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SANTIAGO, Chile, March 31, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --
White Mountain Titanium Corporation ("White Mountain" or the "Company") (OTCQB:WMTM) is pleased to provide an update on titanium pigment and feedstock, a progress report on current activities at the Cerro Blanco Project (the "Project") and commentary on related corporate matters.
2013 was a challenging year for the global paints and pigments industry with Western pigment producers facing high levels of cheaper finished products from Asia. According to industry sources, some over-supply is likely to continue during 2014 with a more balanced supply-demand outlook expected towards the end of the year. With pigment prices currently settling at close to the cost of production, one consequence of achieving supply-demand balance is that less efficient operators - particularly in Asia - will continue to shutter capacity. Moving forward to 2015, pigment prices are initially expected to remain at the $2,700 per tonne level on the back of steadily rising volumes, a scenario which has positive implications for rutile and other primary TiO2 feedstocks. The Company remains optimistic about the longer term prospects for TiO2 feedstocks, in particular high grade rutile.
Cerro Blanco Project
As set out in the News Release of December 09, 2013, the Company signed a Binding Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") with a group of existing shareholders (the "Shareholder Group") to provide US$ 10 million in equity financing. These funds will be used to complete the Environmental Impact Study ("EIS") and advance the Project to Final Engineering Feasibility ("Final Feasibility").
Geology - The Company's geological personnel are evaluating newly discovered rutile prospects at Cerro Blanco and La Martina as well as seeking new discoveries within the region. At Cerro Blanco, priority is being given to prospects with good access and proximity to the planned mining operation as well as the potential to host large volumes of high grade rutile at or near surface. Such high grade mineralization could have a significant impact on the economics of the Project, particularly in the early years of operation. At La Martina and elsewhere within the region, the Company is continuing to utilize exploration targeting techniques which, to date, have proven to be very successful and cost effective. Any resources identified through the evaluation being undertaken at Cerro Blanco and La Martina or on any new discovery within the region would be in addition to the published NI 43-101 resource estimate compiled by Behre Dolbear in July, 2013.
Environmental - The Company's management and technical personnel have essentially completed all of the work associated with preparing a written response to a first round of questions posed to its EIS application under a public review process. As was the case with the EIS application, upon filing this written response will be accessible on a web-site hosted by the Chilean government. Whilst the Company is not in a position to forecast when full EIS approval will be issued, continuing dialogue and contact with the local communities and new government personnel is taking place to address any outstanding issues.
Metallurgical - The Company's engineering personnel have completed work related to the EIS submission, specifically acidulation test work on typical Cerro Blanco ore has shown minimal formation of sulphates. This work, which had important implications for waste and tailings handling controls, indicated that any aqueous carry-over will be benign and not a threat to water resources in terms of acid mine drainage. As well, together with flotation reagent suppliers Company personnel have succeeded in simplifying the chemical formulation used in the flotation stage of the rutile recovery process. The original formulation was based on pilot plant work conducted at SGS Lakefield and consisted of separate conditioners, collectors and depressants, frothers and pH control reagents to achieve rutile recovery at an acidic pH. Recent work has reduced the number of reagents required to two main chemicals which can achieve rutile recovery at a neutral pH. The Company believes that in addition to operating in a neutral pH, substantial cost savings will result from the use of this simpler chemical formulation. Metallurgical test work to improve rutile pre-concentration grade and recovery through the use of gravity spirals is continuing.
Desalination Plant -The Final Feasibility will include a desalination plant to supply industrial quality water to the Project, principally for use in the rutile processing plant. The desalination plant will incorporate conventional reverse osmosis technology and will be sited some 5 kilometres from the coast. The Company has secured all the easements required to site and construct the plant together with a surface corridor from the coast for related pumps, piping and power supply. White Mountain's engineering personnel believe that the output of the desalination plant will exceed the Project's industrial water requirements. The plant, therefore, could be operated on a stand-alone basis, producing industrial water both for the Project and third parties within as little as 12 months of the EIS approval being received.
Final Engineering - In addition to work already carried out by the Company's technical personnel, a definitive, Final Feasibility study will require the input and endorsement of an independent, third-party engineering consultant and ideally will incorporate input from a potential strategic partner that we are actively seeking. The choice of an engineering consultant will be subject to a conventional tendering process and the Company is currently preparing tender documentation. Further information in respect of the Final Feasibility study and engineering consultant tendering process will be issued in due course.
Advisory Engagement - White Mountain has entered into a general advisory agreement with RBC Capital Markets. The mandate will see both parties looking to enhance the Company's presence in Asia and the PRC as well as seeking to attract support for the Project from a strategic partner.
Corporate Matters - As detailed in the News Release of January 6, 2014, the Company expanded its Board to seven with the appointment of Mr Kin Wong as Chairman and Ms Sue Pei and Mr Weigang Greg Ye as independent directors. Later in January, three members of the newly constituted Board visited the Company's Santiago office and the Project. Over the course of the visit, meetings were held to develop a strategy document designed to fast-track necessary technical work, secure long term financing, restore shareholder value through share price appreciation and seek strategic alliances in Asia and the PRC. To that end, the Company has opened an office in the PRC which will be used to provide Company and project information to interested companies and individual investors in mainland China and Hong Kong. To support this initiative, White Mountain management and directors are working on a marketing program directed specifically at Asia and the PRC.
Commenting on these developments, Michael Kurtanjek, President and Chief Executive Officer said, "Cerro Blanco has grown significantly over the past 9 years, both in size and in the opportunities it affords. Whilst full EIS approval remains the most immediate priority, the Company's near term focus also includes seeking a strategic partner for the Project within a reasonable time frame while expanding our shareholder base to include investors from Asia and the PRC. In addition, the Company is looking at commercial opportunities that may come from the timely completion and commissioning of the desalination plant, and associated surplus water sales. The Company's technical personnel are preparing tender documents for the Final Feasibility study and examining future resource targets both within the current Cerro Blanco and La Martina claim holdings and regionally. The new Board and management are working jointly to restore to Cerro Blanco the presence and market valuation that the Project deserves and a market awareness program for Asia and the PRC is currently being developed."