BQE Water Reports Q1 2024 Results

VANCOUVER, BC – BQE Water Inc. (TSX-V: BQE), a leader in the treatment and management of mine impacted waters, is pleased to release its interim consolidated financial results for the three months ended March 31, 2024.

“In Q1 2024, we doubled our recurring operation revenues over the same period last year as our new streams of recurring revenue in the US mitigated the seasonality of our existing operations,” said David Kratochvil, President & CEO of BQE Water. “Growing such revenue streams remains a strategic priority for us as we expand recurring revenues through additional plant operations over time. While our technical services for Q1 2024 decreased when compared to Q1 2023, we expect it to catch up to 2023 levels over the remainder of the year.”

FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTS

  • Recorded Proportional and GAAP revenues of $3.4 million and $2.5 million in Q1 2024 respectively, compared $3.6 million and $2.7 million in Q1 2023.
  • Doubled recurring plant operation revenues to $1.8 million in Q1 2024 when compared to Q1 2023.
  • Gross margin of $1.1 million in Q1 2024 compared to $1.0 million in Q1 2023, an 11% increase.
  • Net loss of $486,000 in Q1 2024 compared to a loss of $342,000 in Q1 2023.
  • Adjusted EBITDA loss of $121,000 in Q1 2024 compared to a loss of $80,000 in Q1 2023.
  • Net cash and cash equivalents of $8.2 million at March 31, 2024, compared to $7.9 million at December 31, 2023, a 4% increase.
  • Working capital of $9.9 million at March 31, 2024, compared to $10.5 million at December 31, 2023, a 6% decrease.

Selected financial results are as follows:

(in ’000s) 3 months ended Mar. 31
2024 2023
Revenue from Operation Services 1,789 835
Revenue from Technical Services 719 1,856
Revenue from joint ventures in China 902 869
Proportional Revenues 3,410 3,560

OPERATIONAL SERVICES HIGHLIGHTS

Our operational services consist of the operation or technical supervision of water treatment plants, which generate recurring revenues from three main sources: sales of recovered metals, water treatment fees and operations support fees. The Company’s operations by source of revenue are as follows:

 

Operations Location Revenue Source
JCC-BQE Joint Venture Jiangxi province, China Sales of recovered metals
MWT-BQE Joint Venture Shandong province, China Sales of recovered metals
Raglan Mine for Glencore Northern Québec, Canada Water treatment fees
Minto Mine for Government of Yukon Yukon, Canada Water treatment fees
Zhongkuang Metallurgical Facilities for MWT Shandong province, China Operations support fees
Zhaojin Metallurgical Facilities for MWT Shandong province, China Operations support fees
Power utility ash pond for WesTech Eastern USA Water treatment fees
Base metal project for a metal producer Southwestern USA Water treatment fees

 

JCC-BQE Joint Venture Operations

Our 50/50 joint venture with partner Jiangxi Copper Company (“JCC”) operates three 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 Q1 2024 are as follows:

(in ’000s) 3 months ended Mar. 31
  2024 2023
Water treated (cubic metres) 4,217 2,899
Copper recovered (pounds) 380 291

In Q1 2024, all three plants met mechanical availability and process performance targets set by the Company. The volume of water treated increased by 45% and the mass of copper recovered increased by 31% compared to Q1 2023. Such changes in water volume and feed grade from period to period are largely the result of environmental conditions beyond the control of the joint venture.

 MWT-BQE Joint Venture Operations

Our 20% share in 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 revenues from the sale of zinc and copper recovered from smelter wastewater. Operating results for Q1 2024 are as follows:

(in ’000s) 3 months ended Mar. 31
  2024 2023
Zinc recovered (pounds) 31 78
Copper recovered (pounds) 5 41

The smelter periodically operated its production lines with ores from different sources which led to varying concentrations of zinc and copper in the feed and a fluctuation in the volume of wastewater treated by the plant. The joint venture has no control over the composition and volume of feed that flows into the plant.

BQE Water Operations

The number of operating days contributing to water treatment or support fees for the three months ended March 31, 2024 are as follows:

 

(in days) 3 months ended Mar. 31
2024 2023
Raglan Mine water treatment plants
Minto Mine water treatment plant 90
Zhongkuang SART plant 91 90
Zhaojin SART plant 91 90
Water treatment plant in Eastern USA 67 64
Water treatment plant in Southwest USA 91 88

The volume of water treated by geographic location for the three months ended March 31, 2024 are as follows:

(in ’000s cubic metres) 3 months ended Mar. 31
2024 2023
Raglan Mine water treatment plants
Minto Mine water treatment plant 214
SART plants in China 136 131
Water treatment plants in USA 200 5

The Company, with our Inuit partner Nuvumiut Development, operates four water treatment plants at Raglan Mine for Glencore Canada Corporation (“Glencore”). In the first quarter, the plants at Raglan Mine were shut down as water stored in the outdoor reservoirs was frozen. Consequently, no water was treated and no revenue was generated in Q1 2024 from the Raglan Mine plants. We expect to begin water treatment in June 2024.

In 2022, we began to provide water treatment services at Minto Mine in the Yukon. During 2023, the Company contracted directly with the Yukon Government to treat and discharge clean water at the mine in support of environmental protection.

In Q1 2024, the treatment plant at Minto Mine was shut down as the plant winterization is typically between October to April when the mine is not in operation. We expect to begin water treatment in June 2024.

In 2021, we began operations of the Zhongkuang SART plant and the Zhaojin SART plant at metallurgical facilities in China. Both plants have been under our technical supervision since the start of full production. Both SART plants operated fully throughout Q1 2024 without disruption.

In 2022, we began operations of a treatment plant utilizing our Selen-IX™ process to remove selenium from ash pond water for WesTech Engineering (“WesTech”). In Q1 2024, our team continued at site providing water treatment services with the Selen-IX™ circuit to manage the presence of selenium in the feed.

In January 2022, we completed the commissioning of a treatment plant utilizing a combination of nanofiltration and our proprietary selenium electro-reduction process for the simultaneous removal of selenium and sulphate from mine water for a base metal project in the American Southwest. In August 2023, our team completed the performance test milestone for a 2nd newly constructed selenium removal water treatment plant which entered the operation phase. As a result, we are currently providing water treatment operation services for two water treatment plants in the American Southwest. In Q1 2024, the plants operated and treated 133,000 cubic metres of water.

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 Q1 2024 are summarized below.

Trusted Advisory Services (Water Management and Water Studies)

  • Initiated engineering services for the design and construction of a fourth selenium removal plant in the US using Selen-IX™ at a gold mine to meet end-of-pipe limit of less than 2 parts per billion.
  • Performed a site visit and technical assessment of treatment options for removing sulphate to a discharge limit less than 1,500 mg/L at an integrated lead smelter-recycling facility in Eastern Canada.
  • Performed field engineering assessment of the root causes of poor performance of an existing water treatment plant removing metals and ammonia from mine wastewater in Western Canada.
  • Completed a laboratory treatability test program on mine water for selenium removal from an existing mine in the US.
  • Initiated METSIM modelling of a build-up on impurities in metallurgical process water for a new project in the US.
  • Initiated the review of a water management plan for a proposed new gold mine in the Yukon with comments to support the regulatory reviews by the territorial government.
  • Initiated a technical assessment on options for the disposal of large quantities of elemental sulphur at a mine in BC.
  • Continued to provide water treatment expertise to the executive team of a top tier metal producer in due diligence for an acquisition of an existing mining operation.
  • Continued to provide engineering design services for three water treatment plants to support permitting of the KSM gold-copper project in British Columbia.
  • Continued to provide engineering and design services for the construction of a new water treatment plant for water recycle at a gold mine in Mexico.

Cyanide Management (Destruction and Recycle)

  • Initiated a review of requirements for cyanide recycle at a new project currently in development in Mexico.
  • Completed a treatability assessment for the removal of cobalt and associated cyanide from an existing gold mine in Ontario.
  • Continued with the engineering design for a third SART plant for Shandong Gold in China.

COMMENTARY AND OUTLOOK

The change in the Company’s financial performance between Q1 2024 and Q1 2023, was predominantly affected by the following:

  • a 114% increase in recurring revenue from new water treatment operations in Q1 2024 compared to Q1 2023;
  • a 61% decrease in non-recurring revenue from technical services in Q1 2024 compared to Q1 2023, which in turn contributed to a 51% increase in sales and development expenses as resources not utilized to fulfill revenue contracts were allocated to sales and marketing instead of direct operating expenses;
  • a 35% increase in revenue from our JCC-BQE joint venture in Q1 2024 compared to Q1 2023, primarily due to a higher volume of recovered copper;
  • the decline in revenue from the MWT-BQE joint venture due to a one-time sale of a large quantity of metal concentrate in Q1 2023 that did not recur in Q1 2024; and
  • a 44% increase in share-based payments in Q1 2024 compared to Q1 2023 due to the vesting of Restricted Share Units (“RSUs”) issued to staff in previous years and the RSUs being valued at the Company’s higher share price.

The winter shut-down of our operations in Northern Canada and lower volumes of water reporting to treatment in the China joint ventures traditionally contribute to weaker financial performance for the Company during the first quarter of the year. With the recently commissioned plant operations in the US, there is now an expanded base of recurring revenue in the first quarter that serves to mitigate the ongoing seasonality of our Canadan operations. It remains a strategic priority for BQE Water to continue to expand its recurring revenues through additional plant operations over time.

The timing of non-recurring technical advisory contracts and the associated revenue varies from quarter to quarter based on several factors:

  • our clients’ schedules, which are not in our control;
  • the short average contract duration of approximately 4 to 6 months; and
  • the stage of the project, since very early stages typically contribute less revenue than later stages.

Except for one project, most of the technical services delivered by the Company in Q1 2024 were associated with new projects at early stages. These early stages often contribute less than $50,000 per project; however, they are a critical component of our business development. Not only do these projects typically start to contribute a higher share of revenue as they advance, but the quality of services delivered in the early stage also tends to contribute positively to future business, ideally advancing to the operations stage eventually. A typical quarter would have a mix of projects in different stages of development, producing a better balance between billable services and sales and development expenses when compared to Q1 2024. Overall, we have seen a steady level of business activity, and we currently expect our technical services revenue to catch up to 2023 levels over the remainder of the year. Management also continues to focus on increasing efficiency across all business functions within the organization following the significant increase in headcount in recent years. This includes accelerated professional development for our staff and improvements to our internal systems, both of which are expected to contribute to higher staff utilization, improved resource allocation, and higher operating margins over time.

Copper recovery from the JCC-BQE JV in China showed a 31% increase over the same period a year ago. Although the tonnage of recoverable copper is expected to decline over the long-term, the drop in copper production in 2023 compared to previous years was more sudden and substantial. In management’s view, the fact that copper recovery increased significantly in Q1 2024 over Q1 2023 suggests the drop in 2023 was more likely caused by climate conditions rather than accelerated depletion of recoverable copper.

The other significant expenses that increased the net loss in the quarter are non-cash share-based payments as well as depreciation expense. A significant portion of the share-based payments is due to the amortization of RSUs, which are compensation linked to the Company’s share price. RSUs, a key component of BQE Water’s overall staff retention, vest over a 3-year period with annual cash payouts, which avoids share dilution. While the Company does not carry operating plant and equipment on its balance sheet as capital assets, the Company does carry and depreciate right-of-use (lease) assets. The higher depreciation expense in Q1 2024 was due to a new 10-year office lease contract commenced in April 2023, whereby the Company consolidated its laboratory technology team with the engineering and operations teams in a new head office. For the remainder of 2024, our quarterly depreciation expenses will continue to increase slightly as we add new assets such as office furniture and laboratory equipment.

The outlook for 2024, and our assessment of long-term drivers for growth as well as risks and downsides remain unchanged from our last commentary in the Q4 2023 MD&A.

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)

3 months ended Mar. 31

2024

2023

$ $
Revenues 2,508 2,691
Operating expenses (excluding depreciation) (1,403) (1,694)
Gross margin 1,105 997
 
Share of income from joint ventures 332 81
General and administration (700) (672)
Sales and development (924) (613)
Share-based payments (273) (190)
Depreciation and amortization (101) (82)
Loss from operations and joint ventures (561) (479)
 
Other income, net 87 143
Income tax expenses (12) (6)
   
Net loss for the period (486) (342)
 
Loss per share (basic) (0.39) (0.27)
Loss per share (diluted) (0.38) (0.27)
 
Proportional Revenues (Non-GAAP measures) 3,410 3,560
Adjusted EBITDA (Non-GAAP measures) (121) (80)
Comprehensive loss (443) (332)
   
   
at Mar. 31 at Dec. 31

2024

2023

$ $
Cash 8,232 7,928
Proportional cash (Non-GAAP measures) 9,544 9,790
Working capital 9,902 10,529
Total assets 18,301 18,856
Total non-current liabilities 1,913 1,900
Shareholders’ equity 14,443 14,776

 

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.

 

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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, 2023). 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.