Atacama Minerals Corp.

Atacama Minerals Corp.

May 07, 2008 09:57 ET

Atacama Announces Start-Up of New Agitated Leach Plant

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - May 7, 2008) - Atacama Minerals Corp. ("Atacama" or the "Company") (TSX VENTURE:AAM) is pleased to announce the start-up and commissioning of a new mechanical agitated leach plant designed to replace the current heap leaching operations at its Aguas Blancas iodine mine in northern Chile.

The new plant is expected to fully replace the current heap leaching system during the second quarter, allowing for an increase in annual production of high quality iodine from current levels of 1,000 metric tonnes to 1,500 metric tonnes.

The new plant offers several advantages over the previous heap leaching system as seen from pilot plant operations conducted by the Company in 2006. It will allow for recovery of iodine from the caliche ore at levels in excess of 75%, compared to the current heap leach recoveries of approximately 55%. The processing time for leaching the ore in the new plant will be reduced from months to less than 24 hours, reducing the need for continuous construction of new heap leach pads. Importantly, the water requirements for the new plant will be reduced by an estimated 25%. The Company anticipates these advantages will result in long-term lower costs of production, reduced working capital requirements and an extended life of mine.

The new plant was completed at a cost of $26.5 million, an overrun of less than 4% - an excellent result in light of current industry conditions.

Accompanying the new agitated leach plant, a sediment containment pond is under construction at an estimated cost of $4.4 million.

The Company is also pleased to announce the successful completion of a new power line system hooking up the Aguas Blancas mine with the local power grid. The connection point is located 28 kilometers northeast of the Aguas Blancas mine and consists of two new substations and a 69 kilovolt transmission line at an estimated cost of $8.6 million. The new power line will replace the current diesel powered generators and provide for a reliable, long-term source of energy for all future operations.

Atacama Minerals has established itself as a long-term, reliable supplier of high quality iodine to the world market. The anticipated increase in iodine production will take advantage of the current strong world demand for iodine driven by increased medical uses and a growing market in the use of LCD technology in flat screens for computers and televisions. The current contract price of iodine is in the range of $24/kg or $24,000 per tonne, an increase of more than 35% over the last four years.

On behalf of the Board,

Edward F. Posey, President

The TSX Venture Exchange has not reviewed and does not accept responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

Contact Information

  • Atacama Minerals Corp.
    Sophia Shane
    Corporate Development
    (604) 689-7842
    (604) 689-4250 (FAX)