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Oct 22 (Reuters) - The independent consultant that recently quit Pretium Resources Inc's flagship gold exploration project has accused the company of making "erroneous and misleading" claims, the company said in a release that sent its shares down nearly 30 percent.
Pretium said on Tuesday that its management and the other independent consultant on the project, Snowden Mining Industry Consultants, have "significant concerns" with the accusations by Strathcona Mineral Services Ltd.
Pretium is currently processing a 10,000-tonne bulk sample, dubbed the "Valley of the Kings" program, at its Brucejack project in northern British Columbia.
Pretium said Strathcona saw preliminary assay results from a very small part of the material before it withdrew. It said Strathcona had not seen any results from the bulk sample processing.
Pretium quoted Strathcona as saying there is "no valid gold mineral resources" for the Valley of the Kings zone, and that comments from recent Pretium releases "about probable mineral reserves and future gold production ... over a 22-year mine life are erroneous and misleading."
Pretium said early processing results suggest there may be more gold in the material than the preliminary assay results showed. It said Snowden has advised it that no part of the 10,000-tonne sample should be considered in isolation.
"We believe that the true test of the bulk sample - and its representativity of the Valley of the Kings overall - is to determine the actual amount of gold contained within the 10,000 tonnes of material we extracted," Pretium said in a release
Officials at Strathcona and Snowden were not immediately available for comment.
Pretium shares have fallen by about 50 percent since Oct. 9, when Pretium first said Strathcona had resigned from the project. The shares were at C$3.49 late on Tuesday morning, down almost 27 percent. (Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Janet Guttsman and Andrew Hay)