Great Western Minerals Group Ltd.
TSX VENTURE : GWG
PINK SHEETS : GWMGF

Great Western Minerals Group Ltd.

December 15, 2009 10:45 ET

Great Western Minerals Group Provides Corporate Update

SASKATOON, SASKATCHEWAN--(Marketwire - Dec. 15, 2009) - Great Western Minerals Group Ltd. ("GWMG" or the "Company") (TSX VENTURE:GWG) (PINK SHEETS:GWMGF) is pleased to provide an update on its activities geared to implementing its unique "Mine-to-Market" strategy to become a fully integrated global supplier of rare earth elements ("REE'") and other strategic metals products.

Great Western Minerals Group, like most public companies operating in commodities-related industries, experienced many challenges during the first part of 2009. Although the Company had curtailed some of its capital intensive activities minimize expenses earlier in the year, GWMG was also successful in advancing its Mine-to-Market strategy.

During the last 12 months, the Company reported several significant developments:

IMPROVEMENTS IN FINANCIAL CONDITION

Debt Retirement: The Company was successful in cleaning up its balance sheet in 2009. GWMG acquired Less Common Metals (LCM) in June 2008, part of which was funded through the issuance of Pounds Sterling 2,500,000 in secured convertible debentures. In September 2009, GWMG consented to the sale of the debentures to third party purchasers. The purchasers then converted the debentures to common shares, eliminating the Pounds Sterling 2,500,000 debt related to this asset acquisition.

The Company still holds approximately $2.5MM in current debt, of which approximately $816,000 is a short-term debenture, convertible into common shares at $0.20 per share and the remainder consists of a credit facility for Less Common Metals.

In June 2009 the Company launched a warrant amendment program for approximately 36 million eligible warrants which were originally issued pursuant to private placements completed in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Many of these amended warrants were subject to an accelerated exercise provision that required the warrant holders to exercise the amended warrants within a limited time period if the closing price of the underlying share price exceeded a predetermined "trigger" price. That condition was met and, as a result, as of October 31, 2009, the Company raised $3,754,878 from the exercise of these accelerated amended warrants, as well as from the exercise of broker warrants and stock options.

By the end of the third quarter, September 30, 2009 ("Q3"), the working capital improved significantly to $407,169, compared to a deficit of $4,556,351 at December 31, 2008. This increase in net working capital was due mainly to the retiring the convertible debenture and the issuance of share capital from the exercise of warrants and options.

Complete details of the financial results for Q3 2009 are available on the Company's website, and on SEDAR.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN VALUE-ADDED PRODUCTION FACILITIES

Expanding Product Lines and Orders: LCM is a profitable, leading global manufacturer and supplier of rare-earth-based alloys, high purity metals, and ultra-high-purity indium. LCM has established excellent long term relationships with a wide range of blue-chip customers who operate in technically demanding industries such as automotive, aerospace, nuclear and defense. LCM manufactures approximately 20% of the current global consumption of Samarium Cobalt magnet alloy, which is estimated at 1,000 tonnes per annum (tpa).

With GWMG working toward rare earth production within two to three years, customers of LCM and GWTI have expressed an interest in significantly increasing the size of their orders over the next several years, in anticipation of easier access to a more stable, secure supply of rare earth materials.

Customers have also requested that LCM consider expanding its product offerings to provide additional products and services to its existing customers, as well as for attracting new customers. As a result of these requests, LCM expects to be implementing several more processes over the next two years to accommodate those requests and expand its range of products.

Based on this increased interest, management of GWMG believes that this is a clear indication that the Mine-to-Market strategy is viewed positively by customers and that those customers are confident in the Company's capabilities over the long term.

DARPA Contract: In September 2009, Great Western Technologies (GWTI) was awarded a U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contract to develop a set of aluminum-based, high strength alloys for the aerospace sector. These alloys are a new class of materials that exploit the complex metal compounds that can be formed between rare earth elements and common metals such as aluminum and nickel. Under the right circumstances and under good metallurgical control, these alloys will produce miniscule precipitates that impart exceptional properties on aluminum alloys.

This project is nearing completion and GWTI is pleased with product quality to date. The alloy material will be sent for further analysis and proprietary processing by an aerospace products manufacturer. The Company believes that if the results of this research and development project prove successful and the project moves to commercialization, then this has the potential to further, and significantly, increase production and revenue at the Troy facility.

GWTI is also seeing increased demands from its existing customers as well as from new customer relationships developed over the last 12 months. As a result, current production demands are increasing beyond one shift, with existing staff, and the addition of new personnel is being considered.

UPDATE ON MINE PROJECT DEVELOPMENT

The Steenkampskraal Rare Earth Mine: In January 2009, GWMG entered into an option agreement with Rare Earth Extraction Co. Ltd. ("Rareco") of Stellenbosch, South Africa, to refurbish, re-commission, and operate the currently abandoned Steenkampskraal underground mine in the Western Cape, South Africa.

GWMG has paid its option commitments and is negotiating the supply agreement under which 100% of the rare earth ore mined and processed at the Steenkampskraal Mine will be made available to GWMG. In addition to the supply agreement, an equity position in Rareco is under consideration.

The required documentation for the permitting under the new mining law has been submitted by Rareco to the Department of Minerals and Energy ("DME") in South Africa, and the new permit is expected to be issued in the near future.

Once in operation, GWMG believes that the Steenkampskraal Mine could produce sufficient rare earth oxide to keep LCM and GWTI operating at full capacity for a 10 year period. In addition, GWMG believes that there could be additional rare earth ore available for sale to other users.

Since very little additional exploration work has been done on the property, and the deposit remains open along strike and at depth, management believes that there is significant potential for a larger deposit and longer mine life. The Company is also investigating other potential rare earth resources in South Africa.

This project has become the top priority for GWMG; should this project proceed as anticipated, this would make GWMG the only vertically-integrated rare earth producer outside China.

ADVANCEMENT OF EXPLORATION PROJECTS

The Company continues to move forward with its exploration projects:

On the Benjamin River Property in northern New Brunswick, the Company completed several programs, including approximately 76 km of line cutting, ground magnetic/VLF-EM Surveys over the main REE showings, geological mapping, stripping and sampling. The Company also completed a 1757 km airborne magnetic/radiometric survey and a stream sediment sampling program over the entire property and is currently conducting a 2,000 metre drilling program.

The current drilling program is expected to be completed by March 31, 2010, and results of assays expected to be released shortly thereafter. During the coming year, the company will continue to evaluate the main REE showings and begin the initial evaluation of the targets generated by the airborne geophysical and the stream sediment sampling surveys.

On the Douglas River Project, the Company completed a prospecting and geological mapping program to re-locate the historic occurrences, clean out and sample the trenches, and conduct geochemical sampling. The results of these recent programs confirmed results obtained by earlier workers on the property, showing a strong enrichment of Heavy Rare Earth Elements (comprising the elements yttrium plus europium through lutetium) of up to 8.75% TREO, including Dy2O3 at 1.15% and Y2O3 at 5.72% in some of the samples. An extensive program including further geochemical sampling, geological mapping and diamond drilling is planned for 2010.

Letter of Intent with Toyota Tsusho: In July, 2009, GWMG signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with Toyota Tsusho Corporation (TTC) to examine the merits of jointly conducting exploration and development activities on GWMG's Douglas River and Benjamin River exploration projects.

The LOI term expires on January 7, 2010, and GWMG anticipates a response in early January 2010 with regard to TTC's on-going intentions.

New NI 43-101 Resource Estimate for Hoidas Lake: On November 20, 2009, GWMG provided an updated NI 43-101 compliant Resource Estimate, completed by Barr Engineering Company, on the Hoidas Lake rare earth project. This Technical Report is available on the Company's website and on SEDAR.

The Company reported that the overall Resource Estimate increased by 123% to 2,560,835 tonnes from the previous value of 1,150,000 tonnes. This includes an increase of over 1200% in the Measured category to 963,808 tonnes from the previous estimate of 80,000 tonnes, and an increase of 49% in the Indicated category to 1,597,027 tonnes from the previous estimate of 1,070,000 tonnes.

A Metallurgy Study continues with laboratories in Canada and China in an effort to optimize previously defined processes, and examine new potential alternatives to the extraction of rare earths from the Hoidas Lake mineralization.

The completion of the current stage of the Preliminary Assessment Report ("PAR") leading to a Hoidas Lake Feasibility Study remains dependent upon the successful completion of metallurgical testing and optimization of defined processes. Permitting efforts would be initiated once the final feasibility study is completed and a decision to proceed with the project is made.

Work Resumed on the Deep Sands Project in Utah: The Company's work on the Deep Sands project was also curtailed during the first half of 2009, in order to minimize expenses.

In September analyses of drill core was resumed. Utilizing X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) technology to estimate REE concentrations and a magnetic susceptibility meter to indicate iron concentrations, the Company's staff tested a total of 3,527 PVC tubes, containing the mineralized sands recovered using a Geoprobe Direct Push Drill, from the 2008 geochem drilling program, representing approximately 903 drill holes (approximately 5,504 m). The PVC tubes were split length-wise and the mineralized material analyzed directly over the length of the tube with the XRF instrument. At regular intervals samples were taken from the PVC tubes and submitted to independent laboratories for confirmatory analysis.

Results from the program and the QA/QC samples are expected in the first quarter of 2010. In addition, a differential GPS unit was used to survey the collar locations of holes from the Deep Hole drilling program in 2008. This will aid in stratigraphic correlations of enriched horizons and will be utilized in deposit evaluation.

Once this work is completed, the Company will review the results to determine the appropriate program for the remainder of 2010. It is anticipated that subsequent to an additional work program, the process will provide sufficient data to complete a NI 43-101 compliant resource estimate, suitable for a Preliminary Assessment Report and move toward a feasibility study. It is expected that if this project continues to move forward, then the feasibility study will require three phases of drilling, permitting, and extensive metallurgical testing, over a period of 2-4 years.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Appointment of New Director: In November 2009, GWMG announced the appointment of the Honourable Bill McKnight to the board of directors. Mr. McKnight served Canada as a Member of Parliament for fourteen years, nine of those as a senior Member of Cabinet. During those nine years, Mr. McKnight held seven portfolios, including Labour, Canada Mortgage and Housing, Indian Affairs and Northern Development, National Defense, Agriculture and Energy, Mines and Resources. In June, 2007, Mr. McKnight was appointed Treaty Commissioner for the Province of Saskatchewan, a position which he currently holds.

Gary L. Billingsley, P.Eng., P.Geo., is the Qualified Person responsible for reviewing the contents of this release.

Jim Engdahl, President and CEO of Great Western Minerals Group said, "The first half of 2009 was a challenging year for Great Western Minerals Group. However, we came through those challenges successfully with a stronger company and with many more opportunities for growth and expansion than we had before. The interest in new products from Less Common Metals and the work that Great Western Technologies is doing on superalloys is very exciting for the Company. As we move forward with Rareco on the Steenkaampskral project, 2010 is shaping up to be a very exciting year for the Company and its shareholders."

Engdahl adds, "We sincerely appreciate the support of our shareholders and the dedication of our management team and staff for all of their hard work throughout the year as we continue to move forward. We wish everyone the best for the upcoming Christmas season and for a healthy happy and prosperous year in 2010."

About Great Western Minerals Group Ltd.

Great Western Minerals Group Ltd. is a Canadian-based company with six rare earth exploration and development properties in North America with an option on a sizable additional property in South Africa. In addition, as part of the Company's strategy to pursue a vertically-integrated business model, the Company's wholly-owned subsidiaries of Less Common Metals Limited located in Birkenhead UK, and Great Western Technologies Inc., located in Troy, Michigan, produce a variety of specialty alloys for use in the battery, magnet and aerospace industries. These "designer" alloys include those containing aluminum, nickel, cobalt and the rare earth elements.

Certain information set out in this News Release constitutes forward-looking information, which may include information relating to estimates of sales and revenue of GWMG. Forward-looking statements (often, but not always, identified by the use of words such as "expect", "may", "could", "anticipate" or "will" and similar expressions) may describe expectations, opinions or guidance that are not statements of fact and which may be based upon information provided by third parties. Forward-looking statements are based upon the opinions, expectations and estimates of management of the Company as at the date the statements are made and are subject to a variety of known and unknown risks and uncertainties and other factors that could cause actual events or outcomes to differ materially from those anticipated or implied by such forward-looking statements. Those factors include, but are not limited to risks, uncertainties and other factors that are beyond the control of the Company, risks associated with the industry in general, commodity prices and exchange rate changes, operational risks associated with exploration, development and production operations, delays or changes in plans, risks associated with the uncertainty of reserve estimates, health and safety risks and the uncertainty of estimates and projections of production, costs and expenses. In light of the risks and uncertainties associated with forward-looking statements, readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance upon forward-looking information. Although the Company believes that the expectations reflected in the forward-looking statements set out in this press release or incorporated herein by reference are reasonable, it can give no assurance that such expectations will prove to have been correct. The forward-looking statements of the Company contained in this press release, or incorporated herein by reference, are expressly qualified, in their entirety, by this cautionary statement.

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Contact Information

  • Great Western Minerals Group Ltd.
    Ron Malashewski
    Manager of Investor Relations
    (306) 659-4500
    info@gwmg.ca
    www.gwmg.ca
    or
    Great Western Minerals Group Ltd.
    226 Cardinal Crescent
    Saskatoon, SK S7L 6H8