$18 Million Quebec Program Commences


Robert T. Boyd, President and CEO of Ashton Mining of Canada Inc. ("Ashton"), is pleased to announce that Ashton and its joint venture partner, SOQUEM INC., have approved a 2004 program that includes the collection of a bulk sample from the Renard cluster and continued exploration of the joint venture's other mineral properties in north-central Quebec. Each party will fund an equal share of the estimated $18 million cost of the program.

Bulk Sampling - Renard Cluster

In late January, the joint venture will commence a bulk sampling program on the Foxtrot property that will focus on four of the diamondiferous bodies within the Renard cluster. The bulk sampling will be conducted using both core and large diameter reverse circulation ("RC") drilling and is designed to collect a cumulative sample of at least 600 tonnes of kimberlitic material. Existing data suggest that a sample of this magnitude should yield a cumulative parcel of at least 300 carats of diamonds that could provide the basis for a preliminary determination of diamond value.

Renard 2, 3, 4 and 65, the four bodies currently envisaged for bulk sampling in 2004, have estimated surface dimensions of 0.6, 0.3, 1.0 and 1.5 hectares respectively. The joint venture has collected cumulative mini-bulk samples weighing 56 tonnes in total from these bodies. Results generated by processing 36.5 tonnes of this material to date indicate an average diamond content of 66 carats per hundred tonnes. The four bodies have returned ten diamonds larger than 0.25 carats including a diamond with an estimated weight of at least four carats that remains embedded in core from Renard 65. Results from the remaining 19.5 tonnes of material are expected in the first quarter.

The bulk sampling program will involve the drilling of 40 to 60 core holes. The resulting geological information will be used to determine the location of the RC drill holes. Most of the bulk sample will be collected by drilling 30 cm diameter RC holes. An estimated 150 to 250 tonnes of material will be collected during the winter portion of the program. The remainder will be collected during the summer and fall field season.

Preparations for the bulk sample have already begun with the mobilization of equipment and construction of an ice airstrip near the Renard cluster that is capable of receiving large cargo aircraft. The bulk sample portion of the 2004 program has been budgeted at approximately $12 million.

Exploration Activities - Foxtrot and Tichegami Properties

Estimated expenditures of $6 million have also been approved for grassroots exploration, target drilling and mini-bulk sampling in 2004. This work will focus primarily on the Foxtrot and Tichegami properties.

Foxtrot property

Indicator mineral sampling results generated in 2003 identified four highly anomalous indicator mineral trains with associated kimberlitic pebbles and boulders on the Foxtrot property external to the Renard cluster. Diamonds were recovered from till samples collected from two of these dispersions, and the Lynx kimberlitic occurrence was discovered in 2003 within one of them. During the winter portion of the 2004 program, the joint venture will focus on the investigation of these unexplained indicator mineral dispersions through airborne and ground geophysical surveys followed by target drilling.

The joint venture will also collect a mini-bulk sample weighing approximately ten tonnes from Renard 9 during the winter field season. Renard 9 was discovered in early 2003 and returned very encouraging initial diamond results including a 0.11 carat diamond recovered by caustic fusion of a 212 kg sample.

Summer exploration activities on the Foxtrot property will include indicator mineral sampling, additional geophysical surveys and target drilling. Mini-bulk samples will be collected from new discoveries that warrant further evaluation.

Tichegami property

Geophysical targets with associated indicator mineral dispersion trains have also been identified on the Tichegami property, located 80 km south of the Renard cluster. A program of indicator mineral sampling, geophysical surveys and target drilling is planned on this property during the summer.

SOQUEM is a wholly-owned subsidiary of SGF Minéral inc., a subsidiary of Société générale de financement du Québec ("SGF"). The mission of the SGF, as an industrial and financial holding company, is to carry out economic development projects, especially in the industrial sector, in cooperation with partners and in accordance with accepted requirements for profitability that comply with the economic development policy of the Government of Quebec. 

Ashton is the operator of the joint venture's exploration programs. Brooke Clements, Professional Geologist and Ashton's Vice President, Exploration, is responsible for their design and conduct, and for the verification and quality assurance of analytical results.

For further information, please contact:          

Robert T. Boyd        -or-         Salimah Lalli       -or-           visit our website:
President and CEO                   Investor Relations                             www.ashton.ca
(604) 983-7750                      (604) 983-7750                      contact@ashton.ca