CEO Message to Shareholders of International Tower Hill Mines Ltd.
March 22, 2012
Dear Shareholders of International Tower Hill Mines,
I am pleased to provide you with another quarterly update on the progress we have made since my last letter to you in December. With our share price hovering just above our 52-week low in recent months, I understand how frustrating it can be as a shareholder and recognize that this is when investors can begin having doubts about the prospects of the Company and its assets, regardless of how fragile the gold equities market is today. To this I respond: rest assured that our prospects remain rock-solid with 20 million ounces of gold resource in one of the best locations to build a mine in the world. As we proceed with Livengood engineering and permitting, we will climb the valuation curve.
The Livengood Project is undisputedly one of the largest new gold discoveries made in the last two decades. Our March 6, 2012 news release showing the results of close-spaced drilling in 2011 has verified in no uncertain terms the integrity of our latest resource estimate of 16.5 million ounces in the Measured and Indicated resource categories and a further 4.1 million ounces in the Inferred category. Looking at the overall gold sector, we are depleting roughly 75 million ounces of gold every year – that's roughly four Livengood projects – and the industry has not been successful in finding many more large, good quality deposits around the world, especially ones that are located in more favorable mining jurisdictions.
Speaking of favorable jurisdictions, our Livengood deposit is located in one of the best locations I have seen in my 33 years of mine-building experience around the globe. The Project benefits from exceptionally good access via the paved Elliott Highway running 70 miles up from Fairbanks – a city that has supported both historic and modern mining for over a century. Second, given the 90 year history of placer mining and hard rock prospecting in the Livengood area, the State of Alaska Land Use Plan already designates mining as the primary land use at the Livengood Project site, which will help facilitate the State permitting process. Third, the State of Alaska understands natural resource industries and welcomes those corporate citizens who respect its traditions, peoples and environment. And finally, ITH works in US dollars, eliminating currency risk that would result from any weakening of the US dollar relative to other currencies.
The combination of size and favorable location makes the Livengood project extremely rare and hence incredibly valuable; nevertheless, the project needs to be de-risked technically and we are working to reach major milestones. The next key milestone for us is the Pre-Feasibility Study which we postponed from November 2011 to August 2012 to optimize gold recoveries through detailed metallurgical testing. 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. The fact that our industry carried out a multi-year high of over $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.
In my December 2011 letter to shareholders, I also mentioned the efforts underway by management to investigate the possibility of short-term production on placer claims we acquired during that month. At the time, the land we acquired not only gave us additional site facility locations but also access to near-surface placer gold deposits (our February 27, 2012 news release indicated a historical resource estimate on the placer claims of 230,000 ounces). Recognizing the potential benefits in achieving early production to generate cash-flow, our Manager of Mining and dedicated Livengood Placer team have worked diligently over the past three months to investigate all possible scenarios. As our operations update release this morning indicated, our investigations revealed that the greatest benefit to be derived from the placer claims acquisition is the optimization of site facility locations for the Livengood Project. Postponing development of the placers would create 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.
What this all means is that it will take time for us to get to where we want to be, both technically and valuation-wise. While this might seem like a long time, the host of milestones to be achieved during this period will steadily increase our valuation up to those of our more advanced peers. With everything the asset has going for it, the odds have never looked better. In the meantime, we will be exposed to the daily swings of an extremely volatile market that would test the convictions of even the most seasoned market participants. What will not waver is our commitment to advancing the Livengood project towards becoming a new, large scale gold project in North America. I invite you to grow with us.
As always, you can stay regularly updated on our developments through our Corporate Website at www.ithmines.com, or by contacting our Investor Relations Department and I look forward to updating you again in a few months' time.