B2Gold Corp. is pleased to announce that the Fekola Mine in Mali achieved commercial production on November 30, 2017, 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. To November 30, 2017, the Fekola Mine has produced approximately 80,000 ounces of gold1, approximately 158% above budget (31,000 ounces). Gold production from the Fekola Mine in 2017 is now forecast to be between 100,000 and 110,000 ounces, far surpassing the upper end of the original guidance of 45,000 to 55,000 ounces. 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 and 625,000 ounces.
In 2018, consolidated gold production is forecast to be between 925,000 and 975,000 ounces. This represents an increase in annual consolidated gold production of approximately 58% for B2Gold in 2018 versus 2017. Annual consolidated cash operating costs (see “Non-IFRS Measures”) and all-in sustaining costs (“AISC”) (see “Non-IFRS Measures”) for 2018 are forecast to decrease in 2018 to approximately $525 per ounce and $800 per ounce, respectively.
B2Gold has declared commercial production at the Fekola Mine based on an internal commercial production measure of 30 consecutive days of mill throughput at 65% or greater of nameplate capacity (607 dry tonnes per hour). During the 30 consecutive-day commercial test, the mill achieved an average throughput of 626 dry tonnes per hour. 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, 2017, (see news release dated 09/25/2017) with the first pour at the Fekola Mine achieved on October 7, 2017. In October, the first full month of ramp-up and pre-commercial production, the Fekola mill treated 324,525 tonnes of ore (budgeted – 225,804 tonnes) at an average grade of 3.40 g/t (budgeted – 2.33 g/t) with a gold recovery of 95.4% (budgeted – 90.0%), producing a total of 33,946 ounces of gold in the month (surpassing budget of 15,100 ounces). Gold production at Fekola in November 2017 was approximately 40,000 ounces1 from 426,836 tonnes of ore (budgeted 316,000 tonnes) at an average grade of 3.05 g/t (2.33 g/t budgeted) with gold recoveries of 95.5% (budget 91%). The higher than budgeted grade is a result of the early start to mining (April 2017), allowing the site to stockpile ore and blend mill feed for optimal production.
The estimated overall production from the Fekola Mine for 2017 is now projected to be between 100,000 and 110,000 ounces. Commercial gold production in 2017 will include a projected 25,000 ounces in December 2017. This number is lower than the production in October and November 2017, due to a planned shutdown to finalize operational changes. The routine shutdown is expected to last six to seven days.
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 ounces of gold from the Fekola Mine with low projected cash operating costs and AISC of approximately $354 per ounce and $609 per ounce, respectively.
For the first three years, the Fekola Mine is projected to produce approximately 400,000 ounces of gold annually at cash operating costs of $357 per ounce and AISC of $604 per ounce. For the first seven years, Fekola is projected to produce approximately 374,000 ounces of gold annually with cash operating costs of $391 per ounce and AISC of $643 per ounce. Over the initial ten-year LoM, Fekola is projected to produce an average of 345,000 ounces per annum at cash operating costs of $428 per ounce and AISC of $664 per ounce.
Positive drill results from the Company’s $15.4 million 2017 exploration program at the Fekola area (see news release dated 11/9/2017) indicated that the main Fekola deposit, with additional drilling, could extend significantly to the north. In addition, drilling below the extensive saprolite resource at the Anaconda, Adder and Mamba zones has discovered three, well mineralized bedrock (sulphide) zones, indicating the potential for large, Fekola-style mineralized zones.
Drilling is ongoing to further test the Fekola North Extension zone, infill the Fekola resource and further test the new bedrock mineralization beneath the Anaconda, Adder and Mamba saprolite resource. The Company is planning additional, aggressive exploration drilling programs on these targets in 2018.
1. Production numbers are considered approximate because monthly production has not been reconciled yet for November 2017.
Tom Garagan, Senior Vice President of Exploration of B2Gold, a qualified person under NI 43-101, has approved the exploration information contained in this news release.
Peter D. Montano, P.E., the Project Director of B2Gold, a qualified person under NI 43-101, has approved the scientific and technical information contained in this news release.