Australian mineral development company ECR Minerals has acquired 50 million new shares in Paniai Gold, through the conversion of an Aus$337,937 loan and accrued interest. ECR’s stake now totals 100 million shares, or 26% of Paniai, making it the largest shareholder of the company.

Paniai holds 46 million West Wits performance shares which are subject to the Derewo River Gold Project achieving production of 20,000 ounces of gold by July 2013.

Paniai was the original joint venture partner with a local company on the Derewo River project, which extends over 129,000 hectares in the central highlands of Papua Province.

Derewo River hosts significant artisanal gold mining activity and the objectives of the joint venture are to establish a modern, mechanized, alluvial gold mining operation on a 40 hectare mining licence and to explore a number of exploration licences for new gold and gold-copper deposits.

Exploration targets include large-scale alluvial gold, porphyry gold-copper and bonanza grade quartz sulphide gold veins. ECR also holds more than 11 million West Wits shares.

ECR’s managing director Patrick Harford says, “ECR deliberately positioned itself to acquire a larger shareholding in Paniai Gold at an appropriate time, and we believe that time has now come. We expect great progress to be made at the Derewo River project during 2012, and ECR shareholders now have significant exposure to the success of the project through the company’s shareholdings in West Wits and in Paniai Gold.”

ECR has also announced a sale of 37 million ordinary shares to raise funds for one of its Argentinean projects, with the company allocating the net proceeds of the placement to a drill program at the El Abra gold prospect in the country’s La Rioja province. The first drill holes are already under way.

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