B2Gold Corp. said it’s Goose Project, located in the Back River Gold District in Nunavut, Canada, remains on schedule for first gold pour in Q1 2025. The company said all long lead items for the 2024 construction season have been received at B2Gold’s freight consolidation points, prepped for ship transport and currently the 2023 sealift is underway, which includes delivery of 24 million liters of diesel fuel.
B2Gold acquired the Back River Gold District as part of the acquisition of Sabina Gold & Silver in April 2023. The company said capex for the project remains in line with the June 2023 estimate of C$800 million plus an additional C$90 million for accelerating underground development. To date, approximately C$530 million has been spent on the project by B2Gold and Sabina.
An accelerated underground mining plan was adopted to increase average gold production in the first five years to more than 300,000 ounces per year (oz/y). Underground development at the Umwelt deposit and open pit mining at the Echo deposit is progressing. The Echo open pit is scheduled to be mined out and stockpiled prior to process plant commissioning to provide tailings storage capacity.
The purchasing of materials and supplies needed to support the 2024 construction campaign has been completed and all materials have been provided to the ports for the 2023 sealift. Following the acquisition of Sabina, the Marine Laydown Area (MLA) located on Bathurst Inlet, Nunavut was reorganized to maximize space for the 2023 sealift that is currently underway. Additionally, the fuel tank containment area at the MLA was enlarged to facilitate increased storage. The MLA has an approximately 70 person camp, a 3,000 foot gravel airstrip and heliport, and over 65,000 m2 of outdoor storage area.
The 2023 sealift is currently underway with an expected shipping volume of 70,000 m3 of dry cargo and 24 million liters of arctic-grade diesel fuel. As of August 31, 2023, the MLA has received its first two ships and three barges for off-load as part of the 2023 sealift, with four additional ships enroute carrying materials to the MLA from ports located globally.
Concrete and steel work in the mill area is progressing ahead of schedule. The first concrete pour was completed in July 2023, with approximately 30% of the 2023 concrete foundations and pads complete within the mill area, power house and truck shop as of August 31, 2023. More than 2 million kg of structural steel and approximately 500,000 kg of plate steel has arrived at site. Erection of the structural steel has commenced for the mill area, power house, and truck shop, and cladding will begin in the near term. Enclosure of these buildings will allow for work to continue through the colder months and remain on schedule. Additionally, it is expected that the ball mill will be set in place in December 2023, ahead of schedule, allowing the focus for the start of 2024 to shift to piping.
B2Gold expects the ball mill to be set in place in December 2023, ahead of schedule, which significantly de-risks the construction schedule for mill completion and first gold pour in Q1 2025.
Phase 1 of the accommodation complex, which opened in July 2023, includes 310 beds at the permanent site location, which together with the 160 beds located at the existing exploration camp, provide the necessary accommodation to support accelerated construction, mining and exploration activities.
Earthworks necessary to extend the airstrip to 5,000 ft were completed in September 2023. That will allow large capacity, fully loaded passenger planes to land at the Goose Project during the 2024 construction campaign.
The winter ice road preparations are well underway. The Request for Proposal process has closed for the selection of the winter ice road constructor and a decision was expected to be made before the end of September.
The 163-km winter ice road between MLA and the Goose Project will operate between February and end of-April, depending on temperatures. In 2023, over 800 loads were completed along the ice road. Work on the ice road is expected to start in December 2023. Ice road construction will begin from the middle and work outwards in each direction, allowing for completion of the majority of the road before the sea ice freezes, as the sea ice freezes last. This construction strategy should enable the ice road to be completed earlier than in prior seasons.
Underground mining has exceeded 1,300 m of horizontal development and the initial ventilation raise is expected to be completed during October. Underground development is currently less than 500 m away from commencing ore production at the Umwelt crown pillar.
The B2Gold technical team continues to analyze ways to optimize the life-of-mine plan for the Goose Project. One of the areas of optimization currently being studied is the mining of the crown pillar between the Umwelt open pit and underground mining areas, which contains more than 150,000 oz of gold and was only partially included in prior production schedules.
Geotechnical and mine design and engineering is underway with the goal of mining and backfilling the crown pillar prior to completion of the Umwelt open pit. B2Gold’s engineers have determined that most of the Umwelt underground mine can be mined effectively with long-hole stoping, which is expected to reduce costs and increase ore production rates.