International Tower Hill Mines Ltd. March 22 provided an operations update for its Livengood gold project in Interior Alaska. In addition to advancing its prefeasibility study toward expected completion in the third quarter of 2012, the company is carrying out about 12,000 meters of drilling in support of permitting activities, engineering design, condemnation of proposed infrastructure sites and district-wide exploration. Tower Hill is also postponing all further studies for placer gold extraction on its recently acquired placer claims in order to focus on advancing the Livengood gold deposit towards development and a production decision.
Tower Hill said the pre-feasibility study will incorporate the current mineral resource estimate of 933 million metric tons at an average grade of 0.55 grams per metric ton gold (at a cutoff grade of 0.22 g/t gold) for 16.5 million ounces of gold contained in the measured and indicated categories together with the results of geotechnical studies, metallurgical testing, updated capital and operating cost estimates and other relevant studies.
While the bulk of engineering studies for the PFS were completed in November 2011, the company is currently carrying out detailed metallurgical testing after a review of the preliminary economic assessment flow sheet indicated that further optimization is possible. Due to the large amount of testing underway, the publication date for the PFS is now expected in the third quarter of 2012.
“Being a degreed metallurgist, there were many questions I had on the metallurgy of the deposit, which had not been answered by the testing that was carried out in 2011. For all uncertainties to be cast away, we have gone from 60 tests in the original study to 625 tests, which began this month to define available recovery options and confirm all results,” Tower Hill President and CEO James Komadina explained to shareholders.
“The fact that our industry carried out a multiyear high of over US$18 billion in exploration in 2011 meant that metallurgical labs around the world have been extremely busy. The timing for us to initiate the testing was therefore later, and the time necessary to complete the testing longer than previously anticipated – this has been the sole contributing factor to our PFS publication date now being in the third quarter of 2012,” he added.
The company’s 2012 drill programs at Livengood began in February in three categories: a C$2.1-million, 6,000-meter condemnation drill program; a C$5.2 million, 3,000-meter program of geotechnical drilling; and a C$1.1 million, 3,000-meter district-wide exploration program. The objectives of the condemnation and geotechnical drill programs are to support permitting efforts and detail site facility locations while the discovery exploration program aims to target potential new gold discoveries along the mineralized trend of the existing Livengood gold deposit. Results from all drill programs are expected throughout the summer and fall of 2012.
To support the completion of these work programs, Tower Hill’s board of directors March 16 approved a budget of C$68.3 million for 2012, subject to raising the necessary additional financing.
Following a comprehensive review and internal financial analysis of the company’s placer property, management has opted to postpone all further studies, including an NI 43-101 resource report and preliminary economic assessment, for placer gold extraction.
“Investigating the possibility of placer gold production from our recent placer claims acquisition was a key part of our mandate to explore all opportunities to create value for shareholders in the short-term,” explained Komadina. “However, the results of our investigations indicate that the greatest benefits will be to optimize site facility locations for the Livengood Project.”
“In the past three months, our manager of mining and Livengood placer team worked diligently to look at ways of getting into short-term production as quickly as possible, and while we would have relished the opportunity to produce gold as early as 2013, our highest priority remains our 16.5-million-ounce Livengood gold deposit,” continued Komadina. “Postponing development of the placers creates the most synergy with the development of the larger Livengood deposit, and this is the route that we must take to ensure the highest possibility of success.”