B2Gold, through its Malian subsidiary Menankoto, is currently involved in a dispute with the Malian government related to the renewal of the Menankoto exploration permit.
Menankoto forms part of the Anaconda Area and is located about 20km north of the Fekola mine licence area.
B2Gold believes that Menankoto is entitled to a one-year renewal of the Menankoto permit under applicable law. After failed discussions with the Malian government in June 2021, the company announced that it had formally commenced arbitration proceedings against the Republic of Mali.
B2Gold states in a recent release: “The arbitration has been commenced pursuant to the arbitration clause set out in the Menankoto mining convention governed by the 2012 Malian Mining Code, on the basis that the Republic of Mali breached its obligations under the Convention and under the 2012 Mining Code. Based on the terms of the Convention, the arbitration will be conducted by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Paris, France. In addition to pursuing arbitration under the Convention, the company may pursue, as required, all other available legal remedies.”
Notwithstanding the arbitration case, B2Gold has made it clear that the company is committed to continue its ongoing discussions with the Malian government to resolve the issue.
Operations at B2Gold’s Fekola mine, which is located on a separate mining license 20 kilometres from the Menankoto permit, continue normally and have not been impacted by the dispute relating to the Menankoto Permit. Fekola is projected to produce between 530,000 to 560,000 ounces of gold in 2021.
Fekola has not included the Mineral Resources from the Anaconda area (comprised of the Menankoto Permit and the Bantako North permit) in the current Fekola life of mine plan.
The Bantako North permit area (wholly owned and in good standing) contains a significant portion of the Mamba deposit saprolite material and remains open.
Preliminary planning by B2Gold has demonstrated that a pit situated on the Bantako North permit area could provide saprolite material for at least 1.5 to 2 years to feed the Fekola mill commencing in 2022 subject to obtaining all necessary permits and completion of a final mine plan. This additional feed to the Fekola mill would benefit all stakeholders, including the State of Mali, B2Gold’s 20% partner at the Fekola Mine.
B2Gold has conducted extensive exploration on the Menankoto deposit, part of the Anaconda Area over the past seven years, with a considerable investment of approximately USD27-million.
The company had planned a 2021 exploration budget for the Menankoto deposit of USD8.3-million, out of a total Mali exploration budget of USD26.4-million.
Development at Otjikoto in Namibia
Meanwhile, B2Gold announced that development of the Wolfshag underground mine, at its Otjikoto project in Namibia, continues to progress on schedule. Development of the primary underground ramp got underway and continued through the first half of 2021.
Development of the portal was completed in the fourth quarter of 2020. The mine expects to commence with stope ore production in early 2022, in-line with original estimates. The initial underground Mineral Reserve estimate for the down-plunge extension of the Wolfshag orebody included 210,000 ounces of gold in 1.2 million tonnes of ore at 5.57 g/t gold.
For full-year 2021, Otjikoto remains on track to produce between 190,000 – 200,000 ounces of gold, as high-grade ore is scheduled to be sourced from Phase 3 of the Wolfshag Pit in the second half of 2021.
Production from Wolfshag underground mine is expected to commence in early 2022 which will supplement ore from the Otjikoto pit as well as existing medium and low-grade stockpiles for approximately three years based on current estimates.
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