TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 16, 2011) - Lithium Americas Corp. (TSX:LAC) -
* Independent Preliminary Economic Assessment ("PEA") report values the Cauchari project at US$983 million before tax
* PEA estimates cash operating costs of US$1,434 per tonne of Lithium Carbonate, one of the lowest in the industry
* Completed two production wells and pilot scale production evaporation ponds
* Over $28 million incurred in exploration to date
* Strong cash position - $25.8 million in cash and cash equivalents
Lithium Americas Corp. ("Lithium Americas" or the "Company") today reported its financial and operating results for the fiscal year ended February 28, 2011. All amounts are expressed in Canadian dollars, unless otherwise indicated.
As at February 28, 2011 a total of $28.4 million has been invested in property rights and exploration on the Company's principal and most advanced lithium property in Argentina (the "Cauchari-Olaroz Properties"). During the three and twelve months ended February 28, 2011 the Company incurred $2.7 million and $19.5 million, respectively, to complete exploration and commence engineering activities necessary to advance the project to feasibility. For the three and twelve months ended February 28, 2011 the Company reported losses of $1.3 million and $5.8 million, respectively. As at February 28, 2011 the Company had $25.8 million in cash and cash equivalents and positive working capital of $24.5 million.
"Lithium Americas continues to demonstrate leadership in the emerging lithium brine industry through its exploration and development achievements," stated Dr. Waldo Perez, President and CEO of Lithium Americas. "We continue to scale up our operations on-site such as the completion of production wells enabling the Company to undertake testing required to move measured and indicated resources to proven and probable reserves, and the completion of larger scale evaporation ponds enabling the Company to produce industrial quality lithium carbonate on site. Our Definitive Feasibility Study is scheduled for completion in the first quarter of 2012 and we continue to target mine construction in the latter half of 2012. Given our successful accomplishments to date, we feel confident that Lithium Americas' Cauchari property is one of the largest and most advanced lithium brine projects in the world."
Operational highlights during the year ended February 28, 2011 include:
* Filing of an independent NI 43-101 compliant Preliminary Economic Assessment ("PEA") report determining a pre-tax Net Present Value ("NPV") of the Cauchari project of US$983 million, assuming an 8% discount rate, and an after-tax NPV of US$715 million. The PEA provides for a 40,000 tonne per annum ("TPA") lithium carbonate ("LCE") production facility built in two phases of 20,000 TPA, with construction of the first phase expected to begin in 2012.
* The PEA estimates capital costs of the first phase at US$217 million and cash operating costs of $1,434 per tonne, which the Company believes is one of the lowest operating costs in the industry.
* The PEA does not include potash or boric acid production which could potentially add further value to the project.
* Completion of a NI 43-101 compliant resource estimate identifying that Lithium Americas' resource increased by more than 60 percent from the previous estimate and the average lithium grades increased by up to 13 percent. The in situ lithium carbonate resource was estimated at 5.3 million tonnes measured and indicated and 2.7 million tonnes inferred with a 500 milligrams per litre lithium cut off, making this the 3rd largest known lithium brine resource in the world.
* Completion and filling of a one hectare (100 meters x 100 meters) pilot scale production evaporation pond that will enable the Company to produce large industrial quality samples of lithium carbonate on site, for certification. Completion and filling of a large scale pilot evaporation pond (45 meters x 14 meters). The pond is producing concentrated brine for the production of lithium carbonate at pilot scale, further allowing the Company to define the path to commercial production.
* The Company completed two production wells. Preliminary results exceed expectations with pumping rates of over 20 litres per second over 3 weeks from a stable aquifer. The Company believes these are the highest pumping rates published from any brine aquifer in the region.
* Appointment of Mr. Ian Fodie as the Company's Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Fodie, a New Zealand qualified Chartered Accountant, brings over 25 years of international and operational experience, in addition to significant capital markets experience, to the Lithium Americas team.
* Inclusion in the Global X Lithium Exchange Traded Fund ("ETF"). The ETF tracks the Solactive Global Lithium Index and is designed to reflect the performance of the largest and most liquid listed companies that are active in the exploration and/or mining of lithium or the production of lithium batteries.
The Company's audited consolidated financial statements, and management discussion and analysis have been filed and are available in the SEDAR database at www.sedar.com or on the Company's website www.lithiumamericas.com.
About the Company
Lithium Americas is developing one of the world's largest and lowest cost lithium operations. The Company's principal and most advanced property comprises a significant portion of two adjacent Argentinean salt lakes, Cauchari and Olaroz, covering 82,498 hectares located in the "Lithium Triangle" region of South America. This region contains over 80% of the world's lithium brine reserves. To the best knowledge of Lithium Americas, the Company's principal property hosts the 3rd largest known lithium brine resource in the world. The Company's recently completed Preliminary Economic Assessment identifies a pre-tax NPV of $983 million (8% discount), and operating expenses which are one of the lowest in the industry. Mitsubishi Corporation and Magna International are shareholders in the Company, in addition to both companies having off-take arrangements with Lithium Americas.
This press release contains forward-looking statements, which can be identified by the use of statements that include words such as "could", "potential", "believe", "expect", "anticipate", "intend", "plan", "likely", "will" or other similar words or phrases. The Company does not intend, and does not assume any obligations, to update forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, unless otherwise required by applicable securities laws. Readers should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements. Readers should review the Company's prospectus dated May 6, 2010 for a list of risks associated with the Company, and its business.