral reserves, an issuer must ensure the assumed metal or commodity price, and the cut-off grade, are clearly stated, as well as the effective date of the reported estimate. For investor presentations, this information could be provided in an appendix.

3. Technical report triggers: An issuer must ensure that PEA disclosure on its website is supported by an existing technical report. Disclosing economic projections in investor presentations, fact sheets, posted or linked third party reports[1], or any statements on the issuer’s website may trigger the filing of a technical report to support the disclosure. Such PEA disclosure can include forecast mine production rates that might contain capital costs to develop and sustain the mining operation, operating costs, and projected cash flows.

4. FLI compliance: An issuer should ensure that FLI disclosure in investor presentations provides the material factors and assumptions used to develop the FLI. Examples of FLI include metal price assumptions, cash flow forecasts, projected capital and operating costs, metal or mineral recoveries, mine life and production rates, and other assumptions used in preliminary economic assessments, pre-feasibility studies, and feasibility studies.

5. Overly promotional terms and potentially misleading information. An issuer should avoid terms and statements that may be overly promotional or misleading. Terms which may be used inappropriately in certain circumstances include, “world-class”, “spectacular and exceptional results”, “production ready”, “ore” in relation to mineral resources, and “management estimates”.

6. Ability to rely on previous disclosure: An issuer must include in any written disclosure the following information, but may be able to comply with these requirements by including a reference to the title and date of a document previously filed on SEDAR that contains this information:

a. Exploration information about quality assurance/quality control and naming the laboratory.

b. Data verification – data verification is the process of confirming that the data underlying the written disclosure has been properly generated, was accurately transcribed, and is suitable for the purpose that the data is used.

c. Information about the nature and context of drilling results such as true width and higher grade intersections. In some cases, investor presentations may be able to include representative drill sections or other figures showing mineralized intervals to assist in providing the necessary information.

d. Metal price assumptions. However, if the assumed metal or commodity price is significantly below or above current prices, an issuer should clearly state the key assumptions to ensure the disclosure is not misleading.

Ultimately, if an issuer is in doubt about whether disclosure on its website or in its investor presentations complies with NI 43 101, the issuer can have a QP or legal counsel review the applicable disclosure.

 

[1] We also recommend that an issuer’s website does not include links to third party content, such as analysts’ reports.  National Policy 51-201 Disclosure Standards (“NP 51-201”) provides that if an issuer elects to post to its website or otherwise publish the names of analysts who cover the issuer and/or their recommendations, the names and/or recommendations of all analysts who cover the issuer should be similarly posted or published.  This applies whether the analysts’ coverage of the issuer is positive or negative.  NP 51-201 also provides that an issuer that redistributes an analyst’s report risks being seen as endorsing that report.  This may trigger a requirement for the issuer to file a technical report, depending on the content of the analyst’s report.

Mining Issuers: Ensure your Websites and Investor Presentations Comply with NI 43-101

Lean times may call for lien measures – What you need to know about miners’ liens in Northern Canada

Given the present economic climate of falling metal prices and depressed equity markets for mining companies, many owners and operators of mines are experiencing cash flow and working capital shortages.  As a result, contractors and others who provide services or materials to mines, whether in the exploration, development, or production phases of such projects, are increasingly looking to miners lien legislation to help them increase their leverage when seeking payment of outstanding accounts.

Miners’ liens are unique legal and potentially powerful tools.  Therefore, those involved in working on or operating a mine, as well as lenders, should have some awareness of the impact of the filing of such liens on mineral tenures and on the interests of any secured creditors.

What is a lien?

In general terms, a lien is a charge against property, including mineral tenures, granted to a person who provides services or materials which improve that property as long as there has been compliance with the rules in the applicable lien legislation.  The property acts as security for the debt owing to the lien claimant.  Therefore strict compliance with the statute is required in order to get the benefits of the lien.

Lien legislation is different in each province and territory.  All Canadian jurisdictions have builders lien legislation that applies generally to improvements and services provided to property, but the northern territories have special miners lien legislation.  Where miners lien legislation exists, it is that legislation and not the builders lien legislation that applies to mining projects.

Miners Lien Acts north of 60 – who can lien for what?

In each of the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, the applicable Miners Lien Act provides a statutory framework for claiming a miners lien.  There are currently two different lien legislation regimes: one in the Yukon and another in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

In the Yukon, a lien is provided to a contractor or subcontractor who provides services or materials to a mine “preparatory to, in connection with, or for an abandonment operation in connection with” the recovery of a mineral.  The lien is provided on “all the estates or interests in the mine or mineral concerned” as well as on the mineral itself “when severed and recovered from the land while it is in the hands of the owner”.  The lien is also on “the interest of the owner in the fixtures, machinery, tools, appliances and other property in or on the mines or mining claim”.  In addition, a person who rents equipment to an owner, contractor or subcontractor has a lien for the rent while the equipment is being used or reasonably required to be available for the purpose of the mine.

In the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, a person who performs any “work or service on or in respect of” or “places or furnishes any material to be used in the mining or working of a placer or quartz mine or mining claim” has a lien for the price of the work, service or material on “the minerals or ore produced from and the estate or interest of the owner in the mine or mining claim”.

How to claim a lien and time limits

Under the Miners Lien Acts, there are two initial steps required to claim a lien: first, file a claim of lien, and second, start an action.

Firstly, a lien claimant must file a claim of lien in the mining recorder’s office against the applicable mineral tenures within the prescribed time period.  This time period differs between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories/Nunavut.  The applicable time periods are summarized in the chart below.  The claim of lien must be supported by an affidavit which verifies the facts in the claim of lien, and the claim of lien must include:

  1. The name and residence of the claimant, owner of the property and of the person for whom the work, service or material was provided;
  2. A description of the work or service performed or material furnished and the time period within which it was performed or furnished;
  3. The amount claimed as due or to become due;
  4. The description of the property to be charged; and
  5. The date of the expiration of the period of credit agreed to by the lien holder for payment for the work, service or material of the lien holder where credit has been given.

Secondly, a lien claimant must start an action within the prescribed time period in the Supreme Court in the Yukon or the Northwest Territories or in the Nunavut Court of Justice in Nunavut. In addition, the lien claimant must file a certificate from the court in the mining recorder’s office against the liened mineral tenures. Again, this time period differs between the Yukon and the Northwest Territories/Nunavut, and the applicable time periods are summarized in the chart below. The certificate notifies anyone searching at the mining recorder’s office that the mineral tenure is subject to a legal proceeding.

Priority

Assuming there has been compliance with the legislation, a miners lien gives a lien claimant limited priority over mortgage and other encumbrance holders.  This priority can be important if the mineral tenures are subject to secured financing the amount of which is equal to or exceeds the value of the mineral tenures.  In such a scenario, the lien claimant may only be able to recover the amounts which have priority over the secured financing.  Therefore it is important for all the players to understand the scope of the priority.

The following chart summarizes the applicable steps and timelines to claim a miners lien in Yukon and in the Northwest Territories/Nunavut, and the priority granted by such liens.

 

  Yukon Northwest Territories and Nunavut
Time for filing a claim of lien Before the expiration of 45 days from the last day on which the work or service or material which is the subject matter of the claim, was performed. Before the expiration of six months from the last day on which the work or service or material, the subject-matter of the claim, was performed or placed or furnished or, where credit has been given, from the time fixed for payment.
Time for commencing an action and filing a certificate. 60 days after deposit of the claim of lien. 90 days after filing of the claim of lien.
Priority A lien takes priority over any mortgages or encumbrances to the extent the lien arises from work, services, or materials provided to the mine for a period of up to 60 days.The purpose of this limitation is to provide certainty to financiers of mines that any miners lien has a limited priority. The commencement of this 60 day period is not expressly stated in the Miner Lien Act. The Yukon Territory Supreme Court has indicated that this period should be calculated from the last day of the provision of work, services or materials, and that accordingly it may be different for each lien claimant. However, this case law is not binding, and therefore this legislation may be interpreted differently by a future court. A lien takes priority over all mortgages and encumbrances registered on or after March 23, 1937, as to 1/2 of the output from the applicable mine or mining claim.This priority typically extends to half of the minerals or ore when recovered from the mine, and, if so ordered by a court, may also extend to half of any net proceeds recovered from the sale of such minerals or ore.

 

Impact of liens

Some of the key impacts of miners’ liens for participants in mining projects are summarized below:

Owners & Operators: Owners and operators should be aware of the impact miners liens can have on their debt covenants and should properly manage relationships with contractors, suppliers and lenders when experiencing cash flow and working capital shortages.

Contractors & Suppliers: Contractors and suppliers should be aware of lien legislation, and take timely action to perfect a lien because failure to comply with the strict requirements in lien legislation can have dire consequences.  Once perfected, a lien can provide leverage to a contractor or supplier in the settlement of outstanding accounts with an owner.

Lenders: Lenders need be aware that a portion of their security may be subordinated to lien claims. Lenders can ensure there are protective covenants in security documents which contemplate the lenders’ recourse in the event a claim of lien is filed.

Lean times may call for lien measures – What you need to know about miners’ liens in Northern Canada