In October 1999 and April 2000, Corriente entered into two option agreements with BHP Billiton Plc. ("BHP Billiton") pursuant to which Corriente acquired the option to acquire a 70% interest in a large package of mineral exploration properties identified by BHP Billiton in the course of a five-year grassroots exploration program in the Rio Zamora valley in southeast Ecuador. Today, that property, known as the Corriente Copper Belt, is the company’s principal asset. Over the period from January 2000 to June 2002, Corriente completed the drilling of over 30,000 metres of core within the Corriente Copper Belt and completed scoping studies on the Panantza-San Carlos and Mirador projects that provided an initial assessment of several different mining development options. In January 2002, the company gave BHP Billiton notice of its intention to exercise the option to acquire a majority interest in the Panantza project. This option allowed Corriente to acquire ownership of mineral resource deposits that are below the threshold of interest of BHP Billiton. Formal approval was granted in April 2002 for the transfer of the ownership of the Panantza concessions to Corriente. By the end of 2002, Corriente had repeated the process to acquire title to the San Carlos (August 2002) and Mirador (December 2002) projects within the Corriente Copper Belt. In each case, BHP Billiton chose to convert its back-in rights to a 2% net smelter royalty interest (NSR) in the project, with the company having the option to reduce this NSR to 1% for the Mirador, Panantza and San Carlos resource properties upon the payment of US$2 million to BHP Billiton.
Corriente now controls 100% of all of its concessions in Ecuador, which encompass over 60,000 hectares located within the Corriente Copper Belt. These concessions are subject to a 2% NSR to BHP Billiton, half of which Corriente can purchase at Mirador for $2 million. In addition, BHP Billiton has no further back-in rights or clauses. The Corriente Copper Belt extends over a 20 by 80-kilometre area in southeast Ecuador and currently contains four copper and copper-gold porphyry deposits (called Mirador, Mirador Norte, Panantza and San Carlos). Six additional copper exploration targets (called La Florida, San Luis, San Marcos, San Miguel, Sutzu and Dolorosa) have been identified in the Corriente Copper Belt to date.
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