"With the recent volatility in the gold price, the economics for Relief Canyon remain strong as a low cost, low CAPEX project in comparison with our North American peers," stated Stephen D. Alfers, Pershing Gold President, CEO, and Executive Chairman. "Early this year the Company plans to publish a third-party Pre-Feasibility Study on Relief Canyon. This study is expected to continue to bolster the confidence in the Relief Canyon project," Alfers explained.

"Additionally, we have completed the 2016 Phase 1 Drilling Program at Relief Canyon, which successfully extended high-grade mineralization with step-out drilling to the west. We also report promising results with our Phase 2 drilling, south of Relief Canyon. We are currently evaluating the results of this drilling in consideration of follow up drilling programs.  That said, our main focus will be re-starting the Relief Canyon mine," said Alfers.

Pre-Feasibility Study and Progress Towards Production
Pershing Gold is nearing the completion of the third-party Pre-Feasibility Study ("PFS") on the Relief Canyon mine that it initiated earlier this year. The PFS will refine the underlying assumptions used in the 2016 Preliminary Economic Assessment ("PEA") on Relief Canyon. Mine Development Associates, McLelland Laboratories, Inc. and Kappes, Cassiday and Associates, all of Reno, NV, have been commissioned to complete the PFS. Pershing Gold expects the PFS to be published in early 2017.

The PFS is a key step to allow the Company to define reserves at Relief Canyon under Canadian National Instrument 43-101 and is expected to provide a higher degree of confidence in the Relief Canyon project. Key components of the PFS include the following:

  • Incorporation of a geotechnical pit slope evaluation completed by Golder Associates of Reno, NV.
  • Evaluation of an updated resource model incorporating new exploration drilling.
  • Detailed capital and operating cost comparison of contract versus self-mining.
  • Detailed capital and operating cost comparison of truck stacking versus conveyor stacking of crushed and agglomerated ore on the leach pad.
  • Incorporation of additional metallurgical testing to establish ore agglomeration parameters.
  • Trade-off study of line versus generated electrical power.

Additionally, the PFS will provide refined costs for all capital and operating expenses for the restart of Relief Canyon.

On December 22, 2016, the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection ("NDEP")/Bureau of Mining Regulation and Reclamation Phase issued the Reclamation Permit for Phase I expansion of the Relief Canyon Mine.  With the receipt of this permit, along with the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") approval of the Relief Canyon Mine Expansion announced in August of 2016, Pershing Gold has received the principal permits to initiate the restart and expansion of the Relief Canyon Mine.  

Similar to the previously approved BLM Plan of Operation, the NDEP Reclamation Permit authorizes Pershing Gold to create 608.7 acres of surface disturbance on public and private land, expand and deepen the open-pit mine, construct a new waste rock storage area, and significantly increase the exploration drilling area to allow testing of high-priority targets around the existing pit.

Other key items in the ongoing process of permitting the Relief Canyon Mine include water pollution control and air quality permits.  On December 21, 2016, NDEP issued a public notice stating that they had made the tentative decision to approve Pershing Gold's application to modify and renew the current Water Pollution Control Permit. With this announcement, NDEP started the 30-day public comment period for this permit. The comment period will end on January 20, 2017. Pershing Gold anticipates that the NDEP will issue the Water Pollution Control Permit modification and renewal shortly thereafter.

Pershing Gold is working closely with NDEP's Bureau of Air Pollution Control to finalize the air quality permitting process. The Company expects that NDEP will issue the air quality permits in the first quarter of 2017.

2016 Drilling Program Phase 1 Final Results
Pershing Gold has received the final results from Phase 1 of its 2016 Drilling Program (the "Program"). Results are reported in feet ("ft") and meters ("m"), and in grams per tonne ("gpt") and ounces per ton ("oz/ton") of gold ("Au") or silver ("Ag").

Notable intercepts from RC16-490 include:

    • RC16-490
      • including: 24.1 ft (7.3 m), 1.830 gpt, 0.053 oz/ton Au
      • including: 5.0 ft (1.5 m), 13.933 gpt, 0.407 oz/ton Au

The Phase 1 Drilling Program was designed to extend the western boundary of economic mineralization at Relief Canyon. RC16-490 continues to confirm that significant portions of the western margin of the mineral zones remain open to the west. RC16-490 is a 550 ft (167.6 m) offset to RC16-462 and a 290 ft (88.4 m) offset to RC16-475. The intercept in RC16-462 includes eight zones totaling 166.3 ft (50.7 m) with an average grade of 1.597 gpt, 0.046 oz/ton Au, and 23.5 gpt, 0.70 oz/ton Ag that the Company reported on September 9, 2016.

The Phase 1 drilling successfully expanded the North target area resource to the west and southwest where it remains open.  This drilling continued to support the dominance of relatively low angle structural controls and continuity of mineralization and grade down dip. The Lower and Jasperoid Zones continue to produce high grades of gold with very good cyanide soluble results at depths to >900 ft (274 m).

Phase 1a Drilling Program
The Company is now evaluating results from the 15,164 ft (4,622 m) of core drilling in the 2016 Drilling Programs to follow-up on the successes there. This Phase 1a Program and other follow up programs could include step-out drilling to continue following the mineralization from Relief Canyon down dip to the west and southwest as well as infill drilling to expand the current economic pit limit at Relief Canyon. Geologic modeling of the higher grades encountered in the area of RC16-462 is currently in progress with additional drilling under consideration for 2017.

Phase 2 Drilling Program
Pershing Gold has initiated Phase 2 of its 2016 Drilling Program. Phase 2 is focused on extending mineralization south of the South Pit and the Lightbulb Pit, as well as on discovering satellite deposits that could be processed at the existing heap leach and ADR facilities at Relief Canyon.

Phase 2 drilling at Pershing Gold Corporation's Relief Canyon Mine has identified potential mineable grade intervals of gold in drill hole RC16-498 with 10.1 ft (3.14 m) intervals averaging 1.13 gpt, 0.033 oz/ton Au, and 12.2 ft (3.7 m) at 0.343 gpt, 0.01 oz/ton Au. The Company is encouraged by the two intervals in hole RC16-498 because they occur along the contact of the South Humboldt Thrust where deformed siliciclastics of the Grass Valley Formation are in thrust contact with the underlying carbonates of the Cane Springs Formation.  Both of these intervals are found along altered gabbro contacts, which are illustrated in Figure 2 below. 

About Pershing Gold Corporation
Pershing Gold is an emerging gold producer whose primary asset is the Relief Canyon Mine in Pershing County, Nevada. Relief Canyon includes three historic open-pit mines and a state-of-the-art, fully permitted and constructed heap-leach processing facility. Pershing Gold is currently permitted to resume mining at Relief Canyon under the existing Plan of Operations.

Pershing Gold's landholdings cover approximately 25,000 acres that include the Relief Canyon Mine asset and lands surrounding the mine in all directions. This land package provides Pershing Gold with the opportunity to expand the Relief Canyon Mine deposit and to explore and make new discoveries on nearby lands.

Pershing Gold is listed on the NASDAQ Global Market and the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol PGLC and on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange under the symbol 7PG1.

Scientific and Technical Data
All scientific and technical information in this press release has been reviewed and approved by Larry L. Hillesland, Certified Professional Geologist #11720, who is a Qualified Person under the definitions established by Canadian National Instrument 43-101. Drill core at Relief Canyon is boxed and sealed at the drill rig and moved to the Relief Canyon logging and sample preparation facilities by trained personnel. The core is logged and split down the center using a typical table-fed circular rock saw. One half of the core is sent for assay to McClelland Laboratories, Inc.of Sparks, Nevada, while the other half is returned to the core box and stored at Relief Canyon in a secure, fenced-off, area. Pershing Gold Corporation QA/QC includes the regular use of blanks, standards, and duplicate samples.