ITOCHU Corporation today announced that it has entered into an exploration and option agreement (the "Agreement") with Toronto-based Pure Nickel Inc. (TSX: NIC, OTCBB: PNCKF), "Pure Nickel") for the MAN Nickel and Platinum Group Metals Exploration Project, 100% owned by Pure Nickel in Alaska. Pursuant to this Agreement, ITOCHU will fund USD 6.5 million for exploration into the MAN Project by 2009. Moreover, ITOCHU has an option to acquire up to a 75% interest in the MAN Project by funding an additional maximum of USD 33.5 million through 2014 totaling USD 40 million. The MAN property encompasses 720 square kilometers and features nickel grades running as high as 15% and according to grab samples and outcroppings. ITOCHU and Pure Nickel aim to identify the large mineral resources of nickel and PGM by accelerating and enhancing exploration.
In addition, ITOCHU Corporation has also decided to be actively engaged in exploration of copper and gold in a promising area with large surface occurrences of copper located in southeast of Copiapo, Chile.
Furthermore, ITOCHU is seeking further opportunities to expand its iron ore business and interest in the future. Additional exploration projects are currently under its review from long-term strategic viewpoints and ITOCHU is in the final negotiation stage to enter into a joint exploration agreement to explore iron ore deposits in Northern Territory, Australia with Western Desert Resources Ltd.
ITOCHU has started to consult with Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) on financial assistance and technical supports for these exploration programs.
In addition to the existing investment in the iron ore, coal and alumina business, ITOCHU aims to further expand and diversify its investment and trading business through these entries into the exploration projects of base metals and minor metals.