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”).
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
- 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.
- 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.”
- Mineral resources and mineral reserves:
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 , 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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:
- Exploration information about quality assurance/quality control and naming the laboratory.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.