VANCOUVER, BC – BQE Water Inc. (TSX-V: BQE), a leader in the treatment and management of mine impacted waters, is pleased to release its audited consolidated financial results for the year ended December 31, 2020.
“We are very proud of the 2020 results we achieved despite the challenges presented by a global pandemic,” said David Kratochvil, President & CEO of BQE Water. “Not only did we reach a fourth consecutive year of growing Adjusted EBITDA and net income to new record highs, we also realized several key technical milestones. These include the commercialization of our patented Selex-IX™ process technology to remove selenium to less than two parts per billion and the implementation of the first SART plant in the world to recover copper and zinc as separate products, reflecting our leadership in the cyanide recovery and recycle technology.”
- Increased Adjusted EBITDA by 55%, from $1.7 million in 2019 to $2.7 million in 2020.
- Grew revenues reported under GAAP by 36%, from $5.6 million in 2019 to $7.7 million in 2020, and grew Proportional Revenues by 21%, from $11.2 million in 2019 to $13.5 million in 2020.
- Recorded historic high net income of $1.2 million in 2020 compared to $242,000 in 2019, an increase of 382%.
- Grew diluted Earnings Per Share by 375%, from $0.20 in 2019 to $0.95 in 2020.
- Increased working capital by 94% year-over-year, from $1.8 million to $3.5 million as of December 31, 2020.
- Increased net cash by $1.1 million over the 12-month period, from $2.1 million to $3.2 million at the end of 2020.
OPERATIONAL SERVICES HIGHLIGHTS
Our operational services consist of the operation of water treatment plants, which generate recurring revenues for the Company from two main sources: sales of recovered metals and water treatment fees.
Revenues from Sales of Recovered Metals
The Company operates four water treatment plants that generate revenues from the sale of recovered metals, three plants from the JCC-BQE Joint Venture (“JCC-BQE”) and one plant from the MWT-BQE Joint Venture (“MWT-BQE”).
JCC-BQE Joint Venture
Our 50/50 joint venture with partner Jiangxi Copper Company (“JCC”) operates water treatment plants at Dexing Mine and at Yinshan Mine in Jiangxi province of China. The volume of water treated and pounds of copper recovered by the plants fluctuate seasonally depending on precipitation levels in the region. The operating results for the 12 months ended December 31, 2020 are as follows:
|Water treated (cubic metres)||21,094||22,052|
|Copper recovered (pounds)||3,312||3,449|
During 2020, all three plants met mechanical availability and process performance set by the Company. Both the volume of water treated and the mass of copper recovered decreased by approximately 4% year-over-year. Changes in water volume and feed grade are largely the result of environmental conditions which are beyond the control of the joint venture. The minimal variances between 2019 and 2020 indicate very stable operations.
MWT-BQE Joint Venture
Our 20% share of MWT-BQE is with our 80% partner Beijing MWT Water Treatment Project Limited Company (“MWT”) and together we operate a water treatment plant at a smelter in Shandong province of China. MWT-BQE generates the majority of its revenues from the sale of zinc recovered from smelter wastewater, along with small traces of copper found in the stream. The operating results for the 12 months ended December 31, 2020 are as follows:
|Zinc recovered (pounds)||1,254||1,023|
|Copper recovered (pounds)||226||142|
The mass of zinc recovered increased by 23% and the mass of copper recovered increased by 59%. During 2020, the smelter periodically operated their production lines with a slightly higher-grade ore, which led to a higher concentration of zinc and copper in the feed composition and also an increase in the volume of wastewater treated by the plant. The joint venture has no control in the composition and volume of the feed that flows into the plant.
Revenues from Water Treatment Fees
The Company is contracted to operate and provide technical support for water treatment plants that generate recurring revenues in the form of water treatment and operations support fees. They include four plants operated by BQE Water for Glencore at Raglan Mine in Northern Québec and a plant operated by the MWT-BQE joint venture but supported and supervised by BQE Water in China. Operating fees from the Glencore operations are primarily based on the volume of water treated and discharged in accordance with strict regulatory requirements. The MWT-BQE plant generates fixed operations support fees for the achievement of operational targets that rely on the Company’s technical expertise.
The Company successfully completed the commissioning of the first industrial scale plant utilizing its patented Selen-IX™ process for selenium management at the Kemess property in Northern BC owned by Centerra Gold. During 2020, the plant operated and treated water for approximately a month. In December 2020, the Kemess property was declared to be in an extended state of care and maintenance, with water treatment not required under this status.
The volume of water treated for the 12 months ended December 31, 2020 are as follows:
|4 Treatment plants at Raglan Mine (cubic metres)||1,555||1,982|
|Treatment plant at MWT-BQE (cubic metres)||637||588|
|Treatment plant at Kemess property (cubic metres)||119||–|
TECHNICAL SERVICES HIGHLIGHTS
BQE Water’s technical expertise and IP are applicable globally across broad areas of water management. The highlights of technical services provided to clients and technical innovation projects during 2020 are summarized below.
Commercial Deployment of Selen-IX™ and Direct Selenium Electro-Reduction (“ERC”) Technology
- Successfully completed the commissioning and performance testing of the Selen-IX™ plant at the Kemess property in Northern BC.
- Completed the engineering design and initiated procurement for the first commercial scale direct selenium ERC plant at a mine in the US.
- Continued to provide engineering services to support equipment procurement and fabrication for the first Selen-IX™ plant outside of mining currently under construction at a power utility ash pond in the US.
Cyanide Management and Recovery for Precious Metals Extraction Projects using SART
- Successfully completed the commissioning of the SART plant for Shandong Zhongkuang Group in China.
- Initiated the commissioning of the SART plant for Zhaojin Mining Industry in China.
- Initiated the design of a SART plant for a gold mine in Central America.
Water Consulting Services – Management, Treatability, Permitting Assistance, Toxicity Mitigation
- Development of a water management plan and monitoring program for El Mirador Mine in Ecuador.
- Design of a water treatment plant integrated into a gold metallurgical plant to enable Zero Liquid Discharge operation.
- Expansion of an ammonia removal water treatment system for an existing gold mine in Ontario.
- Scoping level engineering for a selenium removal plant at an active mine in Canada.
- Treatability assessment of organo-arsenic removal from mine water at an active gold mine in Asia.
- Assessment of improvements to the water management and treatment strategy for the KSM project in BC.
- Water treatment design for a gold mine in Central America.
- Engineering design of a treatment plant for the simultaneous removal of sulphate and selenium from mine influenced water in the US.
- Pilot demonstration of selenium removal to support the permitting of a new mine in North America.
- Preliminary technical assessment for selective thiocyanate removal combined with cyanide recovery from carbon-in-pulp tailings at a project site in North America.
COMMENTARY AND OUTLOOK
Overall, 2020 was not only another successful year continuing with the multi-year trend of improvements in the Company’s financial performance, but also a year in which the Company achieved several key technical milestones. The highlights can be summarized as follows:
- Achieved the best financial performance in Company history with net income of $1.2 million and Adjusted EBITDA of $2.7 million, representing year-over-year increases of 382% and 55% respectively.
- Completed the commercialization of the first large scale plant operation utilizing the Company’s patented Selex-IX™ process technology to produce treated water with selenium concentrations of less than two parts per billion.
- Advanced two additional large scale selenium removal projects to the plant construction phase, including one in the power generation sector to remediate a coal ash pond in the US.
- Completed the commissioning of the first SART plant in China, as well as the first SART plant globally, to recover copper and zinc in one plant, reflecting BQE Water’s leadership in cyanide recovery and recycle technology.
- Expanded the technical team to reflect the increase in projects and to strengthen the Company’s capabilities in areas critical to future growth, including plant operations (in North America and China), environmental health & safety, and technology development.
- Improved environmental health & safety systems to ensure the Company can maintain continued strong safety and environmental records as the number of operations and the scope of field services increases.
- Secured a backlog of project work providing better visibility for cash flows in 2021.
- Improved the Company’s working capital year-over-year by 94%, further strengthening the Company’s ability to manage cash throughout 2021.
Since 2014, management of the Company has pursued a business strategy focused on ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and growing recurring revenues by monetizing the value of the Company’s intellectual property through plant operations. However, prior to commencing new operations, we recognized that we needed to provide various types of professional services to our clients first, often for years, before projects reached the operations phase. In this context, 2020 represented a significant milestone as some projects that have been in our pipeline for several years became operational. Moreover, current construction of new projects provides us with good visibility with respect to additional plants that are expected to be operational in 2021 and 2022.
Key to the Company’s strategy is the use of local operators and the development of local centres of operational excellence in close geographic proximity to plant locations. This proved to be critical during the COVID-19 pandemic as travel restrictions were enforced by many national and regional governments while water treatment was declared an essential service. Our ability to mobilize local teams to successfully deliver operations services without interruption in Eastern and Western Canada and in China demonstrated the strength of our technical team and the robustness of our business strategy. Building on this experience, we plan to develop our US operations team and expand our outreach to indigenous communities living near our plants in 2021. We envision these communities becoming valuable long-term partners to help us build inclusive operations teams while ensuring projects benefit all stakeholders.
While we are proud of our results and achievements in 2020 and are working towards continued growth, we recognize the COVID-19 pandemic has created headwinds and uncertainties in our business. In particular, business development activities have been curtailed due to our inability to travel, concerns about liquidity have reduced capital spending by mining companies, and the lack of certainty around the post pandemic economy continues to influence decisions on projects globally. Nevertheless, we are entering 2021 with a relatively strong balance sheet and good visibility, with several key projects advancing towards operations. A majority of our projects are driven by a requirement for environmental compliance which is essential to the success of mining projects and to the ESG policies adopted by many mining companies. Finally, water use, treatment and discharge limits continue to tighten. These trends bode well for us as we position ourselves to capitalize on opportunities that may arise during any post pandemic economic recovery in the commodities sector.
In summary, the Company expects to achieve the following in 2021:
- Initiate long-term operations support of two new SART plants in China, increasing the Company’s recurring revenues from China outside of the JCC and MWT joint venture operations.
- Complete commissioning and initiate long-term operation of the new selenium treatment plant at a coal ash pond in the US under a contract signed in 2020.
- Initiate commissioning of the new treatment system for the simultaneous removal of sulphate and selenium at a mine in the US. This plant is expected to become operational in Q1 2022. The operating contract is expected to be signed prior to the start of commissioning in Q4 2021.
- Continue development of our US based operations team.
- Commence pro-active outreach to indigenous groups and communities at all existing and potential new projects.
- Complete our 18th operating season at Raglan Mine, while creating long-term employment opportunities for members of indigenous communities through our Inuit partners.
- Successfully execute engineering design and pilot projects in North and South America, some of which may advance to the implementation phase in 2022.
- Continue new technology development in strategic areas by utilizing government funding secured in 2020 and establishing candidate sites for potential early adoption.
SELECTED FINANCIAL INFORMATION
For a complete set of Financial Statements and MD&A, please go to www.bqewater.com.
(in $’000 except for per share amounts)
|General and administration expenses||1,622||1,631|
|Sales and development expenses||971||1,063|
|Share-based payment expenses||387||153|
|Share of earnings from joint ventures||(1,139)||(849)|
|Income from operations and joint ventures||1,276||722|
|Net of other (expenses) income||(8)||14|
|Bad debt expenses||–||(383)|
|Income tax expenses||(102)||(111)|
|Net income for the year||1,166||242|
|Other comprehensive income (loss)|
|Translation gain (loss) on foreign operations||228||(284)|
Comprehensive income (loss) for the year
|Earnings per share (basic)||0.96||0.20|
|Earnings per share (diluted)||0.95||0.20|
|at Dec 31||at Dec 31|
|Total non-current liabilities||821||331|
About BQE Water
BQE Water is a service provider specializing in water treatment and management for metals mining, smelting and refining. We are helping to transform the way the industry thinks about water in the context of natural resource projects by offering services and expertise which enables more sustainable water management practices and improved overall project performance at reduced risks. BQE Water invests in innovation and has developed unique intellectual property through the commercialization of several new technologies at mine sites around the world for organizations including Glencore, Jiangxi Copper, Freeport-McMoRan and the US EPA. BQE Water is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada and trades on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol BQE. Visit www.bqewater.com for more information.
The Toronto Venture Exchange has not reviewed and does not accept responsibility for the adequacy or the accuracy of this release.
CAUTIONARY STATEMENT REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING INFORMATION
Certain information contained herein may not be based on historical fact and therefore constitutes “forward-looking information” under applicable Canadian securities legislation. This includes without limitation statements containing the words “plan”, “expect”, “project”, “estimate”, “intend”, “believe”, “anticipate”, “may”, “will” and other similar words or expressions. Forward-looking statements are based on the opinions and estimates of management at the date the statements are made, and are subject to a variety of risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual events or results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to, the Company’s dependence on key personnel and contracts, uncertainty with respect to the profitability of the Company’s technologies, competition, technology risk, the Company’s ability to protect its intellectual property and proprietary information, fluctuations in commodity prices, currency risk, environmental regulation and the Company’s ability to manage growth and other factors described in the Company’s filings with the Canadian securities regulators at www.sedar.com (including without limitation the factors described in the section entitled “Risks and Uncertainties” in the Company’s MD&A for the year ended December 31, 2020). Given these risks and uncertainties, the reader is cautioned not to place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. All forward-looking information contained herein is based on management’s current expectations and the Company undertakes no obligation to revise or update such forward-looking information to reflect subsequent events or circumstances, except as required by law.