FORTUNE MINERALS ANNOUNCES PILOT PLANT HYDROMETALLURGY RESULTS FOR THE NICO GOLD-COBALT-BISMUTH-COPPER DEPOSIT
Production of high quality metal products proven with improved recoveries
London, Ontario - February 24, 2009 - Fortune Minerals Limited (TSX-FT) (�Fortune Minerals� or the �Company�) is pleased to announce results of the downstream hydrometallurgical processing of NICO concentrates from its $5 million pilot plant test recently completed at SGS Lakefield Research Limited (�Lakefield�) in Lakefield, Ontario. The pilot plant has successfully proven the processing of ores from Fortune�s 100% owned NICO gold-cobalt-bismuth-copper deposit in the Northwest Territories to high value metal products: cobalt and bismuth cathode, gold dor� and copper cement. Notably, the pilot plant has also demonstrated operational improvements, higher metal recoveries, and production of higher value products than the base assumptions used in the Company�s definitive feasibility study for NICO completed by Micon International Limited (�Micon�) in 2007, and the economic update in 2008 (see Fortune Minerals news releases, d ated May 8, 2008, and January 16, 2007). Collectively, these improvements are expected to have a material positive impact on the economics of an already robust project.
The crushing, grinding and flotation components of the Lakefield pilot plant to the production of gold-bearing cobalt and bismuth concentrates were completed earlier in 2008. The operational improvements and higher metal recoveries for these components of the process flow sheet have already been announced (see Fortune Minerals news release, dated February 6, 2008). Fortune Minerals is very pleased to report that the downstream hydrometallurgical processing of these concentrates to high value metal products has also produced operational improvements, higher metal recoveries, and proven the production of higher value metal products than previously reported. A summary of the results of the downstream hydrometallurgical components of the Lakefield pilot plant and the improvements over the base assumptions used in the Micon feasibility study are as follows:
Production of gold dor� has been proven;
Gold recovery from the bismuth concentrate has increased from 94 to 95%;
Gold recovery from the cleaner float tails has increased from 50 to 78%;
Gold recovery from the cobalt autoclave residue has been confirmed at 90%.
Overall pilot plant recovery of blended underground and open pit ores to dore� was shown to be 73%, confirming the Micon study.
Overall pilot plant recovery of average open pit ores to dore� increased to 62% from 58% used in the Micon study.
The production of high grade (99.5% purity) bismuth cathode has been proven;
Production of bismuth cathode is a significant operational improvement over the Micon study, which assumed the production and sale of bismuth concentrate;
Bismuth recovery from concentrate has increased to 98% from the 90% that would have been paid for metal-in-concentrate used in the Micon study;
Operating costs for the production of bismuth and transportation costs for the delivery of bismuth to markets will be lower;
Overall pilot plant recovery from ore to cathode increased to 72% from 55% used in the Micon study.
- Production of UMICORE Grade A (99.8%) cobalt cathode has been proven;
- The option of producing a cobalt carbonate, grading up to 46% cobalt has been proven;
- Cobalt recovery from concentrate to cathode has decreased from 95 to 93%;
- This 2% lower hydrometallurgical recovery for cobalt in the downstream processing is offset by a 5% greater flotation recovery than the estimate used in the 2007 Micon study;
- Overall pilot plant recovery from ore to cathode increased to 83% from 81% used in the Micon study.
- Production of a saleable copper cement grading approximately 97% copper has been proven;
- The copper contained in the cobalt concentrate must be removed to produce a high quality cobalt cathode and represents an additional by-product revenue stream.
The Lakefield pilot plant was a comprehensive test validating the NICO process flow sheet from ore to the production of high value metal products. The pilot plant tested 180 tonnes of NICO ores representing samples of: 1) blended underground and open pit ores indicative of the first two years of production from the mine; and 2) average open pit ores indicative of the remaining 11 years of the mine life at the new proposed 4,650 tonnes per day production rate. The samples were composites of ores mined during the NICO underground bulk sampling programs carried out in 2006 and 2007. Fortune Minerals� process development work is being overseen by Mr. Mike Samuels, B.Eng., Director of Technical Services and Mr. Tom Rinaldi, B.Sc. Vice President Operations. The Lakefield pilot plant was conducted under the supervision of Mr. Alex Mezei, P.Eng., who is the Qualified Person for the pilot plant work for the purposes of National Instrument 43-10 1. The pilot pant was also supported by a number of additional metallurgical experts at Lakefield as well as an Owner�s team of industry metallurgical and process engineers. Additional test work is underway at Lakefield to support Metsim� modelling of the process flow sheet and Front End Engineering Design (�FEED�) work being conducted by Aker Metals, a division of Aker Solutions Canada Inc.
Fortune Minerals has completed preliminary trade-off studies assessing the merits of relocating some of the NICO downstream process facilities to a location in southern Canada with readily available lower cost power. Preliminary results of this work have been favourable and indicate an opportunity for significant capital and operating cost savings for the NICO project. Fortune is continuing to evaluate this option and determine suitable locations while it undergoes the permitting process in the Northwest Territories.
NICO is located in the southern part of the Northwest Territories, 160 km northwest of the City of Yellowknife, 80 km and 50 km northeast of Tlicho communities of Behchoko and Whati, respectively. The Micon feasibility study determined that NICO contains total Proven and Probable Mineral Reserves of 21.8 million tonnes, containing 760,000 ounces of gold, 61 million pounds of cobalt and 77 million pounds of bismuth. The underground portion of the Proven and Probable Mineral Reserves are 1,204,000 tonnes, grading 5.07 g/t gold, 0.14% cobalt and 0.19% bismuth and the open pit portion of the Proven and Probable Mineral Reserves are 20,613,000 tonnes, grading 0.85 g/t gold, 0.13% cobalt and 0.16% bismuth. Copper is produced as a by-product of the process, but was not included in the Mineral Reserve estimate. The NICO Mineral Reserves are contained within a larger Mineral Resource. In consideration of the anticipated l ower operating costs as a result of the increased recoveries, higher value products, and other operational improvements stated above, Fortune plans to re-estimate the NICO Mineral Reserves after the process engineering has been completed. Mr. B. Terrence Hennessey, P.Geo. of Micon and Mr. Eugene Puritch, P.Eng. of P&E Mining Consultants Inc. are the Qualified Persons responsible for the Mineral Resource and Mineral Reserve estimates in accordance with National Instrument 43-101. Further information regarding the NICO mineral reserves and economic studies can be found in the Company�s annual information form and other documents filed on the SEDAR website (www.sedar.com).
About Fortune Minerals
Fortune Minerals is a diversified natural resource company with several mineral deposits and a number of exploration projects, all located in Canada. They include the Mount Klappan anthracite coal deposits in British Columbia, and the NICO gold-cobalt-bismuth-copper deposit, the Sue-Dianne copper-silver deposit and other base and precious metals exploration projects in the Northwest Territories. Fortune Minerals is focussed on outstanding performance and growth of shareholder value through assembly and development of high quality mineral resource projects.
For further information please contact:
Fortune Minerals Limited
Robin Goad, President - or -
Lindsay Simmons, IR Coordinator
Tel.: (519) 858-8188 Fax: (519) 858-8155
Renmark Financial Communications Inc.
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Tel. (514) 939-3989
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This press release contains forward-looking information. This forward-looking information includes, or may be based upon, estimates, forecasts, and statements as to management�s expectations with respect to, among other things, the size and quality of the Company�s mineral resources, progress in development of mineral properties, demand and market outlook for metals and coal and future metal and coal prices. Forward-looking information is based on the opinions and estimates of management at the date the information is given, and is subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual events or results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking information. These factors include the inherent risks involved in the exploration and development of mineral properties, uncertainties with respect to the receipt or timing of required permits and regulatory approvals, the uncertaint ies involved in interpreting drilling results and other geological data, fluctuating metal and coal prices, the possibility of project cost overruns or unanticipated costs and expenses, uncertainties relating to the availability and costs of financing needed in the future and other factors. Mineral resources that are not mineral reserves do not have demonstrated economic viability. Inferred mineral resources are considered too speculative geologically to have economic considerations applied to them that would enable them to be categorized as mineral reserves. There is no certainty that mineral resources will be converted into mineral reserves. The forward-looking information contained herein is given as of the date hereof and the Company assumes no responsibility to update or revise such information to reflect new events or circumstances, except as required by law.