B2Gold Corp.’s Fekola mine in Mali achieved commercial production on November 30, one month ahead of the revised schedule and four months ahead of the schedule announced in the Optimized Feasibility Study (OFS). Ramp up to full-scale production at Fekola remains ahead of schedule with gold production well above budget in each of the ramp-up months, beating original recovery, grade and plant availability estimates in the OFS design.
Fekola has produced approximately 80,000 ounces (oz) of gold, approximately 158% above budget (31,000 oz) and its 2017 gold production is now forecast to be between 100,000 oz and 110,000 oz, far surpassing the upper end of the original guidance of 45,000 oz to 55,000 oz. Based on current assumptions and updates to B2Gold’s current year guidance and long-term mine plans, the company is now projecting consolidated gold production in 2017 of between 580,000 oz and 625,000 oz.
In 2018, consolidated gold production is forecast to be between 925,000 oz and 975,000 oz. This represents an increase in annual consolidated gold production of approximately 58% for B2Gold in 2018 versus 2017. Annual consolidated cash operating costs and all-in sustaining costs (AISC) for 2018 are forecast to decrease in 2018 to approximately $525/oz and $800/oz, respectively.
Commercial production at Fekola after mill throughput ran at 65% or greater of nameplate capacity (607 dry metric tons per hour) for 30 consecutive days. During the 30 consecutive-day commercial test, the mill achieved an average throughput of 626 dry mt/h. This included an availability for the mill of 95% (budget was 70%) for the test period and a recovery that exceeded 95% (budget was 91%).
The Fekola mill started processing ore more than three months ahead of schedule on September 25, with the first gold pour taking place on October 7. In October, the first full month of ramp-up and pre-commercial production, the Fekola mill treated 324,525 mt of ore (225,804 mt budgeted) at an average grade of 3.40 g/mt (2.33 g/mt budgeted) with a gold recovery of 95.4% (90% budgeted), producing a total of 33,946 oz of gold in the month, surpassing budget of 15,100 oz. Gold production at Fekola in November was approximately 40,000 oz from 426,836 mt of ore (316,000 mt budgeted) at an average grade of 3.05 g/mt (2.33 g/mt budgeted) with gold recoveries of 95.5% (91% budgeted). The higher than budgeted grade is a result of the early start to mining, in April, allowing the site to stockpile ore and blend mill feed for optimal production.
Based on the life of mine (LoM) plan in 2018, the first full year of Fekola production, the company is projecting production of approximately 400,000 to 410,000 oz of gold with low projected cash operating costs and AISC of approximately $354/oz and $609/oz, respectively. Over the initial 10-year LoM, Fekola is projected to produce an average of 345,000 oz/y at cash operating costs of $428/oz and AISC of $664/oz.