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Vol. 15, No. 26 Week of June 27, 2010
Providing coverage of Alaska and Northwest Canada's mineral industry

Mining News: Alaska gold project swells to 13.3M ounces

Tower Hill spins out exploration properties, adds to operations team as it studies building world-class mine at Livengood

Shane Lasley

Mining News

International Tower Hill Mines Ltd. is taking long strides in advancing its 13.3-million-ounce Livengood gold project toward becoming a world-class mine.

While an aggressive drill program continues to expand the Money Knob deposit, the company is completing metallurgical, geotechnical and baseline studies. This work, which will be needed to move the project into permitting and development, also lowers the risk of the Interior Alaska gold project, making Tower Hill a more attractive acquisition target.

In order to focus its attention on Livengood, Tower Hill is moving its earlier stage exploration assets into Corvus Gold Inc., a new company that will be under the direction of Tower Hill’s Vice President of Exploration Russell Myers, who played a key role in the rapid resource expansion at Livengood.

Tower Hill has filled the void created by the departure of Myers with Karl Hanneman, a longtime Alaskan with experience in both mine building and permitting in the state.

“The proposed spin-out enables ITH’s expanding mine development team to fully focus on moving the Livengood project towards a potential production decision,” said Tower Hill President and CEO Jeff Pontius.

Mine building team

At the beginning of the year International Tower Hill began assembling the operational team needed to construct and operate a major mining project at Livengood by hiring Carl Brechtel as its chief operating officer.

Brechtel, who spent the past 12 years working for AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. in various mining project development roles around the globe, brings mine development and operational team building expertise to the Livengood project.

Hanneman, who holds a mining engineering degree from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, joined Tower Hill in May as the Livengood project manager.

From 1998 to 2004 he served as Teck’s Alaska Regional Manager during the exploration, development, and permitting of the Pogo Gold Mine. In a more recent role as director of corporate affairs for Teck, he was the senior corporate representative in Alaska, providing strategic guidance on governmental, regulatory, permitting and community issues related to the Red Dog Mine.

Hanneman’s vast Alaska-based mining experience will be valuable as the company moves the project toward permitting.

Pontius said, “The addition of Karl Hanneman to the ITH management team strengthens the company’s ability to move the Livengood project forward towards a production decision. Karl’s strong connection to the Alaska community, and his demonstrated success and wealth of experience in Alaska, will be extremely valuable to us in developing what we anticipate will be Alaska’s next major gold mine.”

Another million ounces

Incorporating 10,000 meters of drilling completed during the winter drill program, Tower Hill now boasts a 13.3 million ounce gold resource at Livengood. In addition to boosting the gold content by a million ounces, nearly 20 percent of the resource was upgraded from inferred to the higher confidence indicated category.

Using a cut-off grade of 0.5 grams of gold per ton, the Money Knob deposit is now estimated to contain an indicated resource of 408.6 million metric tons at an average grade of 0.83 g/t for 9.3 million ounces of gold and an inferred resource of 94.4 million metric tons at 0.79 g/t for an additional 1.4 million ounces of gold. This marks a 17 percent increase in the higher confidence indicated category as well as an increase in the grade.

“We are highly encouraged by the latest resource update, which includes results of the winter drill program at Livengood,” Tower Hill President and CEO Jeff Pontius said. “The latest resource data, as well as infill results between the Sunshine and Core zones, are expected to have a positive impact on our ongoing mine design work. Our new combined mill-heap leach concept should benefit from the higher grades in this new resource estimate as we aggressively work to advance the project down the production path.”

At a 0.7 g/t gold cutoff, which the company envisions as a milling cut-off grade at Livengood, the indicated resource at Livengood is 6.9 million ounces of gold, an increase of almost 19 percent from the previous estimated resource and the average grade has improved 9 percent to 1.07 g/t gold.

At a 0.3 g/t gold cut-off grade — about the average grade used for the heap leach described in the Livengood preliminary economic assessment — the indicated resource is 15.7 million ounces of gold at an average grade of 0.62 g/t gold, with an additional inferred resource of 4 million ounces of gold at an average of 0.55 g/t gold.

The June 2010 in-situ updated resource estimate will form the basis of the company’s combined mill-heap leach preliminary economic assessment, anticipated for release in third quarter of this year.

Propertywide investigation

With five rigs churning at Livengood, Tower Hill plans to complete 45,000 meters of drilling during the summer program that began June 1. This exploration will focus on expanding the resource, improving confidence in the high-grade areas of the Money Knob deposit, and gathering data for metallurgical, hydrological and geotechnical studies.

“We are doing a substantial amount of infill drilling, which will continue to improve our confidence in the resource,” Hanneman told Mining News June 16.

The company also plans to begin investigating the district-scale potential across International Tower Hill’s 35,000-acre land package at Livengood. Untested geochemical anomalies to the northeast of the Money Knob deposit will be one target of this propertywide investigation.

“We are also going to do some exploratory drilling on other geochemical and geological targets in the district,” Hanneman said. “We haven’t done that previously.”

A major soil survey is also planned to cover the northeast extension of the mineralized trend with the objective of delineating drill targets for exploration in the late fall and winter.

Down the production path

While Tower Hill continues to expand the resource at Livengood, the company continues to collect the metallurgical information needed for the full-scale pre-feasibility and mine development study currently under way, as well as the environmental data needed to begin permitting the multimillion ounce gold project.

Tower Hill began collecting baseline data at Livengood in 2008 and this work will be in full swing this year.

“We are doing the full suite of environmental work; which includes fisheries, water quality, cultural resources, wetlands, wildlife and air quality,” Hanneman explained.

The company continues to be encouraged by the metallurgical results. Approximately 60 percent of the deposit is variably oxidized and is included in the company’s initial heap leach mining study. Recent test work indicates significantly higher recoveries from milling in all ore types by utilizing a gravity circuit followed by carbon-in-leach processing. Testing indicates a gravity- flotation recovery system could further enhance the economics at Livengood.

Bretchel said, “We are now focusing on optimizing key components of the gold recovery system and the proposed production plan to continue to improve the overall economic performance of the project. With our recent development team additions and continued encouraging technical results, ITH is rapidly advancing Livengood towards it next step along the production path.”

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