Discounted cash flow analysis - Methodology and discount rates

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 95, No. 1062, 2002

L.D. Smith

This paper examines the impact of the various assumptions that go into an economic evaluation, and shows how these can be combined to show an exciting result that may not really exist. An example of an embellished case (the kind that one frequently sees when projects are being promoted) is developed and the cumulative impact is analyzed to show the actual project underneath. The paper also points out some areas to watch for overly optimistic assumptions such as prices, inflation, and debt. The concept of a “bare bones” base case is proposed (constant metal prices, constant dollars, no inflation, no debt, no interest, on a project basis, after tax) as a common reference point. As well, the discount rate is examined as one of the fundamental means of reflecting risk in discounted cash flow evaluations. Current industry practice is discussed, and a methodology for the analysis of risk levels is proposed that assesses the constituent components of the discount rate: real interest, mineral project risks, and country risk.
Keywords: Economic evaluation, “Bare bones,” Cash flow, Discount rates, Net present value (NPV), Internal rate of return (IRR)